Soak up everything you need to know with this guide on finding the best solar panel contractor
So you've decided to spring for solar. This exciting switch can greatly reduce energy bills, but how do you find the right installer? A solar panel installation contractor should have licensing and insurance to legally practice in most states. When you're hiring a pro, look for one with at least three years of experience in their field and get quotes from at least three different pros before making your decision.
How to Find a Solar Panel Installer
Start your search for a solar panel installer by asking family and friends for any recommendations. If none have worked with a professional before, search for solar panel installation contractors near you and check online reviews.
You can also contact the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the national trade association for the solar industry in the U.S., to see if your contractor is a member.
Before Hiring a Solar Panel Installer
A successful solar panel installation requires a bit of preparation.
Plan Your Solar Panel Installation Project for Accurate Quotes
You’ll want to have a few details squared away before asking potential contractors for project quotes. There are plenty of questions to ask a solar company to ensure you cover all solar panel cost factors before signing on that dotted line:
Will it be grid-tied or stand-alone solar?
How much power will I need?
Where will the solar panel be placed (e.g., roof, ground, etc.)?
Do I need solar panels or solar shingles?
What will be the inverter type?
Get at least three quotes from different solar panel pros, and ask what goes into their pricing model so you can make the best choice for your budget.
Check Your Solar Installer’s Qualifications and References
Not all states require a solar contractor to be licensed, so check your state solar certification and licensing requirements. We recommend hiring an installer certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), which provides quality credential programs for solar panel installation professionals. Also, hire ones who are insured to protect you from liability.
Ask your potential hire for any references and reach out to them. Ask the contacts detailed questions about their experience with the pro, like if the installer started the project on time, their communication style, or if there were any issues throughout the installation process.
Questions to Ask Your Solar Panel Installer
Here’s a list of some of the questions to ask your pro:
Do you handle all documentation and necessary paperwork? Working with your utility company can be complicated and time-consuming. Consider working with a contractor who handles all the detailed paperwork for you.
Who secures the permits? Typically, the permit process is included in the labor cost. If this is the case, you can ask what portion of your total costs are for permitting.
Do you subcontract work? It’s helpful to know if the contractor will be the one installing your panels.
Have you worked with my local utility company? Every utility company has different rules about how home solar energy systems can connect. Working with a contractor who has experience with your specific company is beneficial.
Hiring a Solar Panel Installer Tips
Once you've decided on a pro, it's time to sign a contract, arrange payments, start the project, and record the progress. You'll also want to make sure you're avoiding contractor scams.
Get a Contract and Arrange Payments With Your Solar Panel Installer
Never work without a contract. Here’s what yours should include:
Down payment: A down payment is normal and necessary to secure materials.
Payment structure: Set up an agreed-upon schedule so there are no surprises.
Final payment: This should be the last installment and only be released once they've completed the job to satisfaction.
Terms and conditions: These include warranty information, cancellation policy, and all the legal fine print. Read it all before signing.
Schedule: Know when your project will start and when you can expect it to be completed.
Business license number and contact information: Confirm your contractor’s information before signing.
Keep Records of Your Solar Installation Project
Keeping records of your project can come in handy should an issue arise. Here’s what you should track:
Any receipts for materials (if your contractor is purchasing them, ask for copies)
Hours worked, especially if this is how your labor is being calculated
Progress photos throughout the project
Detailed records of daily progress if the project starts to fall behind schedule
Know Your Rights and Avoid Solar Panel Installation Scams
If your project is abandoned or not completed to the terms listed in the contract, you have the right to withhold the final payment. If a contractor is harassing you for payment, report them to your local consumer affairs office.
Finally, make sure you're on the lookout for scams. Scammers may pressure you into starting a project before you're ready. They may also pose as government officials or offer you big discounts for your installation. If something feels off, it's better to take some time to vet your solar installer before moving forward.
After the Work Is Finished
Once your solar panels are installed, take some time to examine the final result. This involves inspecting the panels and seeing how they power your home. If you can’t access the installation site, ask your contractor to take pictures for you.
Once you’re happy with the project results, make the final payment. If possible, leave your contractor a positive online review and agree to be a future reference for them.