Who sells and installs PV systems?

Advanced Distributed Generation, LLC

2600 Dorr Street
Toledo, OH 43607
Phone: 419-530-3792
Toll Free: 877-765-2748
Fax: 419-530-3793

Dovetail Solar Panels

10760 Hooper Ridge Rd
Glouster OH 45732
Phone: 740-767-4070
Fax: 740-767-3335

9116 Lake In the Woods Tr.
Chagrin Falls, OH 44023
Phone: 440-543-7069
Fax: 440-543-3255

REpower Solutions

P.O. Box 91992
Cleveland, OH 44101
Phone: 216-402-4458
Fax: 216.803.6739

ThirdSun Solar and Wind Power

340 West State Street, Unit 25
Athens, OH 45701
Phone (740) 597-3111

How do you choose among PV providers?

The products and services offered by the providers will vary. Contact a variety of providers to see whose services best meet your needs.

Has the company installed grid-connected PV systems? If not, has it installed grid-independent (or stand-alone) PV systems?

Experience in installing grid-connected systems is valuable because some elements of the installation - particularly interconnection with the local utility - are unique to these systems. Because grid-connected systems are relatively uncommon, however, most contractors with PV experience have worked only on stand-alone systems. So, they have experience with all aspects of PV system installation except connection with the utility grid.

However, a competent company with PV experience should not be eliminated just because it has not yet installed grid-connected PV. Experience with off-grid systems is valuable, because grid-independent systems are more technically complex than grid-connected systems.

How many years of experience does the company have installing PV systems?

This issue speaks for itself: A contractor who has been in business a long time probably understands how to work with customers and to compete effectively with other firms.

Is the company properly licensed?

PV systems should be installed by an appropriately licensed contractor. This usually means that either the installer or a subcontractor has an electrical contractor's license. Your State Electrical Board can tell you whether a contractor has a valid electrician's license. Local building departments might also require that the installer have a general contractor's license. Call the city or county you live in for additional information on licensing.

A solar rebate program may require that, in addition to being properly licensed, installers must demonstrate that they have special knowledge about installing PV systems. This special knowledge may be demonstrated in one of the following ways:

Does the company have any pending or active judgments or liens against it?

As with any project that requires a contractor, due diligence is recommended. Your state electrical board can tell you about any judgments or complaints against a state-licensed electrician. Consumers should call the city and county they live in for information on how to evaluate contractors. The Better Business Bureau is another source of information.

How do you choose among competing bids?

If you decide to get more than one bid for the installation of your PV system (always a good idea), make sure that all bids are made on the same basis. For example, a bid for a system mounted on the ground is usually very different from another bid for a rooftop system.

Similarly, some PV modules generate more electricity per square foot than others. Bids should clearly state the maximum generating capacity of the system (measured in watts or kilowatts). If possible, have the bids specify the system capacity in "AC watts" under a standard set of test conditions, or specify the output of the system at the inverter.

Also request an estimate of the amount of energy that the system will produce on an annual basis (measured in kilowatt-hours). Because the amount of energy depends on the amount of sunlight - which varies by location, season, and year to year - it's unlikely the contractor will quote a specific figure, but a range of 20% is realistic. Bids also should include the total cost of getting the PV system up and running, including hardware, installation, connection to the grid, permits, sales tax, and warranty. Your warranty is a very important factor for evaluating bids.

A solar rebate program may require that systems be covered by a two-year parts-and-labor written installation warranty, in addition to any manufacturers' warranties on specific components. The installer may offer longer warranties. Also, ask whether this company will stand behind the full-system warranty for the next two years.

Is the lowest price the "best deal"?

It might not be. You generally get what you pay for, and it's possible that a low price could be a sign of inexperience. Companies that plan to stay in business must charge enough for their products and services to cover their costs, plus a fair profit margin. Therefore, price should not be the only consideration, and quality should probably rank high on the list.