New here, How to evaluate an installer?

SystemSystem Posts: 2,511 admin
We want to look into a grid-tie solar system and are looking to find and evaluate the companies offering such systems in our area. We are in Baton Rouge, LA within 70 miles of New Orleans (zip 70808 ).

Is there a reference site for positive/otherwise comments about suppliers in our area? We have contacted two such companies and have received packages about their claims, but yet to receive references to past customers whom we want to ask to validate their claims. That makes me extremely suspicious.

Any directions to validating sources or suppliers would be appreciated.


  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,313 admin
    Re: New here, How to evaluate an installer?

    That is difficult--just like finding a good remodeling contractor...

    My suggestion... Do a "paper design" of the system you would like to build (say 3,000 watt of panels generating 4,500 kWhrs of electricity per year). Decide if you want pure "Grid Tied" (cheapest, most reliable, least amount of service, no long term service requirements; however no backup power capabilities) vs Hybrid of Grid Tied / Off Grid (efficient like GT, have battery backup for when power goes down).

    And--usually step one is to work on Conservation at your home. For the most part, it is more cost effective to do lots of insulation, double pane windows, energy star appliances, replacing the A/C system with a modern very high efficiency unit (either ground sourced or air sourced), look at an A/C "de-superheater" to generate "free" hot water from your AC, CFL fixtures (yea--CFL's don't have very nice color), replace your roof if it is much over 5 years old (if panels are going on roof), add skylight to reduce internal lighting needs during the day, Heat Recover Ventilaor, etc....

    Get yourself a Kill-A-Watt meter for $30 or less... You can use it to measure the power used (per day, per week) for anything that you plug into the wall (120 VAC 15 amps). You can quickly find some of your major energy wasters.

    Also, you will need to look at your power bill and find out how many kWhrs per month (by season) you use overall... There are devices, like the T.E.D. that can show you your overall power usage (not expensive, however, will not work correctly with Grid Tied solar--cannot "read" backwards).

    Once you have done "step 1"--whatever you choose for solar electric will be much cheaper because you will be using less power.

    Also, understand what your utility allows for Net Metering (some have very nice terms, others make it almost worthless to use net metering).

    After you have made your initial decisions--you will know a whole lot more about solar PV systems and it will be much easier for you to figure out who knows what they are doing or not.

    There is a "panel fire" thread here that has pictures of a contractor installed/building permitted/inspected system--look at this thread will show you what does not work (and can burn your home down).

    Do not rush--solar system prices are going down (at least in the near term)--so making sure your research first will be a big help.

    Please ask more questions and tell us what your requirement are. I sure we can help you quite a bit.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: New here, How to evaluate an installer?

    you could try looking near the back of home power magazine as they often list installers state by state. look for the free sample issue.
  • TnAndyTnAndy Solar Expert Posts: 249 ✭✭
    Re: New here, How to evaluate an installer?

    As a building contractor, I can tell you references from other customers are only worth so much, as you're obviously only going to get cherry picked ones.

    As a rather crabby woman, whom I had already decided I was NOT going to do business with ( why ask for trouble ? ), asked me, rather snidely, one day " You got any GOOD references ? "

    "Well, madam, I'm not the brightest bulb in the pack, but I'm not so stupid as to give you the bad ones !"
  • dwhdwh Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
    Re: New here, How to evaluate an installer?

    Sounds like a good excuse for a Sunday Drive. What I would do (I really would) - Cruise around and look for solar installations, go knock on the door and ask if they'll talk to you about their rig.

    Most people will.
  • halfcrazyhalfcrazy Solar Expert Posts: 720 ✭✭✭
    Re: New here, How to evaluate an installer?

    Exactly what dwh said ride around knock on some doors. most people with solar systems are more then happy to give you 15-30 minutes discussing there system. Maybe even take pictures if they allow you to and you can study later and see what looks good to you?
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: New here, How to evaluate an installer?

    Try asking your local utility provider. Good source.

    We have one or two they rely on for installs and retrofit work.
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • crewzercrewzer Registered Users, Solar Expert Posts: 1,832 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: New here, How to evaluate an installer?
    We want to look into a grid-tie solar system and are looking to find and evaluate the companies offering such systems in our area. We are in Baton Rouge, LA within 70 miles of New Orleans (zip 70808 ).
    Talk to Gulf South Solar in Baton Rouge. Justin Runnels and Jeff Shaw are two of the three NABCEP-certified installers in Louisiana, and they work for GSS (Jeff is the president). I've taught an OutBack class at GSS, and they teach PV/RE classes at both their facility and at BR Community College.

    Check their portfolio via GSS' home page!

    Jim / crewzer

    Gulf South Solar:
    NABCEP Certified Installers in LA:
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