Where is the Best Place to Find Solar Company Reviews?
Finding Solar Company Reviews
Finding a reliable contractor is crucial to make your solar dream a reality. Hiring a fly-by-night installer is a very quick way to turn your solar dream into a nightmare – so how do you make sure you pick a good company?
Image: Yes, these guys are drilling holes in your roof.
Looking at solar company reviews should be your first step in picking who you do business with. By themselves reviews on the internet aren’t worth all that much, but they’re a good starting point. While you should never make a decision off the back of a single review, the general tone of things should provide you with a solid idea of a company’s reputation and character. Take note of things that crop up a lot – if a dozen people are all saying the same thing, that’s a good sign that you’ll have a similar experience. If a company has responded to a review you can use the quality and tone of that response as another measure to help you form an initial opinion.
Things to watch out for
Keep an eye out for large numbers of positive but low-quality reviews. Less reputable companies may not be above purchasing reviews to give themselves an air of legitimacy, and if you come across an example it’s a clear marker to stay away from them. There are a few flags you can look for to single out reviews given by bots:
- The review is short and generic – “This company is great, I am super happy with them.”
- There will be a large number of very similar reviews, all posted within a short time frame
- If the website allows people to post anonymously or with guest accounts, then lots of reviews from those are a black mark
- If the account that posted the review has either no other reviews or lots of very similar, very generic reviews
A good review will be unique, and will mention specifics like what the company installed and how smoothly the job went. You should come away with more information than just whether or not the customer was happy.
Looking for reviews:
Your first stop will in all likelihood be Google – simply searching the company name and “reviews” should bring up plenty of results. Not everything that things brings up will be useful, though – as an example, reviews hosted on the company’s own website stating that they’re wonderful can safely be ignored. You may find a few listings of the company appearing with only one or two results — not so helpful when you’re looking for a volume of reviews.
I’ve noticed that depending on where you are, there’s a lot of variation in which sites are useful. Below I’ve listed a few companies that tend to have a good volume of reviews for companies anywhere in the US, often with enough quality to give you a good idea of the company’s character.
SolarReviews are one of the largest industry specific review sites, and the vast majority of solar companies will have a presence on the site. As well as hosting reviews, SolarReviews provide an accreditation program listing companies that meet their requirements as “Pre-Screened Solar Pros“. According to SolarReviews only the top 20% of all solar companies meet the requirements for the accreditation. If there are any with the accreditation in your area, that may help you to narrow down your search a little.
Yelp is a very general site, providing consumer reviews across an enormous range of categories. I found them surprisingly helpful when researching solar companies – they have an enormous user base, and at least in the areas I was looking at I found a large number of reviews. Yelp provide an aggregate score, and at the top of the page they show examples of typical reviews. These examples always seem to be from the more positive reviews, so it’s worth digging into the reviews further down the page to get a more balanced look.
Consumer affairs style themselves as a service for providing expert resources and verified reviews. A verified review, in this case, refers to a review written by someone who has provided Consumer Affairs with their contact information.
Because Consumer Affairs require a company to sign up to a service in order to respond, when you’re looking at a company’s overall rating similar caveats apply as when dealing with the Better Business Bureau. You’re looking at reviews hosted by a for-profit company with a vested interest in one side of the story. This doesn’t necessarily invalidate any information that you find on the site, but do keep it in mind.
BestCompany.com are site put together and run by SkyRocket Media in 2014. BestCompany have an interesting arrangement, where they provide a detailed “Expert review” of the company from their own investigations, and users can leave their own reviews on the page. You can find the user reviews in the same place you’d usually look for comments. They have a very clear scoring system for rating solar companies, broken down with points awarded to the company across nine separate criteria:
- Consumer reviews – 25% of the final score
- An expert review – 20% of the final score
- Payment options – 15% of the final score
- Warranty terms – 10% of the final score
- Availability – 8% of the final score
- Contract length – 6% of the final score
- Mobile app ratings – 6% of the final score
- Online monitoring – 5% of the final score
- BBB score – 5% of the final score
On the page for the company they display both the score from their own review, and the average reader score of the company.
Reviews are a great, low effort way to get a feel for a company. Although they’re very useful for picking installers out of the crowd early on, you shouldn’t make your final decisions purely off the back of reviews found on the internet. Once you’ve chosen a few likely companies, do yourself a favor and take the time to dig deeper. Ask for quotes, ask for references to previous clients, maybe run a credit check on the company.
The sites I’ve listed in this article tend be be decent sources across the US, but there may well be sites with a more local focus that you find helpful. Are there any sites you’ve found especially helpful in your area? Let me know in the comments.
Photo Credit: CC License via Flickr