New Jersey is one of the best states to get solar in the country. For the last few years, the Garden State has ranked among the top ten states for solar, right up there with California, New York and Massachusetts, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. And homeowners, not utilities, are now leading the way in helping make New Jersey a national leader in solar power.
Generous state incentives help make home solar more affordable — with a quicker payback — in New Jersey than in much sunnier states like Florida.
So it’s no surprise that such an attractive market has helped bring more than 400 solar companies to the state, some based here and others from the West Coast or other parts of the country.
Competition among solar installers is good news for consumers, offering New Jersey homeowners many choices for the best value. But having so many solar companies also can be confusing. Many solar companies do good work. Others may not be so reliable. And some perfectly good companies may not be right for your particular situation.
Making the right choice can mean the difference between a solar energy system that gives you decades of reliable service and money savings on the one hand or a bad experience with solar on the other.
How can you cut through the clutter and find the best solar installer doing business in New Jersey for you?
Based on a couple decades experience working with homeowners in the state, I’m going to give you a simple plan to locate a solar installer that will focus on the best and weed out the rest.
Step 1: Make a List of the Solar Installers that Serve Your Area
Using an Excel spreadsheet, Word document or a pen and paper, make a list of 5-10 solar installers that serve your town or city. You can certainly find companies in Google searches for “solar installers” and online listings like those found at SolarReviews.com. But if you’re just searching blind you’ll have to wade through a lot of junk — such as listings for companies that are no longer in business or have left the state.
A better way is to ask for recommendations from your neighbors, friends, family and coworkers who’ve already gone solar at home. Just read our customer testimonials to see why referrals from satisfied customers are so important to us here at EcoMen Solar.
Step 2: Decide whether you Want A Local or A National Company
Of course, as a solar company native to New Jersey, we’re biased towards local installers. But we recognize that in some cases, a big national installer may suit the needs of some homeowners better than a local company.
In general, larger companies are more established and may be able to offer more comprehensive warranties, more payment options and even maintenance services, such as panel cleaning. They may also be able to better serve homeowners who don’t have stellar credit scores.
On the other hand, a local company like EcoMen Solar knows New Jersey better, from state rebates and SREC programs to what permits are required in your town, city or county. And since New Jersey-based companies cover fewer locations and customers than national installers, the process may move faster, allowing you to get price quotes more quickly and get an appointment for your installation sooner.
I believe that you can have the best of both worlds if you find a local installer that serves your area and has been around for at least ten years. Yes, the industry is new. But many local companies that do solar have an established track record in other services, such as electrical contracting. For example, EcoMen Solar’s background in home improvement goes back more than 40 years.
If a local solar installer has been around for a while, then you can be confident that the company has staying power and will also be around in the future to stand behind their work after your solar panels are installed.
Step 3: Check Each Company’s Qualifications
Go to the website of each company on your list and check for a few different things. First, look for their credentials. At the top of the list is certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), the gold standard for solar installers. If a company has earned this, they’ll show off the badge on their website, making it easy for you to find. For example, you’ll see our NABCEP badge (pictured to the right here) at the lower right corner of every page of our website.
Other qualifications to look for, according to New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program, include the installer’s experience installing solar systems in the past, proper licensing required in New Jersey and in your town and whether the company has any active legal judgments or liens against it. You can find that out by calling the New Jersey Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors License Verification Line at 973-273-8090.
Step 4: Read Customer Reviews
I do hope you were able to get a referral from a trusted friend or neighbor to the companies that you put on your list in step one. This will make it easier to understand the reviews that you will find online in this step. Even the best solar installer may have the occasional review that’s not stellar, which you may need to take with a grain of salt. But overall, comments on consumer review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, SolarReviews and EnergySage as well as on Google and Facebook are one of the best ways to narrow down your list of solar installers. In your document, create a column for reviews. There, list your general impressions after reading what customers have said about each company.
Step 5: Get Multiple Quotes
Narrow your list down to 3-5 top companies and then ask each installer for a price quote. Make sure the price in a solar quote includes everything, from the name of the manufacturer of your panels and equipment down to the warranties being provided. “The warranty is a very important factor in bid evaluation, as New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program requires systems to be covered by at least a five-year warranty,” advises the New Jersey state clean energy website.
Here’s where you need to be careful. Don’t be fooled by super low prices, which can be a red flag for cheap equipment, poor workmanship, bad service or unrealistic projections of energy savings. Reputable solar installers like EcoMen Solar may or may not always come in with the lowest price, but we will always seek to offer customers the best value in solar.
A quote that offers good value will include equipment that’s high enough quality to do the job at your location but not so high-end that it will make a solar installation too expensive. But mostly, a promising quote will use realistic numbers about how much money solar can save on your electric bill. This is an important topic that I’ll address in the future. For now, you should know that if a quote sounds too good to be true, then you should probably seek a second opinion. For example, if one quote stands out for its low cost or promises of big savings, ask another installer or two for their take on the numbers.
After you focus on two or three quotes that seem best, then talk to each company again on the phone or in person. If they listen well and seem to care about your needs, then they’re more likely to be flexible enough to tailor their installation to your situation, rather than giving you a cookie-cutter solar array that may work well for your neighbor but won’t really meet your needs.
And if you’re in our service area, which includes the whole state of New Jersey from Sussex and Warren Counties in the north to Cumberland and Atlantic Counties in the south and everywhere in between, then request a free quote from EcoMen Solar. There’s no cost, no obligation and of course no pressure. We’ll only propose solar at your place if we’re sure that it will really save you money. That’s our guarantee.
— Joe Aurilia, Jr., EcoMen Solar