These are boom times for the solar industry. There are no shortage of choices for installers.
I wound up going with a company called Jamar Power Systems. I was very satisfied with the work they did for the price they charged.
Here are some lessons I learned in choosing them.
- Don’t pay for a company’s sales and marketing. Jamar relies almost exclusively on word-of-mouth. Companies with big marketing budgets like SolarCity charged more because customers have to pay for the advertising.
- Look closely at the cost per watt. You will get bids for slightly different size systems and cost per watt is a way to compare them. A fair price for a solar installation is $3.50 per watt for installing the panels and inverter (which coverts DC solar power into AC current that can be used in your home). This is what Jamar charged.
- A company that only does solar may not be around in a couple of years. Jamar has been around since 1984. They do a good business in commercial and residential electrical projects and they are likely to be around when the solar wave crashes.
- Think carefully about the upsell. Many installers recommended Sunpower panels, which are considered the best in the business, the Mercedes of solar panels. Like Mercedes, you pay more. I went with panels made by LG that carry a 25-year warranty. Sunpower panels would have cost 10 percent more, and I didn’t feel they were worth the cost.
- Optimize per panel power generation. A disadvantage to Sunpower panels is that they are often paired with Sunny Boy inverters. While Sunny Boys are well made, they are a bit behind the times. Newer technology allows solar panels to produce more by optimizing the panel when one or more of the panels is in shade. If you have big trees in your backyard like me, this is very helpful. My inverter is made by Solar Edge and it allows me to maximize the power my panels can generate.
Was there anything I didn’t like about Jamar?
They didn’t send someone out to my house until I signed a contract. This bothered me until I met the excellent who worked for them. I suppose they do this to keep costs down.