If you’re shopping around for solar panels, you’ve got to do your due diligence. While the solar industry has a net positive effect on our environment, not every solar company is the same. We want to make sure you’re asking the right questions so you don’t end up working with a bad actor (or just an ignorant one!)
In this blog post, we’ll share what to ask the solar company, including questions about installers, equipment, warranties, post-installation support, and financing so you can be well-informed when you decide to install solar panels.
Top questions to ask solar company salespeople
When sitting down with a solar salesperson, you might not know which questions to ask, or even what answers to look for. Some common types of questions to ask a solar company include asking about who exactly will be installing your solar panels and their experience, asking about warranties and service, and understanding your financing options.
What questions should I ask a solar salesperson?
As we were crafting this post, we sat down with our own solar sales expert, who has seen a lot of the good, the bad, and the ugly of the solar industry.
The main reason he’s on our team is that he was tired of seeing other solar companies take advantage of people by sharing information with them that was not quite true. This led people to buy solar panel systems that were bigger and more expensive than what they actually needed.
Finding a solar company that cares about your interests, not just their own
The main thing that our sales expert shared was that some solar companies only provide one-size-fits-all options that maybe not be in each customer’s best interest. And that’s our primary reason for writing this blog.
We want you to know that you have options. You have options with financing, solar installers, equipment, and more.
Solar Panel Installation – Sales Org Versus Solar Installation Company
While it might not seem intuitive to the layperson, it’s actually very common in the solar industry for it to be segmented into various businesses. Solar sales (solar broker, solar dealer) is often a separate entity from the solar installers.
This specialization allows each company to focus on what they do best. But you’ll want to do some research on the companies involved in your install. So here’s what you should ask.
Who is performing the solar panel installation?
As an informed consumer, you’ll want to ask the name of the company doing the solar install. It very well may be that the company that showed up at your door to sell you a solar energy system is not the company doing the actual installation. This is not a red flag.
But, you still should know the name of the solar installer if it’s different than the solar sales company so you can look them up on Google. Check their reviews and do a little research to make sure they’re reputable.
There are some solar companies out there that do everything, from sales, to installation, to maintenance. If that’s the case, that’s great too.
What experience does the solar panel installer have?
Whether your solar installer is its own company or you’re working with a full-service solar company, you’ll want to ask what experience they have.
A great time to give a new business a new chance is by checking out that new restaurant down the street. When it comes to solar, you want your solar installer to have experience. If they have a few years of experience in your region, that’s a good sign!
Do you have any testimonials to share about the installer?
Ask for testimonials for the solar installer. A reputable company should have testimonials on hand, or perhaps they can direct you to their website to hear about customers’ experiences.
Can you explain the reason for the negative reviews about the installer?
If you’ve done your homework and see that the solar installer has negative reviews, ask about it! Can they explain why certain customers had a negative experience? We all know there are plenty of internet trolls out there that are never happy.
But if they don’t have a reasonable explanation for negative reviews, for example, that the negative reviews were under old management, that could be a red flag.
Solar Panel Equipment and Warranties
You’re not expected to be an expert on solar panel equipment and warranties! That’s the salesperson’s area of expertise, not yours. So here are some smart questions to ask to get the answers you need to make the right decision for installing solar panels at your home.
What type of solar equipment are you suggesting and why?
It’s important that you ask what solar equipment the solar installer is using, and if they are certified to install it. It’s vital that the solar installer is certified with the brand of panels/equipment they’re installing. If not, you will be forfeiting at least part of your warranty.
It’s also a red flag if they offer a large variety of panel brands. If they offer more than three or four, it’s likely they aren’t certified in all of them, as this is a time-consuming and expensive process.
Most solar companies offer a few brands based on pricing and quality. Anything beyond that becomes a little suspect.
What kind of warranties are there for the equipment in my solar proposal?
If installed by a certified installer, your solar equipment should all have manufacturer warranties. Ask about the warranties for each component of your system. Your solar arry and solar inverter will have their own manufacturer warranty, and the same goes for your solar battery if you go that route. You should have access to each of these warranties.
Some solar installers also offer additional warranties on the work completed. Ask what the warranties are, and don’t forget to ask how you can use them if you need to. Some solar installers will help you access the warranty, while others leave it in your hands.
Who is in charge of the service related to my warranty?
This is also an important question to ask, because should you need service on your solar power system, you’ll need to know who to contact. Does the solar installer do service in-house, or do they have a solar service company that they can recommend? If you need to use a warranty, who can do the work of the repairs or replacement?
Solar Panel System Support Post Install
With the segmentation in the solar world, it’s important to ask questions about what care your solar panels will need and who will provide service. Some companies offer support and service and others don’t. If you ask these questions, you’ll be well-equipped to deal with any problems that could arise in the years to come.
What do support and service look like after the installation is completed?
Make sure to ask your solar salesperson what support and service looks like after installation. Will you need to contact a different company, or can you reach back out to the same company that sold you the system?
What kind of care does the system need? If they don’t do solar repairs in-house, they should at least be able to point you to a trusted business that does.
It also may be worth asking who would help if you ever needed to get your solar panels removed. Most people sell their solar systems with their homes, but in some cases, the new homeowners don’t want them. In that happens to you, you’ll need to know who to call to get your solar panels removed and reinstalled.
Is solar panel service included or is there an extra fee?
Some companies include service for the life of the solar array, while others will charge an additional fee. You may pay a higher up-front cost for continual service, but that might be worth it to you for the peace of mind.
This is another one of those no-right-or-wrong situations, but it’s important for you to know so you can make an educated decision.
Who is my point of contact for solar panel service post-install?
Make sure you get the name, phone number, and email address of the point of contact for solar panel service after the installation (and save it somewhere you will remember!) You won’t want to be digging through old files and emails if you end up needing support.
Solar System Financing Options
Most solar customers use financing to purchase their solar panels. And, in most cases, this still makes financial sense because they’re getting rid of most or all of their utility bill in the process.
But like solar companies, not all solar financing is created equally. And financing was a main area where our solar sales expert saw things going sour. Here’s what you should ask about financing.
What financing options do you have available?
By asking about financing options, you’ll learn what kinds of loans you can get, the terms of the loans, and the dealer fee. You should know some consumers opt for private loans that often have a higher interest rate but no dealer fee. Other consumers use a solar loan, which often has lower interest rates and a dealer fee.
The salesperson should be asking you questions too! They should be asking how long you plan to stay in your home, what your credit score is, and if you plan on paying the loan off in a few big chunks or over the life of the loan. Your answers to these questions will help them advise you on the best loans for your situation.
Why are you recommending this type of financing versus another?
Ask them why they’re recommending one type of loan over another. They should be presenting you several options and explaining the pros and cons of each.
If they’re really pushing one type of financing, it could be because it serves the solar company, but not necessarily you.
What’s the advantage or disadvantage of going with your financing option versus my local credit union?
Ask your solar salesperson what the advantages and disadvantages are of using their financing option. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, keep in mind you can always take out a personal loan from a local credit union.
Knowledge is Power
With these questions answered, you should be able to tell if your solar salesperson is legitimate, and if they’re shooting you straight. Your main takeaway from this blog should be don’t shy away from asking all of your questions about solar panel installations, financing, and service.
And if you’re in the Albuquerque area and are looking to install solar panels on your home, give us a call at Always Sunny Solar!