Step-by-Step Guide to Find and Prepare for a Contractor

Installing a solar electric system can be a great investment and provide a long-term source of renewable power for your home or business. There are thousands of New Yorkers turning to solar and installation companies are more prevalent than ever before. This guide is to help you make informed decisions to determine if solar is right for you and insure a smooth installation process.

This page summarizes the general process under the NY-Sun Incentive Program, and gives pointers for residential customers interested in installing solar. Many of these tips also apply to commercial customers.

1. Educate Yourself

The consumer who learns about solar is likely to be the happiest customer in the end. To learn about solar basics, check out Solar 101.

2. Before You Find a Contractor

  • Check the condition of your roof. Solar electric systems should not be installed on old or damaged roofs. Any roof with visible damage, such as cracked or missing singles should be avoided or repaired. Roofs should have no more than two layers of shingles.
  • Understand your options to purchase, lease, or sign a power purchase agreement (PPA) for solar electric equipment. The advantages and disadvantages are based upon your individual income and tax liability.
  • See if installing solar electric systems are okay with your neighborhood association (if you have one).

3. Find a Participating Contractor that Fits Your Needs

To participate in the NY-Sun Incentive Program, you must choose a Participating Contractor

  • Check their references. Before hiring a contractor, check their references and talk to people who have previously hired the contractor. The NY-Sun program has hundreds of independent contractors participating. It is important that you find a Participating Contractor that is responsive to your needs and questions.
  • Request proposals from 3-5 Participating Contractors that service your area. For the proposals, you will need to tell the Participating Contractor’s salesperson how much money you are currently paying per kilowatt-hour with all fees and taxes included. You will also need to give the salesperson 12 months of your home’s energy usage data. This data often appears as a chart on your most recent utility bill.

4. Ask Questions Before You Sign

  • Take time to carefully review and compare the proposals, including the financing options. The proposals may contain purchase and/or lease and power purchase agreement (PPA) options or may offer additional financing. Discuss with your contractor who is responsible for obtaining and paying for any and all permits, inspections, and approvals. These responsibilities should be addressed in a written agreement with your Participating Contractor.
  • Verify all of the numbers used in the energy analysis and proposal. Have an accountant or tax professional verify that you are eligible for any tax credits. If you do not understand something in the contract, ask to have it explained, or seek help from someone you trust.
  • Determine whether installing solar will affect your property taxes. New York State Real Property Tax Law 487 provides a 15-year real property tax exemption for renewable energy systems. However, some municipalities and school districts have opted out of the exemption, meaning residents who install a solar system may have to pay additional property taxes. To determine if your municipality has opted out of RPTL 487, call your local tax assessor's office. View a list of municipalities that have opted out.
  • Remember that it is not part of the contract if it is not written in the contract. Customers may have specific requests such as make or model of equipment, location, roof concerns. These requests should all be addressed in your contract. If you discussed requests with the Participating Contractor’s salesperson and those items are not in the contract, then request a revised contract prior to signing.
  • Be comfortable with your contractor’s expertise and service, and fully understand the contract. The Participating Contractor will be your only point-of-contact for the NY-Sun Incentive Program from application through installation and interconnection to the electric grid. The contract is a legal document, and you may wish to have it reviewed by your attorney prior to signing.
  • Ask questions before you sign the contract. Meet in person or over the phone with each contractor or their salesperson and ask questions before you make your decision. 

5. Complete a Project Application

After you decide which Participating Contractor that you want to work with, the contractor will provide you with a Customer Purchase/Lease Agreement, addendum to protect the customer, and project application. The Participating Contractor files the application.

Home Energy Assessment Residential customers can expect their Participating Contractor to complete a home energy assessment as part of the application process. Large commercial/industrial customers may need to have one done if they have not had one completed in the last 4 years. Customers are encouraged, but not required, to implement energy efficiency measures identified by their participating contractor.

6. Receive Notification

Your Participating Contractor will be notified directly of the approval or denial of each project application, and contractors must notify customers. 

  • A notice of approval specifies the amount of the support and the timeframe within which the solar electric system must be installed. 
  • A notice of denial will detail deficiencies in the application, allowing you and your contractor to make corrections and re submit the application. 
  • All projects must be completed within 365 days from the date of NYSERDA approval. It is important that you (the customer) keep track of this deadline to avoid cancellation of the financial support. NYSERDA may grant extensions on a case-by-case basis.

7. Complete the Installation, Inspections, and Interconnection

Your Participating Contractor will set up required municipality inspection and interconnection of the system to the electric grid. These steps may take some time due to the popularity of solar in New York State. Once your solar electric system is up and running and all of the paperwork is complete, enjoy the clean energy.