Make the right choice when hiring your contractor

Select the right contractor before installing your renewable energy system. This decision is one of the most important ones you can make when building a new energy system.

PLEASE NOTE: PG&E received numerous reports of telemarketing and solar scams. The scams are happening throughout all of California. The scams attempt to generate sales through dishonest methods. View the alert to learn more. Download Consumer Alert (PDF, 94 KB).

 

Understanding your contractor’s tasks

Qualified, licensed contractors save you time and money. Your contractor can:

 

  • Help select and install the most productive generating system for your home
  • Submit an application for the appropriate PG&E incentive program
  • Walk you through financing options for purchasing or leasing
  • Work with PG&E to ensure that your system is interconnected safely to the grid
  • Provide warranty information
  • Create a repair and maintenance schedule

 

Following the steps for choosing the right contractor

Learn the steps for choosing the right contractor to install your renewable energy system.

 

  1. Select an experienced contractor.

    Find solar energy contractors in the Go Solar California database of solar installers, contractors and retailers in California. Visit Database of Solar Installers, Contractors, and Retailers in California. The site enables you to search for contractors by your ZIP Code. Filter results by the average cost per watt to learn how much other customers pay.

    Find solar water heating contractors. Visit the CSI-Thermal Contractor Database to find contractors who can install systems in your area. Visit Find a Solar Water Heating Contractor.

  2. Verify the contractor’s license.

    Your contractor must have an active A, B, C-10 or C-46 license. A C-4 or C-36 license is needed for solar water heating installations. When you meet the contractor for the first time, confirm that they are authorized. Ask to view their Contractors’ State License Board (CSLB) "pocket license" and a photo ID.

    Contact the CSLB to verify the contractor’s authorization. Visit Contractors State License Board. You can also call 1-800-321-2752.

  3. Request bids from at least three solar contractors.

    Contractors can visit your home and view your past energy usage and future energy needs. The two most important figures that potential solar contractors can provide are:

    • The amount of electricity the system can produce
    • The net cost of the system per watt
    This information can provide an accurate size of the system you need and the total cost. Each contractor is expected to suggest a similar-sized system for your home’s need. Ask the contractor why the size differs, if the bid for the system varies greatly.

 

Verifying information about your contractor

Hire contractors who are in good standing and qualified to do the work. Get answers to the following questions before selecting a contractor:

 

  • Does the contractor have any CSLB complaints pending?
  • Is the contractor a member of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA)?
  • Does the contractor have reviews on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website?
  • Does the contractor have workers’ compensation insurance?

 

Comparing bids

It pays to be thorough and organized. Take advantage of our helpful bid comparison worksheets. Compare what each contractor is offering, and choose from three bids.

View the solar energy worksheet. Download Solar Contractor Bid Comparison Form (PDF, 168 KB).

View the solar water heating worksheet. Download Solar Water Heating Bid Comparison Form (PDF, 802 KB).

The following additional advice can help you select the winning bid:

 

  • Compare apples to apples. Contractors often use different or confusing terms. Ask for clarification to ensure that you are comparing equal or similar items.
  • Dig in for the details. Each bid must include a full estimate. All anticipated work and associated costs must be detailed. Ask for a more detailed estimate if information is missing.
  • Use the "Goldilocks" principle. Consider a low bid carefully. The low bid may be a red flag that the contractor is cutting corners. Similarly, a high bid can mean an unnecessarily oversized system. Compare average project costs to your bids on the following website. Visit Go Solar California.
  • Ask questions. Don’t hesitate to ask contractors about their businesses, the bid for your system or any terms that you don’t understand. Request references from previous customers. Ensure that the previous clients are satisfied and their installed systems are performing well.

 

Reading the fine print

Read your energy system installation contract before signing. View and review all warranties and maintenance agreements. Ensure that you receive the final price quote in writing. Only sign the contract after fully understanding the terms and total costs involved.

Know the law

Never pay a down payment of more than 10 percent of the contract price or $1,000 (whichever amount is the least). This regulation is determined by California state law. Don’t make the final payment until the system is fully installed and operating properly.

Use the PG&E solar calculator

Get an estimate of the required system size and price, based on your home with our solar calculator. 

Complete the solar checklist

Make going solar easier and effective with our step-by-step checklist.