Switching to solar is a great decision, both for the environment and you. Solar power saves you loads of money in utility bills and helps you decrease your carbon footprint, making it a win-win. If you’re ready to take advantage of this free, clean energy, you’re probably asking yourself the obvious question: Where do I start? How do I find the best solar companies near me?
Finding the right solar company near you is as simple as knowing what you need and using that knowledge to sort through your wide range of options. For those of you who just want to know what is available in your area, you can jump right to our solar company directory. You’ll find listings for hundreds of quality solar companies, sorted by location so you can easily pull up a list of those in your state or enter your zip code below.
For those of you looking for a little more in-depth information about finding the right solar company for you, read on for some helpful tips and insights. Some of this information may seem obvious to those who have been researching solar for a while, but we want to help the pros and newbies alike, so we’re going to start with the basics.
The Types of Solar Companies
Just like all home appliances and devices, solar panels come in multiple forms from a wide variety of manufacturers. Knowing this, it should come as no surprise that there are also a few different types of solar companies, mainly: manufacturers, dealers, installers, financers, leasers, and full-service companies.
Solar manufacturers are exactly what they sound like, they are companies that actually manufacture solar panels and the equipment required to install them. Some of these companies are more well-known than others and they vary in quality. If you want to install your solar system yourself, you could try purchasing the panels directly from the manufacturer. Note that most manufacturers only sell panels through solar dealers, which is why they are next on our list.
A solar dealer is the equivalent of a car dealership in the solar world. Licensed solar dealers strictly sell solar panels and related equipment, so this is where you would want to look if you’re taking the DIY solar route. Some dealers only sell one brand while others may provide a few options. Even if you don’t want to install your system yourself, visiting a couple of solar dealers could give you an idea of what is available as well as help you gain a better understanding of what all goes into installing a full solar array.
Solar installers are contractors that will come out and professionally install your system for you. Some installers are strictly that, installers. This means that you have to purchase the equipment separately and they simply set it up. This is not as common as full-service companies, which we’ll talk about in a minute, but they are out there. A solar installer would be a good option for anyone who may already have the equipment or simply wants to be more involved in the process.
Solar finance companies offer financing for your solar project. Installing a full solar system is quite an investment, so you may need some assistance when it comes to the initial funding. Solar financing companies work with installers and dealers to make the process easier. Because solar energy has become so much more popular over the last decade, most financial institutions offer solar financing. If you do choose to finance your project, be sure to check with multiple institutions to ensure that you secure the best financing for your unique situation.
Did you know that you can lease a solar system? With a leased system, you pay the solar leasing company a set amount each month while you get to enjoy all the electricity that the system produces. This can be a good choice for those who don’t want to invest in a permanent option, but still want to enjoy most of the benefits of going fully solar.
Full-Service Solar Companies
A full-service solar company is the most common and often preferred option for homeowners looking to install a full solar system. Full-service companies help you design your array, provide all of the equipment, and do the installation. They often provide warranties and service for the life of the system. This is the best option for those who prefer to rely on professionals for their solar conversion.
None of these categories is completely exclusive. Some manufacturers are also full service, such as Tesla. Sometimes you will find dealers who also offer financing and some installers will help you design your array. Every company is different, so it is a good idea to shop around a bit and learn about all your local options before settling on your final choice.
How To Find Solar Companies Near Me
Now that you know what you’re looking for, let’s talk about how to find it. If you’re like most of us, your first impulse may be to go to your favorite search engine, type in solar companies near me and see what comes up, but this may not be the best choice. A quick Google search brings up about 700 million results with the first page of options being paid advertisements. Google is great for many things, but in this case, it may be better to take a different approach. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Check The Directory
First of all, you can check that directory that we mentioned earlier. Our directory is well organized and much easier to navigate than 700 million options, plus you won’t have to worry about any paid ads. Simply click on your state, then choose the city closest to you and you’ll instantly have a list of local installers.
Ask a Friend Or Neighbor
In the age of the internet, many of us have gotten out of the habit of asking around for recommendations, but this can be one of the best ways to find what you need. With the drastic increase in solar energy use over the last decade, there is a good chance that you know someone who uses solar. Why not ask them which company they used and whether they would recommend them. This will gain you some useful inside information about what going solar is really like.
Many businesses are choosing to switch to solar as well. Next time you visit a business that has solar panels, why not ask which solar company they chose? Asking around may feel a bit odd at first, but you’ll probably find that most solar enthusiasts are just that, enthusiastic! And they will be happy to share information and recommendations with their fellow solar fans.
Reading customer reviews online can also be helpful. Don’t just look at the glowing reviews, look for negative ratings as well. Companies that only display their highest reviews may be hiding something. A better reflection of the quality of their customer service can be seen in how they respond to negative reviews. Did they respond professionally and try to resolve the issue or did they coldly respond with legal jargon? Or, worse yet, not respond at all? No one is perfect and every company is bound to have some issues. The way they deal with those issues will show you whether this is a company you want to work with or not.
