There are things we buy every day, like a cup of coffee. Things we buy every once in a while, like a car. And things we’ve never even contemplated buying before, like a solar energy system. Doing new things can be hard, and the stakes are even higher when the price tag is sizable. And yet, what many consumers have discovered is that spending a little time to get smart on solar can yield a big payoff.
In 2012, over 82,000 American households made the switch to solar. If you have a friend, neighbor, or family member in that group, they are a great place to start for advice. Your next step is to find an installer who serves your neighborhood. An experienced installer can tell you whether your site is good for solar and design a system to meet your needs. What’s more, they will likely evaluate your site for free.
Here are some thoughts from solar owners on how they approached the solar shopping experience.
A recommendation from a trusted source:
“We probably did have a choice of an installer, but I’ll admit we didn’t shop hard. Our installer was recommended by our builder.”
“I wouldn’t choose the cheapest carpenter to build my house. We didn’t choose the cheapest installer when we went solar. In order to ensure that solar was a good long-term investment for our family, we made sure to select an installer with years of experience and many satisfied customers in our neighborhood.”
“We had the benefit of our father’s experience. He has had a solar system for almost 3 years and has been really satisfied. His experience helped us build confidence in solar, and we ultimately chose our installer because we had seen his work already.”
Responsiveness and a personal touch:
“I had wanted to install solar for a few years. I went to a couple of home shows in the area, and asked other installers and manufacturers about solar. No one followed up. When I finally met my installer, I told them I’ve heard all kinds of numbers quoted for installation. My installer said they couldn’t give me a real number until they visited my home.”
“I liked the installer because of their personal touch, their price, and their willingness to come to my home for a free estimate.”
“We chose a local company to install our system. I wanted to make sure that if we had any issues, there would be hands close by to help. We made sure to work with a company that was committed to serving our area for the long haul.”
Determine the right sized system to meet your energy needs:
“My wife and I had lots of questions like ‘how much is too much? How much is too big?’ Our installer worked with us on our goals. We wanted enough to meet the demands we had.”
“Our goal was the maximize power output on our main roof…and we own a 2011 Chevrolet Volt Plug-in, so PV would help make our car even cheaper to own.”
“Our installer started the process by asking us about our energy needs. We knew that we wanted to eliminate our current utility bill, but we also wanted to plan for the future when EVs would be more affordable. We oversized our system on purpose so that over time we can convert as much of our energy demand as possible to match the sunlight hitting our roof.”
“We really wanted to build a house with PV so we could do more to address climate change. It is now powering 100% of our needs. When we tell people that we haven’t paid a utility bill since February 2011, they’re all like ‘wow, that’s pretty cool.’”
Make the most out of your roof:
“My installer worked with me to make the most of my multi-leveled roof. My solar system’s capacity is projected to generate about 25% more electricity than we use, even with all these machines in my workshop.”
“We saw solar as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a good investment. So, we told our installer to use up as much of the roof as possible and to use the most productive panels as possible. As a Sunpower dealer, our installer was able to deliver on that request.”
Availability of financing options:
“I received bids from several installers, but I went with my installer in part because they had access to financing.”
“If my installer didn’t have access to financing, we wouldn’t have been able to afford solar. We just bought this home, we have no equity, and we certainly do not have that kind of money lying around”
What is most important to you when selecting contractors to work on your home? How did you select your solar installer? What gave you the confidence to move ahead?