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Finding a solar installer in your area

How to find and screen solar panel installers

It's always wise to consult a professional solar installer, and properly screening solar panel installers and water heating contractors can make all the difference.

Even with seemingly simple designs and systems, there are several potential hazards that if overlooked, can seriously compromise both the solar panel's and the system's performance, efficiency and even the manufacturers' warranty. 

More importantly if certain plumbing (and in some cases electrical) considerations are not made by a licensed professional, the safety of your home or your place of business can be seriously compromised as well.

Choosing the right solar panel and water heating installer is especially important with active solar water heater designs. For those who are very well versed on at least the basics of indoor plumbing, passive solar water heaters can be good candidates for a do it yourself installation.

Remember Installation Cost Isn't Everything

It's always a consumers first instinct to seek the lowest price for a product or service. With that said, it's important to keep in mind that the biggest incentive to going solar is the years of accumulative energy savings. 

In order to reap the benefits of years of free energy, the design and installation must be of quality. Keep in mind that the long term effects of a poorly designed and installed system will always be greater than the short term effect of paying a reputable solar installer a higher one time fee for a more detailed installation.

And by claiming the federal solar tax credit, and possibly combining it with other similar solar incentives, a great deal of the installation cost can be offset.  

Roof Design and Panel Installation

More times than not a roof mount will be the most ideal option with a residential application, and roof mounted panels should be installed in a manner that takes into account the site's existing roof design.

If the site's existing roof design isn't taken into account, the panels' orientation and the designs' versatility can be limited.

Experienced solar panel installers take such variables into account before design and installation.

What to expect from a solar installer

  • Should be able to accurately evaluate your site's solar resource.
  • Make specific design and system recommendations taking into account your solar resource, hot water and electricity usage, your monetary budget as well as your expectations.
  • Should have a fair amount of experience in dealing with several reputable solar suppliers.
  • A reputable and experienced solar panel installer should have knowledge of roof designs and how panel installation can be effected.
  • Perform the necessary periodic maintenance on the system, and it's components, as recommended by the manufacturer or supplier.
  • The solar installer should be well aware of local and state building codes regarding solar designs.
  • Should clearly state if the responsibility of obtaining local permits (if applicable) is the home or business owners', or if it's the solar installers' practice to obtain such permits on the consumers behalf.
  • If the solar installer plans to obtain permits on your behalf, it's their responsibility to itemize any potential additional installation costs associated with obtaining the permits.
  • Lastly, reputable solar panel installers should provide solutions that make you feel confident and more comfortable with your decision to go solar. 

Doing Your Homework

  • It's strongly recommended that you familiarize yourself with solar hot water heaters, in order to keep your local solar installer honest.
  • Don't forget to research neighborhood ordinances and/or homeowner association covenants about any potential restrictions before any local permits are obtained.

Choosing between several local solar panel installers

  • When selecting a local solar professional, it's recommended that the following considerations are made.
  • Is the company properly licensed and insured? Some states require both a plumbers' and solar contractors' license.
  • How long has the company been installing and servicing solar systems and designs? Select a solar installer with a reasonable amount of experience.
  • Always check with the Better Business Bureau for potential consumer complaints regarding a the solar heating contractors' business practices.
  • Always obtain quotes from several solar panel installers before making a decision, and receive all estimates in writing.

Questions To Ask When Screening Solar Panel Installers

  • How many years has the installer, not the just the entire company, been servicing solar energy systems?

  • How did they get their start? A contractor should never learn such skills performing trail and error tests, the contractor should learn by working closely with more experienced solar panel installers first.

  • What methods will they use to determine the your site's solar resource?

  • What methods will he or she use to determine the size of the solar panel (or collector) as well as the entire system?

  • How will my sites' roof design effect collector tilt?

  • If the roof requires future up keeps, will disassembly and reinstallation of the panels be required? And why?

  • Which solar suppliers and manufacturers do they prefer? And why?

  • Do they prefer flat plate collectors or evacuated tube collectors? Why?

  • Does the company have maintenance and service agreements? If so, at what cost and for how long?

  • If I intend to perform the periodic maintenance on the system, will the basic service recommendations for the particular design be explained? And if so, when and by whom?

  • Are you familiar with the local and state building codes. For example are single wall solar heat exchangers acceptable for my desired application (residential or commercial)? Or does the local and state building codes require double wall solar heat exchangers?

  • What assistance (if any) will I receive for claiming the federal solar tax credit as well as other local incentives? Many solar panel installers are willing to assist their consumers with the required paper work.

  • Do you have experience installing both AC solar hot water pumps as well as DC solar hot water pumps? It's important to note that in some states, a licensed electrician is required to install an AC powered pump.

More on solar hot water heaters


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