MN Dept. of Commerce: Going solar: 10 tips for hiring a qualified installer

Minnesota Department of Commerce

 

As the state’s solar boom continues, the Minnesota Commerce Department encourages Minnesotans who have decided to install a solar energy system to do their homework and shop carefully to select a qualified solar installer.

A new rooftop solar system is a big-ticket purchase, so it should be treated like one. 

To help consumers, the Commerce Department website, www.mn.gov/commerce, offers a fact sheet, “Going solar? Tips for hiring a qualified installer.” Here are 10 key tips.

• Shop around. Meet with and ask for bids from at least two or three installers before settling on one. 

• Verify the installer’s license. In Minnesota, a solar energy system must be installed by a licensed electrical contractor. Verify an installer’s license status with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry by using their online License Lookup tool or by calling 651-284-5069.

• Ask about credentials. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners requires that its installers receive training both to get certified and to maintain their certification.

• Request references. Call and ask the references about their experience with the installer.

• Check with the Better Business Bureau about complaints or actions filed against the installer.

• Get a site assessment. Be sure the installer provides a detailed assessment of your site to determine the feasibility of a solar installation, along with estimated annual production and utility bill savings.

• Review contract details. The installer should provide a detailed bid contract. It should describe all the work to be done and who is performing it (including subcontractors); all equipment and materials to be used; timeframes for completion; payment terms; and the process for any change orders. 

• Get manufacturer and installation warranties. Get documentation for all incentives and warranties. Be sure the installer warranty addresses all costs of repair or replacement for a minimum of two years.

• Negotiate a reasonable down payment. Never prepay for the entire system, and watch out for high-pressure sales tactics to get you to put more money down.

• Confirm permits and inspections. Always confirm that the installer applies for the required building permits and utility interconnection agreements. The installer is also required by law to arrange all project inspections.

If you have a question about solar, contact the Minnesota Commerce Department by email at solar.help@state.mn.us or by phone at 800-657-3710.

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