How do I know I’m dealing with a reputable solar installation company? — Les, Nebraska
Since I began as an apprentice electrician in the 1960s, the National Electrical Code has grown from a pocket handbook to a large manual with rules for solar and energy-storage installations. Here in Texas, as well as in other parts of the country, solar and energy storage is defined as electrical work, and you must be a licensed electrical contractor to “install or offer to install” electrical work. Although it varies by state and locale, the first indication a solar installation company is legitimate (but not necessarily reputable) is possession of a license.
To participate in utility companies’ solar rebate programs in the early days, it was a given that you had to be a licensed electrical contractor, but you also had to have a solar installation professional certificate (or be working toward getting one) from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). I received certification after installing three solar projects, gaining several years of experience, and passing the most difficult test I’ve ever taken. Always look for the NABCEP Certification seal. For a directory of professionals working for a certified solar installation company, visit NABCEP.
Many solar installation companies will be out of business before the end of their first year, and most of the remaining ones will be gone in five. It’s a good sign when a solar installation company is still around after five years. That doesn’t make them superior, though, so you should definitely seek referrals. Note that a reliable and highly qualified installer doesn’t compete on price.
Because I was bothered by seeing so many bad home installations, I wrote a short guide called The Solar Powered Home, available as a Kindle edition on www.Amazon.com. It includes lots of good information for homeowners seeking a solar contractor. — Hoss Boyd
A reputable solar installation company will provide quality equipment, professional technique, and guaranteed customer satisfaction. A long chain of command can corrupt a well-intentioned business model. Not all large corporations are bad, but I do question how much a solar installation company is concerned for my interests when it’s juggling dozens or hundreds of other customers at the same time.
Company history also matters. For example, TeraVolt Energy has been around for more than 20 years, including its predecessor companies, and that alone proves capability and survival. Also look for a solar installation company that doesn’t risk doing business with startup contractors. Ask for a list of their preferred subcontractors and research them.
Another good indicator is the amount of time a solar installation company is willing to spend designing a unique system suited to each customer’s needs. Cookie-cutter solar installations often miss the mark. Just as each household or business is different from the next, energy needs and budgets vary from customer to customer.
Asking questions and holding conversations with reps from a solar installation company you’re considering is a great way to vet them. Do your own advance research before speaking to a licensed installer to ensure you won’t be scammed or skimped. — Kerena Reese
Hoss and Kerena will answer queries on energy subjects in upcoming issues. Email them at Letters@MotherEarthNews.com with “Gone Off-Grid” in the subject line.
Hoss Boyd is founder, president, and CEO of TeraVolt Energy. Kerena Reese is an independent energy engineer. They’re recognized solar and energy-storage experts.
Originally published as “Going Off-Grid: Choosing a Solar Installation Company” in the August/September 2023 issue of Magazine Title and regularly vetted for accuracy.
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