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So my Vivint Solar installation has finally arrived!
If you've read my previous post, "Vivint Solar Review: 5 Unexpected Questions From My Pre-Installation Experience", you know that the blessed event has been a long time coming. Over the last seven months, I've waded through some patchy moments and some bouts of doubt to finally reach this point. Honestly, I'm having a hard time believing it's actually happening.
Last week, I discovered a voicemail message on my phone. It was from someone at Vivint Solar, informing me that my installation had been scheduled, to let them know if the date didn't work for me, that an adult needed to be at home, etc. If it worked for me, they would show up to get things started. I checked my calendar, and everything matched up.
So the installation is officially on. Twenty-four hours from now, I'll have a bay of solar panels bolted to my roof.
Even as I'm reeling, however, from the realization that this is actually happening, a few things about this whole wind-up to the installation have surprised me. Yes, they seem like business as usual for Vivint Solar. But they can also be educational for anyone considering a solar installation with Vivint Solar. Here are the seven biggest things you can expect:
1. Communication Blackout
As I've noted in past posts, when they were trying to get me to sign their contract, Vivint Solar visited me again and again, peppered me with phone calls, and sent me emails about once a week. Once I'd signed that contract and been approved for financing, however, the visits, the calls, the emails-they all evaporated into thin air. And it stayed that way for 3-4 months.
When this happens, you feel like a scout or spy dropped behind enemy lines under radio silence, and you start to imagine the worst. I found myself wondering if my sales guy had moved to another company or if it had all been an identity fraud scam.
And then there were days when, I have to admit, I found myself secretly wishing that maybe I'd been silently excused from such a sizable financial obligation-one which might or might not turn into a good investment.
2. A Long Permitting Process
When the blackout ended, it was with an email from a customer care representative who let me know that they were still working through the permitting process. Just an FYI. It was unclear how long this process had been going on, but if the last three months of silence were any indication, it was a long process (especially when it was endured in silent isolation).
Not that this is unique to Vivint Solar. If the solar reviews on our site are any indication, it's actually typical across most major solar companies. Any time paperwork has to be processed with utilities or governments local, state, or federal, things are going to be stretched out far beyond the tolerance of an instant gratification junkie like myself and most people in the Western World.
3. A Phone Call Out of the Blue
A couple weeks after the aforementioned email, I received what I think was an automated call from a woman at Vivint Solar. She let me know that they had scheduled my install for the following week and when they would show. She also told me an adult would have to home and the driveway cleared. If that date and time wouldn't work for me, she said, I should call her back ASAP, and she left her direct number.
Two questions instantly materialized in my head. How did they come up with that date and time, without even consulting me first? And would that date and time work for my wife and kids, who were currently enduring summer vacation at home together?
Luckily, the date and time worked out, so I didn't call my automated caller back. She left another message-the same exact message, in fact-and I began to wonder if maybe I should call her back to confirm that everything was cool.
That was when I got a call from a guy we'll call Wilford. His name and voice sounded familiar, and he was talking to me about my upcoming install. A few minutes later, I put two and two together: it was the sales guy who had visited me, hounded me over weeks and months to get me to sign his contract.
He said he had a special offer for me. They were going to fast track my install to the following week and wasn't that great! I felt a little bad to tell him that I'd been told that I was already scheduled for the following week. I could practically hear, over the phone, the wind leave his sails.
4. Early Start
The phone messages from customer service told me to expect them to arrive between 8:00 and 11:00am. Wilford told me to expect them at about 7:30am.
[Update: They actually showed up at a couple minutes past 7:00am, and I had to clear my driveway in my pajamas.]
5. Hard Hat Zone
To get me prepared, Wilford explained that the perimeter of our house would be taped off and turned into a hard hat zone. That meant no kids playing in the yard. Minimal traffic going to and from the house.
[Update: They actually brought special branded (Vivint Orange) caution tape and cordoned off everything within twenty feet of my house. When our family did leave the house, we first checked for any signs of falling solar panels, counted to three together, and then made a mad dash for the van.]
6. A Quick Install
Read enough online reviews for solar companies and you come to expect the eternal solar install that stretches from days into weeks. Surprisingly, the Vivint Solar team had scheduled-and claimed to need only-one day for their install.
[Update: Their team of eight people started at about 7:05am, worked straight through the day, and were packing up their tools by 4:00pm, leaving a completed solar system in their wake. Impressive.]
7. A Long Wait
During my call with Wilford, I asked how long it would take, following the install, to finally get the system up and running. He said about 4-6 weeks. Another rep said 60 days max. Either way, we're looking at 1-2 months of waiting to see what those babies can do, wondering if they're going to deliver or not.
Judging by many online solar reviews, 1-2 months is actually average. Occasionally, you find those nightmare scenarios where the system still hasn't been activated six months or even a year later. But those seem to be the exception, not the rule.
To get the skinny on how my installation went, read my post "My Vivint Solar Installation: A Post-Install Retrospective."