The American public has begun to embrace renewable energy as a means for reining in household utility expenses, including the use of solar energy to generate low-cost electricity. Many people assume that the process simply involves installing solar panels on the roof and allowing the photovoltaic solar cells to convert the sun’s energy into electricity. However, solar panel installation is only one part of the total energy equation. Consumers have to consider several aspects before, during and after the placement of the technology, which is largely dependent on solar panel installers.
DO YOU HAVE A LICENSE TO INSTALL PANELS?
Almost every profession that concerns the building and maintenance of homes requires that a person or a business entity have proper credentials. For example, many states require that roof repair companies obtain a license and registration from the state before servicing homeowners. These requirements are in place to protect both the safety of the homeowner as well as ensure some unreliable contractor does not rip off the homeowner.
Similarly, solar panel installers can obtain credentials from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Before even requesting solar panel installation, homeowners should ask the independent contractor or the company if the actual installer coming out to perform the work has this credential or another type of general contracting certification.
ARE YOU FAMILIAR LOCAL BUILDING CODES AND OTHER PERTINENT REGULATIONS?
The solar panel installation on your roof becomes a semi-stationary and integral part of your home and property. Like any other skilled professionals who perform work on the structure, solar installers have to know and follow local codes and regulations, too. Ask the installer if they follow local code and regulations.
DOES YOUR COMPANY OFFER MAINTENANCE?
Installing solar panels is the primary service that contractors and companies offer, but many might also offer value-added services after setup. Ask about an annual maintenance plan where installers come out to the home to inspect the panels for damage or other issues that may affect how efficiently the solar cells collect the suns energy. Also, ask if parts and labor are included with the original installation price, similar to a warranty or service agreement.
WHAT IS YOUR SERVICE AREA?
Although solar panel installations are more permanent than mobile, ask solar panel installers can they uninstall and move the solar system to another location. Another consideration is how far the installer can travel to reinstall the panels at a new home if the household needs to move to another location. Alternatively, some companies may have partnerships with other installation companies when customers move out of the local service area.
WHAT IS THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE TECHNOLOGY?
Ask about the materials and techniques that the contractor use for installing solar panels. How long will the installation last and how well can the bolts and metallic frame withstand the elements before needing replacement?
Also, consider that PV technology is constantly evolving towards greater efficiency. Ask about the brand name and model number of the solar system and then perform research, making sure the installer is offering the most current technology.
Currently, silicon-based cells make up a large portion of the science behind solar technology. Companies around the world have found ways to improve the manufacturing process, reducing the cost of production. However, silicon doesn’t convert 100 percent of the sun’s photons into electrical energy. As scientists discover more energy-efficient materials, expect the engineering of solar panels to change as well.