With about 300 days of sunshine every year, it is no wonder that the Phoenix area is often referred to as the "Valley of the Sun." You might wonder, with so much sunshine, why aren't more homeowners putting in solar systems to capture that free energy from the sun and reduce their dependence upon electricity?
I actually looked into investing in solar panels for my home. What I found was that,
- even with rebates, it was quite a large outlay of money
- a homeowner would have to have a long-term plan for staying in the home in order to recoup the cost
- the panels are still quite large and unattractive (although I hear they are getting smaller)
There are, however, people with larger homes, big families, pools, etc. who have the cash to spend on the assumption that in X years (however many that may be) they will be able to get back the money they spent in utility savings and more. Solar makes sense for them.
© Judy Hedding
You've decided to forge ahead and install solar panels. Now what? I attended several solar presentations, basically sales talks. Different companies can present the numbers in different ways. There are many companies offering solar installations now, so how do you decide which company is best?
Recently, I was contacted by a reader who is involved in the solar business. Because his intent was not to promote himself or his business, he was not interested in having his name published, so I'll just refer to him as: Solar Guy. He shared this opinion:
There are quite a few companies out there who are rippng homeowners off left and right. The bad eggs give the whole industry a bad name. Thats even if they bother to get a license. There is no one watching these wolves raiding the hen house. It is so easy for these companies to operate, it's almost as if they were given a key by the state to the hen house.I invited Solar Guy to help my readers make better decisions, and he graciously provided these tips and resources.
- Check the company's rating with the Better Business Bureau. Low ratings and a high volume of complaints are companies that you should avoid. Not being listed at all should also raise a warning.
- Check the APS website for installers who have been screened and tested by APS, are properly licensed, and continue to improve on their trade. You can also find APS Qualifies Solar Hot Water Installers.
- Check the license status with the Registrar of Contractors. If they don't have the proper license to do the work they offer to sell and install, they are violating the law. Their license should state "Including Solar."
- Is it an unlicensed company but they tell you they have a licensed installation company that does their work? They are both violating the law. Only a licensed General Contractor can hire an appropriately licensed trade to perform a solar installation. You should check that the trade that is doing your installation is licensed to do the work required.
- Has it been in business longer than rebates or government incentives have been available? Some companies disappear when the incentives run out.
- Does the company only install solar or energy saving devices? In most cases solar should be one of the services they offer and not their only service.
- Do they offer other energy saving products besides those for which they are licensed? You should ask yourself, where did they get their training and why don't they have a license for that work?
- Can they provide proof that they have workman's compensation insurance?
- Is a building permit required for your project? Either you or the installer can obtain the permit. If a permit is required and the installation company is not licensed, you may not get your rebates, incentives, etc. You can also have problems later on when your county, city or town discovers that this work was performed without proper permitting.
- Use an online search engine. Type in the company name and the phrase "problems ripoff." What are the results? (Keep in mind that you don't have to believe everything you read on the Internet!)
- Beware of telemarketers or advertisers on craigslist. A reputable installer does not engage in these practices.
Thanks, Solar Guy, for these tips. There's still the decision about whether or not to go solar at all, but if we do want to install solar devices at least we have some logical concepts for narrowing down which company to select to do the work.
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