Choosing a dealer can be as important as choosing the product itself. Many people have had a poor experience with Solar Power largely due to the designer/dealer.
For designing and selling “Off Grid” Solar Power Systems, a good dealer should have the following credentials and experience.
By far the most important item is living “Off Grid”, preferably without a generator. This does several things.
It provides the designer with the real life experience of the equipment and weather without the backup of the Grid so as to be able to properly design for “Off Grid” conditions. Only having a small grid tied system or no system at all does not provide the experience necessary to design a good “Off Grid” system. Only basing the design of a system on specifications does not generally work well, since specifications do not tell the whole story. Also, weather data usually does not give you the experience of how long overcast or bad days may string together and how that affects the system performance.
It allows the dealer to support customers better by having a system to show and refer to for support.
It shows that the dealer believes in what he/she is selling.
The dealer should be an Electrician, since Solar Power falls under the Electrical Code, to properly design and build a system, the dealer needs to be familiar with all aspects of the Electrical Code, as well as other codes, such as Arc Flash, Safety codes, workplace health and safety. Also, remember that all electrical installations, “even Off Grid” installations fall under the Canadian Electrical Code and require an electrical permit (even if someone tells you that you do not need one – that is just not true).
The dealer should have experience with the design of hydronic heating systems and how different designs can affect the amount of power consumed by the heating system. The heating system is frequently the highest power consumer.
Check the dealer website for pictures of installations. Are they neat and well organized? Are there code violations? The most frequent code violations are battery cables leaving the breaker box that are not in conduit, batteries or other items in front of the power center (code requires that a tall person can stand in front of the power center without leaning over something and having 1 metre clearance in front of the power center), no battery disconnect (under or beside the power center) and exposed battery terminals.