Written by: Stephanie | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: February 24th, 2020
Finding the right solar company for you can be a difficult task. Purchasing a solar energy system is very expensive, and is a long-term commitment. You will be working with the company throughout the lifetime of your panels. Many solar companies are not as upfront as they should be, and do not disclose items that can lead to a long-term disaster. In this article we will be discussing five important things to look for when choosing a solar company.
Time in the Industry
You should first consider how long the company has been in the industry. It's not that younger companies do not provide great service, but when you choose a younger company, there is a higher risk of the company not even being in business for the full 25 years of your solar panel's warranty. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 50 percent of businesses make it past five years in operation. This could make things very difficult for you if the company you bought solar panels from went out of business. This means your warranty would mean nothing, and you would have to find maintenance and cleaning services on your own. Therefore, it is recommended that you look for a company that has at least five years in the industry.
Solar Panels and Quality
There are three types of panels that are commonly used throughout the industry: amorphous, polycrystalline, and monocrystalline. Amorphous solar panels are cheap, but have the lowest efficiency rates and durability out of the solar panel options.
You have probably seen polycrystalline solar panels popping up around your neighborhood. Polycrystalline panels are known for their blue color and have become very popular in the last few years. They are a great choice for people who have plenty of space and do not want to pay the high price that comes with the monocrystalline panels.
Monocrystalline solar panels have been the most popular choice for several years. These panels have the highest efficiency rate and require the least amount of space. Thus, they are a great option for people who do not have a large roof. However, they are the most expensive choice for solar panels.
Whichever solar panels you decide are best for your needs, make sure the company you go with has the type of solar panels you want. Some companies only specialize in one or two of these solar panels. You will also want to ensure that the solar panels are high-quality and from reputable manufactures (most solar companies use third-party manufactures). According to a recent study testing the durability of solar panels, the efficiency-degradation rates for 19 solar company's panels varied from 1 to 35 percent. This indicates that some solar panels hold up much better long-term compared to others. Surprisingly, many of the companies with the best degradation rates were manufactured in China.
Going solar is an expensive endeavor; however, there are several financing options. Some of these options include green energy loans, power purchase agreements, and leasing options. Each of these options have positive and negative aspects to consider before making a final financing decision.
The first option we will discuss is the green energy loans. These loans were made specifically for people who want to change to a renewable green energy. Most of these loans have fairly low interest rates. This option allows you to own the equipment, and pay off the balance over time. Most people pay off green energy loan within 7–8 years.
The next two options are very similar: power purchase agreement and leasing options. With the power purchase agreement, you are essentially renting the equipment and paying for the energy you use. Leasing options are similar in that you are renting the equipment, but instead of paying for what you use, you pay a set amount every month. With both of these options you do not own the equipment. You are also tied into a long-term contract. Be aware that many of these contracts include an annual increase of your interest rate that can be as high as 3 percent. Be sure to read your contract carefully.
You will have to decide which of these options works best for your situation. Once you have chosen a company, you can further discuss the choices. It is suggested to find a company that offers all of these options.
Warranties are an important piece of the solar puzzle. Your solar panel warranty consists of two parts: equipment and performance. The equipment warranty is generally good for 10–12 years, while the performance guarantee lasts up to 25 years. While most solar panels will go decades without any issues, it is important to have a solid warranty in case something does happen. You should look for a company that offers a:
- Equipment warranty for 10–12 years
- Performance warranty of 90 percent up to 10 years
- Performance warranty of 80 percent up to 25 years
It wasn't too long ago that finding real reviews for products was borderline impossible. You relied on word-of-mouth feedback, which isn't always reliable. Finding reviews from real people who have experienced what a company has to offer can help you find a great company as well as avoid horrible mistakes. Find a company that has glowing reviews from past customers. Reviews can show what kind of customer support and services a company provides. You definitely want to find a company that's representatives are responsive, caring, and knowledgeable, as you will be communicating with the company frequently. To find verified reviews from real customers, check out bestcompany.com/solar. They have over 2,000 reviews for nearly 200 solar companies in the industry.