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EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
A "chicken confinement system" in North Carolina. Friends of Family Farmers / CC BY-ND 2.0

North Carolina, a state known for the devastating environmental and public health impacts of industrial-scale hog production, now has more than twice as many poultry factory farms as swine operations, according to a new investigation from the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance.

The groups' research found that in 2018, manure from 515.3 million chickens and turkeys joined the waste from 9.7 million hogs already fouling waters and threatening North Carolinians' health. By scouring satellite data, examining U.S. Department of Agriculture imagery and conducting site visits, EWG and Waterkeeper experts identified more than 4,700 poultry and about 2,100 swine concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOS.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Lester Lefkowitz / Stone / Getty Images

One of the biggest winning groups in Tuesday's midterm elections didn't even get to cast a ballot: the nation's farm animals.

Read More Show Less
zstockphotos / iStock / Getty Images

Over the past decade, rapid advances in solar energy technology, falling costs of clean energy systems and government-sponsored incentives have driven the popularity of installing solar panels to a record level. For readers wondering, "who is the best solar installer near me?" here's the good news: To capitalize on the projected growth of solar power, a large number of new solar installers and electricians are opening up shop across the country, which creates healthy competition for your business.

The growing number of competing solar installers presents both challenges and opportunities for a customer. One one hand, having more options may make for a more difficult decision. But on the other, savvy investors can use competition between local installers to their advantage. The competition between solar companies can lower the cost of solar panels, saving you thousands of dollars.

To make sure you're getting the best bang for your buck, we recommend getting free quotes from a few certified solar installers near you. You can get connected with top solar companies in your area by filling out the 30-second form below.

So, How Do I Find the Best Solar Installer Near Me?

To get a concrete understanding of the cost and process of installing a solar panel system on your home, it's best to contact a solar installer near you. Typically, most solar installers will offer a free consultation during which they analyze your current energy use, roof layout, budget, product availability and energy goals. Then, they'll offer a proposal customized to your specific needs.

To ensure they're securing the best possible value from their investment in renewable energy, savvy customers will get proposals from several companies and compare costs and warranties. Companies frequently run specials and promotions on solar products or energy efficiency packages, so be sure to ask about those when reaching out for quotes.

When choosing the best solar installer for your job, look for a company that provides homeowners with assistance when applying for the federal solar tax credit as well as any applicable local rebates and solar tax incentives. If applicable, installers will also help you get connected to the net metering program offered by your utility company, and most will walk you through solar financing options if you're unable to pay cash for your system.

It's a good idea to be familiar with financial incentives and financing options prior to your consultation to ensure an installer covers everything available. If an installer doesn't have a thorough knowledge of local programs or doesn't offer help with applying for rebates or solar loans, it may not be the best company to do business with.

Here are some other things to consider when looking for the best solar installers near you:

  • Licenses and certifications: Legitimate installers hold state-mandated electrical licenses as well as North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certifications.
  • Customer reviews: Checking a company's Better Business Bureau rating and reviews from customers around the web can give you a better sense of an installer's service.
  • Additional services offered: Some installers have tree removal, roof repair, solar battery installation and energy monitoring services. If you need these or other solutions to complete your installation, look for a full-service installer.
  • Financing options: Whether you're paying in cash, taking out a loan or wanting to lease solar panels, make sure the installers you're considering have the financing options you need.

How Do I Read a Solar Proposal?

Choosing a few top solar installers near you and booking consultations is the easy part. Once you get proposals from each company, however, things may get a bit more confusing. Reading and understanding those proposals is one of the most important steps in choosing a solar installer. Here are a few items to look out for in a proposal:

Solar Proposal Element What to Look for from Solar Installers Near You

System size

The size of a solar energy system is measured in kilowatts, which is abbreviated to kW. A kW is a common unit of energy measuring power generation — or consumption.

The size of your system will be based on how much energy you use in your home and will determine how many solar panels you need to purchase. For example, if you need a 5kW system and are purchasing panels with a 340-watt output, you'll need 15 panels. (5kW / 340W = 14.7 panels)

Estimated annual solar production

Your estimated annual solar production is a measure of how much energy your system is expected to produce in one year. You can compare this figure with the usage shown on your utility bills to calculate how much energy your system will offset.

