Our goal at True South Solar is to educate and inform you about going solar, while being professional and transparent. We want you to have the best experience with no surprises along the way. Here are 10 questions that you should be asking any solar company before signing a contract with them.
1. How long have you been in business/Are you a local company?
True South Solar has been a local company based in Ashland, Oregon for more than 13 years. It’s important to work with an established business because your solar panels should be last at least the next 25 years, if not 30-40. Being a local company means that if you need any type of service along the way, we will be here to help you out.
We have watched many “local” solar companies open shop in the Rogue Valley over the last couple of years. The problem is that the businesses are actually based out of state. They will send a small staff of salespeople here to sell you solar and then hire a contract crew to do the installation. This is problematic on many levels. First, who knows the crew’s experience level and if they will even show up? Also, there is no service person to work on your system when you need help. Also, there is no storefront to stop into to ask any questions that may arise.
2. Does your company do all work in-house? Do you outsource any part of it?
This ties back into the first question. True South Solar does all of its work in-house, from sales to applying for permits/incentives, drafting/planning and of course, installing the panels themselves. We also have a department dedicated solely to servicing our systems. The only work we outsource would be something such as trenching for burying the wiring in the conduit, connecting to a ground-mounted solar array to a home or business.
3. What brand/types of panels, inverters and batteries do you install?
Just like there are different brands/types of vehicles, there are different brands/types of solar equipment. Some panels are more efficient than others and will produce more watts. Some products are made in other countries. At True South Solar we carry SunPower and QCell panels. Both are high-quality, highly-efficient panels. SunPower is made in Mexico and QCells are made in the USA. The same goes for inverters and batteries. Are they high-quality products that will last? All equipment should also be listed clearly in your contract.
4. Is there a warranty?
What is the warranty on the panels, inverters, batteries, and roof work? This may differ from brand to brand and company to company. True South Solar’s panels are warranted for 25 years. We also have a 10-year workmanship warranty for our company’s work and batteries come with a 10-year warranty. Also, again make sure that the company you choose has a service department to be able to do the work that your equipment warrantys.
5. What does a solar system cost?
This is, of course, one of the most important questions to ask. Surprisingly, it’s very individual. Cost will depend on electricity usage, what incentives you can receive (some are based on income or what utility company you have), if you do a roof or ground mount, and if you want to cover 100% of your electricity usage or a part of it.
Also, do you want to pay cash for the system or finance it? All of these things play into the cost of the overall system, so the best thing to do is to get a free assessment from a reputable solar company. A general cost of a solar system is about $25k before any incentives or tax credits. Again, it could be more or less depending on the individual.
6. How long does it take for the system to be installed?
Here at True South Solar, it can take anywhere from 6-12 weeks from when you get the contract to when your system gets installed for a residential system. We have to apply for permits and incentives as well as have the design and electrical team make a plan. The actual installation for a residential system will take anywhere from half to about 3 days.
After your system is installed, it will need an inspection and the meter to be swapped out. This could take up to another week or so until the system is actually turned on and running.
7. What if I need my roof replaced soon?
We generally recommend that you have at least 10 years of life left on your roof before placing panels on it. Also, some incentives require a certain roof life left to apply for them. We can uninstall and reinstall a system when it’s time for a new roof. The cost will depend on the size and complexity of system that you have, at the time you get a new roof.
If the company you have spoken with says it doesn’t matter how much life is left on your roof or what condition it’s in, then beware. They may not be around when you need to have the panels taken off/re-installed or there to service it in the future (we do this all the time for clients who chose to work with a competitor).
8. Do I need to install a battery?
The short answer is no. Batteries provide electricity during a power outage when the power grid goes down. Your solar system works without a battery if you are connected to a power company/the grid. If the grid loses power and you do not have a battery installed, then you will also lose power. It depends on how critical it is for you to have power when the grid goes down and how much money you want to spend to keep the power on. True South Solar installs Tesla Powerwalls. They cost about 15-20k for one installation on top of the solar system cost.
9. How do the incentives and tax credits work?
Again, this is going to be very individual. Incentives depend on what power company you have as well as your income level and if there will be shading on the solar system. The federal tax credit of 30% (good until 2033) can be taken by anyone with a tax liability. We recommend that if you have further questions about the tax credit that you speak with your accountant or tax professional.
True South Solar will apply for any incentives you may qualify for. The tax credit is done by yourself or whoever does your taxes. All you need is the receipt from us showing how much you paid for your system.
10. How often do I have to clean the panels?
In general, it can depend on the weather, but not very often. Buildup on the panels can decrease efficiency. This could be from dust, pollen, smoke, mud, etc. Usually, a good rain or snow will naturally clean them. We have directions on how to clean them yourself or can recommend a couple of companies to do the work for you. True South Solar does not offer panel cleaning at this time, and it is not covered in your warranty.
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