Oregon Solar Resources

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Top Questions to Ask A Solar Installer

Find out how to choose the best Oregon solar company for your project. Know what you're doing before the consultation.

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    Select Your Oregon Solar Company with Confidence

    Choosing the right solar company is a significant step toward greening your home or business and saving on energy bills. Solar energy is not just a product; it’s an investment in a cleaner future.

    But with so many Oregon solar companies vying for your attention, how do you ensure that you’re selecting the right one for your solar project? Here’s what you need to know about picking a trusted Oregon solar trade ally that aligns with your values and the Energy Trust of Oregon’s standards.

    The Importance of Working with an Approved Solar Trade Ally

    First things first, the Energy Trust of Oregon offers an invaluable resource for residents – a carefully curated list of licensed and insured solar trade ally contractors. If you’re looking to receive a financial incentive for your solar project, you’ll need to choose a contractor from this list.

    These trade allies are committed to the standards set forth by the ETO, assuring a certain level of quality and reliability. Although they’re not directly endorsed, taking the step to select from this list is the first move toward a trustworthy partnership for your solar installation.

    Key Questions to Ask Potential Solar Contractors

    When you’ve got a shortlist of potential hires, it’s interview time. Here’s what to ask:

    How much experience does your company have with solar installations?

    • Experience matters as companies who’ve been in business longer have demonstrated their abilities to effectively compete and satisfy customers.

    Will your company perform the installation?

    • Some solar companies use subcontractors for the installation. Understand the extent of these subcontractors’ experience with solar installations.

    Is your company NABCEP certified?

    What products does your company offer?

    • If you’re looking for specific components, check if the contractor offers them. Some may provide only one brand of inverter, solar panels, or battery storage system or may lack training to install the product you want.

    Does your company provide financing?

    • Some contractors can arrange financing while others may provide it directly or through an equipment manufacturer.

    What kind of warranty do you offer?

    • Energy Trust requires trade allies to offer at least a two-year system warranty. Some may provide longer warranties, but ensure you clearly understand what to expect in case of equipment or workmanship defects.

    How long will the project take?

    • Understanding the time frame helps maintain clear expectations. From securing incentives to applying for permits, and the actual installation time can vary widely.

    Going Beyond the Basics

    It’s not all about asking the right questions—you should also perform a background check. Verify the contractors’ license with Oregon’s Construction Contractors Board, and don’t shy away from asking for a list of past customer references. This will provide insight into the contractor’s strengths and potential weaknesses, as real projects and experiences are discussed.

    Comparing Bids

    When the bids are in, they should be comparable across various components, such as system size, energy production estimates, and total costs. Discrepancies in bids could be cause for follow-up questions.

    Remember, it’s not always about the bottom line—quality, warranty length, and the confidence you have in a contractor can be just as important.

    Trust Is Crucial

    After all is said and analyzed, trust remains a key factor. You’re not just buying a solar setup; you’re entering into a long-term relationship with a contractor. You want someone who will stand behind their work for decades, not just through the warranty period.

    people installing solar panels on a home

    How-To Find the Best Solar Company

    With an understanding of the importance of experience, certification, product offerings, financing options, warranties, and project timelines, you are well-equipped to start reaching out to local contractors in your area. Here’s how to take those important steps forward:

    1. Compile a List of Local Contractors

    Start by utilizing the Energy Trust of Oregon’s resource for a list of approved solar trade allies in your area. This list is a great foundation, ensuring that the contractors meet certain standards and are familiar with the local regulations and incentives.

    2. Initial Contact

    Once you have your list, initiate contact with these contractors. A brief call or email introducing your project and asking for an initial discussion or a bid can be a good start. Be upfront about your requirements and expectations to ensure they align with what the contractors offer.

    3. Set Up Meetings

    Organize meetings with the contractors who respond positively and seem to fit your initial criteria. This could be a virtual meeting or an on-site visit. On-site visits can be particularly worthwhile, providing contractors a better understanding of your space and the project scope.

    4. Prepare Your Questions

    Before your meetings, prepare a list of questions based on the crucial points discussed earlier. Cover their experience, specific projects they’ve handled, their stance on using subcontractors, NABCEP certification, product options, financing solutions, warranty details, and project timelines.

    5. Collect and Compare Bids

    Ask each contractor you meet with for a detailed bid. Once you have bids from several contractors, compare them carefully. Look beyond just the price; consider the quality of the products, warranty conditions, and the projected energy savings.

    6. Conduct Background Checks

    For those contractors who have made it to your shortlist, do a deeper dive. Verify their Construction Contractors Board (CCB) license, check for any reviews or testimonials, and consider reaching out to past clients if references are provided. Their experiences can offer valuable insights into what working with the contractor might be like for you.

    7. Make an Informed Decision

    Armed with comprehensive information from interviews, bids, and background checks, you can now make an informed decision. Remember, this is a partnership that lasts beyond the installation, so factor in trust and your level of comfort with their team.

    8. Initiate Your Project

    With the right contractor selected, it’s time to start your project. Work with them to finalize the contract, understand the steps involved to get started, and prepare for the transformational journey to solar energy.

    Takeaway

    In closing, the pathway to solar energy is lit with choices and decisions. By asking informed questions, researching, and comparing with a discerning eye, you’re set to choose a solar contractor that brings not just energy savings but a sense of partnership in our sustainable future.

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