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Choosing a solar company to provide and install solar panels is similar to hiring a contractor to renovate your home. The basics of contracting apply; obtain multiple quotes & proposals, research the company's background, and check their references.

When you check on the references, ensure you visit their installation to see the solar panels, understand how they work, and find out what their experience has been with the solar installer.

Due to the new demand for solar in some regions, there are a lot of new companies that have started up to sell and install solar panels. For example, in Ontario, the microFIT program was created in October 2009, which has resulted in many new businesses. It's not to say that some of these businesses are not good at what they do, but the more experienced businesses with a track record are more likely to be there when you need them in the future.

Another place to seek information about the credibility of a solar installer is your local utility company. They will have to connect the system to the electricity grid, so they can likely tell you the companies that stand out as good businesses.

When you're comparing proposals, you will want to ensure you are getting good solar panel efficiency that will give you the results you're looking for.

When you're reviewing the proposals, ensure they cover the following items:

  • Quantity, make, model, and output capacity of the solar panels
  • Total solar array size (this is the number of panels multiplied by the solar panel output capacity)
  • Inverter make, model, and size (suggest one inverter versus micro-inverters)
  • All electrical permits and inspections
  • Mounting racks and hardware
  • Roof flashing (to prevent leaks in the roof)
  • Installation, testing, and commissioning (starting and verifying the system)
  • Solar panel warranty, inverter warranty, and installation warranty

One final note - before you pay the solar installer after the job is complete, ensure you see the system producing electricity and that it is feeding the meter connected to the electricity grid. There have been cases where customers paid the installer before it was connected and the system doesn't work.