Spoiler alert: They matter. A lot.
The process of deciding on a solar system for your property, and deciding on the company you want to install it, is one of the more important decisions any property owner can make.
You’ll be looking for all of the obvious issues such as price, warranty and quality, but just as important is the safety aspect of putting a high voltage power plant on your roof (if roof-mounted, of course).
NABCEP certified installer credentials are essential for all those reasons. And experience in installing the exact system type you’re considering is just as important. As I’ve posted here many times, an electrician license alone does not qualify one to design and install solar systems. West Virginia is one of the few states that continues to think that an electrician’s van and a few extension ladders makes you a qualified solar installer/contractor.
Even with tax credits and assorted subsidies, and even though they pay for themselves over time, solar installations aren’t cheap. That’s why I harp on checking out installers you’re considering before making that commitment.
A recommended first step in doing this is to ask these 12 questions. Then, use the answer to Question 12 (names and contact information for reference customers) to check the answers you got for Questions 1 through 11.
Of course, no installer’s going to refer you to unhappy customers, so it also makes sense to Google “[installer name] reviews.”
I do this from time to time, to see how Milestone’s doing and look for ways we can do even better. In this process, I came across this great 5-star review on angi.com, which is what Angie’s List is called now.
It’s not signed, but if you check it out here (It’s the fifth one down.), you’ll see the only changes we made were to correct some punctuation:
Bill Anderson, engineer and company owner, personally came to our home to answer questions and do a free site survey. He returned the next week with a detailed, written plan and cost estimate for a Grid-tied, battery back-up PV solar system for our home. I really appreciate the fact that he listened carefully to what we wanted from a solar system and then designed a plan that met our needs. He kept us informed about schedules and was always available to answer any questions we had. Bill took care of all the building permits, inspection appointments, and worked with the local power company to get our net-meter installed. The construction crew was always on time and did an excellent job of constructing the framework for our ground mount system with minimal damage to the rest of the yard. Phil, the electrical engineer who wired the system, did an excellent job. His wiring is practically a work of art! It took a little while for the parts to our system to arrive, but once everything was here the process was relatively quick. I should note here that Milestone Solar evaluates each customer’s needs and puts together a personalized system. There is no cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all mentality at Milestone. The components for each system are specific to the job. I am more than satisfied that Bill chose some of the industry’s best and most reliable components for our system. These components have 15 to 25-year warranties, depending on the specific piece of equipment. And even though our system has been up and running for a month now, I know that the Milestone Solar team provides after-sale follow-up and they are just a phone call away if I ever have a question or problem. I should also note that Bill Anderson is one of the first engineers in the country to pass the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Photovoltaic (PV) Technical Sales Exam. Milestone Solar is licensed and insured, and Bill was happy to provide references that I could contact. In fact, I did speak with several individuals and one municipal official who had contracted with Milestone Solar in the past. Every person was very happy with their experience with Milestone. If you are interested in having a PV solar system installed, you cannot go wrong with Milestone Solar. We were very impressed with the professionalism and craftsmanship of the entire Milestone team.
DESCRIPTION OF WORK
No-cost site survey and evaluation –A written estimate including components to be used and cost estimates – Obtained all the needed permits and scheduled all necessary inspections – Ordered and delivered all the necessary components to our home – Constructed the ground mount framework that holds the photovoltaic panels – Installed all the components and completed all the wiring – Fine-tuned the system to optimize output – Coordinated with local power company to install net-meter – Continues to be available to answer any questions or concerns
This review is for a ground mount installation. Ground mounts offer two important advantages: Few if any roofs are perfect azimuth for solar, but with ground mounts you can precisely orient the array to the sun path and maximize production. And it’s easier to clear off snow from the array, so you’ll still have power after a snowstorm creates a power outage. Particularly important when talking about battery (emergency) power systems.
Ground mounts call for precise, custom design, electrical engineering (due to voltage drop), and some special equipment. Installing them also involves dealing with trenching to the interconnect point and rocks and stuff. This is why many plug-and-play solar installers just don’t choose to do them. For many of the plug-and-play guys, the business model is quick-in-and-quick-out roof-mount systems only.
We do a lot of ground mounts.