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Tips on How To Become A Solar Panel Installer & Mistakes To Avoid

how to become a solar installer

The solar energy industry is growing by leaps and bounds. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, solar installer jobs are projected to grow 22 percent from 2022 to 2032, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. On average, there will be about 3,500 job openings for solar panel installers each year over the decade. Due to exceptional opportunities, many new solar installers are entering the market. However, you may be wondering how to become a solar panel installer.

As with most things, the solar installation process involves a learning curve. However, applying these tips can help keep projects on schedule and on budget. In addition, avoiding certain pitfalls can increase your sales and boost your reputation. Let’s examine these so you can avoid common mistakes when becoming a solar technician.

Tips On How To Become a Solar Panel Installer

Many tricks of the trade are critical to prospering as a solar provider and getting solar installation jobs. Solar panel systems vary by property and installation process. Here are our top tips for new installers.

Get Familiar With Solar Panel Terminology

It is critical to explain solar panel technology to potential clients and answer all their questions. Likewise, being able to read and understand solar panel installation manuals and spec sheets is essential for proper solar system design and installation.

A handful of essential terms and concepts include:

A great way to get familiar with essential terms is to read articles, specification sheets, and manuals. The GreenLancer blog is a great place to get started!

Learn PV Battery Technology

Solar batteries have skyrocketed in popularity as many homeowners and businesses want to gain energy independence and avoid disruption from power outages. However, just like solar panels, it is essential to develop a vocabulary around batteries.

It pays to familiarize yourself with the various types of energy storage for solar installations, especially if you plan to work on utility-scale projects.

Sharpen Your Solar Installer Skills And Credentials

It is critical to gain the skill set required to attract customers and safely design and install solar energy systems. If one person is fulfilling all of these roles, learning a bit of everything can be challenging.

  • Hands-on experience: Although reading on the topic is a great way to learn, nothing beats hands-on experience. If possible, attend a local workshop or hands-on solar technician training program. In some cases, it might be possible to volunteer with a non-profit. Many solar technicians work for other companies before starting their own firms, which is an excellent way to learn about solar installation techniques, electrical codes, and customer service.

  • Solar Education: There are numerous workshops, classes, and degree programs for learning about solar panel installation. Some are offered online-while others are in-person.

  • Customer service: Providing excellent customer service is critical for building a positive reputation and gaining referrals. This involves responding promptly to phone calls and emails, keeping projects on schedule, communicating issues clearly with customers, and performing high-quality work.

  • Safety protocols: Ensuring a safe worksite is essential. Falls are among the most concerning issues on solar installer job sites because many systems are installed on roofs. Therefore, it is essential to follow OSHA standards and use fall prevention measures.

  • Sales: If you can’t make sales, running a profitable solar installation company will be nearly impossible. This starts with having effective lead generation strategies and definitely includes closing sales. Having an attractive website and marketing materials can assist in this. You can seek out 3rd parties who specialize in sales and marketing to potential solar clients to supercharge your efforts. In the end, learning how to sell solar in a way your clients gravitate towards and understand will help your business for years to come.

Make Sure You Have The Necessary Solar Installer Certifications

Although they vary widely across the U.S., some states have specific licensing requirements for solar installers. For example, a C-46 license is required in California, while other states require a licensed electrician to complete solar PV installations. Therefore, it is critical to know your state's qualifications before launching your solar installation company.

Having the appropriate licenses, certifications, and insurance can help earn trust among solar shoppers. So, let’s explore some of the solar industry's top certifications.

  • North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Certification: This program for renewable energy professionals involves passing an exam and having the minimum required hours in the field.

  • OHSA Construction Safety: These courses are designed to prevent injury on the job. The OSHA 10-Hour for the Construction Industry course is a good choice for solar installers. Many OSHA courses are also available online, eliminating the need to travel.

  • Electrical license: These licenses are issued on a state-wide level, and the requirements vary by state. Typically, there are different levels of licensed electricians, and they require passing an exam and possibly completing a certain number of hours in the field.

Understand State And Local Regulations and Incentives

The solar energy industry varies by state and local governments, from permitting requirements to local incentives and rebates. Knowing the regulations and perks in your area is essential. If there are additional incentives beyond the federal tax credit, let solar shoppers know and include this information in your proposals and feasibility studies. The DSIRE database is a great way to learn about local incentives.

Likewise, many states have additional siting requirements, such as setbacks. Even local building codes vary by location, especially if an area is prone to hurricanes or extreme weather. Also, state-wide guidelines like NEM 3.0 in California should be considered. GreenLancer has the expertise to design and engineer systems that comply with the local utility and building department’s codes and requirements.

