Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes When Shopping For A Solar Installer

You’re confused, frustrated, staring at pages filled with pie charts, line graphs, percentages and solar jargon from multiple solar installers.
How do they compare?
Why do the system sizes and prices vary so much?
What in the world is an inverter and what’s the difference between string versus micro?

We’ve all been here, so you’re in good company. Also, it doesn’t have to be this way! Keep reading for our top five “don’ts” when shopping for solar.

Girl Shopping for Solar Installer
Photo by Bianca Lucas on Unsplash

Don’t go with the first...or second quote.

If you’re thinking “wow, this one seems like a no-brainer,” skip to the next section. If this resonates with you, read on.

Some of us don’t have the time, don’t want to make the time or are simply very trusting. To the one-and-doners, we understand how time-consuming the process can be. Unfortunately, it’s also the only way to ensure that you’re getting the best system for your specific needs, for the right price. Sometimes the first quote ends up being the best option, but you need to compare to know definitively.

If you’ve had a discovery call with a reputable company, you shouldn’t be left with many questions and a completely transparent solar installer will even help you compare quotes. This can also benefit you as many installers will price match (within reason).

Pro Tip: Call Solar United Neighbors to get information about becoming a member for $35. No, this is not a sponsored ad. These guys are the real deal and true solar advocates with extensive knowledge about the solar industry. I highly recommend having them walk you through the solar buying process if you’re finding yourself left with more questions than answers. We know shopping for a solar installer is tough!

Also, don’t get too many quotes!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have those requesting as many proposals as they can muster the time and energy to. Spending countless hours meticulously flipping through pages of quotes from 6, 7…14 different companies. While we acknowledge that this is a very personal, even enjoyable, process for some, it’s not for the masses and typically isn’t necessary.

Three proposals is our rule of thumb (five if you absolutely must). If you do your research in advance, this will serve you very well. A good variety will include both national and local installers, and I’ll touch on this a little more in the next section.

Pro Tip: Go with your gut! You will know pretty quickly whether or not you are gelling with the solar consultant on the other end of the line, which is a great litmus test for whether you’ll love the company they represent. Do this and we promise you won’t lose. 

Don’t choose an installer based on their geographic location.

Geographic sprawl does not a reliable installer make. And neither does geographic convenience.

Oftentimes, national solar companies will contract out the installation to a local outfit, but not always so make sure to ask. This makes sense from a business standpoint, but it would be worth asking who will handle the installation and going straight to the source for a quote comparison. These local installers often offer turnkey solar solutions themselves – from sales and design to installation and warranty maintenance – but simply do not have the advertising budget to reach you first. This is a great option if you prefer a more “family-owned” style of customer service.

By the same token, some national companies manage their installations in-house and are able to pass those savings on to you. If you had a great experience and they came out on top after being compared to local outfits, feel confident in your selection as there are stellar national outfits out there.

Pro Tip: If you have the time, test their customer service by calling different departments to make sure they pick up the phone once you are past the sales process, as this is the complaint I hear most often.

Don’t fall for a (bad) sales pitch.

While the majority of solar pros out there are ethical and honest, the number of dishonest sales consultants is growing right along with the industry. Don’t let someone convince you that your shaded, north-facing, steep-pitched, 20-year-old roof is great for solar. It’s not!

Sometimes these factors can be dealt with by way of tree removal or a ground mount, but often it makes more sense to simply wait until you relocate to a more solar-friendly home. List many other ways you can be fooled by salesmen on dishonest pricing and including rebates or incentives that are not guaranteed)

Pro Tip: Only request proposals from solar sales consultants who asked questions to really get to the bottom of your “why”. Did they ask why you’re going solar and what you want to accomplish? Did they ask what your knowledge level is and take the time to fill in the gaps? Were they pushy or rush you to make a decision or did they make you feel comfortable? Your gut will tell you everything you need to know.

Don’t Ignore the Reviews!

Reviews matter! They are only second to referrals from friends or family. Do these reviews reflect the experience you had? Do they give you confidence that you’ll be taken care of throughout the process? Did they respond to negative feedback with sincerity and an offer to fix the issue? Great. Proceed!

Pro Tip: Check more than one source for reviews and make sure they are reputable. This is not a definitive list, but here are a few you should always include:

I hope you feel a lot more confident shopping for a solar installer. This is a big decision, but one of the best you’ll make financially and for the planet. Make sure the company you choose is in it for the long haul. HAPPY SHOPPING!

P.S. If you have a few minutes, get to know our team at Sunshine here!