When it comes to hiring the best solar provider to install solar panels on your home, the sheer number of choices out there can be overwhelming. But the Citadel Roofing & Solar checklist of the top things to look for can make that challenge easier.
This post covers the first eight factors, which are meant to help you choose which companies to contact to request free proposals. All of these factors can be covered during your first call with the potential installer. Or, if you want, you can find out how the company stacks up on a number of these points with some online research before you even contact the company.
Then, once you’ve settled on a handful of reputable companies and received proposals from them, it’s time to review the remaining seven factors, which we’ll cover in our next post. Be sure to check back in two weeks for that checklist of tips.
Many of the qualities you want in a residential solar company fall under the umbrella of Security. If the company you’re considering makes you feel secure in the following ways, you can feel good requesting a proposal from them.
You’ve probably seen and heard the annoying “fire sale” type advertisements from solar companies that got into the market to make a quick buck, and have little concern for the quality of their work or the satisfaction of their customers. But there are ways to make sure you’re partnering with a reputable, qualified company.
Make sure that the solar company you choose is:
Licensed - For example, Citadel Roofing & Solar has solar, electrical (both C10 and C46), roofing and general building contractor licenses, ensuring our employees are properly trained and certified to have the skills you need.
Experienced in solar - You want a company with a proven track record. Citadel has 30 years in roofing and 10 years in solar. We’ll protect your roof and do the job right.
Financially stable - Is there any record of them having financial difficulties or declaring bankruptcy in the past? If yes, it’s probably better to avoid them as you can’t be assured they’ll be there in a few years if you need them.
Also ask: Is the company investor-owned or privately owned? Is it part of a solar-focused company or is solar just one line of business for them? There is no right or wrong answer here. But you want to feel comfortable that the company is motivated by customer satisfaction, not rewarding investors. And you want to know they have a long-term commitment to selling and maintaining solar energy products.
A Great Reputation
Skip the fly-by-night companies and ignore the gimmicks. Reputable solar companies don’t rely on high-pressure sales to win customers. At Citadel, we rely on good, solid dependable solar energy and excellent customer service. That’s why we have a 5-star rating on HomeAdvisor.
If a solar company salesperson reminds you of the stereotypical used car salesman, run the other way!
To get an idea what kind of reputation each solar contractor has, you can:
Look at online reviews for the company, including Google, Facebook, Yelp, HomeAdvisor and EnergySage. Make sure these reviews apply to the teams that actually serve your location. Citadel Roofing & Solar, for instance, has three teams that serve all of California based from Vacaville, Roseville, and Valencia.
- Ask for two or three customer references, and be sure to contact them with a handful of questions most important to you.
- Ask your friends and family which solar company they used, and if they were happy or not.
Local, In-House Crews
Ask the following questions when deciding which solar providers to ask for proposals.
Is the company California-based? Choosing a local installer is about more than supporting the local economy. It’s also about knowing the employees have roots, and a reputation to uphold, in the same area as you. Citadel is a local, family owned and operated company that has deep roots in the California roofing and solar worlds. We are your neighbors!
Does the company use its own in-house crews or does it outsource the most important part of the job—the installation? Using in-house crews, as Citadel does, generally ensures tighter quality control and better customer satisfaction as there is no “middle man” and less chance of miscommunication or something slipping through the cracks.
Quality equipment is as important as well-trained, qualified installers.
Does your proposal name the brand of panels to be used? If not, that’s a red flag. You should know what you’re paying for. If you aren’t familiar with the brand named in your proposal, search online for reviews and news about them. Different brands of solar panel offer different price points and performance levels that may matter to you. For example, if you have a small roof, did the solar company offer you premium panels that produce more power per square foot than other panels?
Citadel Roofing & Solar installs a range of high-quality equipment made by financially stable manufacturers including SunPower, LG, Panasonic, Hanwha, Longi Enphase, SolarEdge and Fronius. (Our roofing products from CertainTeed and Owens Corning are equally high quality.)
You may not think warranties matter. Maybe you never buy the extended warranties on your washing machine or refrigerator, but those products have a proven track record. You generally know what to expect. Solar is proving to be extremely reliable, but let’s be honest: It is a relatively new product when it comes to the home consumer market. So you want the security of a good warranty that goes beyond the one or two years you get with your kitchen appliances.
Here’s what defines today’s gold standard for residential solar panel protection:
A 25-year warranty on the photovoltaic (PV) panels (and similarly long-term warranties on the inverters). Think about the peace of mind long-term protection like that delivers. Wouldn't it be nice if your washer and dryer or your car provided that level of reassurance?
A warranty that covers 100% of the replacement cost of your solar panels. That means the labor to replace any faulty equipment as well as the equipment itself.
That is the minimum you should accept. So be sure to confirm what warranties come with your solar electricity system before signing on the dotted line.
The Security of Solar
Let’s digress for a minute to appreciate the security solar gives you, the homeowner:
Solar increases your financial security by reducing your electric bills, and locking in a known price for each kilowatt-hour of electricity, which will not increase.
When you make your own solar energy, you gain some independence from the utility and their shareholder-driven decisions.
Solar helps you do your part for the world’s environmental security, by reducing the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that are driving climate change.
Solar’s benefits are many, but you must feel secure in your choice of solar installer and the system they recommend. We’ve listed eight things to watch for above. It all boils down to this: How secure do you feel working with this installer and potentially buying a system from them?
Solar Security Checklist
For easy reference, here’s a summary and checklist of the most important things to watch for when selecting the best solar contractors to contact about proposals. Reminder: you can cover these things through online research before reaching out to installers, or during your first contact with them.
Be sure to visit us again in two weeks for Part 2 of this post, which will detail the seven factors to consider when comparing proposals and making your solar decision.