The author of Power from the Sun: A Practical Guide to Solar Electricity, helps us to ask the right questions of prospective service providers before hiring them to install solar power in our homes.
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1. How long have you been in the business? (The longer the better.)
2. How many systems have you installed? How many systems like mine have you installed? (The more systems the better.)
3. How will you size my system?
4. Do you provide recommendations to make my home more energy efficient first? (energy efficiency measures reduce system size and can save you a fortune.)
5. Do you carry liability and worker's compensation insurance? Can I have the policy numbers and name of the insurance agents? (Liability insurance protects against damage to your property. Worker's compensation insurance protects you from injury claims by the installer's workers.)
6. Are you bonded? (Bonding provides homeowners with financial recourse if an installer does not meet his or her contractual obligations.)
7. What additional training have you undergone? When? Are you NABCEP certified? (Manufacturers often offer training on new equipment to keep installers up to date. NABCEP is a national certifying board that requires installers to pass a rigorous test and have a certain amount of experience.)
8. Will employees be working on the system? What training have they received? How many systems have they installed? Will you be working with the crew or overseeing their work? If you're overseeing the work, how often will you check up on them? If I have problems with any of your workers, will you respond immediately? (Be sure that the owner of the company will be actively involved in your system or that he or she sends an experienced crew to your site.)
9. Are you a licensed electrician or will a licensed electrician be working on the crew? (State regulations on who can install a PV system vary. A licensed electrician may not be required, except to pull the permit, supervise the project, and make the final connection to your electrical panel.)
10. What brand modules and inverters will you use? Do you install UL listed components? (To meet code, all components must be UL listed or listed by some other similar organization.)
11. Do you guarantee your work? For how long? What does your guarantee cover? How quickly will you respond if troubles emerge? (You want an installer who guarantees the installation for a reasonable time and who will fix any problems that arise immediately.)
12. Do you offer service contracts? (Service contracts may be helpful early on to be sure the system runs flawlessly.) How much will a service contract cost? What does it cover?
13. Can I have a list of your last five projects with contact information? (Be sure to call references and talk with homeowners to see how well the installer performed and how easy he or she was to work with.)
14. What is the payment schedule? Can I withhold the final 10% of the payment for a week or two to be sure the system is operating correctly? (Don't pay for a system all at once. A deposit, followed by one or two payments protects you from being ripped off. Never make a final payment until you are certain the system is working well.)
15. Will you pull and pay for the permits?
16. Will you work with the utility to secure an interconnection agreement?
17. What's a realistic schedule? When can you obtain the equipment? When can you start work? How long will the whole project take?
From Power from the Sun: A Practical Guide to Solar Electricity by Dan Chiras and New Society Publishers
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