Updated: Sep 5, 2020
A residential solar panel system is a large investment in your home’s energy. Instead of paying the electric bill for the next few decades, rooftop solar panels can generate free, clean electricity directly on our property. Once you’ve decided that going solar is the right choice for your energy needs, then comes the somewhat daunting task of choosing which solar company to design, install, and maintain your system.
Although the first step is to find a company that gets great online reviews, it can still be hard to tell if you are making the right choice during a one on one meeting with a solar consultant. For this reason, we’ve put together this list of the best questions to ask solar companies during a consultation. Below, we will outline the essential solar panel questions.
Are your solar installations done in-house? Are they contracted?
Above all, we feel as if this is one of the most important questions to ask a solar company: do you do all of your own installations? Whereas there are many one-stop-shop solar companies that provide design, installation, and financing all under one roof, there are also many solar panel sales entities that contract their installations.
Although you may be able to save a bit of money on the upfront costs of your system, in general, using a company that subcontracts their installations comes with a few inherent risks. Overall, there is less quality control. A salesman can promise the world so that you will sign the dotted line, but when it comes to the installation, the subcontracted company may run into operational issues that are simply “no longer the problem” of the original solar company who sold you the system.
Learn more about the dangers of solar companies who subcontract their installations.
What are the parts and labor warranties on the solar system?
Of course, no matter who installs your solar energy system, there is always the chance that external factors may cause components to malfunction which can lead to system failure. That is why inquiries on parts and labor warranties are among the most important questions to ask solar companies.
Beyond simply the parts and labor warranties, you should also ask a solar company what their customer service process is like. If you have questions or issues with your panels, then you will want to know how to contact the company, an expected timeline, as well as any incurred costs that come with new parts or repairs.
Learn more about the advantages of a solar company with ongoing warranties, repairs, and customer service.
Who manufactures the solar panels that will be installed?
This may seem like an obvious question to ask a solar company, but surprisingly this critical detail can often be overlooked. Occasionally, solar proposals will include “Tier 1” or “High Quality” solar panels to be installed on your home. Although there are many different kinds of high quality solar panels, if the solar consultant is not able to guarantee a specific brand name as a part of the installation, then this should be seen as a red flag.
In truth, not all solar panels are created equal. For instance, companies in Colorado benefit from using purposefully designed solar panels to withstand the climate and weather conditions in the region. Conversely, high inventory companies are more likely to use whatever is most financially feasible.
Beyond solar panels, interested homeowners can also ask about the brand and specifications of the systems inverter, wiring, or optional solar battery. Whereas these details may not be able to be determined during an initial consultation, these questions are important as you gear up for an installation. Read more about the high quality components that make up a solar energy system.
When will the solar panels be installed? What is the timeline?
Another great question to ask solar companies is, “how long will it be until the panels are on my roof?” Although the question is seemingly harmless, this is a pain point for many solar companies as the industry continues to grow.
Solar panel installation timelines can vary from anywhere from between 3 to 12 months and beyond. Whereas a backlog of jobs is the sign of any good company, critically long timelines beyond the 6 month mark can be very frustrating for homeowners who simply want their solar installed. Additionally, long delays for the initial installation may be a telltale sign of ongoing customer service complications.
How long has your company been in business?
As a locally owned and operated solar company, we are strong proponents of the entrepreneurial spirit. With that said, brand new companies may not be the best choice when it comes to installing a green energy system on your home that is guaranteed to last for decades.
For this reason, a company that has a track record of many successful installations is always going to be a safer choice. For a little bit more about our history, you can read about Apollo Energy’s first megawatt of PV solar capacity installed.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
It is with great misfortune that the coronavirus pandemic has impacted so many lives around the world. Industries have been dismantled and lay-offs are at an all time high. Solar energy is no exception, with an expected 25% fall in residential solar panel installations this year.
This has caused many companies to shut down or completely change business operations. So although a solar installer may have been highly rated a year ago, it is important to know what has changed in 2020. Read more about local Colorado solar companies staying afloat during COVID-19.
What are the interest rates on the solar panel financing?
When looking at raw numbers, interest rates are one of the best ways to compare solar proposals ”apples to apples.” Unfortunately, many people become too fixated on the sale price when window shopping different installation companies. For this reason, looking at different solar financing options is often only done before it's too late.
In some cases, you may be paying cash for your solar energy system, or are bringing in some sort of independent financing option. In this case, this question will not apply to you. However, if you are financing your solar panels, interest rates are among the most important questions to ask solar companies.
Will I receive any solar incentives and rebates?
Lastly, you will want to double-check to make sure that you will receive the federal solar investment tax incentive, as well as any local rebates of which you are eligible. Although many solar companies will use this as a selling point, most municipal and utility approved installations are eligible to apply for the federal tax incentive (until Jan 1, 2022).
What is important to note here is that leased solar panels will likely not qualify you for any solar incentives. If a solar company tells you that you will not be able to receive any solar incentives, and you believe that you may be eligible, then it is time to take a closer look at the nature of the contract.
Although our installations are limited to Colorado, and southern Wyoming, Apollo Energy is here to help with any of your solar panel questions. We hope that this guide on the best questions to ask solar companies has helped you prepare for your upcoming assessment. If you have any further questions or would like to speak to one of our local solar experts, feel free to give us a call at 720-582-8258 or contact us today.