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Going Solar: How do You Choose the Right Solar Company?

I often get asked what are the most common things that can go wrong when installing a solar system. This is an area of fine details that are important for you to understand. Which questions should you ask and how do you separate fact from fiction?

After having guided many homeowners through the maze of details, I can understand how complicated it may all seem. Imagine, when it comes to solar for your home, you will be establishing a 20+ year relationship with a company that handles the installation and all system service functions. Looking at the following list of questions, the most important thing you want to consider is true value (hint: price is just one part true value).

7 Questions You Should Consider When Choosing a Residential Solar Company

1 How long has the company been in business, how many solar installations have they completed, do they specialize in residential solar systems and How do their customer rate them?

2. Does the Company Offer a System Performance Guarantee?

3. Find out if they do all their own work or do they hire sub-contractors (Many companies actually sell their long-term service contracts, once they install the system).

4.Find out whats covered in the warranty.

5. Get solar references from their previous projects.

6. Who are their partners and are they trustworthy?

7. Make sure the company informs you of all of your solar options from purchasing to leasing a solar system.

Video Slideshow: Sunrun, Canadian Solar Panels & Solis Inverters:

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Lets Break This All Down . . .

First, If you are considering doing business with a company that does not perform
solarwarrantycancelledtheir own work (evaluation, design, installation, service, support…etc), there is an increased likelihood that you may experience problems in the future. For example,  what happens if something goes wrong with your system and the company that performed your installation is no longer in business or they no longer own your service warranty contract? Many companies, following system installation, actually sell their service contracts to other companies. If you stick with a company that installs and guarantees their own service, you are already a step ahead in minimizing any potential future problems.

Second, Does the company have a solid plan for the future? Since this industry changes so rapidly,  you want to partner with a company that is able to meet these big challenges and still be around for the next 10 years and beyond. Ask your solar company representative just how long they have been in the solar industry, how long they have been employed by their company and why they chose their company. This point really matters because happy employees lead to a better customer experience and a better final product! Think Costco, Amazon and Trader Joes

Third, how many verified solar installations has he company completed since it started doing business? What kind of knowledge, skills, technology and system does a company need to have successfully installed over 100,000 solar systems? If your company choice does not include a verified well-established portfolio of installations, the risks are even higher, should your system have any issues in the future. Also, If you move/sell your home, need to transfer your system, what happens then? Does the company have an acceptable rating with the Better Business Bureau? Ask your solar company to show you a list of local customers/ references. If they refuse or cannot provide you with references, avoid the company.

Finally, if you receive solar advice from a friend, colleague or family member, ask them the same 7 questions about their own solar company. This is important because this system will be on your home for the next 20+ years! Please keep in mind, the information and education on solar that someone received just 3 months ago can be almost obsolete today because of recent industry and energy policy changes in California.

Always choose value over price. Panels and equipment are just one part of the equation. Since the actual equipment cost of a solar system only accounts for about 25%, would it not make better sense to evaluate the other 75% (installation, maintenance and support)?  If you stick to these basic questions, you will be sure to get the solution you are looking for and reduce the likelihood of any problems years into the future.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Happens if I Move?

What Happens if I Move?

The hardest thing about moving isn’t selling your home—it’s saying sayonara to those beautiful, money-saving panels on your roof. That’s right, no need to find a suitcase big enough to hold your solar panels. Sunrun makes it easy to transfer your solar lease agreement and pass along those ridiculously low energy bills to the new owners.

Our Service Transfer Specialists handle everything from educating realtors and potential buyers, to working with escrow officers, title agents, home inspectors, and anyone else who might need to know about your system or solar lease agreement.

Here are some tips to help ensure a smooth move: Connect with our Service Transfer team before your home goes on the market. We’ll help prepare your realtor to sell the value of solar. Inform potential buyers early on that the solar lease agreement is a contingency of the home sale to avoid hiccups during negotiations. Once you’ve got a buyer, you’ll both sign Sunrun’s service transfer form and we’ll run a credit check on the buyer. Then just send us confirmation that escrow has closed and you’ll be home free. In the unlikely event that the buyer doesn’t want to take on the agreement, you can prepay for the remainder of your service and bundle it into the selling price of your home. You can also buy the system outright and move it to your new home, but is generally easier and more cost effective to transfer the agreement.

How will I pay for electricity when I have solar?

How will I pay for electricity when I have solar?

There you are, daydreaming about all the money you’ll save by going solar, the cleaner skies, the lower electric bill and the… wait. About that electric bill. What exactly happens to your bill when you make the switch to solar? Before you spend a single minute worrying about it, let us explain. Paying for electricity is no harder when you have solar. In fact, it’s a lot easier because you won’t have to worry about surprise rate hikes or hidden fees. Here’s how it works:

  • Your solar system will be connected to your local utility (PG&E), and your energy usage affects how much you’ll save.
  • You’ll owe less or even earn energy credit when you produce more electricity than you use.
  • When you use more than you produce, say if you forget to turn off the AC, you could owe the utility company more.
  • Annually, electricity costs will be lower with solar, even though your savings will vary month-to-month due to seasonality—you’ll earn more energy credits during summer’s longer, sunny days than in winter’s short ones, but they’ll balance each other out over the course of a year.
  • You’ll get two bills if you choose a monthly plan like most customers. One from the utility company and one from Sunrun. The Sunrun bill is your low, predictable solar rate. The utility bill covers any additional electricity used above and beyond what your solar system produces.

Will I get credits from my utility with Sunrun?

Will I get credits from my utility with Sunrun?

Remember back in school when extra credit was kind of a big deal? Well now that you’re thinking about going solar, it is again. That’s because when your uber-efficient power-generating panels produce more energy than you need, you get automatic solar energy credit from the utility company. It’s like they’re paying you for once. Here’s how it works:

  • When the sun is up, your panels crank out energy like there’s no tomorrow. If they produce more than it takes to power your life, that extra electricity is sent to the utility grid and you earn solar energy credit.
  • When you have more power than you use, you owe the utility less.
  • Conversely when you use more electricity than your system makes, like at night for example, when the sun is down, you draw from the grid.
  • When you use more power than you make, you owe the utility more.

See? It’s a give and take, but you don’t have to lift a finger because the utility company’s net meter keeps track of it all. You can expect to see some ups and downs on your utility bill throughout the year because you’ll likely generate more power in the summer and less in the winter. But your total annual savings will be greater thanks to solar. Your system will be grid tied and you’ll get credits from your utility when you’re a Sunrun customer whether you choose to own your system or go solar through a lease or PPA.

I've Already Gone Solar-How do I Read my Net Energy Metering Bill?

I've Already Gone Solar-How do I Read my Net Energy Metering Bill?

Once you have upgraded your home to solar energy, you will now receive a Net Energy Metering (NEM) statement. This is simply the net amount of energy you have consumed (factoring in what you actually generated from your roof) thru your Utility company (PG&E). The video below will give you a basic understanding of how to read your bill. Whether you previously purchased your energy (Generation) from a 3rd party provider, or just purchase from PG&E, the bill is very similar:

Other Resources:

Sunrun Programs for Homeowners and Options

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