How Can I Find Solar Providers Near Me?
Wanting to go solar, but not sure how to find the best installers in your area?
Off the top of my head, I can easily think of a couple of solar providers near me. If you’ve been jumped by Sunrun while shopping at Costco or talked at by SolarCity as you’ve browsed through Home Depot, you might think that they’re all that’s out there.
However, you couldn’t be further from the truth! While these 2 companies may be the biggest residential solar providers, there are thousands of solar companies across the US. Most of these are small, local companies, but other national or regional installers are out there too.
You may then be asking ‘How do I find solar providers near me?’ and what about vetting and narrowing down all these installers? Let’s walk through the process of how to find solar providers.
Prelude: tips to choosing solar providers near me
Before we begin discussing how to find a solar installer, let’s briefly walk through a couple points to keep in mind:
Think about your financing
If you want to install solar with a lease or power purchase agreement, you’ll need to work with a large national installer, as most local installers don’t have the capital to offer this type of financing. If you are purchasing in cash or with a loan, you open up your options to work with smaller installers as well!
Don’t forget local installers
Yes, we’ve all seen SolarCity and Sunrun, but in many cities, there are dozens of local installers too! Working with fewer customers and enjoying lower overhead costs, local installers often provide more personalized, attentive customer service and even lower prices.
In a 2017 study, the National Renewable Energy Lab found that large installers (1000+ installations per year) charge about 10% more than smaller installers (PDF pg 9). With the average 5kW installation costing about $15k, that’s $1,500 saved right there.
Choose 3 installers
Don’t get fixated on a single installer, even if your neighbors had the best experience of their lives. Do some research online and find at least 2 others before you make a decision.
For more help on choosing an installer, check out our article How to Ensure the Most Affordable Solar Installation.
Step 1: word of mouth
Now let’s get to the good stuff.
The first step to finding a great solar installer is to simply ask around. Have any friends, family, or friends-of-friends with solar? Talk to them about their experiences. Not only can you learn a lot about their installer from just a short conversation, but they might’ve worked with a great installer you never heard of.
Sit down and take 10 minutes to ask about their costs, installation quality, and customer service. Here are a few questions to get you started:
- Is the installer cost-competitive? If they are more expensive, do they offer any additional features or services other installers don’t?
- Did the solar installation pass all city and utility inspections on the first visit? If they don’t pass on the first visit, that means something was done incorrectly – a sign of poor installation processes.
- Were they communicative before and during the installation?
- Now that your installation is up and running, are your savings similar to the savings estimates they provided?
Word-of-mouth is huge in the solar industry. In fact, person-to-person referrals account for 50% of all residential solar sales. With solar being a fairly new industry and a lot of companies popping up, it’s good to talk to someone you know and trust.
If you don’t have any friends or family that have installed solar, don’t worry! Jump on Google, Yelp, or Angie’s List (if you’re a member) and just type in “solar installers Denver, Colorado” (but your own city’s name, of course) and a long list will pop up. Pick 5 varied installers (small, large, local, national, etc) that sound promising. After you’ve got your list, it’s time to evaluate and narrow it down.
Step 2: online reviews
Now that you’ve got a few leads from friends, family, or Google, it’s time to go online and do some research.
Remember learning about the federal government’s checks and balances when you were in 8th grade? Consider this Step 2 the ‘checks-and-balances’ to Step 1. Sure your wife’s best friend had a great experience with Sunny Side Solar Company, but that’s one experience out of (hopefully) hundreds, or even thousands. Researching their company and reading online reviews will give you a wider – and hopefully more accurate – perspective.
To help you narrow down your list, you want to find information on customers’ experiences as well as the company itself (age, experience, etc).
What sites should you visit to help in this process? Here’s a few to get you started:
- A good starting point is solarreviews.com, as it provides an overall score for each installer as well as hundreds of actual customer reviews. As a website dedicated to reviewing solar companies, the website allows customers to leave ultra-detailed reviews and rate each part of the installation process (sales, installation, support, etc).
- Unfortunately, solarreviews.com only allows individuals to review the company as a whole, not individual branches in different cities. If you’re working with a large company with many different branches, head over to yelp.com, where individuals can leave reviews on a specific local installation branch. Experiences can vary wildly from one branch to the next, so take some time to learn about yours.
- While your local Better Business Bureau’s website typically has reviews/complaints from customers with the absolute worst experiences, it’s helpful to see just how many the company has with the BBB and compare them with other local installers. Too many BBB complaints? Ditch ‘em!
- Lastly, be sure to check out the company’s own website. You can learn a lot of helpful information here, like how long they’ve been around, how many installations they’ve completed, the owner’s background, certifications, and available equipment.
If you’re interested in smaller installers, it might be harder to find information online, but you should still be able to get a feel for whether they are trustworthy, timely, and install quality systems.
Step 3: get quotes!
So you’ve vetted a few companies and narrowed it down, now what? Well, it’s the fun part! Call them up and ask for quotes. They’ll give you a rundown of your estimated cost and savings, a general map of your installation, and basic information on the installation, equipment, and timeframe.
Since you already read the reviews, you should have an idea of what to expect from each installer’s quality and customer service, so now is the time to focus in on cost, savings, and equipment.
Once you’ve poured over the quotes, discussed each with the installer, and chosen the company you want to work with, it’s time to sign the paperwork! After that, they’ll send out a technician to get up on your roof and take measurements so your designer can make a detailed plan. Once you approve that plan, you are well on your way to enjoying your system!
Of course, it all starts with finding a handful of reputable, respected companies. Use the guide above and come to the process with your thinking cap on!
If you’ve already gone through the process of finding and hiring an installer, do you have any tips for all our solar-hungry readers? Tell us about them in the comments below.