If you’re considering switching to solar energy for your home or business, it’s smart to get quotes from at least 2-3 companies. These will help you choose a company to handle your solar project. But once you have those quotes, you may ask yourself: what should I look for in a solar quote? There are a few key questions to ask before choosing a solar installer.
Download: A handy chart of questions for solar installation companies.
Asking the right questions will help you understand the costs and benefits of going solar in Illinois. It will also ensure that you choose a reputable and reliable company to work with. In this article, we’ll explore 11 essential questions to ask solar companies. We’ve added 2 bonus questions to help protect you from sneaky advertisements.
NOTE: If you’d rather watch than read, check out the ‘Don’t Be Misled’ video down the page.
Whether you’re a solar newcomer or a seasoned pro, these questions will help you make an informed decision about your switch to solar.
What Questions to Ask Solar Companies?
1. Are they a local solar company?
We recommend you look for a local company first. Why?
Put simply, local companies are going to be there for you after the sale. You want the company who installs your solar to be available should you have any questions or issues down the road.
Experts at This Old House agree to go local. They say “It’s better to work with a locally owned company than one run by a conglomerate 3,000 miles away.”
You may also receive better service. Remember: local system installers often focus solely on solar. In most cases, this amounts to a high level of expertise.
2. Are they experienced installing solar?
With increases in tax credits and incentives here in Illinois, a lot of companies have started selling solar. These include roofing and home improvement companies, even large box stores. Unfortunately, not all of them are reputable or experienced.
Find out how long they have been installing solar energy systems, and how many installations they’ve completed. A solar panel installation is a big investment. You want your project handled by solar experts!
3. Do they have references?
One way to help judge the experience of a solar installation company is to ask for references or referrals. If they take pride in their work, they should gladly provide these to you. If they hesitate, that’s a red flag.
Also, since so many people are going solar, it’s possible that someone you know has already made the switch to renewable energy. Ask around to your friends and family and find out their experiences with going solar. We also recommend viewing online reviews like those on a company’s Google page. How do others rate them?
4. Am I leasing or buying the solar panels?
It should be clear to you in a solar quote whether you purchase the solar equipment outright or lease them from a solar company.
Is one option better than the other? There is a lot of confusion about buying vs. leasing solar panels. That’s why we’ve written an article explaining each option’s pros and cons. You will find that the biggest difference is with money: upfront costs vs long-term savings.
We recommend purchasing your own solar panels when possible. You will find you have a much better return on investment and more flexibility than you would through leasing or community solar.
5. Do I qualify for a tax credit or other incentives?
Buying high quality solar panels can be costly, but it doesn’t have to be. The right solar company will make sure you know about available tax credits and incentives that help cover the cost of your installation. These can lower the purchase price considerably.
Federal tax credits and state incentives are covering an average of 55-70% of the purchase price in Illinois right now. That is an incredible savings! So ask your solar company before you purchase which of these governmental benefits you qualify for.
6. What financing options are available?
Does the solar company you’re considering offer financing? What is the interest rate? These are also important things to find out.
Iconic Energy offers 18 month financing with no money down, no payments and no interest for 18 months. Within this time frame you’ll receive the Federal Tax Credit and any other incentives you qualify for, such as SREC money in Illinois. That means you only have to come up with the difference.
Need an even longer term solar loan? We have options for that, too.
7. What warranties are included?
Does your solar installation come with a warranty? What does that warranty cover? In the world of solar, product warranties are separate from warranties on the work, so make sure you understand exactly what you are getting.
While most companies in the solar industry offer you a 5-10 year warranty on installation, Iconic Energy Solar Professionals offers a 25-year warranty on the solar panels, the wiring AND the installation! This is one of the best warranty combinations you will find.
8. What is my total cost?
Before you commit to a business or home solar installation, it is essential that you ask exactly what your total cost will be.
If you are purchasing your system, a solar company should provide a quote with all costs involved. If you don’t see them, ask for details on projected savings from incentives and tax credits.
If the quote is for a lease, ask for the total cost over the full length of your lease agreement as well as the escalation rate each year. (Make sure you get an answer to this question, as a monthly lease will go up on average 3% per year!)
9. Will I sign the IL Power Agency Disclosure?
There are some very shady tactics being used in the solar industry. Some companies will attempt to get your signature under the guise of running a credit check when really, you are signing an intent to buy…before you even fully understand the details of your contract! NEVER sign anything without first signing the IL Power Agency Disclosure form.
The IL Power Agency Disclosure form includes all the details of your installation. This includes: the cost, interest, production, number of panels, details on inverters, and more. Signing this form is not a commitment to purchase. It is an acknowledgement that you have received full disclosure of what your solar panel installation will entail. YOU MUST SIGN THIS FORM TO RECEIVE INCENTIVES AND TAX CREDITS.
You can find examples of IL Disclosure Forms on Illinois Shines website.
10. How is the solar design determined?
When planning the layout and design of your solar installation, you want to be confident that the solar company pays attention to detail. Will they take into consideration shade on the property? What about the condition of the existing infrastructure?
Before installing solar, the company should inspect your roof (or wherever you intend to have the solar system installed). At Iconic Energy, we will assess the basic condition and structural engineering of the roof before we begin installation. Our permit process ensures that the roof will hold the solar system.
It is essential that you find a solar company willing to do the same.
11. Who handles paperwork and permitting?
There is a lot more involved when switching to solar energy than simply installing solar panels. There is paperwork, permitting, not to mention applying for tax credits and incentives!
Before you sign the contract, understand your role in the installation process and how much the solar company will handle for you.
Bonus Questions to Ask a Solar Company About Their Advertisements
12. Can I really get solar panels for “free”?
If you are responding to an advertisement for “free” solar panels you should ask a lot of questions. Are they really free? Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Calling solar panels “free” is sneaky marketing. Even the Department of Energy has warned about this misleading wording. Likely it means no or low, upfront costs because you are entering a power purchase agreement or a solar lease. You will still pay monthly to the company that owns them. This usually results in paying more in the long run than if you had purchased your solar panels outright.
13. Can I buy solar panels from ComEd?
Some advertisements make it sound like solar panels come directly from the utility company. But utility companies do not partner with any solar company. ComEd clearly states this on their website and warns: “Beware of companies that may be misrepresenting themselves as ComEd.”
Be An Informed Solar Energy Consumer
The decision to switch your home or business to solar energy is an exciting one. You are breaking free from rising electricity bills – and that’s empowering!
Iconic Energy wants you to have the best experience possible when going solar. That’s why we encourage you to get multiple quotes before choosing the solar company that’s right for you. We hope we will be one of them!
It’s easy to get started. Fill out our “Get a Quote” form here and we’ll get back to you soon with your FREE Quote and Solar Design. Let Iconic Energy put the power back in your hands!