National solar installers have done business in New Jersey for years. Though big companies have come and gone over the last few years — and have even changed their names in some cases — it’s natural that companies started in California or one of the other early big states for solar would find New Jersey attractive today. As a top-ten state for solar, it’s clear that in New Jersey homeowners understand that you can save enough money on your electric bills to make solar worthwhile.
Though these big companies are competition for EcoMen Solar, I actually think having more solar companies in the state is good news for consumers in New Jersey, offering them more options to go solar. But as with any big purchase where you have more choices, you also have to be more careful to avoid low quality and get good value.
In my experience, I don’t think EcoMen loses a lot of business to big national installers. With more financing resources, sometimes they can help customers who we can’t, for example, homeowners who are rebuilding their credit. And of course the big companies do a lot of advertising, which gets them attention. More on that below.
Yet, it’s always been my hunch that New Jersey homeowners prefer to do business with local solar installers. But until now, I didn’t have any proof outside the experience of EcoMen Solar that this was true. That’s why new national research about what consumers prefer in a solar installer is so interesting. The research confirms my own experiences about consumer preferences in New Jersey. And it has a few surprises as to why. Let’s take a look at what the research found on a national level and then, what it says about New Jersey consumers.
Why Homeowners Prefer Local Solar Installers
Based on reviews of more than 2,800 solar installers nationwide posted on the website SolarReviews.com, it appears that consumers across the country overwhelmingly favor smaller local solar installers over big national companies.
“Our data reinforces that in general, consumers prefer companies with deep roots in their communities, owned by people they know and see around town,” the site’s CEO Andrew Sendy told PV Magazine. As Sendy explained:
Companies like these receive the highest rankings in customer satisfaction and are often praised for their laser-like focus on customer service—and that makes sense. Once companies reach a certain size, it’s harder to maintain a personalized customer-service experience.
Analyzing thousands of customer reviews on SolarReviews.com, Sendy found that all the most highly rated solar installers shared three things in common:
- Family owned
- Employed fewer than 100 people
- Had deep ties in the communities they serve
By contrast, the three worst-rated companies on the site were national installers that are all publicly held. That means they’re owned mostly by remote investors out in the stock market instead of by the people in the main office and out in the field who do the actual work of installing solar panels.
What Customers Say about EcoMen Solar on Review Sites
Though we don’t have many entries on SolarReviews yet, EcoMen Solar has gotten attention from customers on other online services that offer reviews, including both Google and Facebook. I’m pleased that customers have given us a perfect five-star rating on both sites. So, I hope you don’t mind if I share three comments from those reviews here:
Fantastic, honest and straightforward people work at EcoMen. Great customer service, quality-clean installations. Couldn’t say enough about them! — LP via Google
I had my solar panels installed in February 2016 by EcoMen Solar. The first thing they noticed was that I needed a new main electrical panel box. I knew this from when another electrician did work for me. The new service box was installed in a few hours and the wiring inside the box looked like it was done by a machine. Impeccable, excellent job. As far as the panel installation goes I had a few out-of-the-ordinary requests. Their crew went out of their way and over and beyond what I would call satisfying a customer. And I only had 12 panels installed. The owner Joe Jr. was on top of everything every bit of the way. A big thank you to the installers Pete, and Bruce and their helpers. Job well done. — Dan Manzella via Facebook
EcoMen is an honest and reliable company, always providing excellent and personalized service and products. — Liliana Castro Bernardini via Facebook
It makes me feel good that our customers value our service enough to mention our people by name. I find that customers of other experienced local installers in New Jersey feel the same way about those companies — that their service is attentive and their people really care about customers.
Now let’s see what customers say about the big national companies.
Online Reviews of the Big National Solar Installers
As to the big national companies, what you’ll find I think is that their customers seem to rate them generally from two to three stars. And their comments are at best a mixed bag.
For example, not to mention any names, but one of the big solar installers based out West has been doing business in New Jersey for the last few years. As a sample of what their customers think of the company, here are a couple of comments from SolarReviews.com about work done by the company’s office in New Jersey:
My electric rates also increased after switching to [Company Name Deleted]. The rates are displayed differently which is why I didn’t notice at first. Terrible customer service when trying to address this issue.
Signed contract 7/2016. Panels installed 10/2016. Solar not activated [as of] 2/2017. Customer service is non-existent. No one knows anything and their stock answer is “it’s in corporate review.” Right now I have 22 panels just sitting on my roof doing nothing. But not surprised since the company doesn’t seem to care.
You can find many more complaints like this — along with some praise from satisfied customers — if you search for the big national installers on SolarReviews or any of the other sites where consumers review solar installations such as Angie’s List, Google or Facebook.
If you do search reviews on those sites, what you’ll see is pretty much the same as in these comments. The main issue with big national installers seems to be with service, follow up and responsiveness.
And that might be the biggest difference between a local and a national installer, according to consumers. After you get your solar panels installed, it can be hard to get the national company on the phone. By contrast, the local companies are more responsive. Maybe that’s because the local installers are your neighbors and their local reputation for quality and service is a key asset to their business. A local installer based in New Jersey can’t just decide to leave the state one day and put more effort into their operations in Utah or California. A New Jersey company has more incentive to keep customers in the state happy.
What the Big Installers Do Well
Even if they don’t score well for customer satisfaction, one thing the big national solar installers do well is marketing. With their big advertising budgets, they can run TV commercials, send out direct mail flyers and set up eye-catching tables at events. And if that helps educate homeowners about solar power in New Jersey, then that helps everybody. I just hope that homeowners will do their homework first before signing on with a national company or with any solar installer. My recent article on 5 steps to choosing the right solar installer for you will help.
Nobody knows how long the big companies will stay in New Jersey. Times have been tough for them lately and bad customer reviews can’t help. So, if you’re looking for a solar installer that’s family owned and has deep roots in the community, we may be a good fit for you. Just request a free quote and put us to the test.
— Joe Aurilia, Jr., EcoMen Solar