10 Questions to Ask Your Solar Installer

Explore key questions to ask your solar installer, ensuring you choose a reliable, skilled provider for your solar energy needs.
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    1. Do you subcontract work on your systems, and if so, how do you ensure your subcontractors do a good job?

    What to look for: Subcontractors are fine, but better control and quality are always performed when the work is done in-house.  If someone is using subcontractors, see if you can find out why.

    Power NW: We handle all of our own work in-house.  We do however have a great relationship with a roof contractor that we subcontract re-roof work to.  We send them a lot of business, so they give us great discounts, which we pass on to our customers.  

    2. How are your installers paid?

    What to look for: You want to work with companies that pay their installers by the hour so that they’re encouraged to do a good job.  Some companies pay their installers by the panel, encouraging them to work as fast as possible to simply get the panels on the roof.  In these scenarios, quality is the last thing on their mind.

    Power NW: We pay our installers by the hour emphasizing the importance of quality over speed.  Our saying is that you can’t rush craftsmanship.  We also provide full health insurance benefits, 401k with matching, and three-day weekends with generous paid time off.  Overall, we’re a great place to work and encourage quality over quantity.  If you’re interested in joining our team, check out our Careers page.

    solar installer carrying a home solar panel on a ladder

    3. How many solar systems have you installed?

    What to look for:  You want to find a company that has been installing solar for at least a couple of years and has a good track record.  No one wants to be a guinea pig for a new company

    Power NW: We’ve installed hundreds of successful installations since 2019 all with happy customers who would be thrilled to tell you about it!

    Oregon install map

    4. Do you install batteries?

    What to look for: If you’re looking to put solar on your house, you want to go with a company that also has the ability to install batteries.  The two go hand in hand.  You might not add batteries right off the bat, but you want to make sure that you can depend on your solar installer to also install batteries should you decide to add them in the future.  A company that also installs batteries also speaks to their skill level.  Batteries are tough to install and require skilled electricians to do so.  If a company only installs solar, you should be questioning their skill level.

    Power NW:  We are highly trained on various battery systems and do a fantastic job installing batteries either along with solar, after a solar system has already been installed, or in a stand-alone configuration.

    tesla battery in front of wood wall
    Image: Two Tesla Batteries

    5. Do we get a dedicated Project Manager? Are they located here in Oregon?

    What to look for:  Having a local dedicated Project Manager is important.  Many national companies outsource their Project Management to people who aren’t familiar with your project and might be difficult to get a hold of.

    Power NW: Each customer has a dedicated Project Manager located here in our local office that walks them through the entire process.  Each Project Manager has a dedicated crew to streamline our internal communication.  This setup ensures each customer gets the attention they need and allows us to respond to inquiries as quickly as possible.

    6. How do you seal and waterproof the connections?

    What to look for:  Waterproofing all of the connections necessary for a roof-mounted solar system is critical.  The best way to do it on a pitched comp shingle roof is to use a metal flashing.  This guarantees a water-tight connection.  Unfortunately, there are a handful of installers that instead use racking systems which create a “watertight” seal using sealant.  Sealant works great as a 5-10-year insurance policy, but as we’ve seen, it will not last the full 25-50 years that your solar system will last.

    Power NW:  We pay a premium for our racking system which includes metal flashings at each roof penetration.  The metal flashing is tucked up under two courses of shingles.  This process takes longer to install but guarantees a waterproof connection.  In addition to the metal flashing, we put a bead of sealant both behind the flashing and in the hole.  If we do our jobs right, water should never even touch the sealant, it’s simply there as a second line of defense.   

    solar panel system waterproofing using flashings

    7. Do you offer a minimum energy guarantee?  If yes, how will I be paid if the system does not produce as much energy as promised in the contract?

    What to look for: One of the most important figures to look for on any solar proposal is the estimated energy production, measured in kWh for the year.  Now, this figure can oftentimes be exaggerated if the system isn’t modeled correctly based on nearby shading or system conditions.  So, to ensure that this figure is accurate, you want to make sure that the installer you’re working with guarantees that number to be accurate.

    Power NW:  We guarantee the year 1 system production up to 95% of the estimate.  If for any reason your system falls below what we estimated, we’ll pay you the difference.  Now, we’ve never had to pay this out and that’s because by providing a guarantee we’re keeping ourselves accountable to providing accurate and conservative figures when showing how much a system will produce and therefore how much it will save you over time.  This keeps us honest.  

    8. What’s your cancellation policy?

    What to look for:  If you need to cancel your project for any reason you should have the right to do so.  Many companies only offer 3 days’ right to cancel.  That’s the minimum requirement put in place by the state.  This is typically used in high-pressure situations to lock you into a contract.

    Power NW:  We give all of our customers the right to cancel up until your permits are approved and we’ve started construction.  This gives ample time to reconsider the project if anything comes up.  The only sunken cost at that point is the $1,000 Down Payment which was used to cover our site visit, design, and the cost of permits.

    9. If I pay cash is the system cost the same if I decide to finance the project?

    What to look for:  Most companies have a cash price and then a different price if you choose to finance the project.  This is pretty customary for financing solar projects because many lenders have origination fees that they include in the purchase price of the system.  In this scenario, if you plan on financing, make sure that you understand the total system cost and how much you’re paying in interest and fees.

    Power NW:  We simply have a cash price and then present any financing fees upfront.  This makes it very clear as to what the cost to finance is and if any fees are being included.

    10. What makes your company different from other installers?

    What to look for:  You want to find a company that aligns with your core values and needs.  There are a handful of great solar installers in our area as well as some not-so-good ones.  Make sure that you find one that works well for you.  Be sure not to get wooed by a polished salesperson and double-check that the entire company as a whole is a partner that you can trust.

    Power NW:  We do many things well.  In fact, we’ve highlighted the Top 10 Reasons to Choose Power Northwest in the linked article.  However, the main thing that makes us unique is that we’re a mission-driven Benefit Corporation.  This means that we put our mission before profits.  Our mission boils down to 3 parts; Happy Homeowners, Enriched Employees, and Clean Environment.  This means that we truly care about your satisfaction (see our 5-Star Promise below), we care about our employees, and we care about the environment and the positive impact that solar makes towards a sustainable future.  Partner with us and we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. 

    happy solar homeowners, enriched employees, clean environment

    Our 5-Star Promise

    At Power Northwest, we promise to deliver a 5-star experience to every customer. We’re passionate about your satisfaction and are committed to delivering on our promise with exceptional customer service, clear communication, and quality craftsmanship. It’s a promise we make to our customers and ourselves. By delivering a 5-star experience, we’ll make Power Northwest a more prosperous and thriving company, a better place to work, and an unbeatable partner for you. We will act as an advocate with your best interests in mind. We Promise.

    Pro Tip:

    Google the office location of the installation company. If it’s a PO Box or a storage unit, it might be a fly-by-night operation. Look for an established brick-and-mortar location that will be around to service your system and honor all of the warranties for a long time to come.

    Fly-By-Night Solar Installer

    fly-by-night operation oregon solar installer

    More Established Brick-And-Mortar

    power northwest local portland office

    Oregon

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