Last, but not least, look around. New solar companies are popping up everywhere, there may even be one in your hometown that you haven’t noticed yet. If they are new or simply a smaller business, they may not have an online presence yet, but that does not mean that you should write them off right away. Take the time to stop in and see what options they have, you may be surprised by what you find.
Benefits Of Choosing A Local Solar Company
Speaking of doing business locally, let’s talk about some of the benefits of choosing a local installer over a nationwide solar company. This is not to say that big businesses are bad or that they offer lower quality products, there are simply a few benefits that you are more likely to find with local companies than larger ones.
The best initial benefit is that local companies will have a better understanding of your area and what type of array is likely to work best for you. Depending on where you live, your panels may need to be angled or you may need adjustable brackets in order to reap the full benefits throughout the year. Local installers will already have this information which will save time and help you avoid costly installation mistakes.
Many of the smaller companies have a smaller workload meaning they can start your installation sooner. This isn’t always the case, since more and more people are looking to go solar, but quite often you will find that local companies prioritize their customers more, leading to faster service.
Speaking of service, local companies offer better service as well, both initially and over the long run. You don’t have to look through many online reviews to see that the big three, Tesla, Sunrun, and Vivint Solar, all suffer from a lack of quality customer service. This is probably due mainly to their size and workload.
Local companies have more time for quality service, plus they have a reputation to protect. They are more likely to take pride in their work because it will reflect directly on their business rather than a huge corporation.
Lower Installation Costs
This may come as a surprise, but many smaller solar installers offer better prices than big name companies. They can be as much as 10% less expensive! If you’re familiar with the cost of a full installation, you know that saving 10% is a big deal. Local companies do not have as much infrastructure and advertising to support, so they can offer lower costs. They also won’t have to travel as far to get to you which saves both time and money, a difference that will be reflected in the final price tag.
Last, but not least, choosing local is beneficial because of the proximity of the company. This may not be too important during installation, but when it comes to service needs down the road, having a quality solar technician nearby can be a lifesaver.
Most solar systems are designed to last approximately 30 years with very little maintenance. In general, they only require occasional cleaning, but sometimes mother nature has other ideas. If you live in an area that experiences extreme weather patterns, such as heavy snow, gale-force winds, or tornados, you may find that your system needs repairs. This is where relying on a local company can make the difference between your system being down for a couple of days or having it out of commission for weeks.
How To Choose a Solar Company
Once you have chosen which companies you would like to consider, it’s time to get some quotes. Most solar installers will give free estimates, so don’t be shy. Get at least a few quotes before making your final choice.
Although more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better, be mindful that the lowest quote might not be the best choice either. Here are a few things to consider when going over your quotes:
- The panel manufacturer. The best installer in the world won’t be able to improve the manufacturing, so make sure the company you choose uses good quality panels. They may cost more at first but it will be worth it in the long run.
- Warranties and Future Service. Most solar panels are guaranteed through the manufacturer for 25 to 30 years, but the rest of the system may not be. Read the fine print to see how much of the system would be covered in case of a product or installation failure. Also, look into any offers they have for future service or system updates.
- License and Inspection Fees Every city and state has different permits you will need to legally operate your solar system. These requirements can include building permits, inspection fees, and more. Your installer, if they are local, should be very familiar with what you will need. Sometimes these fees will be included in the quote and sometimes they won’t. If they are not included, your installer should at least be able to tell you what they are so you can be prepared for the additional expense.
- Insurance. Before choosing a company make sure they have both liability and workers’ compensation insurance. The liability insurance will protect you if any damage to your home occurs as a result of the installation. The workers’ compensation insurance will cover the workers if any accidents should occur. Most reputable companies will have this insurance for every contracting job, if the company you’re looking at does not have this, you may want to look elsewhere.
- The System Design. Don’t wait until you choose a company to look at the system design. Remember that the design will include more than just where the panels are on your roof, it will include where all the wiring is as well as where your energy bank and/or meters will be. This may seem a bit superficial, but this is going to be part of your home for a very long time. It may be worth paying a little extra for the company that is going to carefully design your system to be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.
As you can guess, every company is a little different, so you can expect differences in cost, but if a quote seems too good to be true, it probably is. This is a substantial investment, so be sure to read that fine print.
Switching to solar is an exciting endeavor, but it is also an important decision that should not be taken lightly. You should take your time and weigh your options. Thankfully, finding the right solar company for you does not have to be a huge ordeal. There are loads of resources out there that can help make your choice easier. With the help of our directory and everything that you’ve learned here, you should be ready to start your solar journey today.