Alternative energy, namely solar energy, is rapidly changing the way we run our lives with electricity. Solar energy has the power to reduce our carbon footprint, eliminate pollution-causing health hazards, and drastically reduce your electricity costs.
As you make the inevitable switch to alternative energy, you may be wondering who do you trust?
How do you wade through the alternative energy companies out there? Which is best for you?
Ask yourself these specific questions. Then ask your prospective alternative energy company the following questions before you sign any contracts.
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Questions to ask yourself before you jump into alternative energy:
Yes, alternative energy is as inevitable as TV and the internet. There’s no doubt solar energy is the front-runner of the clean energy change, so here’s what you need to ask yourself as things are quickly changing around you.
- Do I get enough sun? This is an important question, and one that everyone who lives in a even slightly overcast area asks themselves. Is it worth it if you live in an overcast state? YES.
But you will want to keep in mind the hours of sunlight your solar panels could potentially get. This includes shade from trees or other structures during the day and how that might influence your sun hours.
It’s not that less is bad.It’s just going to take longer for your solar panels to pay for themselves. But you’ll still reap the lower-energy cost benefits of alternative energy.
- Is my home or office solar-suitable? It’s generally easier to get more power with more roof area. But don’t be deceived into thinking that your roof is too small for alternative energy to be effective.Of course, it’s best to ask an alternative energy professional for estimates, but it’s good to analyze your odds beforehand as you draw out a budget.Your whole roof does not need 24/7 sunlight to be effective with solar energy. Your alternative energy company will map which parts of your roof are the most sunlight efficient and put solar panels there.
- What will it cost? Cost is a big reason most homeowners don’t go solar or use alternative energy companies. However, that’s usually because they’re not aware of the tax incentives and financing options available to them.Solar energy is more affordable than ever before. Yet, costs can vary from a few thousand to 50 thousand dollars. If electricity is expensive in your state, solar panels could well be worth it. It’s important to calculate how much you’d be saving with your solar power system before you invest.Your alternative energy company can also give you an energy audit and help you calculate your solar savings beforehand.Financial help: The U.S. government offers some tax incentives and rebates (about 30% reduction off installation prices) for installing alternative energy solar power systems. If you wish to install your own, you should take advantage of this help.Ask your alternative energy company if they offer the PPA program. There are some alternative energy companies who use these tax incentives and install solar panels on homeowner’s roofs at no cost to the homeowner.All this means is that they install the solar panels for free (affordable for them because of the government incentives) and the homeowner contracts with the solar company for energy needs at a reduced cost.
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Questions to ask your prospective alternative energy company:
- How precise and accurate is your system quote and design? Design and accuracy are important when it comes to installing your solar panel system. Not all roofs are created equal, and you need a good solar company that knows that.
Alternative energy companies need to factor in things like pitch, shading, building codes, how a solar system will fit, what part of your roof gets the most sunlight, how much you’re going to save on electricity with a solar system, and other such things.
In short, they need to know their stuff.
They should be able to quote you on your current and future solar energy needs that will maximize your savings.
- What financing options do you offer? Alternative energy companies may sound pricey at first, but could actually save you money over the long-haul.
Your prospective alternative energy company knows your financing options and which would be best for your situation.
They should let you know about 1) leasing solar panels, 2) PPA (Power Purchase Agreement option, 3) solar loan options, 4) and your purchasing options.
Beware of an alternative energy company that tries to just steer you in one financing direction just because it’s good for them. You need to factor in your credit score, any tax incentive relief, rebates, current debt, mortgages, moving, up-front costs, pay-off time, contract designs, etc.
Call around and get a few different bids to see how it all stacks up.You may want to use Home Professionals form (listed below) to receive your free quotes from the best pros in your area today. You won’t know until you ask around.
- How much do I have to pay up-front? Right along with financing questions, you should always ask how much money is going to need to be paid up-front and how much monthly after that.
- What if the solar power system doesn’t give me as much electricity as you promise? Many alternative energy companies in %state% offer guarantees on their equipment performance. If a solar company isn’t willing to back up their quote and product, they’re probably not any good. Most PPA contracts include solar arrays maintenance so that if anything fails or gets broken the alternative energy company fixes it on their dime. A good alternative energy company in %state% will monitor your system and will not make you pay if your system isn’t producing correctly.
- Do you guarantee your equipment? Before signing any contracts, make sure the alternative energy company cover the life of their solar panels. Do they come out and make repairs? Will that refund something that stops working? Do they have lifetime guarantees?
- Which inverter tech do you offer? What’s best for my house/location? The single string inverter is the most straightforward option but it can also experience the most system shut down from shading or even if one panel is compromised. Microinverters will generate power for each panel itself, so that if one panel is shaded it won’t shut the others down. Optimizers work like microinverters by governing each independent panel, but there’s also a central inverter which makes electrical less complex. Optimizers are also more durable than microinverters. The best inverters will depend on your location and situation. You will also want an alternative energy company that you contract with to agree to help care for it through the life of your system.
- How much power will my alternative energy system produce? There is a factory rating for solar panels, but of course that’s based on the best of conditions. A good solar company will know how their solar panels generally fair in your area, and will be able to quote you a close amount. They will probably need to do an inspection of your roof to determine how much sun, and power, you’ll be able to receive.
- How much money will I save over 20 years? The alternative energy company should be able to give you an estimate based on the utility prices in your area and how much solar power you will receive.
- Who installs the solar system and how does it meet quality and %state% standards? Alternative energy solar panel systems should last around 20 years on your roof. It’s essential your alternative energy company in %state% are professional installers who know how to optimize your system and make sure it meets state and quality standards. If they subcontract, what licenses and insurance do the subcontractors have? Ask them how their systems typically perform and how they monitor the quality. Ask them how they meet building codes and insure everything is legal and safe. You should also ask about their license (validate their credentials) and insurance.
- If something goes wrong during installation, do you cover the costs? Will the equipment cause leaks in the roof? How do you cover the general wear and tear around the system? If something is damaged during the installation will they cover the costs to fix it? You want to make sure you’re covered in every way in case things don’t go completely right.
- If my roof doesn’t produce the electricity promised, can I get out of a contract? Any fair contract will have a clause that lets you out of an alternative energy agreement if the system or your roof isn’t solar-friendly.
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