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Solar Homes – How to Choose a Solar Power Company

Forget hybrid cars – how does a hybrid house sound? A solar powered home generates and stores solar electric power, drawing on traditional grid power only at night and during times of high demand. Solar electric power is a clean, green alternative to traditional fossil-fuel based electricity. Even if you are not a treehugger, you might be attracted to solar's ability to decimate monthly electric bills for 30+ years.

If you've decided to make the leap towards a hybrid home, choosing the right solar power company to install your new solar power system can be the next big hurdle. There are many of them out there, and all of them seem like solar electric power pros. How do you choose the best solar power company for the job? Here are some great questions to throw at a solar power company.

To check out the credentials of a solar power company, be sure to ask:

  • How long has this solar power company been in business? A company should have at least 2-5 years of experience installing solar electric power systems. You want a stable company that will be around to back up its warranties in the years to come.
  • What is its customer satisfaction rating? If you can not find out easily on the company website (and if the rating is good, it will be posted everywhere) or through the Better Business Bureau, you may want to reconsiderer.
  • Does the solar power company hold all necessary licenses to complete your installation? In compliance with federal law, your solar installer must hold a valid state contractor's license. In California, this means both a C46 and a C10 license: companies with only a license can not interconnect with you the grid and will need to sub-contract out the job. Check out their license number on your local state site. In addition, your solar installer should be certified by NABCEP (the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners), the highest solar certification. After all, you really do not want someone unqualified working with your roof.

To check up on essential details about the installation of your solar panel system, you should ask:

  • Who manufactures the solar panels and inverter? Solar panels generate D / C energy, which needs to be inverted into A / C electricity to be usable within your home, so you need a reliable inverter with a good warranty. The same goes for your solar panels. Look for a namebrand manufacturer such as GE Energy or SMA America: not only do they offer longer warranties (5-10 years for an inverter, 25 years for solar panels), they're likely to be around in 10 years if and when you need something replaced.
  • Does the solar power company use its own employees or sub-contract out aspects of the solar installation? A company that uses its own engineers, designers, permit processors, and installers can offer greater accounting and experience. Its employees will be far more familiar with the company's procedures than a sub-contractor. Accountability and reliability are key in a solar installation.
  • What does the bid include? Solar installation bids can vary dramatically. Before going for the cheapest, make sure it includes everything you need it to, from engineering your system to pulling building permits to connect your new system with the grid. To save yourself some headaches, also check to see if your solar power company will process your rebate and net metering paperwork. Companies that offer turnkey installation take care of all the details to ensure you a smooth and reliably hassle-free installation process.

Do not be afraid to run a solar power company through the wringer before signing any paperwork. An honest company will be happy to answer all your questions and provide proof of its claims. Going solar is a major decision, and it pays to be an informed consumer. With the right questions, you'll be well on your way to choosing the right solar power company.

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