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Solar power has been making the news lately in Minnesota, and not in the most positive light. A lawsuit recently filed by Attorney General Keith Ellison has accused a group of four Utah-based solar organizations and individuals of deploying deceptive and fraudulent practices to sell solar to Minnesota homeowners. These organizations violated state law by tricking people into binding contracts, deceiving customers into believing they were partnering with utility companies, and exaggerating the potential for cost savings with solar.

Solar panels are still emerging in the consumer energy market, and when negative stories from bad players circulate, it can make people more hesitant to consider solar energy. The truth is that solar is a decades-old technology that has proven reliable, and many local Minnesota solar installers have demonstrated their longevity and reliability within the industry.

What should consumers look for when choosing a dependable solar installer? All Energy Solar shares suggestions on how to evaluate different providers - and how to spot red flags.

Start with the property first

Not all properties are suitable for solar panels. Several attributes should be initially assessed when considering if the property is appropriate.

A good solar provider will carefully evaluate the roof, structure, and existing electrical work to ensure that it’s in solid condition. That includes taking into account the condition of the shingles, support beams, roofing material, and more. Electrical systems that lack capacity or are outdated may need to be brought up to code.

Though a south-facing roof is ideal, overall location of the property and position of trees or other buildings could affect solar viability on the site. In Minnesota, the pitch of the roof may impact how well snow falls off the panels.

Consumers knowing what issues already exist on their property could help reveal a solar provider’s honesty. If they advise the property owner about getting solar without pointing out the trouble areas that need to be fixed, that’s a red flag.

Get more than one quote

Websites and online reviews are a great place to start the search for a solar provider, but that’s not where the research should end.

Ask for quotes from multiple solar installers to get the best idea of what they have to offer and how each solar proposal compares. This can not only help with finding the fairest price, it’s also important when evaluating materials used, warranties offered, and the credentials of the companies.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to check on the qualifications of solar installers in Minnesota. The Commerce Department offers tips for hiring a qualified installer, while the Department of Labor and Industry has a license and registration database. The Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA) also manages a list of solar installers that serve the state and have agreed to follow a specific code of conduct.

Look for a solar installer with a long track record of satisfied customers. A big red flag is when a company is unwilling or unable to provide referrals. Even if they do, it’s wise to do additional due diligence and ask around.

Benchmarks of quality and capacity

It’s important to evaluate how the proposed solar system’s energy production compares to the electricity consumption of the location. The solar installer should request at least 12 months' worth of energy use, and use that information to custom design a system that fits both within the constraints of the space and the power needs of the property.

Every solar estimate should outline the size of the system — the number of panels and their estimated production — and provide a layout plan for the arrangement of those panels. If the system’s size is significantly different from proposal to proposal, it’s important to understand why. If what the installer says sounds too good to be true, it probably is a fairytale.

Similarly, if a proposal lacks component specifications and product names have been left off, this is another red flag. Leaving this information open-ended may mean the installer hopes to select whatever components have the lowest price when it comes time to install. It also makes it impossible to review warranty coverage for each component, as well as the workmanship warranty.

A well-established and reputable provider should be able to explain their equipment options, availability, warranties, and potential for any future changes to equipment.

Timelines, transparency, and respect

As with any contractor, solar installers should hold to the costs and schedules to which they commit, but there may be some added pressures that aren’t a factor in other building projects.

Solar credits and rebates have specific time periods and deadlines for availability. Good solar companies will walk customers through pricing, incentive applications, financing options, and the rest of the installation process to help clarify what to expect before signing on the dotted line.

The solar component supply chain has been interrupted due to COVID-19-related production and shipping delays. Like other industries, the renewable energy labor market is incredibly tight, restricting how many crews are available to install solar panels.

Even so, that’s no excuse for solar sales agents to engage in hard-sell techniques that hound customers into buying. Find a company known for clear, fair pricing, a realistic installation calendar, and excellent communication throughout the process. Customers should walk away from companies that gloss over details, have a pushy sales pitch, or use other tactics that make them uncomfortable.

Read the fine print

Installing solar involves a lot of moving parts, so the contracts can be lengthy and contain a lot of information. Please don’t skim over anything, carefully review all paperwork, contracts, and warranties before signing. You’ll want to know how much of a deposit is required, what the payment schedule looks like, and for the worst case scenario, how the cancellation policy works. Be sure to ask questions about anything that doesn’t look right to you.

Fly-by-night companies come and go with market fluctuations, but a high-quality solar solution provider will be around for the life of the system. Though it may take more time and work sifting through the available options, the extra effort to find the right solar installer will be worth it in the end.

A trusted name in solar energy

As a top-rated solar power provider in Minnesota, All Energy Solar makes switching to solar energy easy for property owners of all kinds — residential, commercial, agricultural, municipal, and more. Our solar professionals have the knowledge and experience to reveal the programs accessible in your area and every other aspect of your project, from initial property and energy analysis through design, construction, and beyond.

Find out if solar power could help you take control of your energy costs. Get started today by requesting a free virtual solar consultation from All Energy Solar!

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