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Questions to Ask Companies

The following questions may help you begin the conversation with a solar installer. You will get the most out of the discussion if you do some initial homework.

If you're considering community solar, click here to see specific Community Solar Garden resources from CERTs.

Questions to ask solar installers you're considering working with:

  1. How long have you been in business? How many installations have you done? Do you have references I can contact? Photos of previous installations?
  2. Do you provide a maintenance or service warranty? How do you handle manufacturer warranties? What maintenance is recommended? How long can I expect the system to last?
  3. What is your refund policy in case the system does not perform as promised?
  4. What is included in a solar site assessment? How will I know if my site is appropriate?
  5. Do you perform an energy use evaluation?
  6. Is the installer who will be performing the work NABCEP certified?
  7. Approximately how much energy will the system produce and what portion of my energy use might I expect the system to offset annually? This is also referred to as the solar fraction. Will the system be able to measure and track energy production? What must I do to manage loads in order to achieve the predicted solar?
  8. What is the current monetary value of the energy saved/generated?
  9. Does your bid reflect the total cost of the system? Are structural engineering considerations included? Under what circumstances will I be charged extra for unanticipated costs? What incentives are available to offset the system cost? Who handles the paperwork for incentives?
  10. Will you as be responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits? (For example, building, plumbing, electrical, zoning, as required by the local jurisdiction.)
  11. When could the installation begin? From start to finish, including utility or permit approvals, how long might the installation take? (Permitting and incentive application processing vary by location.)
  12. Do you work with my electric utility to complete grid interconnection? Are there interconnection costs? (Utility interconnection costs and approval time vary.)
  13. Will you provide an owner’s manual upon commissioning the system?
  14. If there is a blackout, what options do I have for backup power and how much do they cost?

Get multiple bids: It is a good idea to speak to more than one contractor before making a final decision. As with any building improvement, it is important that you are comfortable with your contractor. Be sure that each bid specifies system type and size, expected energy production, maintenance requirements, and installed cost.

This list of questions was adapted from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources.