SOLAR CONSULTATION CHECKLIST – With solar energy becoming affordable each year, and providing a smart path to save money, homeowners should be prepared when they meet with a solar or renewable energy consultant. Unfortunately, there are always companies and people trying to mislead you to close a deal. NATiVE Solar wants to help you be prepared and watch out for misleading information so you can feel more comfortable about a fair deal as you consider joining the solar community.
Beware of Fake Solar News
Whether in social media, or some other form of marketing, there are many hooks out there designed to get your contact information. These lead gen tools then sell your details to the masses, which may be something that keeps you from doing the research to get to the truth. Native has put a list together to help you feel more comfortable when you contact solar companies to know you’re getting the best option. Check out Solar FAKE NEWS if you want to learn more about phishing scams to be aware of.
A Homeowners Solar Consultation Checklist
Before sitting down with any solar company, check their reviews, but also look for a solar installer that has a local presence. This is an important factor given that systems, though relatively maintenance free, may need to be serviced. Many solar companies will not have a local or regional office and consequently leave many homeowners frustrated if a service is ever required. Plus, it’s great to support local businesses. Needless to say, most will have limited travel during a pandemic or natural disasters and its critical to have someone available in a time of need.
Now, to the fun stuff. Here is a list of questions to ask your local installers to make sure you getting with the best company in your area:
Do you own the property?
Can you provide the electrical utility bills or usage?
A consultant will size the system needed based on your annual electricity usage, which is measured in kilo-watt hours or KWH, and the roof or ground space that is allowable for Solar. Providing the monthly electricity bill will help in discovering your annual electricity usage. No monthly bill handy? No problem – You can call your Electric company and they will be able to provide you with your usage.
How old is your existing roof?
Knowing the age of your roof is important. Your roof should be structurally sound and have at least 10 years of life left on the roofing system; otherwise you might want to consider re-roofing before the solar installation.
Where is the location of the Main electrical panel and what is the condition?
A solar installer will be required to bring your electrical system up to code. This may require a panel upgrade that comes at an additional expense.
What is the project timeline?
The consultant should explain to you the project process, from contract signage to Final connection, and any milestone dates with contract payment of a portion of the total cost of the project. Example: At contract signage there’s a 15% payment of the contract price, then at the time of Design, Permit and applications there could be a payment of 50% of the total cost of the project, so on and so forth until the final connection is complete.
What is included in the scope of work for this quote?
A scope of work or scope of services is a description of what will be included to install the Solar system should you sign the agreement. Having a detailed description will benefit you in comparing other scope of works. There may be a line item that is not included in the quote that may be in another for example Permit fees or solar monitoring.
What type of warranty is provided?
Warranties will also impact your quotes. Most installers offer manufacturer’s warranties that protect you from faulty equipment. Some may offer additional guarantees for the installation as well, covering potential damage to your roof. Be sure the quoted warranty is clear in what it covers and in what it does not.
What is the Price per Watt for this Solar Project?
The system size is identified by its power that is measured in watts or in kilo-watts (i.e. 1,000 watts or 1 kW). To break down the total cost of the system to a unit price (Price-per-watt), you will divide the total system cost by the total watts. An example is a 10 kW system is 10,000 watts and the system costs $30,000. 30,000 / 10,000 = $3.00 per watt or $3.00 ppw. This helps in identifying and comparing prices with multiple quotes. Do not be surprised if the Price per watt is not on the quote, the quote will identify the total cost of the system before any rebates & incentives and the total system size. With these numbers provided you’ll be able to figure out the price-per-watt.
What type of financing am I eligible for?
A lot of solar projects will tend to go the loan route due to the cost of the system. With the national average of a residential solar project costing nearly $18,000, it is understandable that that is still a large upfront cost for ownership of the system so a consultant will be able to qualify you for a loan. Be sure to see if the interest rate, monthly loan payments and any incentives that are applied to the monthly payment is explained to you clearly and that you’re comfortable with it.
What are the current Incentives and rebates that I am eligible for?
Incentives and rebates make solar even more affordable, which once received, can drop the cost of the system. A consultant should be able to explain to you which you are eligible for. The most common incentive currently is the ownership of a solar system may provide you with a 26% Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) based on the total cost of the project. An example would be if the system costs $18,000 then you may be eligible for a tax credit of $4,680 which now will bring down the cost of the system to $13,320.
Hopefully, this article has you feeling more informed and ready to take the next step, if so, join NATiVE Solar’s family: