We’ve visited this subject before, but it’s an issue that’s been coming up regularly: Anybody can buy Panasonic solar modules from a distributor and install them. But not everybody should. That’s why Panasonic’s Authorized Installer Program exists. At least one installation company in West Virginia and Northern Virginia has been downplaying this program while they offer Panasonic module systems at unrealistically low prices.
When you choose a non-Authorized installer, you give up two important things.
The first is extended warranty protection. All Panasonic HIT modules come with a 25-year performance and workmanship warranty. Only when you choose a Panasonic Authorized Installer do you also get a 25-year extended warranty, which covers shipping and installation labor for 25 years. This warranty is between you and Panasonic. It covers maintenance and installation labor from any installer if for any reason no Authorized Installer is available. You get it only when you buy the system from an Authorized Installer (I have this in writing from Panasonic, if you’re interested.) because Panasonic wants to make sure that a qualified, professional company will install their modules.
Which brings us to the second (and easily the most important thing) you give up.
In an effort to purposefully and willfully confuse potential customers about the advantages of using an Authorized Installer, the wannabes leave out what’s really important about earning Authorization.
What’s really important is the rigorous vetting process that Panasonic puts would-be Authorized Installers through. Panasonic looks at things like contractor licenses held, experience, number and quality of reference installations, and professional qualifications – specifically, NABCEP certifications. They look for relevant real-world construction qualifications such as mechanical engineering, structural engineering and electrical engineering. (West Virginians please note: social engineering and community organizing are unlikely to be on that list.)
Panasonic modules operate at unusually high voltages, making it necessary to actually understand things like temperature-corrected conductor selection, proper fusing and grounding, and proper string sizing. In other words, a qualified, professional solar design engineer is a really good idea.
As an Authorized Installer, we’re very happy to offer the Panasonic systems option and are more than willing to compete for your business on a level playing field against any qualified installation company. Panasonic’s technology lets us design and install truly world-class solar systems, and we’re pleased to report that a lot of our customers are choosing to pay a little more to take that route.
But some of this low-ball stuff going on in recent months is not a level playing field, and the companies I have in mind are not even close to being qualified installers, in my opinion. (The terms that actually come to mind I probably shouldn’t use without clearance from my attorney, but you get the point, I’m sure.)
Particularly in West Virginia, where state Contractor Licensing Board solar consumer protections are pretty much nonexistent, in my opinion and experience, it really comes down to this: Are you willing to risk your investment, your property, and perhaps even your safety to save a relatively small amount of money by using a wannabe installer?
If your answer’s yes, we wish you good luck with that …