Estimated energy burden

When creating a proposal, a solar installer will ask how much electricity your home uses each year. They use this to calculate your estimated energy burden, which reflects how much money you could expect to spend on energy without a solar system.

Watch out for number inflation here, as installers will often factor in rising utility rates over time. If an installer estimates a high energy burden, it makes it easier for them to calculate high estimated lifetime savings. If you get multiple proposals and one reflects a much higher estimated energy burden than the others, the installer may be using shady sales tactics.

Estimated lifetime savings

By comparing your energy burden with your estimated annual solar production, solar installers can estimate the lifetime energy savings generated by a system.

Compare this key figure to other proposals to evaluate which company may offer the best return on investment (ROI).

What Should I Expect from My Solar Panel Installation?

So, you've compared your proposals and picked a winner. A trustworthy solar installer will walk you through the process from beginning to end, but here's a good idea of what to expect when installing solar panels:

Solar Installation Step What to Expect from Solar Installers Near You

Sign contract and submit paperwork

Customers should be prepared to provide a copy of a utility bill, a down payment (depending on their chosen financing) and a signature for their net metering agreement if applicable.

Obtain permits and approvals

Similar to some other home improvements, an approved permit from the presiding city or county is required for solar projects in most areas. The solar installer will handle the permitting, but this process can take a few days to weeks depending on the efficiency of the area.

Most energy providers also require approval for solar installations in their network. This can come in the form of a net metering agreement or interconnection agreement.

System installation

Once all the permits and approvals are secured, the company will schedule a day to install the solar panels, inverters and other equipment.

The timing will vary depending on the complexity of the installation, but most are completed in less than one day.

Pass inspections

Both the presiding permitting office and utility company need to inspect the installation before it can be turned on. The solar installer will handle the inspection logistics, but scheduling and completing an inspection can take a few weeks.

Obtain PTO and turn system on

Once your utility provider approves the inspection and processes the necessary paperwork, it issues permission to operate (PTO). Obtaining PTO is the final step before a system can be turned on.

After this happens, your solar installer will notify you and walk you through the steps of turning the system on or come and do it for you if necessary.

FAQ: Solar Installers Near Me

Who is the best solar panel provider?

Though we can recommend some top solar companies that operate across the U.S., the best solar panel provider and installer for you will depend on where you live. We encourage readers to compare quotes from local companies, read reviews and talk to neighbors who have installed solar panels. Referrals are also a popular method for finding a trusted installer.

What is the average cost of installing a solar system?

The cost of installing solar will vary greatly depending on the size of the system, your location and the type of solar panels and other products you choose. On average for a modest system, one can expect to pay between $15,000, and $20,000 after the tax credit is applied.

Is installing solar panels worth it?

Unless you deal with a shady property, a rainy climate or an unfit roof, solar panels are one of the most reliable investments you can make. Most solar panel installations pay for themselves in energy savings within five to 10 years and last an expected lifetime of 25 years. Even if you intend to move, solar panels add to property value, so your investment is protected.

How much will solar help me save on my electric bill?

Energy savings depend on a variety of factors such as monthly energy usage, the size of the system and the size and shape of the roof exposed to sunlight. The best way to calculate estimated savings on your electric bill is to consult a solar installer near you.

Katharina Jaeger / LOOK / Getty Images

By Wyatt Massey

Sue George never intended to be an activist. The soft-spoken, retired elementary school teacher was content on her century farm near Lime Springs, a town in the rolling hills of northeast Iowa with a tad under 500 people.

Read More Show Less
Trending
A North Carolina concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, on Sept.18, 2018, Larry Baldwin / Crystal Coast Waterkeeper.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that the historic flooding from Florence has killed about 3.4 million chickens and turkeys and 5,500 hogs.

"This was an unprecedented storm with flooding expected to exceed that from any other storms in recent memory. We know agricultural losses will be significant because the flooding has affected the top six agricultural counties in our state," said agriculture commissioner Steve Troxler in a press release.

The footprint of flooding from this storm covers much of the same area hit by flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which only worsens the burden on these farmers.
Read More Show Less
Scott Olson / Getty Images News / Getty Images

By Olga Naidenko and Sydney Evans

Residents of communities near industrial-scale hog farms in North Carolina face an increased risk of potentially deadly diseases, Duke University scientists reported in a study released this week.

