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Solar reviews: how to evaluate solar installers

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There are thousands of solar companies operating in the United States, most of which have been reviewed by customers online. If you’re thinking about installing solar, reviews can help you determine which company will offer the best prices, good customer service, and an attractive solar panel system design for your home or business.

How to use solar reviews to find the best installer for your needs

Most property owners seek out reviews prior to selecting an installer, but the amount of information out there can be overwhelming. There are a few major indicators to look out for in these solar reviews – and some information you should take with a grain of salt.

1. The rating and the number of reviews

The first question to ask yourself when evaluating an installer’s reviews: What’s the overall rating of the company, and how many reviews make up that rating?

Of course, you’ll want to look for a company with a favorable rating, but a good rating is just the beginning. You might receive a quote from two different solar companies that both have 4.5 star ratings. If the first company’s 4.5 star rating is from just two reviews, while the second company’s 4.5 star rating is the result of over 50 reviews, that can tell you a lot about the two companies’ relative track records and time operating in the industry.

2. Content of the reviews

Solar company reviews can be a useful tool when evaluating the quality of an installation company, but it’s important to look at more than the rating and the sheer number of reviews.

While a favorable star rating is important, the content of the reviews matters just as much. If a customer posted a one-star review, was their negative experience due to unrealistic expectations of when the system would be up and running? Do the reviewers seem credible to you? And are there trends among negative reviews that suggest a bigger issue?

If you see a particularly negative review online about a company you were considering, consider asking your contact at the company about the particular customer or instance, and what steps (if any) were taken to rectify the situation. How they respond to this question can be a good indicator of the way that they will handle additional questions or issues down the road.

In addition to examining negative reviews, you should also evaluate the content of good reviews. Do the five-star reviews use generic language or follow the same “formula”? If you see a lot of reviews that don’t list any project specifics, or reviews that were all posted on the same date, they may not have come from real customers at all. While reviews can be a good indication of a company’s reputation, they are only useful if they are from actual customers.

3. Source of company reviews

Another important consideration for online solar company reviews is the website that they’re posted on. If the website’s main financial incentive is tied to getting more and more reviews posted onto their pages, they may not thoroughly vet the reviews that users post.

To ensure that you’re looking at meaningful reviews, focus on websites with a good reputation and a proven track record of review validation, such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Yelp. EnergySage also has validated solar reviews from its active solar marketplace shoppers across the country.

Another good resource for reviews can be the solar company’s own website. Many installers post their own customer testimonials on their website, along with pictures of their installations so that you can see what the final product looks like. If you’re interested in learning more about a specific review you’ve read, ask that installer if you can talk to that happy customer as a reference.

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What to look for beyond a company’s solar reviews

Solar company reviews can be a useful tool to evaluate the quality of an installer, but they can often be more representative of the “extreme” customer experience. Think about it: do you write a review for a company when you have a mediocre “three star” experience, or are you more likely to do so when you have an extremely positive or negative experience?

While solar reviews can give a good indication of general reputation in the market, especially at certain volumes and across multiple platforms, there are a few other things to consider to complete your research when choosing a solar installer.

1. Customer references

Any reputable installation company will have references that you can talk to about their experience, and you should be as picky as you’d like with the type of references you’re looking for.

For example, if you’re installing a ground mounted solar panel installation, ask for a reference on a ground mount install they’ve done. Or, if you want to see an installation in person, asking for a reference close by to you may be helpful. It’s also never a bad idea to ask for a reference whose installation is a few years old. That way, you can learn how the company works with customers after the installation is complete and, on the chance they had a service call, how the company responded to it.

2. Years in business and expertise

Look to see how long the installation company has been in business. If your system needs servicing down the line, you’ll want to make sure your installer is still around. Many customers will also inquire with solar contractors about their install history and the number of projects they’ve done to verify that the company has a good amount of experience.

3. Local experience

The number of installations a company has done is an indication of their experience, but you should also consider how much work they’ve done in your local market. Solar installation companies that have been working in your area for a while will be more familiar with local permitting practices and interconnection applications with your utility company, both of which can speed the installation process along.

4. Licensing, certifications and affiliations

Solar installers should always carry the necessary licensing and insurance to operate, which vary depending on the state(s) where they conduct business. A lot of licensing information is available publicly online, and installation companies should be able to provide in-depth information upon request.

Outside of the basic licensing and insurance requirements, many companies will carry additional industry certifications. One of the more popular ones is the North America Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Solar PV Installation Professional Certification. Many install companies have one or multiple lead installers that are NABCEP-certified.

5. Installation timeline

Not every company will be able to install on the same timeline, so if timing is important to you, ask for a timeline up front. The project is dependent not just on your area and how quickly the permitting and interconnection process happens, but also on the company itself. Some companies have a larger crew for installations, more openings in their installation calendar, or project managers that help move the project along more quickly.

If you’re on a particular timeline to go solar (for instance, looking to get solar as soon as possible to take advantage of a certain incentive), be sure to talk to prospective installers about how quickly they can get your system up and running once you sign a contract.

Rule #1: Always shop around before making a big decision

Above all, when you’re considering solar, look at all of the options available to you before making a decision. A good or bad solar company can make a dramatic impact on your installation experience. It’s worth doing the research and comparing offers on a platform like the EnergySage Solar Marketplace before you sign a contract.

When you join the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can receive quotes from multiple pre-screened and vetted solar companies to ensure you’re getting a good deal. Any installer that provides quotes through our platform and has gone through our screening process and will have an EnergySage Approved badge.

EnergySage also has a solar reviews section where you can look up solar companies (whether or not they submit quotes on the Marketplace). EnergySage is completely free for solar shoppers to use for as long as you want to use it – we make our money from fees paid by solar contractors who utilize our platform to find customers. We’re here to help you choose the right solar option for your home or business, regardless of the installer you select.

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About Kerry Thoubboron

Kerry has worked in solar for 5 years, starting out as an Energy Advisor helping customers compare their options and, ultimately, make well-informed solar decisions. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Environmental Analysis and Policy. Outside of work, you can find Kerry snowboarding, watching The Office, or having passionate debates about which New England state is best (spoiler: it's Vermont).

One thought on “Solar reviews: how to evaluate solar installers

  1. Hartmut Teuber

    I had solar panels installed in Sept.2015. The installing company went bankrupt in 2016. Now I have one high producing panel not producing at all for one year already. I am at a loss how to rectify the problem on warranty.
    Also since there are trees in our street that diminish the production through the shades they throw in the afternoon sun, The paneled roof is facing South-West. I wanted to move three most shade-affected panels to the dormer section on our roof, which are less shaded. What can be done to get the three panels moved to the dormer section?

    Reply

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