With many solar companies in our local market, you may wonder how to choose the right company for you and your home. With a quality solar array lasting from 25-35 years, choosing the right company and the best equipment is a critical decision. It seems daunting.

As the region’s experts with over 21 years of experience and more than 1,000 projects in our resume, we’re here to help. We’ve developed a list of the top questions to ask when researching a solar company that will help you find the right partner and the best equipment for your budget.

1. How did you arrive at the proposed system size?

Is the solar company simply putting panels on your entire roof to increase the price, or are they looking to maximize your system/investment? Always ask about every part of the proposal, from the number of panels to the equipment used to how they achieved your estimated savings and production. It takes an expert salesperson to size your solar array to meet your energy needs accurately. You may have an expansive roof with more space than you need. Be wary of companies that “fill the roof”; this could result in you spending more money than you need and paying for the extra energy you won’t use. Always ask how they arrived at the proposed system size, and be sure to communicate any changes in your energy consumption. GreenSpark always has a meeting before providing a proposal because we want to understand your energy needs and consumptions and any future energy needs to ensure that your system is the appropriate size and your savings are accurate to plan for the future. 

2. Do you guarantee your production? 

There is a difference between the size of a system (kW) and how much energy it will produce in your home (kWh). The size of your solar array (system) depends on many factors, such as shading (the number of trees or structures that interfere with the sun), orientation (the placement of your roof in regards to north/south/east/west), roof pitch, your home’s interworkings, etc. 

For example, on one home, a 10kW system may produce 9,000-10,000 kWhs, while on another, a 10kW system may produce 11,000-12,000 kWhs. During your proposal meeting, your salesperson will estimate your system’s production based on their experience, shading software, household energy consumption, and more to give you the best estimate of your savings. 

Be wary of companies that inflate this number, quoting production coverage that is much higher than reality to portray more significant savings to entice you to sign a contract. Your solar company should guarantee the production they estimate so that you know it is an actual value, and so you can accurately calculate your savings over time – almost like insurance for your production. GreenSpark Solar guarantees the production of your installation – we offer a 95% production guarantee, meaning we pay cash for lost energy. 

3. What assumptions are you using for savings? Are they ethical, data-backed assumptions for savings? 

GreenSpark assumes a conservative 3% inflation rate for energy prices over time. While this may make our savings look lower than our competitors, the future of energy prices is unknown. We want to ensure steady rising savings rather than aggressive estimating that could jeopardize your financial future if the energy rates do not grow at that rate. Always ask what rate the savings are estimated at over time to ensure they are ethical and conservative to ensure that you will receive or hopefully exceed these savings over time.

4. Do you offer solar financing? 

Choosing solar for your home can be a significant investment upfront (with great returns over time) – don’t let that stop you from breaking free from the utility company and bringing some stability into your life.

Be sure to ask the solar company if they offer financing. Industry-specific loans through GreenSpark include the best rates in our region of 6.99% and financing options with no payments for the first six months!

During a time when the prime rate is at 8.50%, need we say more? We know that financing and your monthly payment are not a one-size-fits-all approach, and we want to give all our customers all the options to help them go solar and break free from unpredictable utility rates.

5. Is the solar sales team commissioned?

There is nothing wrong with commission-based work. However, we have witnessed circumstances when a commissioned salesperson from another company unethically sells or pressures folks into a decision. These high-pressure situations are often made by salespeople who need to be more knowledgeable in solar. Be sure to get the facts about what motivates the salesperson and their experience level. At GreenSpark, we aim to educate our customers on how solar can benefit them. We do not pay our sales team per sale, which better aligns with our mission and core values. Our sales presentations are for educational purposes, and our team does not ask for any commitment at the end. Instead, we follow up a few days later to check on any questions or provide additional information.

6. What type of equipment do you use?

When you purchase a solar system (or array), there are 3 three critical pieces of equipment to think about:

  • Panels
  • Inverters
  • Racking

Always ensure that your solar provider is using the best possible equipment with high industry ratings and that is designed for the climate and weather that we experience in western NY. GreenSpark is a member of Amicus Cooperative, “a member-owned purchasing cooperative of 79 high-quality, independent, values-driven solar energy companies from across the nation. Our members are PV project developers, EPCs, and installers who build projects in all 50 states, Washington DC, plus Canada and Puerto Rico.” You can rest assured that the equipment GreenSpark Solar uses is of the highest quality, having been vetted by almost 80 companies across all types of climates and conditions.

GreenSpark Solar uses Qcell panels for residential installations, manufactured in the USA and certified for high snow and wind loads – which can happen in western NY!

