While solar has become more accessible with dropping entry costs, a challenge still exists. How to find the best solar company for one’s installation!
Despite the allure of flexible finance models, Americans still face complications choosing the best solar company. So, since going down the route of solar is a significant decision. One should labor to understand its intricacies and the available options. Basically, in order to be well-positioned to make the right decisions.
How Solar Energy Works
Residential solar systems are mostly photovoltaic (PV). These solar electric systems mainly generate electricity by employing two main hardware components:
- Panels (modules) that convert sunlight to electricity.
- Inverter(s) that convert direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC) for home use.
Generating Solar Electricity
The amount of electric power (measured in kilowatt-hours, or kWh) generated by a solar system depends on two factors:
- The power rating of the system measured in kilowatts (kW)
- The amount of sunlight the system receives.
Additionally, the amount of sunlight received by a solar system depends on several factors, like:
- Geographic location (for instance, Miami receives more sunlight on average than New York)
- Orientation (for example, roof pitch or compass direction)
- Shading (for example, from chimneys, trees, or neighboring buildings)
Options for Purchasing Home Solar.
With the plethora of solar choices, it’s imperative to understand the options available under state law. As well as the policies that govern electric utility within your vicinity. The most common options available in most states are:
- Purchase via cash or a loan, to own both the system and all the power it generates. Here, you’re responsible for system upkeep, though such systems require little to low maintenance.
- Lease a system, typically for a monthly rate, and own all the power it generates. Here, the solar provider is responsible for system upkeep. You basically make monthly payments at the agreed-upon rate specified in the lease to use the system. However, some solar companies allow one to lease with no initial costs (“no money down”). While other companies provide the option to purchase the system after a specified amount of time.
- Enter into a “power purchase agreement” (PPA) to buy (in price per kWh) the electricity the system generates
What to Consider When Looking for the Best Solar Company.
When evaluating solar options, a consumer should always take their time and always do their homework. This involves actively engaging solar companies and making some vital considerations. For example:
- Knowing your electricity usage: It is important to understand how much electricity your home utilizes. Typically, your utility bill will have your electricity usage in kilowatt-hours. Such information can be important when considering solar to improve your home’s energy efficiency. It can also help you determine if your home always needs electricity, even during a power outage. Remember, electricity usage varies significantly based on your geography, and the even time of year.
- Research your solar company: Before entering any agreement, do your homework. Consider asking for references for the company’s previous solar installations. Or even for proof of licensure to ensure the firm is in good standing with the authorities. You can also investigate if the company is a member of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA): This is the national trade association for solar organizations that requires all its members to abide by the SEIA Solar Business Code.
- Understand Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs): Solar Renewable Energy Certificates basically represent the renewable qualities of the electric energy a solar system generates. In essence, selling or transferring RECs can help lower the cost of your system. However, you can lose the ability to make “renewable” claims about your home. So, check your contract to see who will own the RECs, whether it’s you, or the solar company.
- Knowing your electricity rates: It is important to consider how your electric bill is calculated. Do your rates differ depending on the time of day? Are you charged a fixed monthly fee based on your peak electricity usage? Will the utility company compensate you for any extra electricity your solar system produces beyond your needs. And, if so, at what rate? All these factors can dramatically affect the economics of whether to go solar or not.
- Consider your roof: It is important to ascertain whether your roof is appropriate for solar? Does it receive enough sunlight, or is it mostly shaded? How old is it? Remember, the best solar company has the ability to calculate the optimal amount of sunlight expected to reach an installed system on any roof, over the course of a year.
- Understand tax implications of credits or incentives.
- Understand how you will be compensated for excess electricity. Fundamentally, net metering enables residential consumers to send electricity that they don’t use back into the electric grid. As a result, they can “spin the meter backwards.” However, net metering rules are typically set by the jurisdiction one lives in, and can sometimes change. So, ask the solar company about the net metering rules in your area.
All things considered, the best solar company should provide reasonable installations at a competitive price. With high-quality materials and services to ensure on-time delivery of the installation and services. And thus, provide the utmost satisfaction to customers, proper maintenance, and support post-installation.
Remember, you have the final discretion of who you choose. So, don’t hesitate to ask as many questions as possible. Overall, the best transactions involve both consumer and the contractor, both fully understanding the deal. So, ensure to ask questions like:
- What will the total cost of the solar system be?
- What do the warranties cover, and what are their durations?
- How will the total cost of the solar system be if I add storage?
- How much do I pay upfront, and how much overtime, for how long?
- What is the system size?
- What is your timeline for this investment?
- How do my options differ if I want a short-term arrangement or a long-term asset?
- How much electricity will the system generate each year? Do you guarantee a minimum amount (a production guarantee)? Are there any other guarantees?
- Will my system be net-metered? If so, how will I be compensated for excess electricity generated by the system?
- If there is a blackout, what will happen to my system?