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How do we know it's going to work?...Referrals, Referrals, Referrals

While grid-tied solar is well proven and a well established trade in other parts of the US, like California, it is a new trade here in Virginia. How does one ensure that they are going to get a correct, reliable, and especially productive solution at a reasonable price?

Look for/Ask for the following...not necessarily in this order:

  • Show me your installation and others by appointment. Perhaps meet the homeowner without the installer.

    • Was it a great experience and is the solution meeting their expectations?

    • Was it installed and commissioned and fully operating within 45 days of going to contract?

    • Was the work crew efficient, knowledgeable and courteous?

  • Do not provide payment for materials unless you have evidence that the installer has completed the permitting submission for you and has an approved permit in-hand. Same for utility interconnection which should be an Email from the utility company approving you to go ahead and install.

  • Do not provide payment for materials unless the installer has provided you several near term dates available for the install.

  • Watch the Financing game! Several installers, namely the large ones like Vivint and SolarCity/Tesla offer very long term financing approaching 20+ years. What they don't tell you is that they pay, and tack onto the system price, about a 12%. This is mandated by these bandits. It looks attractive, but you pay out way more interest over the long term. 

  • Make sure they explain the different technology for solar arrays;

    • Basic string inverters on a DC system​

    • AC micro-inverters incorporated into or under each panel.

    • Central smart inverters with intelligent optimizers under each panel.

    • Rack mounting with and/or without rails

  • If you are going with SolarEdge (our preference) we suggest you have the installer go with an upsized inverter so that you will not run the chance of "clipping"duringthe inverter's conversion from DC to AC power. This info is readily available in the SolarEdge data sheets.​

  • Conduit runs - Ask about the installer's plan for conduit an type. If a DC system coming down to a central inverter, then the conduit must be metal EMT, or rigd metal pipe or metal-clad (MC) flexible cable. MC, in our opinion, looks poor when exposed. What steps will they do to hide the conduit, or also paint to blend in on the roof.

  • Solar Panel Choice - Do they offer multiple solar panel choices for you to consider? They should and they should offer different rates based on your choice. A further note - do your research as very cheap panels are not a good value and can also degrade their new black color in only a few years. Check the workmanship warranty as well as the performance warranty. Most panel companies offer a 25 year performance warranty, with their panel degrading down to around 82% of new by year 25. BUT, what you may not know is that if a panel fails, or degrades significantly after 10 years, most panel companies claim a workmanship warranty of only 10 years. So, if the panel fails completely in year 13 and the company has a 10 year workmanship warranty, they can claim - sorry, your panel failed because of a workmanship issue and your out of warranty, even though you may have 10 years remaining on your performance warranty.

  • Combiner boxes - This is where the strings of panels come together and are jumpered and cross connected for the wiring run(s) down to the inverter (for DC central inverter systems). Aesthetically, these can and should be hidden under the panels or be located in the attic. 

  • Start small and expand later... Yes, there is economies of scale that should result in lower pricing to you from an installer if you doing a very large residential system. But, an effective strategy is to start small, but upgrade the central inverter and optimizers under the panels as well as combiner box wiring. This allows for easy future expansion.

  • Rack vs non-rack mounting of panels on roof - Rack mounted systems are stronger - period. We like to upgrade all our installations to withstand 130 mph winds with the Everest mounting product.

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