Okay, I’m in. How do I evaluate solar quotes?
What is qualified vs. Fly by night
The first thing to examine or look for when you are seeking a contractor to install your solar panels is their reputation and credibility. It is unfortunate, but true, that there are some contractors who start company’s, obtain contracts, and haphazardly completes their jobs (if they complete them at all).
Look for a contractor who:
- Has several years of experience
- Has owned and operated the same business for several years
- Has positive reviews or can provide references
- Provides warranties on their work and can provide you with product warranty information
- Can provide qualifications of company and installers
- Labourers can be used for some of the very initial work, but most work must be completed by a Journeyman or Master Electrician with CSA Certification.
- Do they subcontract any work out? If so, what kind of workmanship warranties do they provide for contract workers, and how can they guarantee the sub-contractors’ qualifications?
- Do they use any engineers? Your solar installer should be using a qualified engineer for advice on structural integrity to protect your new solar investment, and your home.
- SESA and CanSIA membership can help prove company legitimacy.
- A solar energy specialist is as knowledgeable as any electrician but will have CSA certification and years of experience specifically with solar energy systems. This ensures you get the best system, and the best installation.
- Finally, verify the payment terms and that the company has WCB.
How do I find a qualified contractor?
You can find a complete list of solar energy contractors at the Solar Energy Society of Alberta. Alternatively, you can just call us!
How do I compare solar quotes?
- First, know that cheaper is not better. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. If a deal seems to good to be true, it likely is. A qualified solar contractor pays for a highly qualified team to complete the design and build of all solar energy systems, and will purchase the most affordable, available product that meets their customers unique needs. High quality products and workmanship is often more expensive but is well worth it. It is like purchasing a new car from an authorized and well-known brand, versus paying for a vehicle that someone has assembled in their garage out of spare parts. Do your due diligence to ensure you are getting the most reasonable price, for quality work performed by a qualified company.
- An on-site assessment should be conducted. Sure, a quick off-the-cuff rough estimate might help you ball-park the cost of a solar energy system in general, but when you are looking to compare estimates, the estimate should be based on your home. Your short-listed contractors should perform a site visit to assess for structure, slope, shade, among many other factors. If they don’t visit, the quote you receive may not be very reliable.
- Compare price, size, and quality of products used. If you see products from a chain consumer hardware store, this may be a red flag. Qualified solar energy contractors will often use solar equipment distributors, where they will get better prices, better quality products. In addition, many of these distributors will only sell products to qualified contractors which will help you verify the company legitimacy.
Can I install solar panels myself?
Not unless you are a CSA certified journeyman or master electrician and seek a qualified engineer to assist with the site assessment and system design. Solar energy systems literally harness the power of the sun with the intent of providing enough electricity to power a home. That is enough electrical current to severely injure, or potentially kill a human being. Please, seek the expertise of a certified solar contractor for the design and installation of your system for your safety, and that of your family.
If that is not reason enough, solar contractors often get less expensive products because they purchase them frequently, and from trusted distributors. That means you are likely to receive better quality, less expensive panels by using a solar contractor.
What are the different types of solar panels?
The two most commonly used types of solar panels used are ‘monocrystalline’ and ‘polycrystalline’. Learn more about what a solar panel is made of, and what the difference is here.
How does the installation process work?
When we install solar panels, we use a simple 5 Step Process that is detailed here.
Should I ask for a solar monitoring system?
You don’t have to but can! Solar monitoring allows you to check the efficiency of your solar energy system, and you would be able to tell right away if something is not functioning correctly with one of your panels. Talk to your solar contractor for more information, and to find out if a solar monitoring system is right for you.
Do I need to install batteries?
For a grid-connected system you do not need batteries, although if you would like them, it may be an option.
If you’re ready to go solar, give us a call. We’ll answer all your questions, and provide you an estimate based on your home and lifestyle.
Gridworks Energy Group