« My Electric Bill is So High! Will Solar Help? Part 3: Evaluating Competing Solar ProposalsMy Electric Bill is So High! Will Solar Help? Part 1: How High is High? »

My Electric Bill is So High! Will Solar Help? Part 2: How Do I Find Someone to Trust?


  01:51:00 pm, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 936 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Ranting

My Electric Bill is So High! Will Solar Help?Part 2: How Do I Find Someone to Trust?

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in our three-part series:
My Electric Bill is So High! Will Solar Help? 
You can read part one, How High is High, here.

Unless you have been living completely offline and in a cave, you are aware that there are lots of solar companies out there looking for your business.  You’ve seen them on the Web, perhaps they have called you or even knocked on your door.  You probably realize that you should do your homework and get several quotes before going forward, but how do you even know where to look?  Fear not, we’ve got you covered!

Why Trust Matters

For most homeowners, purchasing a solar power system will be one of the most expensive purchases they ever make, after their home, their education, and a new car.  Moreover, a solar power system is supposed to co-exist with your home happily for the next twenty years or more.  For all of that to work out, you need to find someone you trust.  Your gut is a good gauge here – if someone makes you uncomfortable now, chances are you will be even less comfortable down the road.

Qualifications Count…

In the search for qualified contractors there are some basic qualifications, and there are more sophisticated ones.  Let’s start with the basics: is this contractor licensed?  In California it is easy to check that out, simply by going to the Contractors’ State License Board and search on their license number (it should be on the contractor’s website) or their name.  If they don’t have a valid license, run, don’t walk, away from them! 

Beyond just checking to see if they have a license, you can also check for the type of license (only A, B, C-10, and C-46 license holders are authorized to install solar), whether there are any public complaints against them, and the status of their bonding and workers compensation insurance.


That covers the basics, but how about something more substantive?  After all, you could hold any of the necessary licenses and never have worked on a solar power system in your life! Toward that end, there is no greater indication of qualifications than to be a Certified PV Installation Professional by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), a distinction I’ve been honored to hold since 2010.

How select are NABCEP Certified PV Installation Professionals?  According to CALSSA, there are some 86,000 solar workers in California, of which just 294 hold that NABCEP Certification, according to the NABCEP website. 

As NABCEP puts it:

When you hire a contractor with NABCEP Certified Installers leading the crew, you can be confident that you are getting the job done by solar professionals who have the “know-how” that you need.
They are part of a select group of professionals who have distinguished themselves by being awarded NABCEP Certified Installer credentials.

You can search for a Certified PV Installation Professional on the NABCEP website here.

So does Reputation

If checking qualifications matters when it comes to finding a contractor that you can trust, then so to does assessing their reputation, which these days is easier than ever to do.  Search sites, like Google, display reviews for local businesses (keep in mind the top few listings are paid ads), and major review sites will let you see lots of reviews of solar contractors “near” you.  (Near in scare quotes because often those companies are saying they will serve your area even if they are located far away.) 

More localized resources, like Nextdoor and Neighbor-2-Neighbor, provide a more cultivated collection of contractors from which you can choose.

Of course, nothing beats getting a recommendation from someone you trust who has gone solar, had a great experience, and their system has lived up to expectations.  If you don’t know anyone like that, you should ask your prospective contractors for a list of clients that you can contact.  Naturally, the contractor is going to list people who will tell you great things, but ask to come by and see the installation for yourself. 

Other factors to consider…

Years in Business

Companies that have been in business a long time may or may not do better work than a relative newcomer, but at least they have shown that they know how to remain in business.  (In the solar industry, that is not a small accomplishment.)   Older companies usually have more experience – although a newer company could compensate by hiring well-experienced people – and experience is important since every project presents its own, unique challenges.

Local vs National

National companies are sometimes perceived as having an advantage because they have the whole “economy of scale” thing going for them.  Yet often those “savings” aren’t going to the consumer, they are going to shareholders or venture capitalists who have funded the operation. 

Local companies, on the other hand, live or die on their reputation.  They can’t simply write-off a territory and expand somewhere else – if they fail locally, they are doomed.  So local companies often provide much better service to their clients.  On top of that, the money you spend on a local company helps support your own, local economy.  And hey, if you have a problem, you may well bump into your installer in the grocery store and you can tell her all about it!

Next Steps…

Ok - by now you know that your home is a good solar candidate, and you have found several trustworthy contractors.  Now all you need to do is look over their bids, choose the best one, and off you go!  But wait, how do choose the best bid?  Fear not, dear reader, that is coming in Part 3: Evaluating Competing Solar Proposals


No feedback yet

Form is loading...


Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

Ready to Save?

Let’s Get Started!

We're Social!

Follow Run on Sun on Twitter Like Run on Sun on Facebook
Run on Sun helps fight Climate Change
Build your own site!