Congratulations on deciding to investigate solar for your home! Next comes the daunting task of choosing the right contractor for the job. Installing a solar array on your home is likely to be one of your largest home-improvement investments, so it’s important to get it right. Just like making any other home improvement decision, you should consider several factors when selecting a solar contractor. Here are my top eight tips for choosing a solar installer in Florida:
- Tip One: Look at Reviews & Volume
- Tip Two: Identify the Owners and Managers
- Tip Three: Learn the Technology
- Tip Four: Examine Service and Professionalism
- Tip Five: Avoid Subcontractors
- Tip Six: Understand the Warranties
- Tip Seven: Compare Prices
- Tip Eight: Ask Who Will Be Coming to the Jobsite to Work on Your Roof
Tip One: Look at Reviews & Volume
A good first check to see if a solar company is legitimate is seeing how many customers they have and if they are happy. To find the installation volume for a solar company, head to Solar Power World’s Top Contractors List. Volume is measured in kilowatts installed. For reference, a typical residential solar array is 5-15 kilowatts.
When reading reviews, look for information about the sales process, customer support, installation quality, and general satisfaction. Like other businesses, solar companies are often reviewed on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. Luckily, there are also industry organizations that compile reviews specifically for solar contractors. Solar Reviews is a great place to find compilations of reviews.
Tip Two: Identify the Owners and Managers
Finding the owners and managers of a solar company is important because it can help you determine how involved they are in daily operations as well as their level of expertise in the industry. In Florida, business owners are public record and can be found on SunBiz. Simply search the business by name and you can find the registered agents (owners) associated with that business.
Ideally, you want the company owner to be someone you have access to as a customer. This ensures you can receive the highest level of service from the company, getting your questions answered and issues resolved as quickly as possible. Finding the owners is also important when you go to look up the company’s licensing status (tip six).
Other pieces of information that you can find on SunBiz are how long the business has been operational as well as its current status. We suggest hiring a solar company that is at least 5-years old. With so many new companies entering the industry, it is difficult to know how reliable they are without seeing that they have already withstood the test of time. You need to remember that you may need your solar array serviced at a later date; in case something goes wrong, you need the original installer to be around to service the system for you. Most reputable solar companies will not service systems installed by other contractors because doing so is highly risky.
Tip Three: Learn the Technology
The next factor to consider when choosing a solar contractor is the technology that they install. Just as there are a huge number of contractors out there, there are also a huge number of options for the hardware used in a solar installation. There is no universal gold standard for solar technology because the technology is so new and what’s best varies based on climate and other factors. Therefore, as a customer, you can’t be expected to know what products are the best and why, but you should expect that your contractor can explain their equipment to you and why they use what they use. If you find that one company in your area is using Hanwha panels and another uses LG, ask them why.
A quick check to see if the panels used by a company are the best in the industry is by seeing if they appear on the Solar Review Tier I solar panels list. This list is updated quarterly to reflect the best technology available in the evolving solar market. We suggest you do not install any panels that aren’t included on this Tier I list.
To learn more about how solar technology works and questions to ask to determine what’s best for your home, visit our Complete Guide to How Solar Power Works in Florida. You can also investigate the big names in solar, like Hanwha for panels, SolarEdge for inverters, and Tesla for batteries.
Tip Four: Examine Service and Professionalism
Solar systems are low maintenance once installed, but there are quite a few details to be worked out in advance. You will be working consistently with your solar contractor for weeks, likely with several people– the sales representative, the project manager, and the installers. Therefore, for peace of mind, you’ll want to be working with a contractor that you get along with.
It is difficult to know the level of service and professionalism to expect before taking a meeting. That’s why, once you’ve made it to this stage, it’s important to meet with a few different contractors so you can gauge their service and professionalism firsthand. Now that many contractors are offering virtual appointments, this process is even easier.
Another great way to go is to check their Facebook and YouTube pages to see if they have any video testimonials from customers that speak specifically to their experience with the sales rep and project manager.
You want to know that your contractor is available in case something does go wrong with your system. Do they have a messaging option on their website? A phone number prominently listed? Engagement on social media? All of these factors point to a contractor that is listening to their customers, ready to step in to make changes to a system as needed.
Tip Five: Avoid Subcontractors
While subcontractors can make things more efficient for a solar contractor, the fact of the matter is subcontractors add another layer of uncertainty to your solar process. The more subcontractors a solar provider includes in a job, the less control they have over the process and the harder it is to get issues resolved if they arise.
There are two ways to check whether a solar company uses subcontractors. First, you can ask your contractor if they will subcontract any part of the process. Second, to make sure, look up their licensing information on the DBPR website. You can search for any company in the state of Florida and see what licenses they hold. In addition, you can see which individuals hold licenses. Make sure at least one of the licenses is held by a business owner, and ideally each license should be held by a manager of the business. This way, you can be sure the company is actually qualified to perform the work and isn’t simply hiring someone to be their license holder in name only.
To perform a complete solar installation in Florida without using subcontractors, a contractor must hold either of the following combinations of licenses:
-A solar license and an electrical license
-A roofing license and an electrical license
If the company holds only one of these licenses (or if they only hold a general contractor’s license), they are guaranteed to be subcontracting part of the installation.
Tip Six: Understand the Warranties
Another differentiator for solar contractors is the warranties they offer. Most solar systems have two types of warranties: product warranties and installation warranties. The product warranties are offered by the manufacturer of the panels, inverters, and other equipment. These warranties cover the products themselves. The contractor’s warranties, on the other hand, are offered by your contractor and cover installation and workmanship.
Ideally, your contractor will work with you if you need to file a warranty claim with the product manufacturer. They should act as an intermediate between you and the manufacturer to make sure the manufacturer offers service as appropriate. You should check with them to learn more about their claims procedures.
When considering the warranty offered by your contractor, you want to ensure that they have a warranty that covers any issues that arise due to their fault in installation. In the best-case scenario, your contractor should go above and beyond what is required in their warranty. This is a sign that your contractor really places their customers’ needs first. To get an idea, you can again turn to their reviews, and you can also ask them directly about how they have dealt with recent warranty claims.
A final note about warranties: remember that a warranty is only as strong as the company that offers it. A 20-year warranty is not worth as much if the company is out of business in five years. Therefore, take the overall reliability of your contractor and their equipment into account when considering warranties.
Tip Seven: Compare Prices
Last on our list of tips for finding the right solar contractor in Florida is doing a price comparison. Going solar is such a significant investment that price should only be considered once the other factors on our list have been explored. For a solar installation, it is worth paying more when that comes with greater assurance that your system will be installed properly and function well for years to come. Solar is a highly competitive market, so you can bet that your solar contractor is doing their best to keep prices as low as possible. It is important to make sure this doesn’t come with a sacrifice in quality.
Tip Eight: Ask Who Will Be Coming to the Jobsite to Work on Your Roof
My last tip for choosing a solar contractor is to ask for the specific names of the individuals who will be coming to your home to work on your roof. If your installation is scheduled already, your project coordinator should be able to tell you. This is important because you need to make sure the installation team is comprised of W-2 employees of the business who are covered by workman’s compensation. If they are unable to tell you who the crew will be, they are either using temporary workers paid under the table or subcontractors. In either case, you could be left liable for injuries that occur on your property.
You Made It!
If you’re ready to compare contractors, reach out to us to schedule a consultation. You can also dive deeper into the world of Goldin Solar by checking out our recent awards, rankings, and visiting our residential FAQ page.
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