Going Solar? Read This

Last week we covered the reasons for Hawaii’s high energy prices and the common methods for going solar. Please visit artofthinkingsmart.com for more information. With more than 250 solar companies to choose from, finding the right one for you can be quite daunting. If you are interested in installing solar, here are some key things to check.

* Check the strength of the solar company. Solar companies are giving warranties up to 25 years. You want to make sure the company still will be in existence during this time. If the company is large, well-established and has strong financials, there is a better chance years down the road they still will be available to fix any problems that come up.

* Check the warranties and find out about what they cover. Some labor warranties are for five years, and manufacturer warranties can last 20 years or more. It is important to read the fine print on the contracts so you know for sure what is covered and how much out of pocket you may have to pay for things not covered.

* Check for credentials. You will want to make sure the solar company has the necessary contractor’s licenses for installing solar hot-water systems (C-61) and PV (C-13 Electrical Contractor’s License).

You also can find out if there have been complaints filed and how they were resolved with the Hawaii Better Business Bureau (hawaii.bbb.org), the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (hawaii.gov/dcca) and the Regulated Industries Complaints Office (hawaii.gov/dcca/rico).

* Check for experience and references. Find out how many systems the company has sold and how many years’ worth of experience the company, employees and subcon-tractors have. You also can ask for references and get referrals from friends and family.

* Research the types of solar products. Your electric bills help determine how much energy you use and how many panels you need. Make sure your roof is sturdy and can handle the extra weight. PV systems will penetrate your roof, so if you don’t want that, you can consider using a PV canopy or carport.

Ask the solar company to provide different options. Where you live, how your home is oriented and roof size have a significant impact on solar. A roof facing south draws in more sunlight than roofs facing other directions.

According to Warren Cho of GreenTech Pacific, “If your house is in an area where there isn’t much sunlight, you might need a more-efficient panel. If you have plenty of sunshine and a large roof space, you may be able to go with a larger, less expensive panel. For a proposal, we can determine which type of panel is the most efficient for you.”

* Value over price. It is important not to choose a company just on the costs. You want to make sure you are getting the best value, since you get what you pay for.

Compare and contrast different proposals to make sure you are getting the best value.

This is a 25-year investment, so take the time to do your due diligence!