How To Select a Photovoltaic Dealer

Choosing a PV professional will be one of your most important decisions. If you choose a competent dealer, you won't need to know all the details of designing, purchasing, and installing your PV system. Instead, you can rely on the dealer's expertise to and install a system that meets your needs. However, just like buying a car or a television, you must have confidence in the dealer's products and services and be an informed consumer. With the growth of the PV industry, the number of regional dealers, mail-order businesses, and local distributors has expanded rapidly. Many telephone directories contain listings for PV dealers under the “Solar” heading.

Professional credentials are one indication of a PV dealer's knowledge and qualifications. Ask dealers what PV-related courses they have taken, certifications they have earned, and licenses they have received.

A second consideration is the dealer's experience in the field. How long has the company been in business? The local can advise you whether any customers have registered complaints about the dealer. You should also ask the dealer how many systems like yours he or she has designed and installed. Ask to see installations, and talk with owners of systems similar to the one you want to purchase.

A third consideration in selecting a system installer is the variety and of products offered for each component of the system. Because are often designed for a specific site, one company's products may not be appropriate for all applications. Competent dealers will stock components manufactured by several companies. Avariety of product options will help ensure that the most appropriate components are available for your system. When a dealer recommends a product, ask what the recommendation is based on, whether there are consumer or independent testing facility reports you can read, and whether the products are listed with Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

Fourth, consider the service agreements and performance guarantees the dealer provides and the warranties given by the product manufacturers. No system is maintenance-free, nor will all components function flawlessly forever. When problems emerge with your system, what services will the dealer provide? What warranties do the manufacturers provide? What costs should you expect to pay, and which costs will be assumed by the dealer and/or the manufacturer? Finally, you should compare prices from different dealers. Because distribution channels and dealer networks have expanded dramatically, the opportunity to “shop around” is much greater today. If possible, approach more than one dealer about a draft design and estimate for your system.