Read More Show Less
Excrement from a chicken CAFO leaked from an inundated barn, contaminating water draining into the Neuse River near Seven Springs, North Carolina following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Waterkeeper Alliance

When Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina in 2016, it flooded more than 140 feces-strewn industrial-scale swine and poultry barns, more than a dozen open pits brimming with liquid hog waste and thousands of acres of manure-saturated fields. As Hurricane Florence—far bigger than Matthew—bears down on the state, Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Waterkeeper Alliance are prepared to again assess the impact on North Carolina's concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs.

Read More Show Less

Left: April and Brad Thatcher with sow, Rosie, the matriarch of the farm. Right: Matriarch of the farm, Rosie.

April Joy Farm

By Lauren Turner

April Joy Farm is also the first Clark County farm to be approved by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries to offer an apprenticeship program to train aspiring farmers.

Read More Show Less
Trending
A tree found severed in half in an act of vandalism in Joshua Tree National Park. Gina Ferazzi / Los AngelesTimes / Getty Images

By Rhea Suh

One month on, the longest and most senseless U.S. government shutdown in history is taking a grave and growing toll on the environment and public health.

Food inspectors have been idled or are working without pay, increasing the risk we'll get sick from eating produce, meat and poultry that isn't properly checked. National parks and public wilderness lands are overrun by vandals, overtaken by off-road joyriders, and overflowing with trash. Federal testing of air and water quality, as well as monitoring of pollution levels from factories, incinerators and other sources, is on hold or sharply curtailed. Citizen input on critical environmental issues is being hindered. Vital research and data collection are being sidelined.

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A swine facility in North Carolina. Waterkeeper Alliance Inc. / CC BY-SA 2.0

By Sacoby Wilson

As U.S. livestock farming becomes more industrial, it is changing rural life. Many people now live near Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)—large facilities that can house thousands of animals in close quarters. Neighbors have to contend with noxious odors, toxic emissions and swarms of insects, and have had little success in obtaining relief—but this could be changing.

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Trending
Hundreds gathered in San Francisco with the youth-led Sunrise Movement on Dec. 11. Peg Hunter / Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

By Eric Holt-Giménez

Over eight decades ago, the Dust Bowl devastated over 100,000,000 acres of agricultural land and the Great Depression threw 15 million Americans out of work. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt instituted the New Deal with sweeping national programs for work, agriculture, food, and land conservation.

Today, the plan for a Green New Deal recently announced by congressional representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders is facing down even greater crises.

Read More Show Less
Worldwide, industrial agriculture is pushing into grasslands, wetlands and forests. Jan Fidler / CC BY. 2.0

By Ronnie Cummins

A new study calling for a "radical rethink" of the relationship between policymakers and corporations reinforces what Organic Consumers Association and other public interest groups have been saying for years: Our triple global health crises of deteriorating public health, world hunger and global warming share common root causes—and that the best way to address these crises is to address what they all have in common: an unhealthy, inequitable food system perpetuated by a political and economic system largely driven by corporate profit.

Read More Show Less

Ready for some inspiration? Check out this video of a press conference that took place earlier this month in Iowa.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
A "chicken confinement system" in North Carolina. Friends of Family Farmers / CC BY-ND 2.0

North Carolina, a state known for the devastating environmental and public health impacts of industrial-scale hog production, now has more than twice as many poultry factory farms as swine operations, according to a new investigation from the Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance.

The groups' research found that in 2018, manure from 515.3 million chickens and turkeys joined the waste from 9.7 million hogs already fouling waters and threatening North Carolinians' health. By scouring satellite data, examining U.S. Department of Agriculture imagery and conducting site visits, EWG and Waterkeeper experts identified more than 4,700 poultry and about 2,100 swine concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOS.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Lester Lefkowitz / Stone / Getty Images

One of the biggest winning groups in Tuesday's midterm elections didn't even get to cast a ballot: the nation's farm animals.

