Installing solar PV can be a big investment, and like any investment, it’s always worth doing due diligence when picking the right installer for you. It can be difficult with so many options, each with their own pros and cons. Between new entrants and established incumbents, and the wide range of specialties and experience. In this blog, we will round up a list of criteria to help find the right installer for your solar investment.
How experienced is the company?
A company’s experience can be the difference between a drawn-out, expensive, and lacklustre installation and one done with professionalism, efficiency, and effectiveness. We'd say that an experienced solar installer is one who has been in the industry for more than 4 years, consistently installing quality systems for happy customers thousands of times over. Many companies will display how long they’ve been established on their website, along with testimonials and case studies from happy customers.
Spirit Energy has been designing and installing high-quality solar PV systems for over 12-years, with great reviews and thousands of happy customers.
What is the company’s reputation, and what are their reviews?
Perhaps you heard of the company through your neighbour installing solar with them, or you heard about them on a flyer through your door, or maybe you happened to stumble across them when doing some research. Reputation and reviews are massive indicators of an installer’s quality and professionalism. An installer's whole business is built upon how their customers and prospective customers feel about them; hence, a good installer is one that cares about their customers. One indicator of this is Google reviews. Google reviews are a great way to check how customers, both new and long-standing, feel about the company.
We have a 4.6 rating on Google Reviews and a 4.3 rating on Trustpilot. Check out some testimonials from our customers!
Is the company local to you?
Buying ‘locally sourced’ has become quite a buzzword lately, but from a pessimistic standpoint, it's often synonymous with high prices. But in the solar industry, this couldn’t be further from the truth. When installing a solar system, one of the most significant costs is the installer's time, i.e., the time it takes to install. The further away from the installer you live, the longer it will take for them to get there; this means less time is spent installing per day, and therefore the installation will take longer.
Of course, a good installer knows this, and knows that they will struggle to price competitively. They should inform you that you may be better off with a local installer if you’re outside their typical install area.
Additionally, if you ever needed your system serviced, you would likely have slower response times for repairs for the same reasons.
Spirit installs within a roughly 40-mile radius of our offices in Reading, Berkshire, for domestic clients. This is because we feel that we wouldn’t be able to price competitively outside of this area.
When you call, who picks up the phone?
When it comes to customer service and how you want a company to treat you, we hear time and time again that customers value our direct, client-to-technical designer experience. A good installer will talk through different options with you and discuss cost-effectiveness. A few indicators of this include:
-How do they typically communicate with their customers? Is it personal or bureaucratic?
-Do they pick up the phone?
-Can they walk you through the pipeline from quotation to completion?
-Does that pipeline sound high-quality, professional, and tailored to you?
When you call us here at Spirit Energy, you’ll be put through to one of our expert design technicians who will create a quote specialised to your needs, primarily based on the available roof space, house's needs, and your budget.
Are they MCS certified?
Choosing an MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) certified solar installer is vital for customers to ensure high-quality work and consumer protection. The MCS certification is a nationally recognised quality assurance scheme in the UK that confirms both the installer and the products used meet rigorous standards.
As a customer, you can trust that an MCS certified installer possesses the necessary skills and knowledge and uses MCS certified kit. They are also obliged to provide clear and detailed information about the system's performance, costs, and warranty and offer a complaint handling process. Furthermore, MCS certification is a requirement for access to many government incentives for solar panels, such as the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG), enhancing the financial viability of your solar project.
If you decide to sell your property, an MCS certified installation can also improve its resale value, providing prospective buyers with assurance of the system's quality and compliance. Therefore, MCS certification provides customers with confidence in the quality of the installation, the accuracy of energy production estimates, and overall service integrity.
We’ve been MCS certified for as long as we’ve existed, meaning our clients have had access to government incentives, the SEG, high service quality, and greater property value for over 12 years.
Does the installer take care of every aspect of the installation?
You should be able to rely on your installer to manage all aspects of the project, providing a hassle-free experience. A high-quality installer will ensure that all necessary steps are taken care of, allowing you to rest easy knowing that professionals are handling your installation. This includes maintaining a single point of contact, simplifying communication, and making your life easier throughout the process. By leveraging their industry knowledge, a proficient installer can provide cost-effective solutions, identify fair prices, and avoid overpriced services or products. Furthermore, an experienced installer who handles everything in-house ensures reputable service. They have established relationships with scaffolding companies, expertise in DNO applications, experience conducting structural surveys, and a deep understanding of the solar kit. Hence, they can execute each step of the project with precision and professionalism, providing a seamless, reliable, and efficient solar installation experience.
