Aesthetic and Quality Risks: Choosing a Solar Installer for your Home
Remember the old adage “you get what you pay for”? This is especially important when making an investment in solar, a project that should add value to your home. If installed improperly, however, a solar array will have the opposite effect! At Third Sun Solar, our 19 years of experience has taught us how to do it right. Your choice of a solar company is the most important decision you will have as you go solar: choose wisely.
Read below for a description of the solar installation process & the issues we have seen from less experienced installers. The company you choose to work with should be well researched to ensure your home receives solar energy for years to come!
You likely consider your home one of your most valuable assets. Because of this, choosing the right installation partner is critically important. Listed below are the two important phases of the solar panel installation process, which you should focus on.
- Solar Racking Installation– A typical roof installation involves drilling and properly waterproofing 40-60 holes through the roof. The holes are for the attachment of the array and the design, materials and techniques must withstand extreme weather, summer and winter for decades.
- Electrical Wiring– From each panel, down through the house to the inverter, and then to the interconnection to your homes electrical system, there is a lot of electrical work that goes into a solar installation. In Ohio solar installation must be done by a licensed electrical contractor, trained and experienced to perform this critical work safely and with methods that will hold up and perform trouble free over time.
We are sad to say that we see installation practices from other solar installation companies that are at best unsightly, often prone to early failure and at worst unsafe.
The solar company you select determines who the actual technicians are that are in your home doing the work. While many companies employ subcontractors, temporary labor or poorly compensated untrained employees, Third Sun Solar is proud to only use our fully trained, well compensated loyal and dedicated direct employees on our residential projects. We offer full benefits, paid holidays and vacation, and ongoing training to our employees. To us it’s a no brainer, it’s just who we are. It’s important for us to employ people invested in our company, who take pride in the work they do and who are skilled at it. It makes for a happy workplace and happy customers.
Not all solar installation companies hire and retain a qualified, skilled and dedicated installation team. Many have no safety program and work without OSHA approved methods, placing you at risk of a terrible tragedy on your property. Many use untrained and under-compensated installers that are rushing through important steps, cutting corners to get to the next job. Some installers work their crews far into overtime, carrying panels up ladders and working on a hot roof for 7 days at 10 hours per day. It’s important to ask yourself: what type of installer would you want working on your home, ensuring your solar investment is done in a way that ensures high performance, safety and durability for years to come??
Solar Racking Installation
This meticulous job must be done by trained, caring professionals if it is to look right, hold up over time, and not cause damage to your home. Panels can fall off the roof or leakage can occur if this work is done incorrectly. A leaky roof can cause many different issues such as structural damage, mold and rotting.
If done correctly by trained professionals this important step will be secure and not leak. At Third Sun we secure the array with a special system that protects your home with three layers of technology: stainless steel bolts with rubber gaskets, a durable top quality aluminum flashing that is layered into the shingles above, below and on either side of the penetration, and as a final extra layer of protection we seal up the holes with top quality roof sealant.
As the process moves from panel racking to electrical wiring, the stakes get even higher. Today’s high-performance solar electronics must be installed properly if they are to last decades (and not void the manufacturer warranty). As with any electrical work on your home, improper design or installation can lead to fire, electrical shock and homeowner liability. As we mentioned earlier – this work must be done by a fully trained, licensed electrician. Unfortunately, many solar installation companies are breaking Ohio law and cutting corners, operating without a license. Third Sun Solar is an electrical contractor licensed by the State of Ohio. Check here to make sure that the solar installation company you choose is a licensed electrical contractor.
Third Sun Solar is often called in to repair the work done by our competitors. We see all sorts of poor work out there, and one of the biggest culprits is the result of cutting corners to reduce costs. Many companies use plastic conduit (PVC) or flex pipe because their technicians don’t have the skills or tools to bend conduit, and to save money on materials. Unfortunately, this plastic degrades under the sun’s UV rays, turning brittle and cracking in as little as 5 years! In addition to creating a safety hazard, this shortcut means expensive and bothersome repairs that need made over the lifetime of your solar system.
Over our many years of work in solar, we have learned a lot about what holds up over time and what is likely to fail. At Third Sun Solar we use metal conduit on all of our solar installations. Metal conduit costs a bit more and requires skills and proper training to bend and install. Though the initial investment in metal conduit might be slightly more expensive up front, it will certainly hold up better over time, saving in the long run.
Beyond the safety and performance of this approach, the conduit choice impacts the aesthetics of the array as well. We believe that the solar array on your home should be gorgeous, not just to ensure your home increases in value but as part of our mission as we want your neighbors and friends to all look at your array and decide that one would look great on their home as well! On the majority of our projects we find a way to run the wiring inside your home. If that is impossible, we will run metal conduit in a hard to see location such as adjacent to a rain downspout. Many of our clients request that we paint this conduit if it is exterior. We almost always run conduit inside the attic, but in some cases must run on the roof top. We are sure you would agree that metal conduit on your roof looks a lot better than plastic PVC!
Can you see the exposed conduit?
Here at Third Sun, our advice is to do it right the first time. As you make the important selection of what solar installer to trust your home to (one of your most valuable assets), ask to see photos of their installations or better yet go look at their work up close. Go speak with their customers, both recent and those that have had an array for 10 years or more. Ask how the array has performed – how the installation experience was, were there any “surprise costs” or change orders above and beyond the original price promised. Ask the installer if the conduit will be visible or hidden. Ask what type of conduit will be used. Most importantly look them up here to find out if they are a licensed electrical contractor or are operating illegally.
We would be happy to answer any questions you have about solar! Get in touch with us today!