Investing in a solar energy system is a great way to reduce energy cost savings by generating your own electricity. However, solar systems are expected to last 40 or more years. So, doing your due diligence up front to select the best solar contractor is essential. You don't want to be stuck with an under performing 40 year investment after selecting the wrong contractor.
When evaluating your options be sure not to make these three common mistakes:
1. Focusing Only on Price
Getting a competitive price on your solar energy system is vital to ensuring a high rate of return. However, when making the long-term investment in solar, you should be more focused on finding the best value rather than the lowest price. It is often the lowest priced bidder that will install a lower quality system which will directly impact your return on investment by reducing the energy savings the system can deliver.
Evaluating contractors by best value takes into account all factors of the purchase. It does not mean that you are looking for the most expensive. Looking for the best value means you are looking for the best you can get for the best price, and is actually the best way to maximize your return on investment in a solar energy system.
"The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." - Ben Franklin
2. Not Evaluating Technical Capability
Designing and installing solar energy systems requires a high level of technical capability. This includes the ability to design and engineer your system, perform the necessary electrical, structural, and civil work, and test the performance of your system. Ideally, the solar contractor should be able to do most of the work with its own in-house professionals.
Check for the applicable certifications to ensure the minimum level of technical capability. For example, you should only hire a NABCEP Certified Installer (www.nabcep.org) to install your system. But, you don't want a contractor with just the minimum level of expertise; you want a fully capable contractor. Be sure to ask your prospective contractors detailed questions about how they plan to design and install your system. The contractor with clear answers to your questions likely knows what they are doing and can be trusted with the project. But, avoid contractors that do not clearly indicate their technical capability.
3. Failing to Verify Past Performance
Be careful accepting a bid that seems to indicate strong technical capability at a good price without verifying past performance. It may be the bid you want to select, but without checking it against the contractor's past performance, how do you know for sure you will be getting what is promised in the contractor's bid?
Before making your selection check the contractor's experience with similar projects. Be sure that the contractor has relevant experience and understands the challenges of installing your system. You should check with the contractor's past clients both to verify the contractor's experience, but also to get additional information on the overall performance of the contractor. Information from the contractor's past clients about the contractor's performance is one of the best indicators of your satisfaction with the solar contractor you hire. Remember, your satisfaction or dissatisfaction will last for the entire life of your investment.
Your Winning Bid
The contractor you select to install your solar energy system should have already made you feel 100% at ease about the process. If that is not the case, you may need to refer back to the three mistakes above. But, if you are confident in what you will be receiving because your contractor is confident in what it is providing, then you have found your winning bid.