A few weeks ago, we talked about some of the characteristics you should look for in a solar PV installer.The criteria is essentially the same as with many other home contractors. You want to find a solar PV installer who:
- carries the selection you are interested in, and can make honest recommendations about quality and pricing,
- is knowledgeable and able to answer all your questions,
- provides references and has no negative reports with the Better Business Bureau,
- has experience working on other solar installations like yours, and
- you feel comfortable working with.
When you’re choosing a solar PV installer (as with some other contracting trades), there’s one last thing you should check into: certifications.
About NABCEP, the Gold Standard for Solar PV Installers
NABCEP, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, is considered the gold standard for solar energy certifications. NABCEP certification shows that your solar installer is proficient in the subject matter, but also has the field experience that NABCEP has deemed as critical in getting the job done.
As of January 14, 2012, some of the criteria for NABCEP PV Installer Certification include:
- 58 hours of solar PV-specific training
- Successful completion of three or five (depending on the level of certification) solar PV installations
- Minimum of 10 hours of OSHA-approved Construction Industry safety training
- Passing the NABCEP solar installer exam
Can You Find a Good Installer Who Isn’t Certified, or a Bad One Who Is?
As with any industry, degrees, diplomas and certifications are still only as good as the people who hold them. But when NABCEP vouches for a solar PV installer by certifying them, you know you are getting a contractor who has a certain level of experience and has put time, money and effort into achieving certification. The chances are good that, when you choose a solar PV installer who is NABCEP-certified, especially at the highest level, you are not getting a “fly-by-night” operation.
Of course, you might find a good contractor with less experience who just hasn’t gotten certification yet. But, as The Solar Foundation’s Andrea Luecke warns, “It’s incredibly important we don’t have just anybody off the street decide they’re going to be a solar installer. It can actually cause some damage if a solar system is installed improperly. That’s why there are training programs, licensing and certifications that need to be obtained.” (That’s also why we don’t recommend installing your solar PV array yourself, either.)
In our view, it’s not worth taking chances on a company that may not have the knowledge or level of experience required to complete a successful solar PV installation. That’s why when you choose a solar PV installer through EcoOutfitters, you can see right there in each company’s profile their level of certification and make a more informed buying decision.