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1 Residential Solar Guide: How to Evaluate Vendors & Save 70% Off Total System Costs WIth Current Incentives and Available Credits! Contact American Solar Today!

2 Fourth in a four-part series, this resource guide highlights the steps homeowners should take when selecting a solar energy company. We ll identify things you should know before contacting potential contractors, how to find solar contractors and what credentials they should have. Important Guidelines for Choosing a Solar Energy Company Many homeowners recognize the value proposition solar energy provides and want to team up with a qualified solar company to start reaping the benefits. You may already know solar will save you money, but you also want to get the most affordable system and best service possible. A well qualified solar contractor will identify the right system for you, apply all available incentives to your purchase, and stand behind your system for years to come. But how do you find the best solar company for your installation? The first step is to educate yourself on solar energy as it pertains to your requirements. If you ve read the first three resource guides in this series, you will already have a good handle on solar energy. For example, you will have learned: How solar works Why now is the perfect time to go solar The benefits of using solar Available solar systems and how to choose what s right for your home How solar saves you money and why it s an affordable energy option Why solar energy has become the energy option of choice for many homeowners How current incentives reduce solar installation costs Ways financing makes solar even more affordable Methods for calculating your return on investment Different ways you can purchase a solar electric system Advantages and comparisons for direct purchase, low upfront lease and prepaid lease options So what s next? You now need to thoroughly evaluate potential solar contractors. Then, you can select the solar company that will deliver what you need, as well as become a real partner throughout the life of your system. Evaluate Your Situation and Requirements It s probably best for you to do some of the learning legwork on your own. Although a reputable solar company will educate you on all aspects of a solar energy installation, you should identify a few things prior to your first meeting. 1

3 If you haven t read the first three resource guides in this series, they would provide a great starting point for your education. Here are some questions you should answer: What is your current energy use? Collect your past 12 months of utility bills to analyze your usage. Energy usage is shown in kilowatt hours also seen as kwh. What are your available funds for your solar project? Do you have a budget and how do you plan to finance your solar system? Do you know how solar energy basically works? In addition to the American Solar resource guides, tons of online resources exist for you to learn about solar. You can get as detailed as you want in learning about how solar energy works. Have you looked at your home and evaluated whether it s conducive for solar? In other words, do you have anything like trees or buildings that shade a significant part of your home? Do you have ample roof space to house panels? What are your expectations with a solar installation? By how much do you want to off-set your utility bills? Most solar applications will offset utility costs between 25 and 75 percent, depending upon individual circumstances. Having realistic expectations will help ensure a successful installation. Have you conducted a cost-benefit analysis? Do the benefits outweigh the costs of your solar installation? Identify and Contact Prospective Solar Contractors After you ve thought about the issues surrounding a solar installation, it s time to contact reputable contractors. Professional solar system installers will help expand on the information you ve already collected, as well as educate you further on the right system for your home. How do you find the most qualified solar contractors? A good place to find potential vendors is your electric utility s recommendations and programs. For example, Arizona Public Service (APS) created a Qualified Solar Installer or QSI program. The purpose of the QSI program is to help APS customers identify solar contractors who have achieved an established level of excellence. APS requires solar companies to meet the following criteria for QSI certification: Must be appropriately licensed with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Must demonstrate exceptional knowledge in solar system design and installation practices. Must thoroughly understand APS policies and procedures. Must routinely receive high customer satisfaction ratings and reviews. 2

4 Solar companies who are approved for the QSI program receive a wide range of advantages that differentiate them in the marketplace. In turn, these benefits are passed on to homeowners. For example, QSI vendors receive high levels of training and continuing education on system design, installation, ethics and the utility processes. In addition, QSI vendors are well trained on industry best practices and installation safeguards. You can find QSI vendors listed on the APS website. Many of the companies that are qualified through the APS program work in all parts of Arizona. So if you are not in APS service territory you should consider using the list as a guide and asking if these installation companies work in your area. Once you identify good prospects, the solar company should provide you detailed information on the following: Solar system size and configuration. Solar system configurations are somewhat complex and it s important your solar company walks you through all of the system components. The contractor should advise you on the steps taken to determine the right system size and explain exactly how each component in the system will perform. You should come away knowing about solar panel sizes, system wattage and energy output, for example. Solar system cost. After learning about the right-sized system for your home, you need to know how much that system will cost. Your solar contractor will explain in detail the cost factors involved, how they relate to your desired utility offset expectations and the total cost of the recommended system. Through careful analysis of all trade-offs, you can arrive at the best system configuration for your budget and expectations. Financial incentives. Once you know the total system cost, your solar company will outline all available incentives. You ll get a prepared analysis of utility rebates and other incentives applied directly to your initial cost. Your solar contractor will also provide you with information on tax credits and sales tax exemptions that further lower your investment cost. You can expect your final system cost to be drastically lower after these incentives are applied. System life. You need to know how long you can expect your solar system to last to determine the return on your investment. A competent solar company will provide you with an expected system life time that is backed-up by a warranty. Most solar panels last between 25 and 30 years. However, if they are guaranteed for a shorter period of time, you should make sure you get a return on investment before the end of the system s expected life. Service. Although solar systems are very reliable, you still want your solar company to be around when you need them. Learn about service policies and what s covered under warranties. These should be explained in detail when you meet with your solar contractors and be provided in writing within your purchase documents. 3