Why are inverters so important? There are two types of inverters – string or microinverters, with many manufacturers for each. Companies can use lower-quality inverters to save on costs. Still, these inverters will often fail before the modules,

resulting in multiple maintenance visits to repair or replace the lower-quality inverter within your system. The more downtime you have with your system, the less energy you produce, and therefore the more money you lose. You’ll want to ensure the quality of the inverter used in your system. 

GreenSpark only uses top-quality inverters for microinverter and string inverter installations. We use Enphase microinverters, which are highly rated and require little to no maintenance over time. Using inverters by other manufacturers is possible, but we prefer working with the highest quality products that will last and produce for years on your roof!  Our operations and maintenance specialist once said he loves that we use Enphase microinverters because he knows he won’t need to service installs much and that our customers are getting the best system and experience. 

When installing a roof-mount system, holes are drilled in the roof to attach the racking system. This can cause anxiety as roofs are one of the most expensive parts of homes! As such, you’ll want to ensure that what the solar company is connecting to your roof is top quality and will last the entire lifetime of your panels without causing any issues to your roof. 

GreenSpark Solar uses Ironridge Solar racking for all of our rooftop installations. Over time, we have found this product to be the highest-rated racking system for our customers; the longevity of the quality is unmatched! Be sure to ask about the racking equipment!

7. What about town permitting and fire code setbacks – are you adhering to modern fire codes and following the recommended permitting process? 

Town permitting and fire code setbacks are required regulations. However, cities, towns, and villages don’t always monitor these regulations. Some solar companies may forgo these setbacks to fit more panels on your roof to make your savings look more attractive and bring them a more significant profit.

However, suppose you are caught without adhering to these codes or go to sell your house. In that case, this could mean considerable fines to you, and you’ll be required to remove or redesign your solar array to adhere to the fire code setbacks later, which can be very costly. 

Some town and fire code setbacks that tend to be ignored by some solar companies  include: 

  • No solar modules over vents or roof obstructions such as pipes or skylights
  • Solar modules placed within the required clearance of the ridge of your roof or the edge of your roof 

Unless these structures are removed or moved to a different part of your roof before the solar installation, you should not see panels over the top of them. If you get a proposal that includes solar modules over these roof structures, be sure to press the company on why and inquire about town and fire code setbacks. 

8. What about after installation – do you have a customer care team on staff?

With many parts of a solar array and many years of functionality, it’s crucial to ensure a solar company can assist you with questions or problems that might arise after your project installation. You’ll want to ensure your chosen company has a large enough customer care team to support your system in the following years and that they are not outsourcing customer care and maintenance to someone who doesn’t know the ins and outs of your project.

If the company you choose can’t get someone to diagnose a problem within 1-2 days, this could mean considerable downtime when you aren’t producing any solar and, therefore, utility savings.

An in-house customer care or operations and maintenance team is a must. GreenSpark Solar offers in-house customer care services, including 24/7 expert monitoring, 100% covered maintenance, live support, and more.

9. Are you a NYSERDA Quality Installer?

NYSERDA (The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) is a government-run entity that “aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate economic growth, and improve the quality of life for all New Yorkers equitably.” They annually rate and review solar companies, identifying installers that consistently meet high standards of quality,

By choosing an NYSERDA Quality Installer, you are choosing a company that exceeds annual quality assurance criteria established by NYERDA and consistently provides top-tier performances and quality.

At GreenSpark, providing quality solar to our customers is our #1 goal, and we’re proud to be an NYSERDA Quality Installer for multiple years in a row. This designation demonstrates that we have completed over 12 projects within the past calendar year (in fact, we’ve completed 139 projects to date in 2023 and 179 projects in 2022—that’s 3.4 MWs of solar), with an average field QA score of 4.0 or greater. We’re thrilled to be recognized for bringing the best local, cost-effective, and quality clean energy options to folks in the Greater Rochester community for over 20 years.

10. What is the experience level of your company?

Would you hire someone to renovate your home or to rewire your electrical with only a few years of experience? The likely answer is no. Hiring a solar installer or company is no different.

Solar is a complicated project with many facets: electrical, structural, and visual or aesthetic. You will want to hire someone who has been in business for many years and has many projects as well as MWs installed in their resume.

You could also ask: How many installations have you completed? Or are you NABCEP certified?

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is the most respected and widely recognized certification organization for renewable energy professionals. NABCEP Board certifications are for installers who have accumulated experience, and extensive training and have passed a rigorous exam. Our many installers with NABCEP credentials must meet the highest standards of both ethical and professional practice. With GreenSpark as your installer, with over 1,000 installations under our belt, you can rest assured that your solar installation will be exceptional and done ethically.

Have more questions about solar? Contact us and we’ll get them answered for you.

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