After you have made the decision that you want to install solar panels on your home, you need to find a reliable company to buy them from and to install them. But how do you know who to choose? Here are some tips to help you decide.
Experience counts. If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where solar panel installation has been ongoing, you may be able to locate a company which has been in business for two or three decades. If so, they should be able to provide plenty of references for you to call. It will also be easy to check with the local Better Business Bureau to see if they have a clean record.
Ask them about the equipment they recommend, and do some research on the internet to find some reviews of the manufacturers. Find out what kinds of warranties the equipment comes with. Also, find out what kinds of warranties the contractor offers on labor and workmanship. It is common to find 10-year warranties on the solar panels, and 3 to 10-year warranties on pumps, inverters and controls. Workmanship should have at least a one year warranty.
Some installers have experience only in off-grid systems, and you may be concerned about them working on your system if it will be tied to the grid. It is true that there are definite differences between installing the two systems. But off grid systems are much more complex than grid tied systems. An off grid installer will most likely be quite capable of connecting your system to the local power company, especially since he or she will be monitored by the local building inspectors.
Membership in a professional organization for alternative energy vendors might be another indicator of professionalism. But find out first what the requirements are to join the organization before you decide to be impressed. Memberships are voluntary, and some only require paying a fee. Other organizations (like the Solar Energies Industries Association) require continuing education and field experience in order to qualify for membership.
The best recommendation is always word of mouth from a trusted source. If you know someone who has recently had solar panels installed, ask them if they would recommend the company they used. You can also ask a local real estate agent. They usually know the trustworthy contractors in town.