Choosing a Solar Contractor

Choose a solar contractor very carefully. The fast-paced growth of the solar industry has attracted a number of sales people looking to “get rich quick” and will mislead consumers into making an uneducated purchasing decision. In addition, poor installation practices can mean serious trouble. A properly installed solar PV array will last over 25 years, but if the installer takes shortcuts or uses unqualified workers the system can be a fire hazard, cause roof leaks, or otherwise fail prematurely.

Any installation company should have employees with PV Installation Professional certification by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This certification ensures that the installer is trained and tested in the latest approved installation techniques. The sales person or their manager should be NABCEP Certified in PV Technical Sales. You can search for NABCEP certified professionals at https://www.nabcep.org/nabcep-professionals/.

Permits are required for Solar PV projects and that means your contractor must have someone on staff with an Georgia Electrical Contractors License. You can request a copy of this and verify its status at http://verify.sos.ga.gov/verification/

Buyer Beware

  • Research the company you’re getting a quote from, and not just by reading what they’ve written about themselves. 
    • Check how long they’ve been in business
    • Check their online reviews (e.g. Better Business Bureau, Google, SolarReviews.com)
    • Request references 
    • Ask if they are a member of GA Solar as it is very important solar companies support their local advocacy organization.
  • Get quotes from several solar companies. 
    • Beware of high-pressure sales tactics. We see this used to make someone not compare other quotes and purchase at a premium.
    • One easy way to compare quotes of different system sizes is to find the “price per watt” (total price divided by total system wattage). The average price per watt for residential solar in Georgia is around $2.90/watt (before tax incentives). Economy of scale is a big factor in solar, so expect higher prices for smaller systems and lower prices for large or commercial systems.
    • The typical ROI for residential solar in Georgia is 10-15 years. If your quote is below 10 years you could be dealing with a dishonest solar company.
  • Watch out for marketing gimmicks. Some examples we’ve seen are:
    • “Your power company sent us to tell you about their new solar program” or “Does your home have a smart meter? That means you qualify” - Some solar companies will make misleading statements to build interest or gain your trust. 
    • “Eliminate your power bill” - This is only a feasible option in states with annual true-up net-metering which doesn’t exist in Georgia. In the sense of literally going Off-Grid, that is very expensive because it requires massive battery capacity and a redundant power source such as a generator.
    • “Get paid to go solar” - Power companies will pay for your exported solar power, but this is a misleading statement because they only pay the wholesale rate in most cases in Georgia.
  • Request a copy of their insurance certificate. Ensure they at least have liability insurance just in case something does go wrong.
  • This list is not meant to be all inclusive. 

Use our member database to find a local solar professional. Click below and then select “Solar Installers”:

View GA Solar's Online Directory
 

Solar Helps Manage Business Energy Costs

Energy costs for a business ca really stack up. The falling cost of solar makes it an increasingly popular choice for businesses looking to manage their power bills. Solar can be very cost-effective for businesses of every size. 

Savings potential

The cost of equipment and installation has decreased – more than 70 percent over the past 10 years – and in addition there are tax incentives such as credits and accelerated depreciation.  

  • Most businesses can recover the cost of their investment in about five years or less when purchased outright.
  • There are a wide variety of financing options that can provide a positive cash flow from day 1 of going solar.  
  • The solar panels are typically warranted to generate electricity for more than 25 years.
  • Once solar panels are installed, the cost of electricity never increases, whereas the cost of power from utilities doubles about every 20 years.   
  • Certain utilities offer solar programs but be careful because we found they are not always to your advantage.  

 Site suitability

Consult a professional to determine if the right conditions exist. A professional assessment will look at these details.

  • A flat or sloped roof that faces south, west or east.  Solar can also be installed over bare ground or even as a canopy over a parking lot.  
  • The age and condition of your roof and specifics of your electrical system.  
  • Large trees or other structures that cast shade for much of the day. A good "solar window" is no share from 10am - 3pm.  
  • 12 months of power usage history, how much you're paying for electricity, and any rate plan options may be more suitable for solar.  
Find a Professional

Financing and tax considerations – ITC, depreciation

  • Georgia businesses now can install a solar system by leasing the panels or purchasing the output from a third-party provider at little or no cost for installation.
    • Payment is structured through monthly charges that are lower than conventional utility rates.
    • Under this method, any tax incentives, such as the ITC, can go to the financier which makes solar accessible to non-taxable entities too. 
    • These agreements usually span 15-20 years.
    • The proposed contract should be scrutinized carefully before signing, and thoroughly reviewed by an attorney.
Click here to view a helpful guide from the U.S. Department of Energy

 

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers grants and guaranteed loans to farmers and small businesses in rural areas to assist with the cost of solar installation. Applications are accepted throughout the year. See details at the link below.

Click here to view information on the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)

Choosing a solar contractor

  • Check references, online reviews and call the local business and consumer protection agencies to ask about complaints or lawsuits.
  • Installers should be certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) to ensures that the installer is trained and tested in the latest approved installation techniques.
  • Solar Consultants, Sales Reps, and/or their Supervisor should be PV Technical Sales certified by NABCEP.   

GA Solar maintains a searchable directory of professional installers to help you locate one in your area:

View GA Solar's Online Directory