At a federal level, you should familiarize yourself with large-scale bills like the Inflation Reduction Act, available financing options like power purchase agreements and solar leases, and any pending legislation that could impact the solar manufacturing market.

Understand Solar Warranties

Most of the solar equipment you install will include warranties that vary by manufacturer. For example, solar panels come with power performance guarantees and product warranties that commonly last 10 years and often much longer. Inverter warranties usually last at least 5 years. Lithium-ion solar battery warranties typically last around 10 years. Likewise, racking systems often have warranties ranging from 10 to 25 years.

how to become a solar panel installer

Essential Skills for Becoming a Solar Installer

There are some skills that are critical for installing solar panels. If possible, you may be able to work with a team and then you only need to master some of them.

Technical Skills

To become a proficient solar panel installer, you'll need a strong foundation in several technical areas.

  • Electrical knowledge is crucial, as you'll be working with wiring, inverters, and other electrical components. Understanding how to safely and effectively install these systems is vital to ensure optimal performance and safety.

  • Roofing skills are equally important, as many solar installations occur on rooftops. You'll need to know how to navigate different types of roofing materials and structures without causing damage.

  • General construction skills will help you in the overall installation process, allowing you to handle various tasks and troubleshoot issues that may arise on-site.

Certifications and Training

Obtaining the necessary certifications and completing relevant training programs will set you apart in the competitive solar industry. One of the most recognized certifications is the NABCEP certification. This certification demonstrates your expertise and commitment to high standards in solar installation. Additionally, consider enrolling in training programs that provide hands-on experience and up-to-date knowledge on the latest technologies and best practices in solar energy. These programs not only enhance your skills but also increase your employability and credibility with clients.

Soft Skills

While technical expertise is essential, soft skills are equally important for a successful career in solar installation. Excellent customer service skills will help you effectively communicate with clients, understand their needs, and provide satisfactory solutions. Problem-solving skills are crucial as each installation site presents unique challenges that you'll need to navigate efficiently.

Strong communication skills ensure clear and effective interaction with clients, team members, and other stakeholders, facilitating smooth project execution and customer satisfaction. Developing these soft skills will not only improve your job performance but also enhance your professional reputation and client relationships.

Common Mistakes To Avoid When Becoming a Solar Installer

There are also some common pitfalls to avoid when getting started as a solar professional. Avoiding these issues can help with client acquisition and boost sales.

Assuming The Client Understands Solar Energy

Unless they demonstrate otherwise, don’t assume your potential clients know much about solar panels or solar power in general. Educate them on the benefits of solar energy and dispel common myths to close a sale. This is especially true for commonly misunderstood aspects of solar, like power purchase agreements (PPAs).

Use your proposals, website, and additional educational materials like videos, infographics, blogs, and social media posts to educate your customers about solar energy as a home improvement. After installing the solar modules, make sure your customers understand how to read their electricity bills, especially in areas with net metering.

In addition, many solar panel technicians include estimated utility bill savings, the payback period, and tax credit information on the contracts.

Offering Too Many Options At Once

It might be tempting to lay out a bunch of different options for them — different system designs, equipment, financing, etc. While this might benefit more experienced solar clients, it could overwhelm those newer to the solar field. For these clients, it could be more beneficial to present one or two recommendations that they can adjust to or react to based on their situation.

Clients who have a stronger foundation of knowledge about solar power before coming to you might be better suited to talk about system size, racking, or polycrystalline versus thin film solar panels. It’s best to gauge your clients’ understanding of solar before diving into solutions.

Forgetting To Ask For Referrals

Some of your best leads will come from existing customers, especially if you ask for referrals. Often, you will have already earned the trust of referral clients, and they may even have seen one of your projects. This is because your existing customers will help educate new potential customers. As a result, referrals have higher closing rates than other channels for leads and often save time in the sales process. In addition, some solar companies offer a referral bonus to existing customers to encourage referrals.

Roadmap to Success: How to Become a Solar Panel Installer

Establishing a solar business requires learning some new skills. This expertise is often quite varied and includes everything from roof safety practices to permitting requirements. While it might sound like a lot to handle, understanding the common mistakes and how to avoid them will set you up for long-term success in the solar business.

If you’re new to solar or a seasoned veteran with gaps in your solar operations, GreenLancer can help. Our all-in-one marketplace includes solar permit design, engineering stamps, and more. Sign up today for a free consultation!


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