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How to choose a solar provider in Southern California

10 min read

Choosing the company to design and install your solar system is a major decision. We break down the key considerations for you.

Make sure you ask the right questions

Solar energy is a great decision for most homes in southern California, but choosing the right firm to handle your design, specification and installation can be daunting.

At Baker Home Energy, we want every customer to feel100% confident they’ve made the right decision in choosing us as their solar partner. So we’ve created this resource to help you understand key considerations and provide you with some resources you’ll need.

Read the official state guide to going solar

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California Solar Consumer Protection Guide

The official state guide about how to select a solar supplier. We insist you read it so you’re confident in choosing Baker Home Energy!

California Solar Consumer Protection Guide

This guide was created by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to help anyone looking for a home solar solution. It takes you through the benefits solar will bring your household, what to expect in terms of solar costs, how to get solar quotes and how to understand what you’re purchasing.

It’s an unbiased resource and covers all key considerations. By law, you’ll need to sign the guide to confirm you’ve read it before you purchase a system.

Baker has always done business based on these guidelines so we’re particularly pleased this information is now a required step in the solar purchasing process. We believe an informed solar buyer is a happy solar buyer.

In addition to the guide, here’s a list of questions every homeowner should ask when selecting a solar provider:

How long has the company been in business?

The solar industry has seen huge growth over the past three years. This has brought many new players into the solar market — some good, some amateur and some a complete scam. In this highly competitive market, many companies don’t have the competence or financial stability to stay in business. When considering a solar installer, ask yourself, “Will my solar installer outlast my solar system?”

‘Orphaned’ systems are unfortunately common in the industry. These are solar solutions installed by a firm who then goes bankrupt, leaving the homeowner without the warranty cover and support they believed they were paying for. This is why it’s so important to select a supplier with a long track record and stable finances.

Where are they based, and do they have a commercial facility?

At the very least, a solar company should operate from an office with warehouse space for storage of solar panels and equipment. In addition, the company should have internal support staff as well as at least one factory-trained technician. We advise not to partner with a company that can’t afford to warehouse inventory. This important step helps identify a company with financial strength.

What are their reviews like?

Take some time to check sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook and BBB.org to read customer reviews and make sure the solar company you’re considering has a positive track record with customer satisfaction.

Do they do business in any other state?

If so, be sure to search online for complaints filed in the state(s). You might be surprised at the audacity of get-rich-quick companies that move into a city or state, open up a shop, and then proceed to take customers to the cleaners with their inferior products, poor installation and service until their reputation catches up with them.

What licenses and insurance does your company have in place?

This is one of the most important questions to ask. Many companies do not have a contractor’s license, and the only way you can get contractor’s liability insurance and a workers’ compensation policy is if you are licensed. If a company doesn’t have these policies in place, you as the homeowner could be liable for an on-the-job injury.

In California, use http://www.cslb.ca.gov to check the current status of the company’s license. Ideally you want a full C-10 contractor vs. just C-48 licensed.

Ask for a copy of the company’s liability and workers’ compensation policies before signing a contract. And never let anyone perform work on your home or business without first seeing evidence that he or she is an employee or subcontractor of the contractor you are working with, and is covered under the contractor’s or subcontractor’s insurance.

Are the installers part of the same firm, and are they properly trained and licensed?

When you compare solar companies, you want to make sure all of their solar installers are licensed electricians. Our parent company, Baker Electric, has been an electrical contractor for over 75 years, so we send only licensed electricians to complete your solar panel installation. Our solar installers are members of local union IBEW 569. We never subcontract out. Be wary of solar companies that do, as subcontracting solar installers can cause problems for a solar provider and for you.

Our team of solar installers even shows up to your house with their own portable toilet, so they won’t have to use yours during the installation. This isn’t something people normally think about when buying a solar system, but it does save you a lot of hassle.

What warranties are offered?

There are two types of warranty: product warranties and work workmanship warranties. Make sure you get both.

Product warranties vary from manufacturer to manufacturer but most solar panels are under warranty for 20-25 years and inverters are covered for 10-25 years. Each solar installer’s workmanship warranty will vary in duration and coverage.

