If you’re considering investing in photovoltaic solar panels for your home, you can’t hire just any contractor. It’s essential to hire an installer who will insure that the panels are set to the right angle to get maximum energy from the sun, and will guarantee that they’ll last for the full lifespan.
The easiest way to find a quality firm is to ask for a recommendation from a friend or colleague who has had panels installed on their own home. But to ensure their reference is a good one, you need to ask the following questions:
- What type of guarantees do you offer?
Photovoltaic cells last for over 25 years, but you should never assume that an electrician will offer one, easy-to-understand guarantee. You see, photovoltaic cells generate DC current, so your home will require an inverter to convert this into AC current. This makes the power suitable for use in your appliances, and can even be sold back to the government by transmitting it back into the main electricity grid. So instead of getting one warranty, you’re actually getting are three different warranties. You may be surprised by the how wildly different each firms’ guarantees are.
- Installation warranty
An installation warranty guarantees that the solar panels have been correctly installed on your roof. Most electricians only offer a 12-month installation warranty. Wind can damage solar panels; as can water, which may seep in between the brackets and expand when it freezes during winter months. You should choose a firm whose installation warranty covers longer periods.
- Efficiency warranty
These warranties cover the solar panel’s full 25 to 30 year lifespan. Almost all electricians will say that they ‘offer’ this, but it’s simply a manufacturer warranty, and not one supplied by the electrician. You may be surprised at just how easily this warranty can be invalidated, so read the wind and ice damage clauses very closely.
- Inverter warranty
The final warranty covers the inverter, and will commonly be as little as 5 years. Again, this is a manufacturer’s warranty, and does not cover the cost of electrical work.
As you can see, solar panel guarantees can be quite complex. When a firm advertises a 25-year guarantee, the first question you should ask is, ‘Of what?’ The efficiency and inverter warranties don’t cover the cost of subsequent visits by the electrician. Therefore, what really matters is the installation warranty. Go with a firm that offers the longest installation warranty.
- Can I see your work?
If you want to know for sure if you’re talking to a great electrician, ask to see samples of their solar panel installations on other people’s homes. If possible, talk to the homeowners themselves to see what they think. You need to find a firm that has done many installations similar to the one you’re planning for your home.
- Do you have solar installation training?
Not all electricians are properly trained to install cells to the correct standard. Look for a contractor who has a certification from a governing body. For example, CanSIA is a national trade association that represents approximately 650 solar energy companies throughout Canada. If a firm claims to be associated with an organization, verify this on the official website.