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National vs Local Solar Installers: Who's Better?

When you’re looking for a solar installer, you’re going to want a company that provides great service, does quality work, and offers a fair price. You’ll have your choice between large companies that operate on a national level, and smaller companies that are local and regionally based. Of these two types of solar installers, which one is more likely to give you a great deal on a great system?

In this blog, we’ll take a look at how the size of the solar company can determine how much you’ll pay for your system, the level of workmanship you can expect, and what financing options are available.

Before we jump in, it needs to be stated that CC Solar does fall in the local solar installer category. But you can be confident this blog is written based on experiences and research not our biased opinion.

How do national and local solar installers compare?

Who Will Be Less Expensive? 

While there are several factors that create an appealing solar quote, more often than not, the installation price is one of the most significant. All things equal, you’d much rather go with the company who can install your system for less. Studies have shown that there is often a trend in the price differences between local companies and national companies. And the type of company that typically is more expensive may be surprising.
While national companies have more resources, more projects, and the benefit of economies of scale, they typically won’t be offering the lower price. According to a study by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), larger solar installers gave customers a higher quote 70% of the time compared to smaller, local installers. And these quotes were about 10% more on average.

Why is this? Unlike smaller companies, many are publicly traded and are held accountable to their shareholders and investors to maintain a specific profit margin. So we can speculate that national firms are more likely to base their pricing on the company’s market share and financial goals.

Smaller local companies, however, face less pressure and less red tape regarding pricing and profit criteria than larger companies. Each project is important to a local installer. While a handful of 4 kW residential systems are just a drop in the bucket for large, national companies.

Who Will Do Better Work?

The larger installers have more projects associated with their company than the local guys. But does that mean they’re more experienced or capable of doing better work? After all, even if it ends up costing a little extra, some solar customers are more comfortable going with a company they feel will give them the best system.
But if you opt for a national installer, they may not be the ones doing the installation. While they may have regional offices across the country, they don’t always have a team of installers that can service these locations. Oftentimes, large installers will hire subcontractors to do their installation work. And while they’ll surely do a great job selecting and managing experienced subs, the accountability is a little different than with a local company.

Local solar installation teams may have one central office or a handful of offices spread across a region. They are more likely to fully staff those office locations with their own installers. Unlike subcontractors, these installation teams are held accountable by the owner of the company that sold you your system.

In these smaller companies, even the newest solar installation technician could know the owner of the company. This tight-knit environment fuels teamwork and motivates employees to do a better job. If they don’t perform up to the company’s expectations, they’re answerable directly to the leadership of the company.

When choosing a solar installer, one way to see how experienced and qualified an installation company is is to take a look at their industry certifications and registrations. Look for certifications from the mcs accreditation organization in the solar industry.

Another thing to take a look at is the company’s online reviews. From Google to Facebook to sites like Checkatrade learn from people who have been in your shoes and made the decision. Many customers enjoy the personal, relationship-based approach that working with a local company offers.

Which Solar Installer Is Best For You? 

The information we touched on are general trends often seen in the industry, but not telling for every situation. It’s always a great idea to get quotes from several companies. The more information and options you have, the more likely it is that you’ll get a great system for a fair price.