As solar energy becomes mainstream because of falling solar panel prices and strong financial incentives, your next question may be: "Where on earth do I buy solar in Baltimore?"
The good news for Baltimore is that our region's solar industry is strong, and according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Maryland's solar industry is bigger than our crab industry. This means homeowners have plenty of options to find reputable firms to install, finance and service rooftop solar systems.
Before you call solar contractors, first check out the U.S. Department of Energy's excellent Consumer's Guide to Solar Electricity for the Home. This comprehensive guide will jump start your solar know-how and you will be a more informed customer.
If your single-family home (that you own) seems a good solar candidate (read: no trees and shade), a good place to start for solar company recommendations is to ask current solar homeowners nearby. Also, ask for recommendations on Facebook; more people have solar than you may expect. We've also listed the largest players in the Baltimore market below.
A few questions to ask a potential solar installer:
- Are you licensed, bonded and insured specifically for solar installations (not just electricity or roof work)?
- Are your installers employees or subcontractors, and why?
- Are any of your installers licensed by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners?
- Can I see other systems you've installed that would be similar to mine in size and scope?
- Is my roof "solar-ready" or do I need roof work done?
- Do you finance solar projects and offer solar leases? The trend for many homeowners is to lease a system. Solar firms basically rent the client's rooftop and then sell electricity back to the homeowner at reduced rates. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, about half of Maryland solar installs are leased.
- Will you handle all of the federal and state rebate paperwork, Solar Renewable Energy Credits and obtain permits if needed?
- What warranties are provided for parts, service, workmanship and panels? Ask specifically about the inverter warranty. This part converts the energy and needs to be replaced periodically.
With over 60 solar contractors in Maryland, here are a few leaders in Baltimore's full-service solar market.
Astrum Solar (800) 903-6130
Largest full-service solar installer on the East Coast.
Greenspring Energy (443) 322-7000
Mid-Atlantic-focused solar company with over 1,700 systems installed.
SolarCity (888) 765-2489
A national company in scope with corporate and residential solar installations in Maryland.
Solar Gaines (410) 785-1760
Maryland-based firm focusing on Maryland, DC and Virginia. Originated from the contracting/construction firm Henken & Gaines.
Another option is to visit EnergySage, an online solar shopping comparison platform. Think of Expedia, but for solar. You enter your home's information and you will receive between three to five quotes from solar companies vetted by EnergySage. The bonus is the quotes are sent in easy-to-read tables that compare the same assumptions so you'll have an apples-to-apples project and price comparisons.
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Laurel Peltier is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.
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