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How To Become A Solar Installer: Top Tips Plus Mistakes To Avoid

Updated: May 9, 2023



The solar energy industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Due to exceptional opportunities, many new solar installers are entering the market.

As with most things, there is a learning curve involved with the solar installation process. 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 starting out as a solar energy technician.

Top Tips For New Solar Installers


There are many tricks of the trade that are critical to prosper as a solar provider. And, solar panel systems vary by the 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 Terminology


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 Skills


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

  • 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 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.

  • 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 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, before launching your solar installation company, it is critical to know the qualifications in your state.

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

  • 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. In addition, many OSHA courses are 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


From permitting requirements to local incentives and rebates, the solar energy industry varies by state and local governments. It is essential to know the regulations and perks in your area. If there are additional incentives beyond the federal tax credit, let solar shoppers know and put this information on 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. Consider, too, state-wide guidelines like NEM 3.0 in California. 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 the 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 very least 5 years. Lithium-ion solar battery warranties typically last around 10 years. Likewise, racking systems often have warranties ranging from 10 – 25 years.


Common Mistakes To Avoid


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 be good for 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 or react to based on their situation. Clients that 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.


Conclusion


Establishing a solar business does require learning some new skills. Often, this expertise is 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 and have gaps in your solar operations, GreenLancer can help. Our all-in-one marketplace includes permit design, engineering stamps, solar proposals, feasibility studies, and more. Sign up today for a free consultation!



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