Contractors are your key to getting the most appropriate solar system for your unique budget and needs. Contractors typically provide free site evaluations as well as comprehensive quotes and payback information.
Tips and best practices for hiring a contractor
- Seek multiple bids — We recommend that you obtain at least three bids from different contractors. Use CSE's bid comparison worksheet to help you compare contractor proposals.
- Hire only a licensed contractor — Check the California State Contractors License Board to ensure that your contractor is licensed and in good standing. Check at www.cslb.ca.gov.
- Never sign a contract under pressure — Insist on at least 48 hours to study any contract.
- Pay as you go — To start a job, never pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. Hold back 10% on the final payment until after the entire job is complete and has been inspected by the proper authorities. Never pay for work before it is done.
- Never pay cash — Pay by check or credit card.
- Get references — It's a good idea to obtain references from the contractor's previous customers. You may also want to consult third-party review resources such as the Better Business Bureau or Yelp before making a final selection.
- Hire insured contractors — Always insist upon a certificate of insurance for general liability insurance. Uninsured workers who are injured on the job may file damage claims against the homeowner.
- Verify workers' compensation insurance — California requires this form of insurance for employers. If your contractor is exempt from the workers' compensation requirement, it means any workers on the job must belong to another subcontractor who is insured.
- Get a thorough written contract before any work begins — Any work valued over $500 requires a contract. In the contract, be sure to specify the start and completion dates of the job and insist on a progressive payment schedule specifying exact costs. For your protection, you may want to invest another few hundred dollars to have an attorney review your contract. Be sure to require that all change orders are documented in writing.
- Keep a job file — Put receipts, permits, plans and anything else pertaining to your job in the file.
- Ask about solar financing options — There are many options available to help homeowners go solar. Don’t forget to ask your contractor about available financing, tax credits and other local incentives that may be available.