How to SHOP for solar power without getting burned.

Guide to buying solar POWER and choosing an installer.

Guide to buying solar power and choosing an installer

Investing in a solar power system is often an exciting time, but it can also be confusing. There are many different factors that buyers need to examine; making a wrong decision can affect the overall performance, longevity and quality of your solar pv system. The solar industry has its share of unreliable and untrustworthy sellers and parties, and you need to keep an eye out to ensure you don’t fall prey to one.  This is why Solar Brokers may be a good fit for your energy consulting and solar shopping comparison needs; Sun Source Solar Brokers can help.

Be aware of all the different aspects

There are many things that can go wrong in solar PV installation, from leaks and installation problems to lies told by companies to malfunctioning equipment, but with awareness of the involved factors you can avoid this fate.

Watch out for snake oil salesmen

If the salesman for your solar system seems over exuberant, excited, or even desperate, it could be a warning sign. Test your salesman, make sure they know what they’re talking about and not just trying to deceive you.

If you hear ultimatums, or if someone tries to rush you to a decision, don’t indulge. If you find a company or salesman making claims contrary to the rest of the literature, or to what they have told you previously, there’s a good chance they’re misleading or simply lying. Make sure that you’re given time to make your decision.

Home assessments

Home assessment used to be all but required, but now with Google Earth and other tools companies sometimes use them simply to send in a salesman, so make sure you’re confident with the person or company you choose before you let them in the house.

Larger size of inverter does not mean more productivity

It’s common for companies to mislead you by promoting the size of the inverter, but it’s important to remember that even a 4kW rated solar inverter is only a 1.5kW system if it only has 1.5kW solar panels, a bigger inverter does not mean more electricity or effectiveness.

Ensure your system is upgradeable

If you wish to update your system you need to be certain that the company will be around in the future, which is another reason to go with more well-known companies and components. Upgrading is often necessary, and you want to have the possibility to do so if the system ever degrades.

Analyze  every part of a package system

If you’re buying a package make sure that you analyze each separate aspect, because a company might use high quality materials in one part, like the panels, but not in another, like the inverter, and hope that one high quality component will convince you. You want every aspect of your system to work together and be high quality. There are many things to consider, among them:

  • Voltage output of the panel
  • Quality of the panel
  • Wiring quality
  • Longevity and durability of switch gear
  • Inverter quality
  • Ranges of temperature
  • String arrangements
  • Quality of mounting solution
  • Weather durability
  • Proper positioning
  • Panels and inverters match
  • Optimum inverter auto switching

Beware of poorly made components

A poorly made or low quality component can harm panel performance and also the longevity and durability of your system. It’s common for companies to provide top brand solar panels but low quality inverters, for instance, to keep the prices down, and this can shorten the lifespan and harm the efficiency of your system. Considering how difficult it is to replace, it’s more sensible to do your research and ensure you get a high quality inverter, rather than save some money and bring down the quality and lifespan of your system.

Also insure that the components are certified, as well as the installer.

Fine print costs

It’s common for companies to drive up costs far past the advertised price in the fine print, with things like added costs for different roof types, array fixing, ceiling types, and inverter moving. These added extras can drive up the cost b thousands, so make sure you’re thorough.

Substituting components

Some shadier companies will advertise top brands and then substitute after the contract is signed with claims of a shortage. This is commonly simply to bring down prices, and they’ll sometimes offer discounts or kickbacks to try and entice you, but these component can seriously harm the capability of you system.


Warranties are only as reliable as the company which you buy from, another reason to go with more respected and well known installers and brands.

Exaggerated claims of capability

It’s common to make exaggerated claims about performance, companies throw at great numbers that may apply in certain situations, but not necessarily in your climate or situation. It’s more reliable and desirable for a company to give a range of estimates on what to expect. Systems don’t produce the same performance under all conditions, and the company should inform you of this.

Shade tolerance

Shade tolerance is basically impossible for a panel, so if a company or salesman tries to convince you to install one even with minimal or partial shade, it’s likely a waste.

Timeliness of installation

The provider that you choose should inform you of a timeline. It’s common to have to wait relatively long periods, but make sure you get in writing a deadline or general agreement to install it within a reasonable timeframe.

High Deposits

A deposit is a common requirement for a system, but the standard for the industry is 10%, and with the changing of prices and costs a deposit much higher, like some offered at 80%, can come back to bite you and ultimately make the entire venture less worth it.

Also, if a company asks you to wait 6-8 months for installation, you’re risking the possibility that company doesn’t exist by that time. If the company goes under you could lose your deposit, and cash flow problems requiring an 80% deposit also make it very risky.

Bonuses and other gimmicks

Things like bonus or extra gadgets offered are often less effective at saving money than simply negotiating a cheaper price on the system.

Colluding with other industries

Some companies will collude with other contractors or industries, for instance a roof repairer that you hire could try and sell you on the benefits of solar and advise a specific company. This often simply rushes the decision and limits your options.

Going with the right installer

Spending a large sum and modifying your house is inherently risky, so make sure that you go with the right installer. Ensure they have CEC accreditation, and try and find out how long the installer has been working, how much experience they have. You’re only eligible for a Solar Credits rebate if you use an accredited installer.



Article written by Jennifer Coleman of Sun Source Solar Energy Brokers, providing solar brokering, brokerage, and solar energy consulting services in Santa Rosa, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano and San Francisco Counties.  For more information, please visit


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525 East Cotati Avenue, #220
Cotati, California 94931