If you are thinking about going solar, I’ll start by saying I love the idea of solar but….
Why Go Solar?
Simply put getting solar installed on your home is a small measure of independence. Today is flag day, a day to remember what our founding fathers were trying to do and what the flag really means. Kapernick and others aside, what our flag means around the world is freedom, independence and opportunity. Solar fits that very neatly because it reduces your dependance on the big power companies.
Those same power companies don’t want you to install solar any more. They are buying cheap desert land and building massive solar arrays to keep your wallet open to them. Our Solar system paid for itself in under 6 years. Now it is free power but suddenly Panasonic, the company that made the panels, shut down its solar division. Now panels are slightly bigger so if I need a replacement, I am screwed.
Choose Your Installer Carefully.
We didn’t go with Tesla or SunRun. At the time they were double the quotes we got from Pingo, LA Solar and Altair on EnergySage.com. I chose three to come out to the house and look at the house. Oddly all three were like used car salesman. “Buy know and I’ll knock of $100.”, and that kind of thing. Honestly I hate salespeople. If you have a great product it will sell itself. Solar is that product so it comes down to price and service.
At the end of the day it was very close between two companies bidding the same system for about the same price. One responded quicker so I picked them. Each time I interact with LA Solar my rating for them loses a star. Initially the sales person was very nice and had the lowest used car guy factor. We went with him and during installation I realized there was something missing. Those nice looking skirts around the panels.
When I called the sales person he said after installation is signed off we will get to them. Next thing I know he isn’t working there and the skirts “weren’t in the contract” so they would be another chunk of change. I skipped it feeling like I had just gone to the “accessories” guy of the used car dealership. Then it was time to talk to the manager about my great system. The installers installed it at the bottom of the roofline instead of the top so I could add three more panels in the future. The also shaded the bottom three an hour earlier each day.
The Follow Up Service Matters
After five years of “owning” a system that I can’t do anything with except wash panels I asked for those three extra panels. The “engineer” showed up when I wasn’t home and told me they needed to be on the other side of the roof where it is shaded by the neighbors house in the afternoons. Dejected I declined to add the three panels.
A few months ago the inverter “quit” suddenly and our system was no longer able to produce power. LA Solar sent an email that the production stopped and a new inverter was on order. A little over 6 weeks later, under warranty a new slightly different inverter was installed. The cellular monitoring system I paid for was removed, and the tech said the new ones don’t need it. They just connect to wifi. The tech drilled a bunch of new holes in my house because the bracket was different. I had to seal the old holes myself. He was going to leave them open.
A New Inverter
The installation tech from LA Solar said he would enter the codes at the office and I should see the production in my app in a day or so. A week later I didn’t and was given three options. Pay for a wi fi extender or more expensive zigbee wifi extender or staple wires on my house and connect to my home network. The big problem with these three options is they all allow a connection to my home network. Remember the Hikvision and Dakua backdoors?
After a call to SolarEdge it was clear the only secure answer was the wifi extender with a walled connection on a guest network so my information was safe. The wifi gateway option suddenly went away and I received a message that my production warranty was now void because they could not monitor my system.
The moral of the story is read your contract and make sure it says who pays to monitor the system and repair it if something goes wrong. More importantly who backs the warranty when a vendor shuts down production.