Choosing Your RE Installer: Page 3 of 4

Beginner

Inside this Article

Installers Eric Hansen and Bob-O Schultze of Electron Connection
Installers Eric Hansen and Bob-O Schultze of Electron Connection, doing the heavy lifting for a solar carport.
Installation by Brooks Solar
An installation by Brooks Solar
Anne and Randy Brooks of Brooks Solar of Chelan, Washington
Anne and Randy Brooks are the principals behind Brooks Solar of Chelan, Washington.
Dave Palumbo of Independent Power in northern Vermont
Dave Palumbo of Independent Power designs and installs RE systems in northern Vermont.
An installation by Independent Power
An installation by Independent Power
An installation by Third Sun Solar and Wind Power
An installation by Third Sun Solar and Wind Power
Geoff Greenfield, of Third Sun Solar and Wind Power in the Midwest
Geoff Greenfield, of Third Sun Solar and Wind Power, leads a full-service RE company in the Midwest.
Installers Eric Hansen and Bob-O Schultze of Electron Connection
Installation by Brooks Solar
Anne and Randy Brooks of Brooks Solar of Chelan, Washington
Dave Palumbo of Independent Power in northern Vermont
An installation by Independent Power
An installation by Third Sun Solar and Wind Power
Geoff Greenfield, of Third Sun Solar and Wind Power in the Midwest

more likely they will have one that fits your application. However, if the installer only carries a couple of brands and those brands work for your system, variety is not important. While the variety of products might not be crucial, the quality always is.

Research the components that your installer suggests. Do the electrical products meet industry standards? All components used in your system should be listed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or an equivalent testing agency. UL is a nonprofit product testing and certification organization that verifies electrical products are safe for their intended use. ETL Semko and the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) provide similar acceptable approvals. Checking products to make sure they are UL-, ETL-, or CSA-approved is one way to make sure the equipment used for your installation is reliable and safe.

What kinds of warranties come with the products that your installer carries? Also, how long have the equipment manufacturers been in the industry? Warranties are meaningless if the manufacturers aren’t around in a few years. If you know of other people who have used these products, ask for their feedback: Are they satisfied? Have they had problems?

Service Agreements & Performance Guarantees. Installers may provide you with some kind of optional service agreement. If problems arise with your system, what services will the installer provide and for how long? Will the installer be readily available to troubleshoot and fix problems? If something goes wrong, who is responsible for repair or replacement costs? Who is responsible for maintaining the system? If you are responsible, what kind of training will the installer provide? Will basic system safety issues be explained? Although service or maintenance agreements have not been standardized throughout the industry, many installers will agree to a site visit at least once a year to make sure the system is performing satisfactorily. For the early years of a system’s operation, consider buying a service contract.

References. Ask for and contact an installer’s former clients to find out if the installer was knowledgeable, easy to work with, and took the time to explain the system’s operation. Also find out if their systems are working well, if there have been any problems, and, if so, how the installer handled them. Ask for an installer’s business references, and check them, especially if the company’s reputation is unknown.

“Asking for references is good,” says installer Kelly Keilwitz of Whidbey Sun & Wind in Coupeville, Washington, “but keep in mind that the contractor will use their most-satisfied customers as references. It may be possible, with a little sleuthing, to find and approach other past customers, not specifically recommended by the contractor. This may give you a more balanced picture of the contractor’s suitability for your project.”

Energy Efficiency. Ask about how to maximize the benefits of your system through energy efficiency and conservation. Installers willing to take this extra step of reducing demand can be worth their weight in gold. Many otherwise competent installers get in, install, and get out without ever touching on this important subject. For every dollar spent on efficient lighting

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