Additionally, they will be able to take care of the planning permission applications for you, further ensuring a good experience with a single point of contact between you and the installer.
Spirit Energy handles everything in the house, front to back, here in Reading. We answer the phones, we get you a quote, we design your system, we buy the kit directly, we carry out the structural surveys, we deal with your planning permission and DNO application, we deal with the scaffolding businesses, and we have our own in-house contractors to install your panels. We’ve been doing this for over 12 years and have vast industry knowledge and experience.
Do they subcontract their installations?
In the solar installation process, whether a company takes on the entire project or subcontracts certain parts can significantly impact the customer experience and installation quality control.
When installers subcontract, they may lose some control over the quality and timeline of the project, and accountability can be dispersed. For instance, there have been instances where installers lose subcontractors to higher bidders, leaving customers in limbo for over a year awaiting their installation.
A solar installer who handles the project entirely in-house can provide a seamless experience with less paperwork and direct accountability. They can ensure consistent quality control throughout the process and work efficiently to meet project deadlines. When choosing an installer, ask about their subcontracting practises and consider how this might impact your project. An installer who is fully invested in your project from start to finish may provide a smoother, more reliable experience.
We do not use subcontractors; instead, we have our own in-house installation team, all fully trained and with years of experience, most with over 5-years.
Are their systems MCS compliant?
To reiterate the earlier point about MCS certification, your installation being compliant can be a big factor in the resale value of your house, along with the longevity of the system. Your installer having this certification ensures your system’s performance, costs, and warranty.
Once again, Spirit has been MCS certified since the beginning of our inception. Installing MCS compliant systems for over 12 years.
Do they take the time to do DNO applications?
DNO stands for Distribution Network Operator. These are the companies that own and operate the power lines and infrastructure that deliver electricity from the national transmission network to homes and businesses in the UK. A DNO application is a necessary step when installing a solar system or residential battery because the electricity generated by the panels is often fed back into the grid. Therefore, the DNO needs to be informed and give permission for this to happen. Unfortunately, a DNO application can take around 4 months to be approved. However, if the system is rated below 3.6 kWh, the DNO does not need to be installed.
Some solar PV and battery installers may try to push their customers towards installing a system below 3.6 kWh so that they don’t have to wait 4 months to get paid for the installation. The advantage of a system over 3.6 kWh is simply that you will be able to get more power out of your roof, plus your house will be significantly more valuable.
We believe the advantages massively outweigh the downsides of a DNO application. Just from a purely financial perspective, the time spent waiting for the application will be earned back in spades from the money saved and the increased property value of your home. We almost always do installs that require a DNO application and have years of experience dealing with network operators.
Do they take the time to do structural surveys?
It’s also worth finding out whether the installer does structural surveys before they install your new system. A structural survey will determine whether your roof is strong enough to support the weight of the panels. If the survey is carried out, then there’s a far greater risk of causing structural damage to your roof or potentially causing it to collapse. A decent installer would carry out the survey before every installation.
All our installations are done with the blessing of a structural survey beforehand, minimising any risks to you, your roof, and our workers.
Does the installer provide a kit and workmanship warranty?
A warranty provides peace of mind that your new kit will survive well beyond its payback period to be able to make you money. Good installers will be able to provide a warranty on the kit itself through the manufacturer, as well as a workmanship warranty, guaranteeing the installation's longevity.
We provide both a kit and a workmanship warranty on our installations, helping to ensure peace of mind for our clients.
Kit quality and certification as an indicator of quality
For premium-quality kits, installers often must be certified to be able to install them, such as the Tesla Powerwall 2. These certifications are not easy to earn and require rigorous testing. Additionally, some kits can be highly complicated and technical to install; ergo, some lower-quality installers will not be able to install them. All this is to say that, though installers often sell homogenous products, such as solar panels, you shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that the overall product is homogenous. High-quality installers will be certified to install premium, exclusive kit, showing care in their craft in that they have the technical ability to provide a better and more reliable experience than others, with support guaranteed down the line.
We're MCS certified for solar PV, OZEV accredited for EV charging, and NICEIC, Tesla, SunPower, SolarEdge, Enphase, GSE, Viridian, and CHAS health and safety approved and accredited. We are expert installers with thousands of superb installations. Read more about out accreditations here.