Hiring a Solar Installer: Contractor Checklist
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 installer is your first step in powering your home with solar energy. A knowledgeable contractor will help guide you through the process and ensure that you maximize both the immediate benefits of and future return on your solar panel installation.
At Modernize, we frequently speak to homeowners about their home improvement projects. In our 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 panel project.
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.
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.
- Ask trusted sources (friends, family, and neighbors) for a referral.
- Contact your local Better Business Bureau.
- Connect with trusted solar panel installation contractors in your area with Modernize.
Vet Your Solar Installer
It’s important to find a reliable solar energy contractor so that your investment is as informed, responsible, and successful as possible. To determine the best professional fit for your solar project:
- Request quotes from three to four contractors in your area.
- A recent Modernize survey showed 63 percent of homeowners feel most confident with their project when comparing multiple project quotes.
- 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.
- Ask each solar installer on the phone the following questions:
- How long have you been in business?
- How much experience do you have with solar panel installation or incentives?
- 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?
After obtaining three or four written estimates and vetting each of your potential contractors, you are ready to explore payment options. If you are not planning to pay for the project out of pocket, you may want to consider financing it.
Two-thirds of the homeowners we recently interviewed about solar paneling projects shared they took out loans to cover them. Your project quotes will guide the cost of your installation and will be necessary for determining an accurate loan application.
Meet With Your Top Contractors
Meet in-person with your top contractors to review project-specific details and expectations. We have created a free worksheet to help homeowners compare contractors. Be sure to discuss the following with each solar installer:
- Ask for 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.
Be Aware of Warning Signs
Unfortunately, there is a small percentage of contractors who are not honest professionals. Many of these contractors promise benefits with offers that boast inflated future savings and unrealistic increases to home value.
The best way to avoid scams is to choose a local, trusted solar installer. You can confirm this by checking their physical business address and validating their licensing.
Here are additional warning signs to keep in mind:
- 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, as might be the case with the components of solar roof panels.
Prepare for Your Final Contractor Meeting
At the final meeting, there a few steps to go over before the solar installer begins your project.
- Reconfirm your initial quote.
- Agree upon a payment plan.
- Obtain a paper trail of the following:
- Your contract
- Project plans
- Order changes
- Bills and invoices
- Proof of insurance and/or permitting, and
- Contractor correspondence
The Modernize Contractor Checklist 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 Homeowner Portal or by downloading it here.