Tips for Choosing a Solar Panel Installer

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When you’ve decided to make a big investment in your home, in the form of renewable energy, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got the best people on the job for you. With solar fast becoming a more accessible technology,the marketplace has been flooded with companies claiming to be the best solar installers around. But how do you sort the cowboys from the quality installers? Here are some tips to help you decide.

1. Solar installers should be accredited

Look for solar installers who are MCS accredited as a bare minimum. A good solar installer may also be registered with Renewable Energy Assurance Limited (REAL), the Solar Trade Association (STA) or be members of the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC). Importantly, your installer must be MCS accredited for you to qualify for the Feed in Tariff scheme and its payments.

2. Good companies don’t need to use high pressure sales tactics

The consumer code for companies selling solar products says that they should not use high pressure sales tactics or any on the spot discounts to try and hassle you into making a quick decision. If you are feeling put under pressure by the company providing your quote, it’s probably best that you don’t go ahead with them anyway.

3. Get at least three quotations

Ask at least three companies to come and quote you for your installation. This will not only give you a chance to compare prices from different providers, it will also give you the opportunity to get a feel for the company and whether you are comfortable working with them.

4. Research the companies and ask for references

A good solar installer should have been in business for some time, and should have no problem in furnishing you with references or testimonials from previous clients. Find out for yourself how long they have been in business, and don’t let a flashy website fool you into thinking they are more competent than they actually are.

Choosing a Solar Panel InstallerGreen MPs / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

5. Ask your neighbours

If you know of other people in the area who have had solar installed already, don’t be afraid to knock on the door and ask them if they recommend the company. You can learn much more from talking to real customers, so find out who they used and what was good and bad about the installation process. Most solar investors will be all too pleased to show you their system and talk to you about the company that put it in.

6. Know what you want

Solar panels come in lots of different flavours, and what you need for your home will depend on how much you have to spend and what you feel is important. Variations in the crystalline structure of PV panels and the construction of solar thermal panels can make a big difference to their efficiency and installation cost, so be sure you understand the differences so you know what you are being quoted for.

7. Expect them to come to your home

It is impossible to assess a property for suitability for solar without attending the house, so be wary of any company offering an ‘over the phone’ quotation. Expect them to visit the home, to inspect the roof for structural soundness, to take light meter readings and to ask you about your lifestyle and energy consumption.

8. Expect additional advice and recommendations

To get the maximum FIT payment your home will need to achieve an Energy Performance Certificate rating of at least D or above. With this in mind, a good solar installer will often offer advice on improving your home’s energy efficiency in general.

9. Clarify what the quotation includes

Quotations should be written down, itemised and specific to your home. Don’t settle for a ball park figure or an amount that seems to have been pulled out of thin air. Ask to see the breakdown and ask if there are any items they have not included. Some installations will require costly items like scaffolding, whereas others might need strengthening work to be done to the roof before the panels go up. Make sure everything has been quoted for, otherwise you could end up with a nasty surprise when you get the final bill.

10. Check what aftercare you will be offered

Your solar installation should be guaranteed or warrantied for a period of time, but this time period can differ from one manufacturer to another. Check what you are getting with your chosen installer, and ask about the services they provide after the installation if the technology stops working or needs servicing. There can sometimes be a difference in the length of the manufacturer’s warranty and the installer’s warranty, so check who will be liable for the labour costs if the manufacturer’s one is still valid but the installers has expired.

However you go about choosing your solar panel installer, do not sign up with a company on a whim. This is, after all, a major bit of work being done to your home, and if something should go wrong or be inappropriately installed, a new roof is a costly investment. Don’t compare installers on cost alone, as you’ll soon forget the £200 you saved if the job is shoddy or the warranty is invalid.

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