At Baker Electric Solar, we exceed the industry design and installation best practices. We use only premium components through every step of the process and take the extra time necessary to ensure the integrity of both your installation and your roof. We’re so confident you won’t have a problem with our workmanship that we cover it with a 25-year warranty.

What quality of solar panel and equipment is offered?

Not all solar panels are the same quality, and the cheapest on the market do not offer the same performance as quality panels. Likewise, the quality of the fixtures and fittings can vary widely; don’t overlook these.

Choosing good quality products means years of trouble-free energy generation, so be very clear about what is included in your quote. Pay particular attention to the solar panel efficiency rating and warranty period.

Our three panel brands are top quality and are from well-recognized companies: SunPower, LG and Hyundai. We have long standing relationships with our manufacturers, so we can buy panels at great prices that we pass onto you.

Are they transparent and unbiased about the financing options?

Solar is a big investment, and most people can’t afford a cash purchase. For most people who need to finance solar, a loan is the best option, though leases can work well in some circumstances. Be wary of any supplier who pushes you down a particular financing route. Some national suppliers make their money from finance rather than designing or installing the system, which they simply outsourced, so they have vested interests in the finance you choose.

At Baker we have a number of different options including loan and leasing. We will help you select an option that best fits your family’s budget.

Will they take the hassle out of dealing with the authorities and utilities?

The end-to-end solar process is very complicated if you’re trying to do it alone or your solar provider is only taking responsibility for part of the process. In particular, look at permitting and utility company approval.

Permitting: getting permission from your town to install your solar system is a complicated and time consuming process when you’re buying a solar system. A good solar installer will be an expert in this area so they’re a huge help to have on your side.

Utility company approval: this is a complicated process to navigate and you’ll need to be able to understand the detailed and highly technical language of your electric company. That’s not a headache we want you to have to deal with.

Will you be properly trained on the use and maintenance of your solar system?

Some solar installers slap a system on your roof and call it a day. But that’s not how we operate. When you compare solar companies, look for ones that also train you on the use and maintenance of your solar system. Because we’ve installed thousands of systems, we have some pretty good advice on how to get the most out of your solar investment. Understanding the ins and outs of monitoring your solar panel output is important, so only compare solar companies that also teach you how to use, monitor and maintain your system.

