Whether your goal is to save money on utility bills or increase your property value, solar panels are a worthy investment for your home. Finding a reliable and trustworthy solar panel installer is your first step in powering your home with solar energy.

At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. In our recent interviews, 80 percent of homeowners found a contractor for the job through referrals. But it’s important to properly vet and research contractors before choosing your perfect fit, even if a friend or a family member personally vouched for them.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while you make the pick.

Understand Your Solar Needs

Investing in residential solar panels is usually prompted by a desire to save on utility bills or increase the value of a home. Before beginning your project, you will want to research local and federal rebates, incentives and technologies, and the quality and longevity of solar panels. You will also need to have a good understanding of the benefits of solar power systems and the realistic return on your investment.

There is no one-size-fits-all to describe or break down an electric bill with solar panels. Really, what you will save on your utility bill depends on many factors. The best way to get as close an estimate as possible is through the reliable, local, and expert contractor installing solar panels for your home.

That’s why you’ll want to find a contractor you can trust—a local professional who can get the job done and assist you with navigating local policy and regulation.

Aim for the Most Reliable Solar Contractor

To ensure a swift installation, a reliable contractor is key. There’s a lot to consider under the umbrella of reliability. In recent interviews, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to help them find and vet contractors. Modernize now offers homeowners a free, digital Contractor Checklist as a simple, step-by-step guide to assist with your solar project.

Here are some things you can do to ensure you find the best solar contractor.

Ask for Referrals

A strong majority of homeowners approach all home improvement projects by first gathering referrals. Some of the most common approaches are:

Vet Your Options

One of the most important parts of your search is vetting different contractors and comparing their work.

  • Request quotes from three to four contractors in your area.
  • Visit the website of each contractor.
    • Is it updated and professional looking?
  • Explore the customer reviews for each contractor.
    • Are they mostly positive? Consider negative reviews and responses.

Talk to Your Favorites

Once you have a short list of your top choices, get them on the phone. A trustworthy installer will appreciate an opportunity to discuss your project further, and a conversation allows you to get to know them. While you know best what you want to learn in the conversation, here are some questions we recommend you ask:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How much experience do you have with solar panel installations?
  • What is your project estimate?
  • Can you provide a list of references?
  • Can you provide proof of insurance for personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage?

Meet the Finalists

Meet in-person with your top contractors to review project-specific details and expectations. You can use Modernize’s free worksheet for homeowners to compare contractors. Be sure to bring up the following with each contractor:

  • Ask to see proof of insurance, which should provide their insurance company name, policy number, and policy limits.
  • Discuss who will manage warranty details and responsibility.
  • Make sure to get a fixed price before signing a contract.

Don’t Wait Until The Summer Months

A home improvement project during the high season will likely impact your estimate and project timeline. During warmer months, contractors and supplies are in high demand— you’re not the only one noticing a high electric bill. Contractors are less likely to offer discounts during peak times. To save money on solar panels for your home, consider scheduling your project during the cooler months.

The right time to find a reliable contractor is now.

Be Aware of Warning Signs and Avoid Hidden Costs

As with contractors for any home improvement, some are not honest professionals. Before choosing your contractor for your solar installation, be sure you can trust them and that their estimate is transparent and complete.

The best way to avoid scams is to choose a local, trusted contractor—someone whose reputation and reliability are central to their success. You can confirm this by checking their physical business address and validating their licensing.

Here are additional warning signs that can protect your solar installation budget:

  • Avoid contractors who request the entire project cost, or large cash deposit, up front.
  • Avoid anyone who pressures you to sign a contract immediately.
  • Be wary of any outliers in your quotes. All estimates should be relatively similar unless the material type is significantly different.

Evaluate Solar Installer Quotes the Right Way

The best contractor is not always the cheapest contractor. And the best solar installation quote isn’t always the lowest.

A recent Modernize survey revealed 63 percent of homeowners compare three to four contractor estimates ahead of a home improvement project. Evaluating multiple quotes helps homeowners scope their budget and encourages contractors to be competitive with their pricing. It’s important to understand your solar estimates and why quotes may vary from each other. Before comparing your own set of estimates, see our guide Evaluating Contractors’ Solar Panel Quotes.

Comparing contractors is easy and effective with our free worksheet to help homeowners find the best solar panel installer.

No matter what you use to determine who will install your solar panels it’s important you keep in mind that saving money today could cost you much more money later if the project isn’t completed correctly. Quality, especially when it comes to your home, is a lifelong investment.