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Should I sign a solar contract before a site visit?

Solar is a first-time investment for most property owners in the U.S. today. As such, at some point during the process of researching solar, you may want to sit down with an installer, ask questions and get a finalized proposal for the job. With this request (often referred to as a ‘Site Visit’) a number of installers may ask you to sign an agreement before coming out to the house.

Is it normal to sign a contract before a site visit?

In short, yes. Signing a contract with installers prior to conducting the engineering site visit is an increasingly common practice nationwide. As the cost of finding and acquiring solar shoppers hovers around 20 percent of the total solar installation cost, solar installers are searching for new ways to save homeowners money. One way installers do this is by limiting the number of sites they send sales reps and engineers to. This helps solar companies cut down on overhead costs, meaning they can provide a more competitive quote to solar shoppers. As a result, it is now common for installers to request that a homeowner sign an agreement before a site visit.

What should I look for in a solar contract?

As with any contract, it’s important to review a solar contract thoroughly before signing. Here are a few key details you should be on the lookout for:

  1. The breakdown of the investment (i.e., the costs and benefits);

  2. The breakdown of applicable federal, state or utility incentives;

  3. The type of equipment, specifically panels and inverter(s);

  4. And, importantly for signing a contract prior to a site visit, any cancellation terms and clauses within the agreement.

What if I don’t want to move forward after the site visit?

For a few reasons, you may find that a solar project isn’t going to work during or after a site visit from an installer. For instance, you may have discovered you’ll need a costly roof replacement prior to installing solar, or that you need a breaker panel upgrade that you didn’t anticipate which will add to the overall expense. Should something like this occur, notify your installer that you may need to reconsider as the investment no longer provides the financial benefit you initially anticipated. While each installer’s practices vary, the majority of solar companies will understand your specific situation and are unlikely to hold you to the pre-site visit contract. The goal of requiring a signed agreement before a first site visit is to gauge your seriousness about the investment and are likely to move forward if all of the final numbers make sense. Additionally, all contractors by law will have a ‘3 day right to cancel’ within the agreement should the consumer decide the investment is not right for them.

When does it make sense to have a site visit and/or sign an agreement?

For many people, investing in solar is a no-brainer; however, the costs and benefits will be different for each homeowner. The position of your roof relative to the sun, the price you currently pay for electricity, and any state and federal incentives will all impact the return on your solar investment. Before bringing an installer out to the home, it is worth researching solar in your area.

One method to do so is the EnergySage Solar Calculator, which allows you to get a free estimate based on your home’s location and monthly electric bill average. Additionally, you can receive free, custom quotes on the EnergySage Marketplace without having to speak to or meet with any installers. If the investment is appealing and you feel comfortable with your understanding of the process, scheduling a site visit and taking the next steps with an installer will make sense.

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