Customer reviews

Elfried Somberg
Elfried Somberg
Had a mostly smooth experience with Baker. I felt listened to about what we wanted and needed, and results were delivered in a timely manner. Scheduling was important to us due to an upcoming long stay at our home by my elderly mother. Baker made it all happen before her arrival, which we all appreciate a lot. We did a new roof at the same time and it turned out the previous roofing job (we just bought the place) had been shoddy. We can literally hear the improvement or rather the lack of things to hear😊 The panels are up and running and will give us the freedom to replace gas driven appliances with electric ones. Very happy about that. Read more
Shahnaz Parvizian
Shahnaz Parvizian
We were very happy with Baker. They came right away to give us estimate and answered all of our questions clearly and responded to our phone calls and emails right away. They got the permit and started the roofing and installation sooner than we were expecting. The installers were very good and did a great job. We even decided to use them to fully renew our roofing. The only problem we had was waiting for a month for solar system to be energized by SDG&E. I am recommending Baker to all of our friends who do not have solar system. Thanks to you everyone in Baker. Read more
Rodel C.
Rodel C.
Scott O'Hara and his team at Baker Electric Home Energy have been an amazing group of individuals to work with. Not only were they responsive, they are… Read more
Mary S.
Mary S.
We have had Baker install solar, Tesla batteries, and a complete HVAC system with new insulation. Eric came to fine-tune our most recent HVAC purchase today… Read more
Dana M.
Dana M.
The reason for the repair was that our heating/air conditioner would not turn on after replacing thermostat batteries and checking circuit beakers. I made… Read more
Connie B.
Connie B.
I am so grateful and happy that I picked Baker from 4 bids for my solar installation. The other 3 companies did not recognize that my roof tiles would… Read more
Analiese H.
Analiese H.
Great company, great people, every step of the way. I was referred to Baker through a friend, and was not disappointed. Particularly impressed with my… Read more
Kimberly Herm
Kimberly Herm
Update: I was finally able to get a hold of Baker and get someone scheduled to come back out. Though the insulation having been installed in the attic prior to resolving the issue with the fan made it harder for the technician to assess what was wrong, he was still able to do so and I'm happy to report that with the recent rain, the leaking has not continued. I have used Baker Electric for a lot of work at my house and have had generally good experiences with them. However, after having them perform PM on my HVAC system multiple times, new technicians continue to come out and identify fairly significant issues, such as improperly sealed ducts, that have been over looked every other time they'd been out before. Most recently, Eric did my PM and he did a great job of listening to my concerns about poor indoor air quality and therefore did a thorough inspection to figure out what might be causing these problems and take steps to resolve them. While he did a great job and went above and beyond, it did make me wonder how multiple issues he identified were missed in the past. Additionally, I recently went through Baker to have insulation installed in my attic (a recommendation from my recent PM service). When booking the appointment I expressed concern that one of my bathroom fans was leaking and I wanted it checked out (Baker previously did a replacement of my attic fan, so I know this is something that they have experience with). Baker told me that they would send someone out to take a look at the fan. The only people who came out were the 3rd party contractor who did the insulation install and they said they saw no problems around the fan in the attic but didn't actually look/observe at the fan any further as it was out of their purview. I have called Baker multiple times to follow up regarding having someone look at my fan, as that was one of the things I stressed that I wanted checked out if I was going to move forward with the insulation install and was promised to me that they would. But since they got my money for the project, they haven't returned my calls. Overall, I continue to use Baker as they are better than number of other contractors I have used in the past for various work around my house, and I prefer to use someone I have worked with before who has been generally reliable than find someone new, which is why I'd hoped they be willing to help with my fan issue, but have been unreliable in this situation. Read more
J M
J M
Baker Electric installed solar panels and a battery for our home last summer. The company also installed a new roof for us, in the area where the solar panels were installed. We were extremely pleased with our Baker Electric experience and, in particular, by the quality and knowledge that the Baker Electric team brought to the project. The company does such a professional job "project managing" the whole process – Carmen, our Project Coordinator, was always there to ensure we understood the status of the project and to answer our questions. And our post-installation questions were also addressed to our satisfaction. The team who installed our new roof was just exceptional – Pedro and Nick were the Team Leads for the roofing team, and we found them to be professional and focused on not only doing a great job on the roof work but also, ensuring that our questions were answered and requests were addressed during the entire roofing process. Our Baker Electric-installed solar energy system has been in place for about 8 months now, and we are very glad that we chose Baker Electric for this project. Read more
Lance Pelky
Lance Pelky
The team at Baker has been fabulous! My original solar installation company unexpectedly closed its doors and I needed assistance with a battery issue. I contacted Baker. I worked with both David Fountain and Eddie Castro. These professionals communicate, know what they are doing – and get the job done. Great job guys. They didn’t pay me to say this. I thought I’d post this as I too rely on honest reviews. I just tell it as it is. I would include Baker in your discussions around residential solar and battery. Read more
Chad McDonald
Chad McDonald
Eric Young did a great job! Came out for a tuneup and walked me through everything. Cleaned the dirt and dust buildup in the furnace. Fixed our AC quickly. Eric was very knowledgeable and gave good advice on things to look out for. Appreciate his attention to detail and friendly personality. Would recommend Eric if needed a tech to look at your unit. Read more
Erika Shuh
Erika Shuh
Eric was prompt, efficient, and very courteous. I really appreciate that he was knowledgeable and that he respectfully answered my numerous questions. His patience explaining anything technical and updating me about the install process confirmed my reasons for choosing Baker— good products, clear straightforward explanations, highly skilled and experienced employees who provide great customer service. Top flight! Happy customer! Read more
Based on 404 reviews
Based on 427 reviews

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