Approach Solar Installation Review Sites With Caution
Say you wanted to install a host of solar features to your home. Where would you begin? This market is still relatively small, so there is not yet a large data base of information on installers and providers. To address this several sites seeking to be the “Angie’s List” for solar installation work have sprung up over the past few years. But some say such sites should be approached with caution, and there are better ways to find qualified help.
Sites like EnergySage.com, SolarReviews.com, SolarSavingsAmerica.com, and CleanEnergyAuthority.com exist to help interested consumers go solar. These sites can offer contact information for solar installers, reviews of same, estimates for installation, and even information about financing.
Sounds good, right? But not all are sold on these sites. One skeptic is Matt Partymiller, operating manager for Solar Energy Solutions, in Evansville, Ind. He said most sites don’t vet their listings nearly well enough. “The majority of the firms listed are not professional companies, offering quality installation services,” he said. “It’s a gamble what the consumer gets from these sites.” (Solar Energy Solutions received stellar reviews on SolarReviews.com.)
Some sites require pay to play. “A lot of the sites are charging to promote listed participants,” he said. “I see more sites trying to charge installers money to promote them without doing their due diligence to make sure the installers listed are reputable.”
Instead, interested consumers should consult the North American Board of Certified Energy Practioners (NABCEP) to find contractors, Partymiller said. “It’s where I send everyone for areas I don’t serve,” he said.
The NABCEP describes itself as the gold standard for photovoltaic and solar heating installation and photovoltaic technical sales certification. Its website also offers a tab for consumers to find NABCEP-qualified contractors in their area.
Consumers should also be skeptical of sites that claim the ability to estimate your home’s solar potential, said Julie Hairston, a communications consultant with the Georgia Solar Energy Association, in Atlanta, Ga. “I would say buyer beware,” she said. “It is very difficult to accurately do something like that without a properly qualified installer actually inspecting the site. Nothing trumps that.”
As for the sites themselves, she said she can't speak to their quality. "The best advice I can give is to look for installers that are NABCEP-certified," she said.
Not all people in the industry are so down on these sites. Vincent Battaglia, ceo of Renova Solar, in Palm Desert, Calif., said he’s had a great experience with SolarReviews.com. They haven’t charged him to list, versus other sites that charge $150 per month, and he’s generated six contracts from the many positive reviews his firm has on the site. “Most (sites) don’t keep up with their promises,” he said. “And thus far the Solar Review site has.”