by Pete Wilking, President/Founder of A1A Solar Contracting, Inc.
When I got into the solar contracting industry in 2007, it seemed to be driven by sales, innovation, growth and market share. Solar is still a young industry with many great choices for solar panels, inverters and batteries (energy storage)…the best I’ve ever seen. As for the contracting side of the business, it has been a rough road for both business owners (with many bankruptcies) and also for many customers with improper system designs and/or inaccurate (or outright misleading) data in sales pitches, leaving many people skeptical of the whole industry. Yes, the solar industry in this journey has had its share of fails, just as other industries have. The good news is that most “mainstream” solar equipment sold in the US via major distributors are very well vetted, reliable and come with impressive OEM warranties. The bad news is that despite the great equipment available, an inexperienced and/or unethical solar contractor (or sales rep) can set unrealistic financial results, or — even worse with a poor installation — cause thousands of dollars worth of repairs/corrections if mechanical and electrical work is not up to current industry standards.
Having been a locally owned and operating solar contractor, we’ve seen just about everything. Anybody knows when hiring a contractor, performing due diligence is necessary and you should not rely 100% or outsource this task to the sales rep as they have both bias and financial incentive. The old saying of “trust….yet verify” can save you from making a big mistake.
Fortunately, everyone has multiple online tools to check company reviews, BBB, social media and even ask for customer references new and old. A long standing good reputation company generally will provide a lower risk to a buying customer. Brand new companies pose a higher risk as well a very large companies that grow quickly and likely have high staff turnover and a shortage of expert staff. Both publicly traded solar installers and private equity-owned companies are under tremendous pressure to show sales growth and earnings for shareholders. This is sometimes at odds with installation quality and customer service. This is where a local, reputable and credentialed contractor can reduce the “project risk” for a customer and not be a guinea pig or just a “work order number” to some faceless company.
Solar contractors can be structured in a few ways:
- The “insourced” model where sales staff and installers work for that company (as is the case with A1A Solar).
- The “outsourced” model where either the selling function or installation function (or both) are outsourced to a third party.
As you can image, there is much that can go wrong when a company does not have direct control of the sales team and/or the install team. Should a problem occur, the customer may not be well served with all the finger-pointing between entities. Sometimes it may not be easy to determine if a company outsources either function, so thorough due diligence is very important… even so far as visiting the company offices unannounced to see how they run and finding out who the owners and contractors are and where they are headquartered.
Other snags to be careful of are financing options. People pay for solar project generally in three ways: cash, loan or lease. Each has pros and cons. Most solar contractor offer on-the-spot financing (unsecured) with many choices of terms and interest rates. Most of these loans come with sizable “dealer fees” that are added to the project on the front end. Even with financing, it is always a good idea to ask what the cash price is so you can make an informed financial decision. As the IRS provides a 30% tax credit (and other incentives for commercial projects), in most cases you need to have a tax liability to use this tax credit, so knowing the amount you owe in taxes can be important.
A1A Solar Contracting, Inc. was founded in 2010 with the mission to accelerate the adoption of renewable energy for our customer base with correctly designed and expertly installed systems at a fair price with ethical practices. In our 13 years, we’ve installed over 2,500 systems. We are proud to have many NABCEP-certified (nabcep.org) employees, and A1A Solar has also achieved the most prestigious NABCEP Company Accredited status. This is a rigorous qualification that took over 5 years to attain, a distinction we share this with only 6 other solar companies nationwide.
If you have considered exploring the idea of going solar for your home, business, or not-for-profit and have not had a professional and ethical solar evaluation, please schedule a meeting with our no-pressure consultants to get the facts. Booking a meeting is easy… just pick a day at https://a1asolar.com/contact/get-a-quote/
Thank you for your trust in A1A Solar Contracting, Inc.