When you make an important decision on a home-improvement project, it is recommended that you carefully consider if the product and contractor are right for you. Do not succumb to high-pressure sales tactics such as “today-only” prices.
You have a right..
- to take your time making a decision
- to research and investigate the company whose offer you are considering
- to take time needed to get and compare other quotes
Scroll to the bottom of this page where you will find SEIA's latest Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power as well as a link to the Washington State Attorney General's website.
Questions to ask an installer
The following list represents questions that homeowners and others considering installing solar can pose to potential installers. The questions were compiled from the expertise and industry experience of several Solar Washington members and pertain mainly to solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. Download and print these questions to have on hand (PDF).
- How many years has your company been installing solar?
- How many projects have you installed in WA State?
- What is your General and Electrical Contractor License Numbers? Do you subcontract any of the work, and if so, what are their License Numbers? Who will actually be doing the work? Long-term employees? Subcontractors? It is common for solar contractors to hire subcontractors to perform some or all of an installation. Verify that any subcontractors have experience or training installing solar energy systems.
- Is your company a union shop? Who owns the company? Does the owner have an active day-to-day role in running the company?
- Do you have a list of references that we could speak to who have installed the specific products that you are proposing?
- Does your team have any solar certifications such as NABCEP or Product Specific Certifications?
- Explain the differences between the Made-in-WA Solar Panel Manufacturers and any out-of-state panel manufacturers that you may recommend and why you might choose one over the other.
- Explain the differences between both in-state and out-of-state grid-tie central inverter systems, grid-tie micro-inverter systems, grid-tied battery backed-up systems and why you are recommending the specific product that you are recommending.
- Explain the warranties on all the product options you offer. Explain the difference between the installer warranty and the product warranties.
- How will the system be connected to the roof? What steps will you take to waterproof the connections?
- Where specifically will the system be laid out on the roof/property?
- What specific additional fees could there be that are not included in the proposal?
- What tools/methods do you use for estimating the solar production? What is the expected variation from the estimated production and do you warranty the estimate?
- Did the contractor get on the roof and take both measurements and the solar shading analysis, or was it done remotely either from the ground or over the internet?
- Are you a pre-certified contractor with our utility if they have this program? (PSE, SnoPUD, Seattle City Light, etc.)
- What is the wiring plan for bringing electricity from the roof to the breaker panel location? Will it be in the attic or walls, or will it be externally mounted?
- What percentage of energy usage will the solar installation offset?
- What is the projected payback period?
- Do they recommend a solar loan program for financing?
- Explain if your home has any unusual features, such as specialty roofing. Will that affect you going solar?
- When you compare two or more solar proposals, try to make sure you are comparing the same thing. For example, does the “price per watt” include sales tax? Does the pay-back or return-on-investment (ROI) chart use a total price that includes sales tax?
- What number is used, if any, to estimate future increases in the cost of electricity (which impacts the projected lifetime electric bill savings)?
- Do the proposals use the same or different solar components? How do the proposed components impact the solar system’s power output? Do components have different warranties?
- Is monitoring included? How well will it work with the site’s wifi or other internet connection.
Additional Consumer Resources
Solar Energy Industries Association
SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) is working to ensure that consumer protection is at the forefront of the solar industry. SEIA is developing resources designed to safeguard customer rights, providing a forum for members of the press, governments and other stakeholders to access materials relevant to consumer protection, and establishing pro-competitive guidelines for the solar industry to enhance consumer protection. Click to view SEIA's Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power. SEIA also has a factsheet on Consumer Protection issues. Click to view.
Washington State Office of the Attorney General
The Attorney General's website contains information and resources including a form to file a consumer complaint, a list of consumer protection issues, and more. If you are concerned that a company has misrepresented their product or service or for additional consumer protection info, visit the Washington State Attorney General’s website.
Click to view the following article from Greentech Media: "Are Rooftop Solar Companies Doing Enough to Protect Consumers?"
The following items will link you to city websites with information concerning solar permitting and other items.
City of Bellevue; Solar Panel Permitting
City of Seattle: Department of Construction and Inspections; Tips for Solar Energy Systems ; Tips for Renewable Energy and Solar-Ready Roofs for Commercial Buildings