Hiring a Contractor
While self-installed solar systems are allowed in Oregon, we strongly recommend on using licensed solar contractor to do the installation. Not only are they familiar with all the required building and electric codes and permitting and inspection processes, but have the experience to make sure that a solar installation is done right and will operate for decades. Additionally, to receive some incentives, like the Energy Trust incentive, a certified installer must be used.
Questions to Ask
- What percentage of energy usage will the solar installation offset?
- What is the projected payback period?
- Do they have solar lending partners that recommend to finance getting solar?
- How many projects they have completed in Oregon/Washington and how long have they been installing solar?
- Who will actually be doing the work. Long-term employees? Subcontractors? It is common for solar contractors to hire subcontractors to perform some or all of an installation. Verify that any subcontractors have experience or training installing solar energy systems.
- Explain if your home has any unusual features, such as specialty roofing. Will that affect you getting solar?
- If you are considering both solar water heating and solar electric you may want to consider a contractor who can install the systems simultaneously.
- Panels, inverters, and racking equipment: Who manufactures them and where?. Most of the equipment involved in going soling can be purchased from manufacturers in the Northwest or the United States. If this is desired, be sure that ask about where the system is made.
- What are the warranties (both from the contractor and from the manufacturer)?
Typical Terms & Warranties
Ask for a copy of the standard contract terms from the contractors you are considering and compare them. Energy Trust trade allies, for instance, are required to provide a minimum two year warranty covering all repairs resulting from defects in equipment or workmanship.
Equipment manufacturers typically provide longer warranties. Panels often come with a 25 year, 85% performance warranty. Warranties for inverters generally range from 10-20 years.
- Get the names of owners whose systems are similar to the one they are proposing for you.
- Request references and photos of previous work.
- Call these references and ask if they would use the contractor for future work.
- Also check out the Solar Ambassador section of our website for homeowners who have been through the process of going solar. Ask Solar Ambassadors if they would recommend their contractor.
To comply with state and local building codes, your contractor must have a CCB license. Ask the contractors you are considering for their number, and go to Oregon Construction Contractor’s Board to check them out.
The Energy Trust of Oregon requires systems receiving their incentives be installed by one of their certified Trade Allies. These contractors have been trained to make sure your system is designed to meet all of the qualification requirements including TSRF (Total Solar Resource Fraction). To be eligible for Oregon’s Residential Energy Tax Credit, Oregon requires the contractor hold a valid Tax Credit Certification. For a list of contractors with these certifications go to Oregon Department of Energy website. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) provides nationally recognized training and certification for solar industry professionals. You can read further about NABCEP on their website.