What You Need to Ask Before Your Solar Estimate
So you’ve decided to go solar. First things first: Congratulations! You’ve decided to join the growing number of homeowners in Colorado who are saving money on their monthly electric bills and enjoying the benefits of greater energy efficiency and independence.
The next step in your journey is among the most important. The estimate is your opportunity to meet with a solar contractor for the first time, discuss what installing solar panels might cost, and what kinds of savings you can expect.
If you are shopping around for a solar company in Denver or Fort Collins, below are the questions you should ask before getting an estimate.
1. Is Solar Right for Me?
This first question might be the most obvious, but it’s also the most important: Are solar panels right for my home? Advances in technology have made solar energy systems a viable option for most homeowners, but you still need to know if residential solar is right for your home.
Ultimately, the solar company’s answer to this question will tell you a lot about who you’re working with. Do you feel like the company is being honest with you, or does it feel like a sales pitch? If the employee(s) you talk to make you feel at ease and informed, you can generally expect an accurate solar estimate.
2. How Long Has Your Solar Company Been in Business?
The explosion in popularity of residential solar has led to a huge uptick in solar energy companies. Many of these companies are legit. Others, however, are “fly by night”; they are out to make a quick buck, not provide homeowners with superior service.
You need to make sure the solar energy company you hire is reputable. Ask how long the company has been around and read reviews to get a sense not only of how long the contractor has been doing business but what customers have to say about their work.
3. How Many Solar Installations Have You Performed?
There is no substitute for experience. When you are looking for a solar energy contractor, it is important to know how many jobs the company has handled.
Generally, you don’t want to be someone’s first solar install. It pays to go with a seasoned pro if you are planning on making such a big investment in your home.
4. Do You Use A-Rated Solar Panels?
Quality equipment is a must for any solar installation. The company should use only new, A-rated solar panels.
You might be offered a choice between different types and brands of solar panels. All equipment installed by the company should be reliable and guaranteed to last (for example, A-rated solar panels are guaranteed to last up to 25 years).
5. Is Your Solar Company Licensed?
Simply put, you don’t want to pay professional prices for a non-professional to work on your house. This is true of any professional home improvement project, and solar panel installation is no exception.
The requirements for a contractor’s license vary by location. In Colorado, for example, solar installers need to hold a Class D license that permits them to perform specialized work on homes.
Every solar energy company you consult should be willing to share licensing numbers and other credentials for you to verify on your own.
6. Does Your Solar Company Have the Necessary Bonds and Insurance?
Insurance and bonds cover contractors in the event of accidental damage to a customer’s home. Make sure the solar company is bonded and has the necessary insurance coverage, as you do not want to be left “holding the bag” if something goes amiss.
7. How Is the Size of My Solar Energy System Calculated?
A one-size-fits-all approach to residential solar energy doesn’t work. If a solar contractor doesn’t ask you for any information upfront, this is a red flag.
Your system needs to be specifically designed for the size of your house and your home energy consumption. The solar companies you consult should ask you for information upfront to determine how much energy you consume. Generally, this involves reviewing your energy bills over the past year to determine how many solar panels you will need.
8. Who Designs My Solar Energy System?
Solar companies that design and install custom residential systems should not rely on third parties. Optimizing the output of solar panels is a hands-on process, and it is important to know upfront that the company you work with has the in-house expertise to create a custom system for your home.
9. Do You Perform a Home Energy Audit?
Collecting information about your home energy consumption and other details is key for designing an optimal solar energy system. However, to get a complete understanding of your energy usage and what needs to happen for you to get the most from a solar panel system, it is best to have a comprehensive home energy audit.
Home energy auditors fully evaluate the efficiency of your home. Not only does this provide much-needed data for designing your solar energy system but it can also identify issues that drive up your home energy costs.
Solar contractors who perform home energy audits are generally able to offer more accurate estimates on solar panel systems. They can also help identify additional opportunities for upgrades that can improve the efficiency and comfort of your home.
10. How Much Can I Expect to Save with Solar?
This is the big question for most people who think about going solar, and it might be difficult to have an answer before you get a complete estimate. However, an experienced solar contractor should be able to provide you with a preliminary idea of how much you can save with solar based on where you live and the information you provide.
Energy costs vary by location. Solar companies owned and operated by locals are much more likely to understand the area’s energy landscape and the impact residential solar can have on your monthly bills.
11. What Is the Cost of a Solar Panel System?
Cost and savings are two sides of the same coin. Before investing in solar panels, you need to know what you can expect to pay.
A reputable solar energy company will work with you to determine how solar can fit your budget. Look for transparent upfront pricing, as well as information on rebates and incentives that can help offset the cost.
12. What Financing Do You Offer on Solar Panel Systems?
Your budget may not allow you to pay the full cost of a solar energy system all at once. If this is the case, you should inquire about the financing options offered by the solar company.
Solar companies may offer multiple financing options. Be sure to ask about the term of the loan, the interest rate, and how much you will pay in total for a solar loan.
13. Who Performs the Work?
Installing solar panels and activating the system is a multi-step process. Some companies (especially national brands) may perform the estimate and sell you the system but then farm out the labor to local subcontractors.
Nobody wants a succession of strangers performing work on their home. When you first start interviewing solar energy companies, be sure to ask who will be handling these crucial steps:
- Inspection of your roof
- Mounting and positioning of the solar panels
- Connecting the solar energy system to your electrical panel
- Installing a solar backup battery (if applicable)
- Setting up a solar EV charging station (if applicable)
- Permitting and inspections
14. What Rebates and Incentives Are Available?
Colorado is an ideal place for solar energy. In addition to the favorable climate, local utilities are extremely supportive of residential solar.
Homeowners may be able to take advantage of multiple incentives, rebates, and more once their solar energy system is installed. Unfortunately, it is difficult for the average customer to be aware of all of the options for saving money and/or getting money back on solar.
Customer-centric solar companies do not consider the job done once the installation is complete. The company should also help you apply for rebates and other incentives.
15. Do You Perform Maintenance on the Solar Panels If Needed?
You should also confirm whether the solar energy company will handle maintenance and repairs. As a rule, solar panels are very low-maintenance. However, it is important to know what services and support the solar company will provide in the event that improvements or repairs need to be made.
Warranties and guarantees are another important consideration. In addition to reducing what you pay for necessary maintenance and replacement of components, a warranty on parts and labor signifies that the solar company stands behind its work in the long run.
Going solar is a big decision. You need to make sure that the company you choose has the experience, training, and equipment, as well as the right credentials and a commitment to professionalism and service.
REenergizeCO embodies all of these qualities. Each member of our team is committed to providing custom solar energy systems for our clients to help them reduce their energy bills and enjoy a more sustainable lifestyle.
It all starts with the initial inquiry where we learn your goals and discuss your home energy consumption. We review your bills and assess the size of your home to determine if solar panels are right for you. Finally, we meet with you in person and conduct a home energy audit to diagnose any inefficiencies. After all of these steps, we can give you an accurate estimate of how much it will cost to install a solar energy system, as well as your future energy savings.
REenergizeCO is Colorado born and bred. We serve homeowners throughout the Front Range from two convenient offices.