In honor of SEIA’s #MillionSolarStrong campaign, I figured there’s no better time than now to go over what you should know, and what steps you can expect when you make the decision to go solar.
The solar industry has come a LONG way! Here are some of us at EcoFasten Solar showing our #MillionSolarStrong game faces – we’re PROUD to be part of this exciting, cutting-edge, FUN, and rapidly growing industry….and we’re proud to be committed to renewable energy.
You’ve finally made the decision to go solar….that’s SO great, but….what do you do now?
What are the next steps? What should you expect? You want to be sure you do it right, and that you hire a fair, competent, and trusted installation company.
Do your homework, ask questions (LOTS of questions), check online reviews, ask for completed project photos, ask how long they’ve been in business, ask if they’re NABCEP certified, and don’t go with a company that can’t, or worse, won’t, answer all of your questions.
This is a big decision, I would even dare to say a life-changing one, and you deserve answers to every single question you have – big OR small.
Here are some pointers to get you started. There will obviously be research involved on your end (at least, there should be), but it doesn’t have to be a pain – and the installation company you work with should help make it an easy, hassle-free experience.
At the very least, make sure you KNOW the following information before you call any installation companies (do yourself a favor and call several):
KNOW your electricity usage – and where you think it’s headed
I’ll say it this way, since I’m from the Northeast – It’s wicked easy to figure out how much electricity you currently use. All you have to do is call your utility provider and ask for your statements from the last 12 months. Using basic math, you can easily figure out the average kWh you use on a monthly basis, which will also help you figure out your future energy usage and/or what your goals might be.
When you dig deeper into those goals, think about the future – planning on having a family? Or maybe you’ll have kids that will be headed off to college at the end of summer (my Son is 9 and I already can’t even bear to think of it)….your expected usage will give your installer a good idea of your project scope, size and expectations, making it easier for them to give you the most accurate quote that should jive with your long term expectations.
KNOW your utility rates
Where you live matters (sometimes greatly) – the rates your utility company charges based on usage will vary State to State, and in some cases, even County to County. Basically, those of us that consume more energy pay higher rates. Makes sense, right?
When you make the shift to solar, you obviously won’t be consuming as much energy, so your electricity rates will go down. And if you live in a state with net metering policies in place, and produce more power than you consume, you’ll be credited back that amount. That’s a pretty sweet deal.
You can find out all that your state has to offer (or doesn’t) by visiting Solar Power Rocks – they’ve put together a great grading system with the complete low-down of what you need to know about your state’s policies, incentives, and solar strategies.
KNOW your roof (and know it well)
The cost of installation will be driven by many varying factors. Your roof type is at the top of that list; for example, installing on a flat membrane roof will be less expensive than installing on a steep-slope roof covered in gorgeous, but heavy, breakable tiles. Also, if you roof is constructed of materials that are not used all that often, you should be prepared to pay a little more for the installation. Another thing to keep in mind is that each kW of solar capacity will require somewhere between 90-120 square feet of space, and that most residential PV installations are an average of 3-5 kW systems.
KNOW how to protect your investment
Make sure to take the time to talk to the installation company about things like warranties and maintenance requirements for all components. And while you’re at it, I would also make sure to call your insurance company to talk about including your array on your homeowners’ policy.
Once you wrap your brain around the above points, you’ll want to know what the installation company will be doing. Below are the major steps involved – some companies will be more thorough than others, and some will try to avoid certain steps (just as you should avoid these companies at all costs – or risk paying for it in the long run).
STEP 1: Assessing the situation
The installation company will come to your house to do an initial assessment – they’ll want to know your average electricity usage, and they’ll examine your roof while they’re there – this will help them choose a system that’s a good fit for you and your home. Armed with the info they gather, they’ll be able to prepare a detailed installation plan.
STEP 2: The part no one likes – let’s talk financing
During your initial assessment, your installer should’ve talked to you about financing options, as well as any programs, rebates, incentives, and other options that are available to you, either through the installation company or through your state/county/city (if you’ve done your homework, you’ll go into it having a pretty good understanding of what’s available to you).
A true solar professional will have lots of knowledge in this area, and will help you every step of the way – the really great ones will even fill out the paperwork for you.
STEP 3: Permit Issuance
Again, where you live matters. Some permits may be required before the installation begins, and your installation company should be extremely familiar with the permitting process, and should quickly and easily be able to handle any permit requirements so you don’t have to.
STEP 4: Drumroll, please….
Let the installation begin! In a nutshell, the installers will secure the solar roof mounts, install the array, connect all wires to inverters, and inspect it all to make sure everything is at it should be. Normally a city or county-appointed inspector will also give the array a quick inspection to ensure everything follows your jurisdiction’s codes.
STEP 5: Aaahhhh……the power of the sun!
Bask in the glow knowing that you are now the proud owner of a solar array, and can start generating CLEAN electricity, joining the ranks of OVER a million others! And remember, the federal residential renewable energy tax credit is waiting for you!
We can’t wait to see you all at Intersolar North America in July! Stop by, say hi, and see what’s new at booth #9633!
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Industry leader EcoFasten Solar designs, engineers, and manufactures patented, watertight solar roof mounts. The company provides mounting solutions that are easy to install, cost-effective, rugged in fabrication, and unsurpassed in quality. Comprised of a seasoned and growing team of professionals with talent, ability, and drive, all EcoFasten Solar products are precision-designed with the installer in mind.
(Images from: mendosa, energet, shutterstock, solar resource energy, spice4life)