Staff writerApril 3, 20199911
Paying for the installation of solar panels in your home is a big investment, something that you often ponder for a while, research and get bids on trying to find the right solar powered system for your needs.
It’s also a matter of finding the right solar panel installer, often a locally owned company that gives you the best price and service.
“Jason”, a resident of Arizona did just that when he had a 5kW system installed in his home back in 2012. Five years later, as he explained on one of the forums, one of his fuses blew out in 2013 and it took a month for his solar power system installer to go and fix the system.
That solved the problem, but in 2016, he called his installer again for service when he found that “one of my panels was not achieving full power.” This time, there was no answer and no service call. The company had gone out of business.
He had to pay another solar panel installer to come to his home and diagnose the cause of the low power, at a cost of $150 an hour.
“Any recommendations on what else I should be doing?”, asked Jason in the forum.
The boom of solar energy in recent years makes the industry very attractive to newcomers. But there’s no guarantee that the business that installed your home solar powered system will be around for the average 25-30 years that those solar panels they put on your roof will last.
If this is something that happens to you, you will probably have to get a new installer to check the issues on your system or conduct solar power maintenance. The solar power equipment may be covered by manufacturers’ warranties, so you might get a little bit of breathing room on that area.
The solar company handles the solar panel warranty and the manufacturer of the inverter deals with that part. If the problem you’re experiencing is with one of the parts of the your residence solar power system, just give that particular company a call.
What about leases?
Those who lease a solar panel system might have more protections.
In those cases, the solar system customer makes a contract with a separate leasing company and that business is responsible for maintenance.
If the actual solar panel installer goes bankrupt, the lease contracts are considered assets and can be sold to other companies as part of the liquidation process. Whoever purchases them should notify you of this transaction and should help you with your solar power system.
Solar Rights Alliance , an advocacy organization made up of the nearly 1 million homeowners, renters, businesses, nonprofits, schools and other Californians who have invested in solar energy, reminds solar panel owners of some basic rights they have in the state:
Avoid the problems
To avoid these kind of problems, the Department of Energy offers recommendations when obtaining bids and side assessments from solar installers.
“The solar industry standard certification is from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. You can also ask friends and family members who have recently gone solar for references and check online resources for reviews. Before you make any commitments, ask for proof of licensure before working with an installer,” they suggest.
“Obtain at least three bids for the PV system installation and make sure the bids are based on the same characteristics and metrics to enable comparison shopping,” they add.
When interviewing installers, consider asking the following questions:
Bids should clearly state the maximum generating capacity of the system—measured in Watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). Also request an estimate of the amount of energy that the system will produce on an annual or monthly basis (measured in kilowatt-hours). This figure is most useful for comparison with your existing utility bills.
Bids also should include the total cost of getting the PV system up and running, including hardware, installation, connection to the grid, permitting, sales tax, and warranty. A cost/watt, and estimated cost/kWh are the most useful metrics for comparing prices across different installers, as installers may use different equipment or offer quotes for systems of different sizes.
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