In recent interviews with Modernize, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. One of the most important steps of that process is your first phone call with a potential contractor, during which you will vet this contractor against the others you’re considering. While finding someone you feel comfortable talking to is significant, it’s not all an abstract exercise. There are some questions you should definitely ask during this phone call to be sure you’ve covered foundational bases before moving forward with a solar contractor.
Use the question guide below and adjust it to your own circumstances to ensure you get everything you need from your solar installer vetting phone call.
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- How long has the solar installer been in business?
- How much experience does the contractor have with solar panel installation or incentives?
- What is the solar installer’s project estimate — what happens if it changes?
- Can the solar contractor provide a list of references?
- Can the solar installation company provide proof of insurance for personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage?
How long has the solar installer been in business?
Simply put, the solar contractor’s experience is tantamount to good work. Years of experience could mean local expertise and technical knowledge that will elevate the quality of your installation. Less experience isn’t necessarily bad or telling of a low-quality installation, but it does mean the rates and warranties should be lower, leaving you room to negotiate on pricing.
How much experience does the contractor have with solar panel installation or incentives?
When it comes to solar energy, existing financial incentives could further increase your savings after installing solar panels. Be sure to ask your contractor for an individualized assessment of your solar panel installation. A trustworthy contractor will examine your current utility bill and study the physical properties and opportunities your house presents — like local, regional, or federal financial incentives — to best save you money after installing solar panels for your home.
What is the solar installer’s project estimate — what happens if it changes?
Once you have an estimate of the project’s tentative costs and duration in your hands, you need to understand how it was conceived and what happens if anything in it changes. Be sure to get clarity on these details and don’t be shy to ask for an explanation if you feel you don’t fully understand something.
Agree that any unexpected project expenses will be presented in writing. Surprises, in other words, shouldn’t surprise you or your contractor, and they should definitely not surprise your investment.
Can the solar contractor provide a list of references?
While this solar installation could stay with you (or at least your house) for decades, it will also build, or continue to build, their reputation into a prosperous business. Ask the contractor for testimonials from past clients and don’t feel shy to ask for contact information so you can call those references yourself and get a take on what their experience was like.
Connect with trusted an estimate of the project’s tentative costs in your area with Modernize. This is an important investment you’re making, and the more information you have about the company you’re giving your hard earned money to, the better.
Can the solar installation company provide proof of insurance for personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage?
When home improvement projects result in accidents, you want to be sure your family, your house, and all the people involved are safe and taken care of. You want to rest assured that your contractor is fully insured for personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Even with a clean slate of past accidents, it only takes one to harm your project’s outcome and, more importantly, your personal savings.
Warranties will also impact your quoted cost. Most installers offer manufacturer’s warranties that protect you from faulty equipment. Some might offer additional guarantees for the installation, as well, covering potential damage to your house. Be sure the quoted warranty is clear in what it covers—and in what it doesn’t.
The an estimate of the project’s tentative costs will help you vet a trusted contractor, so you can relax knowing your solar panel project is in good hands. You can access the interactive checklist by visiting the Modernize Resource Center or by an estimate of the project’s tentative costs.