#SolarChat 5/23/12: Solar Pros Share Insider Info About Certifications
Our 5/23/12 #SolarChat, held just prior to a sunny Memorial Day weekend, focused on another topic that is crucial to choosing a solar installer but difficult to simplify for consumers: solar PV installer certifications.
Our thanks go out to panelists: Christine Covington, SEIA’s Manager of Trade and Competitiveness and their certification and training expert; Carl Siegrist of Carl Siegrest Consulting and NABCEP board member; Jeffrey Spies, business development manager for Quick Mount PV who also serves as secretary of NABCEP, Solar Industry Certification Agency; and Andrew Zimdahl, the executive director of Infinite Solar, an organization that assists students in getting their NABCEP certifications.
Nick Korth provided an infinitely quotable tweet that summarizes the importance of certifications to both consumers and the solar industry: “Certifications make homeowners feel comfortable. Solar is like selling a car to someone who never drove a car before.”
Panelists and #SolarChat attendees shared a lot of information and talking points, including the benefits of solar certifications.
Why Choose Certified Solar Installers?
In any industry, certifications mean a third-party has verified that this company provides quality services and adheres to certain standards. It’s like a seal of approval that helps when you’re shopping for a service provider.
From the service provider’s point of view, certification means the company’s processes and procedures follow established and tested best practices, which helps keep profit margins up while ensuring customer satisfaction to encourage word-of-mouth leads and, in the case of solar, helps with the proliferation of a technology that is simply good for the planet. In short, it helps the industry grow.
In solar, because it is a small but rapidly growing industry, the philosophy of one bad apple spoiling the bunch is very true. Many consumers are already skeptical about solar technology — the convenience, the cost-savings, the true benefits. Reference Korth’s quote at the beginning of this post if you have doubts about this. In a perfect world, renewable energy advocates would have to find jobs in other areas of the industry because advocacy wouldn’t be necessary — but it is. People still have questions and doubts about renewable energy and solar PV on their rooftops.
Installers who don’t complete the job right or who use unsafe practices to install panels, which could result in personal injury or property damage, could make consumers even more hesitant to make the leap to solar power.
Our #SolarChat, however, showed that installers are committed to creating a good experience for consumers by educating their workers, following best practices, and engaging in voluntary certifications. Infinite Solar summed up the benefits of certifications succinctly: “Mitigates safety risks to installers, ensures accurately sized systems- systems are meeting customer’s expectations.”
Carl Siegrist, a #SolarChat regular and NABCEP board member, added, “It provides degree of consumer confidence that #solar installer actually has the experience & skills to do the job right.”
What Certifications Are Available?
NABCEP is one of many certifications available in the solar industry. Many who attended are chat say they view it as the gold standard for solar certification.
Siegrist elaborated on NABCEP certification in a series of tweets:
- NABCEP certification recognizes person possessing multi-craft skills & knowledge – strong familiarity with electrical work.
- NABCEP has certs for PV Technical Sales, PV Installer, Solar Heating Installer & co. accreditation for res. installation cos.
- NYSERDA study found NABCEP installed systems had fewer problems than those installed by non-certified installers.
Jeff Spies reminds us: “Several organizations offer solar certification programs including NABCEP, RISE, and UL.”
While solar installation certification is one matter, many solar installers also install the roofs on which solar panels will be mounted. If you’re getting a new roof as part of the package, look for an installer with RISE certification. Installers should also have UL certification for working with electrical systems.
Demeter Power Group tweeted: “Rooftop installers should get their RISE (Roof Integrated Solar Energy) cert from CEIR/NRCA (National Roofing Contractors Association) and projects should get Roofpoint from CEIR (Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing) for rooftop systems.”
Confused about Solar Certifications?
If this alphabet soup of certifications seems like a lot to absorb, read more about NABCEP certification, and stay tuned as we sift through the other certifications and what they mean in future posts.
This is a topic the solar industry cares deeply about, as evidenced by the attendance at our #SolarChat and the lively discussion and idea-sharing that resulted from the chat. Finding a solar installer can be daunting. Start here at EcoOutfitters with your free solar energy savings report and make sure to ask your installer of choice about their experience with homes similar to yours, as well as their certifications.