We’re lucky here in Virginia. Most of our colleagues at other companies who install solar panels in the state do high quality work at a fair price. Usually, homeowners who want solar can be confident that they’re in good hands if they hire an installer based in the state.
As to large national installers, we can’t say. So far, few big companies are installing solar in Virginia so far. That means I can’t really comment on their work, since I haven’t had much experience with it.
I do know that big companies get mixed reviews in places like California or New York where they’ve done business for a while. But I’ll give the large national installers the benefit of the doubt until they really get active in Virginia.
Meanwhile, unfortunately, I have encountered a few faulty solar installations done by companies based in Virginia. Occasionally we’ll get a call from a homeowner who went solar with another company and is having problems. For example:
- Their solar panels aren’t producing as much electricity as they’re supposed to
- Their whole system has gone offline for days or weeks and isn’t coming back up on its own
- During a storm panels have fallen off their roof or something else has gotten disconnected
They’ve tried to resolve the situation with the other company, but for one reason or another, it hasn’t worked out. So, in frustration, the homeowner has called Main Street Solar to see if we can fix things. If we think we can help, we’ll do our best to fix the problem.
The Usual Suspects
Once we get to a customer’s location, there may be other things wrong with their solar installation. We are sometimes surprised at the things we find, such as:
- Solar panels installed on the north side of the roof, facing north where they will get the least amount of sunshine and suffer from serious underproduction
- Panels installed in the shade of a tree or a nearby building, which also causes them to underproduce power
- Too many solar panels installed for the needs of the home
This final problem is perhaps the most frustrating. Too many solar panels for your home can actually be too much of a good thing.
Of course, in general, we agree with anybody who loves clean energy that America is nowhere close to having enough solar panels. For decades to come, families across the country and around Virginia will be demanding more solar. Main Street and our friendly competitors will be eager to help install as much solar capacity as we can.
A skilled solar installer will install the right amount of solar panels for any location. That means we want to put on just enough solar panels, but no more. On the one hand, a solar system should cover most or all of a family’s electricity demand. On the other hand, going solar should be as affordable as possible on the other.
The local utility will only approve as much solar as they think will cover a home’s electricity demand, based on patterns of usage from the past, usually the last 12 months. So that will limit the size of any home solar array from the start.
However, if a house wastes a lot of energy, and hasn’t had basic energy efficiency improvements done, then the home may be using more energy than necessary. Homeowners can make simple energy efficiency upgrades on their own any time. But if they do it before they get solar, it can save them money on a solar installation, because if they can reduce their energy usage, they may need fewer solar panels to cover their energy demand.
Energy Efficiency Upgrades
These upgrades can range from replacing old lightbulbs and major appliances to ones that use less energy to replacing old windows with new ones that trap more heat in the winter or blowing insulation into the attic.
The customer doesn’t have to make these upgrades to get solar. It’s their choice. But at least we want them to know. For example, this article offers some ideas on weatherizing your home before winter brings cold weather and higher heating bills.
We can estimate the size of the solar system a homeowner needs based on how much energy they use now or on how much less they could use in the future with efficiency upgrades.
When I get called to a home that has too many solar panels, I know that the customer’s best interest was not served.
An experienced solar installation company will give you exactly the amount of solar you need without making you overpay for more than you need.
As a consumer it helps to be educated on solar so that you know how to choose the right solar installation company. Our ebook on common questions and answers about solar in Virginia has a chapter that covers that exact topic and will help you choose a solar installer who will do high quality work at the best value. Download your free copy now.
— Andrew Brenner, Main Street Solar