5 Questions you need to ask your solar contractors
Many Arizona residents are using solar power as their main home energy source. The best part about home solar panels in Arizona is that it is a good long-term investment.
Federal and state incentives cover more than 26% of the price of solar energy systems for homes in Arizona, making it a great option for families.
But before going solar, there are a few things you should know. To help you prepare for your solar consultation, Sunny Energy has come up with the 5 most important questions to ask your solar installation company.
1. Is Solar right for me? If yes, what system size should I select for maximum savings?
While solar is saving millions of homeowners a lot of money in utility costs, solar does not work well for everyone. This partly depends on your goals, but it also depends on how you use energy, your utility company, and your roof’s access to the sun.
If your goals are mostly to use green energy, then solar works in most situations. However, if your main goal is to save money and achieve a good return on your investment, a good solar consultant will let you know if your energy usage, your utility company, your roof orientation, or shade from nearby buildings or trees will make it difficult, or impossible, to save enough money for solar to be a good investment.
Solar is a substantial investment, and if your situation makes it difficult for it to pay for itself, you should know that before you decide whether or not it’s good for you.
A typical household in Arizona will need 28 – 34 solar panels to cover all of their energy usages or for maximum savings. The solar system size will depend on the number of solar panels you need and a solar consultant will help you determine what size of the solar system will produce enough power to meet your needs.
Sometimes eliminating your electricity bill will save you the most money and sometimes offsetting most of it it will yield the best returns. A good solar consultant won’t try to sell you the biggest system – just the best one for your unique needs.
2. Do you do your own installations with your employees, or do you subcontract them to another company?
This is an important question to ask for eliminating service issues. Some solar companies will sell you the system but doesn’t install it themselves. This can create quality and customer service issues later on. This does not necessarily imply that they are a poor solar company, but you should check before signing the contract so you know who you’ll be working with.
Sunny Energy sells, designs, installs, files for permits, and supports our customers – all under one roof. Our team has experience helping thousands of homeowners in Arizona go solar.
3. Can you explain your Solar Warranties?
Learning about your warranties is important when you are buying solar for your home. Ask your solar contractor the details of the warranties so that you know what is covered, what is transferable, and your responsibilities and benefits. The following are important points you can ask your solar consultant.
Installation workmanship includes the warranty that states the design, assembly, and installation are all done correctly and any defects that may arise will be fixed free of cost until a period of time.
The most important things to look for in this type of warranty are the exclusions, and will the company backing the warranty be able to support such a warranty for so long. A company that is no longer in business, can’t back up its warranty, no matter how good.
These warranties sometimes have exclusions that do not cover a free of cost replacement of any defective equipment that can easily void the warranty. Always properly understand your responsibilities in your Solar Warranty.
Panel Performance Warranty
When any solar contractor talks about the panel performance warranty, it generally considers only the performance and does not cover other features of the solar system or the solar panels.
A solar panel performance warranty, states that the power production of each solar panel will not degrade more than a certain percentage within 20, 25, or 30 years. The best-in-class solar panel performance warranties are for no less than 90% to 92% of their stated power production after 25 years.
Panel Product Warranty
Panel product warranties are very different from panel performance warranty. Don’t be confused between the two as it could lead you to think you have more coverage than you actually do.
Panel product warranties are usually 10 years but can be as high as 25 years. These warranties usually do not include the labor to replace the panel, but some do.
Inverter warranties are usually for 10 years, but they can sometimes be extended to as much as 25 years. Most inverter warranties do not include labor to replace a defective inverter, but some do.
Additional warranties like this can provide good value if they are low in cost, but it is crucial to understand how much the cost will go up.
Sunny Energy Warranties
Sunny Energy chooses inverters known for their reliability, but also those with the best warranties, up to 25 years. While inverter warranties usually do not include the cost of labor to replace one, the companies Sunny Energy chooses usually cover this labor cost for us, and we include it in our workmanship warranty to you.
Sunny Energy sells panels with a performance warranty of 92% after 25 years, product warranty of 25 years that includes labor, inverter warranty up to 25 years and workmanship warranty of 10 years.
(Friendly Advice: Get the details in writing – it’s great to believe your sales representative, but always get the important details in writing. If they cannot provide a written warranty or guarantee statement, then you have no proof of what it should be when you need it.)
One other consideration for all warranties is whether or not they are transferable to a new homeowner if you sell your home. As you may know, solar does increase the value of your home, but a large portion of this value is in the warranties of the system and the equipment. If your warranties are not transferrable, it reduces the value to a buyer of your home.
(Bonus Tip: You also may want to look into what happens to your warranties if the original installer does go out of business. Some of the panel and inverter manufacturers have agreed to extend the full terms of their warranties to include any authorized servicing company to service their equipment. If in doubt, ask your solar installer if the full manufacturer warranties apply in the event they are not able to service the equipment.)
4. Who services my system if something goes wrong?
These systems are built to last 30+ years but in the event that you have an issue, you should ask, who will service the system?
The solar company should clearly outline how they handle service calls. Be sure to ask if they are handling it or they work with third parties.
A good installation company like Sunny Energy will keep an eye on your solar system with a monitoring system that will give you instant feedback on how well your system is working.
This monitoring equipment often allows the installer to find and fix system problems before you notice them.
This can help both you, and your service provider, understand if utility bills that are higher or lower than expected are caused by system problems or if they are the result of higher or lower energy usage.
The service of your solar system is only as reliable as the company doing the work. How long they have been in business, and how well they handle their past customers, is an important consideration.
5. How long has your company been in business, and how long have the principals been installing solar?
There have been several hundred solar installation companies doing business in Arizona, but very few of them have been here for more than a couple of years. Most of them have disappeared. One count of solar installers in APS service areas shows over 1,000 installing solar in the last 15 years, but less than 40 of them in business for more than 2 years.
Never experiment with a company that does not have a license from the state or one that has very little industry experience. Check out their reviews and previous customers to understand who you are dealing with here. The solar contractor should be insured and bonded as well. Until you have a good understanding of what they cover and the financial stability of the vendor and the contractor, you really don’t know what to expect from any warranty.
Most solar contractors are small companies that have been started within the last few years. They may have been created by people who are well qualified, but who have little experience as a contractor, and even less experience as a business owner and manager. Be sure you’re dealing with a company that will be here to support their guarantees and warranties. Knowing who you are buying from can make all the difference in the world.
If we can help answer any questions or for a consultation, please give us a call or visit our website at www.sunnyenergy.solar