Choosing an installer can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Read the sections below to learn more about how to choose a solar installer best suited to your needs.
The Step-by-Step Solar Process
- Check the solar potential of your rooftop using the SolarTO Map.
- Assess the age and condition of your roof. If your roof is older than ten years, have the condition assessed by a roofer.
- Review your electricity bills and add up your usage (in kWh) over 12 months to determine your annual electricity usage. To see how much electricity can be offset by solar, compare your usage with the annual solar electricity generation estimated by the SolarTO Map.
- Taking steps to reduce your energy consumption before installing solar can save you money on energy costs and reduce the number of solar panels you need. Refer to the City’s BetterHomesTO website to explore options to increase your energy efficiency.
- Obtain at least three proposals from different solar installers. Refer to the Solar Directory to find installers serving the GTA.
- Your selected solar installer will submit a Distributed Energy Resource (DER) Pre-Assessment application to Toronto Hydro to confirm grid capacity. If the DER is approved, continue to the next step.
- Your selected installer will conduct a site inspection to determine the best system size and location for your panels. You will review the design and sign the proposal.
- Ask your installer if your roof requires structural reinforcement or replacement. Your installer will arrange the structural review of your roof as part of the Building Permit requirements.
- Toronto Hydro will complete a technical site assessment before you submit your Offer to Connect and Connection Cost Agreement and final payments.
- Explore available financing and incentives by referring to the Financing & Incentives tab.
- Your solar installer will file applications for the required permits, finalize the design, procure the equipment and install the system.
- Once your installer is ready to connect the system to the grid, they will submit a request to isolate.
- The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) will complete their inspection of your system and provide a certificate. The certificate is mailed to Toronto Hydro.
- Toronto Hydro will complete a final inspection and install a bi-directional meter.
- You’re ready to start harnessing the power of the sun!
Choosing a Solar Installer
Getting quotes from solar installers
The installers should provide an assessment of the solar potential of your property based on your information (satellite photos of your property, your electricity bills, etc.). An in-person site visit is strongly recommended.
Important requests and questions to ask:
- How long has the installation company been in business?
- How many systems have they installed?
- What certification does the company have? The installer or their subcontractor should have an electrical license.
- What warranty does the company provide on their products and workmanship?
- Request two to three references from previous projects with similar scope; be sure to check references.
- Review independent online customer reviews on websites such as the Better Business Bureau, HomeStars etc.
- Request proof of insurance for personal liability, Worker’s Compensation and property damage coverage.
Reviewing & comparing the quotes
Ask about system size (measured in kW), annual or monthly energy production (measured in kWh) and how these were determined:
- Aside from the physical characteristics of your roof, the solar installer should analyze your electricity bills to estimate your annual energy consumption in order to properly size the system and estimate your savings.
- Your contractor must ensure that your system does not produce more electricity than the property consumes.
Ask for the cost per watt ($/W) of the solar system:
- Cost per watt is calculated by dividing the total system cost by the number of watts in the system. The cost per watt is the most useful metric to compare quotes. It allows you to make an apples-to-apples comparison of quotes that may differ in solar panel brand, total wattage, etc.
Ask about their financial calculations:
- The project cost estimate should include a breakdown including:
- Solar equipment: solar modules, racking, wiring, inverter, etc.
- Installation (labour)
- Permitting fees (building permit) and grid connection fee
- Design engineering and other services
- What is the payback period and how did they calculate it?
- How did they calculate the energy bill savings from installing solar?
- In their calculations, what per cent increase in electricity rate did they assume over the life of the solar system?
- Do they provide any financing options?
Questions for your installer
- What is the ideal location & orientation for the solar panels on your property? The contractor should provide a diagram showing the layout of the solar installation that shows the location of the panels, the inverter and how the wiring will be connected to your electrical panel. The layout should also account for:
- Obstructions on your roof such as vents, chimney, etc.
- The angle and orientation of your roof
- Potential shading from nearby trees and buildings
- Has the solar installer verified that Toronto Hydro has the grid capacity to connect the solar installation?
- Net metered solar projects feed excess electricity into the grid, so if the grid infrastructure is constrained in your area, Toronto Hydro may not be able to connect your project to the grid. If there is no grid capacity, Toronto Hydro will either instruct you to install a smaller system or to check back at a later date.
- If the installer requires an upfront deposit at contract signing, make sure it is refundable or payable only after Toronto Hydro confirms that there is capacity to connect your system.
- Does the roof require replacement or structural reinforcement to support the solar panels?
- Can your electrical service panel handle the added load of the solar system or does it require an upgrade?
- How can you monitor performance of the system and ensure it matches your expected energy generation and payback period? Inquire about the cost of monitoring equipment.
- Confirm that installer will file all required permit applications including the Building Permit, Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) permit and the utility interconnection permit for Net Metering as well as the timeline of these permits.
- If you are planning any changes that will affect your electricity use, such as buying an electric vehicle (EV), planning an addition to your home, or investing in energy efficiency upgrades, discuss it with your installer in advance so they can factor it in the design of the solar system.
- If interested, inquire about upgrades such as battery storage and an electric vehicle (EV) charger to accommodate for a future EV purchase. If you decide to postpone the purchase of battery storage, ask your installer to make your installation ‘battery ready’.
Reviewing your contract
When reviewing your contract, note the following:
- Project timeline.
- Which companies (including sub-contractors) will be doing the work?
- Specification sheets on the system components being installed.
- Amount of energy generation expected annually.
- Warranties for the system and installation.
- Contractor will file all required permit applications.
- Payment schedule.
- Process for amending the contract.
- Resolution process.