5 Narrowing Your Prospects Finding the right solar contractor can make the difference in whether your project delivers your expected benefits. Here are some important questions to ask when evaluating with each potential solar contractor: What s the contractor s experience level in terms of years in business and number of systems installed? Obviously, you want a solar company who knows what they re doing. The more time spent in the industry, the more the company is likely to have learned. Also, confirm the years they have been installing solar. Many companies were once servicing pools or AC units and have just recently decided to get into solar. Do they have ample experience in roofing? It is absolutely critical to determine if your potential solar installers are experienced with roofing and know how a solar system will affect your existing roof. Look on the Registrar of Contractors (ROC) website to confirm they are licensed roofing contractors. If so, they will have a K-42 license. Roofing is complex and your solar contractor must know how to best install your solar system on your existing roof structure. Have they installed thousands of systems or just a few? Have they been around for a long time and are they likely to be around for the foreseeable future? An experienced contractor will know all the ins and outs of system selection, installation, permitting, incentives, repair and more. What about their background? Is the solar company licensed and insured? A quick look at the third-party accrediting and rating agencies can ensure you re working with a properly credentialed business. You can conduct a search at the Registrar of Contractors (ROC) to verify appropriate licensing and performance of any registered contractor. The purpose of the ROC is to promote quality construction by Arizona contractors though a licensing and regulatory system designed to protect the public. The Better Business Bureau can help you find a business you can trust. You can use the online search function to locate trustworthy companies by name, industry, location or phone number. Also, as mentioned previously, check with your utility for recommended installers that service your area, such as the APS Qualified Solar Installer list. Are they financially viable? You want to make sure your contractor is likely to be around for the life of your system. Solid financial performance can help signify staying power. Do they offer multiple financing opportunities? To provide the best flexibility for your budget, you might want to explore additional financing arrangements besides paying cash. Does your solar company have relationships with various financial institutions and leasing companies? 4

6 For example, you can pay cash upfront for your system by using existing funds or taking out a home equity loan. Or, you can finance your system through a variety of options and sources. Here are some examples: The Solar Select program is offered through The Biltmore Bank of Arizona. It provides payment term options ranging from 8 to 10 years and includes innovative 18-month interest-only options. Homeowners benefit by having additional time to file and earn their federal and state tax credits before they begin making loan payments. The GE Money Home Design offers financing programs that include zero down. Other standard financing options include deferred interest and open term with payment options. The SunRun Power Plan locks in the rates you re paying for electricity for the next 20 years. As your utility rates increase, your SunRun bill will remain low, and your savings will add up. SunRun also offers prepaid lease options. If you thoroughly consider your requirements and conduct the proper due diligence when selecting your solar company, you should be well on your way to saving money with solar energy. With the right solar partner, you should meet your expectations and achieve the desired level of success throughout the life of your system. 5

7 Why American Solar? Choosing the right solar contractor can make all the difference in your level of success. The top ten reasons to use American Solar include: 1. Unmatched Experience. American Solar installs both residential solar electric and solar hot water systems. With over 3,200 PV systems installed in Arizona, experience matters. Don t be a guinea pig for an unproven company. 2. Longevity and Financial Strength. American Solar has been in operation for over 10 years and counting. Our financial stability includes a strong balance sheet and significant string of profitability. With a product designed to operate for decades, shouldn t you choose an installer likely to do the same? 3. Arizona-Based Company. American Solar has unique knowledge in how to design systems for Arizona s intense climate. 4. Clean ROC and BBB History. A quick search with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors and the Better Business Bureau can save you from a costly mistake. Plus, we get rave reviews on Angie s List. 5. Name-Brand, Best-in-Class Components. A low price is only a good value if the products deliver on their promises. We only install quality components that live up to expectations from financially stable manufacturers Year Workmanship and Production Guarantee. What good is an estimate without a binding guarantee? We stand behind our work and we put it in writing. 7. Licensed Roofing Contractor. We know roofing! Because solar installations require significant roof integration, we carefully inspect your roof (for free) and estimate its lifespan. Plus, we know how to avoid roof issues like water penetration and other damaging effects. 8. Investment Options. American Solar provides multiple ways to make an investment in solar. We analyze all options and present you with quantified results so you can select what s best for your situation. Regardless of how much you wish to invest any solar option is better than paying your current utility bill! 9. Incentive and Permitting Help. American Solar knows the ins and outs of the solar industry. We will apply all eligible incentives and rebates to your purchase price. We ll advise you of current government and tax incentives you can expect to get after your purchase. Plus, we ll secure all necessary permits and work with your HOA if needed. 10. Experienced Project Management & Customer Service. We perform all installation work ourselves, and assign dedicated project managers to oversee every aspect of your project. We have a dedicated customer service department that will be here to support you when you need us for years to come. 6

8 Let s Get Started! There s never been a better time to go solar. You can be on your way to saving money in no time. We re happy to prepare a free, no obligation analysis and cost estimate. To do this, we start by collecting three pieces of information: 1. To size your system accurately, we review the last 12 months of your electricity usage. Your past bills or your utility s web site will supply the needed information. 2. With your address, we use online aerial photography tools to inspect your roof features and available unshaded space. We can then determine estimated production levels. Although panels will perform under cloudy conditions, they re very sensitive to shade. As we get further along in the process, we ll conduct a thorough on-site inspection and analysis. 3. We also want to understand your objectives for solar electric offset. On average, the amount our customers offset their utility bills ranges from 30 percent to 92 percent. The percentage you receive will be based on your home s physical limitations. Call or us today. We re here to answer any questions or provide your free analysis and quote. American Solar 1475 N. Scottsdale Rd., Suite #410 Scottsdale, AZ Tel: Fax: Southern Arizona 2539 North Balboa, Suite 115 Tucson, AZ Tel: Northern Arizona Tel:

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