Read More Show Less
zstockphotos / iStock / Getty Images

Over the past decade, rapid advances in solar energy technology, falling costs of clean energy systems and government-sponsored incentives have driven the popularity of installing solar panels to a record level. For readers wondering, "who is the best solar installer near me?" here's the good news: To capitalize on the projected growth of solar power, a large number of new solar installers and electricians are opening up shop across the country, which creates healthy competition for your business.

The growing number of competing solar installers presents both challenges and opportunities for a customer. One one hand, having more options may make for a more difficult decision. But on the other, savvy investors can use competition between local installers to their advantage. The competition between solar companies can lower the cost of solar panels, saving you thousands of dollars.

To make sure you're getting the best bang for your buck, we recommend getting free quotes from a few certified solar installers near you. You can get connected with top solar companies in your area by filling out the 30-second form below.

So, How Do I Find the Best Solar Installer Near Me?

To get a concrete understanding of the cost and process of installing a solar panel system on your home, it's best to contact a solar installer near you. Typically, most solar installers will offer a free consultation during which they analyze your current energy use, roof layout, budget, product availability and energy goals. Then, they'll offer a proposal customized to your specific needs.

To ensure they're securing the best possible value from their investment in renewable energy, savvy customers will get proposals from several companies and compare costs and warranties. Companies frequently run specials and promotions on solar products or energy efficiency packages, so be sure to ask about those when reaching out for quotes.

When choosing the best solar installer for your job, look for a company that provides homeowners with assistance when applying for the federal solar tax credit as well as any applicable local rebates and solar tax incentives. If applicable, installers will also help you get connected to the net metering program offered by your utility company, and most will walk you through solar financing options if you're unable to pay cash for your system.

It's a good idea to be familiar with financial incentives and financing options prior to your consultation to ensure an installer covers everything available. If an installer doesn't have a thorough knowledge of local programs or doesn't offer help with applying for rebates or solar loans, it may not be the best company to do business with.

Here are some other things to consider when looking for the best solar installers near you:

  • Licenses and certifications: Legitimate installers hold state-mandated electrical licenses as well as North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certifications.
  • Customer reviews: Checking a company's Better Business Bureau rating and reviews from customers around the web can give you a better sense of an installer's service.
  • Additional services offered: Some installers have tree removal, roof repair, solar battery installation and energy monitoring services. If you need these or other solutions to complete your installation, look for a full-service installer.
  • Financing options: Whether you're paying in cash, taking out a loan or wanting to lease solar panels, make sure the installers you're considering have the financing options you need.

How Do I Read a Solar Proposal?

Choosing a few top solar installers near you and booking consultations is the easy part. Once you get proposals from each company, however, things may get a bit more confusing. Reading and understanding those proposals is one of the most important steps in choosing a solar installer. Here are a few items to look out for in a proposal:

Solar Proposal Element What to Look for from Solar Installers Near You

System size

The size of a solar energy system is measured in kilowatts, which is abbreviated to kW. A kW is a common unit of energy measuring power generation — or consumption.

The size of your system will be based on how much energy you use in your home and will determine how many solar panels you need to purchase. For example, if you need a 5kW system and are purchasing panels with a 340-watt output, you'll need 15 panels. (5kW / 340W = 14.7 panels)

Estimated annual solar production

Your estimated annual solar production is a measure of how much energy your system is expected to produce in one year. You can compare this figure with the usage shown on your utility bills to calculate how much energy your system will offset.

Estimated energy burden

When creating a proposal, a solar installer will ask how much electricity your home uses each year. They use this to calculate your estimated energy burden, which reflects how much money you could expect to spend on energy without a solar system.

Watch out for number inflation here, as installers will often factor in rising utility rates over time. If an installer estimates a high energy burden, it makes it easier for them to calculate high estimated lifetime savings. If you get multiple proposals and one reflects a much higher estimated energy burden than the others, the installer may be using shady sales tactics.

Estimated lifetime savings

By comparing your energy burden with your estimated annual solar production, solar installers can estimate the lifetime energy savings generated by a system.

Compare this key figure to other proposals to evaluate which company may offer the best return on investment (ROI).

What Should I Expect from My Solar Panel Installation?

So, you've compared your proposals and picked a winner. A trustworthy solar installer will walk you through the process from beginning to end, but here's a good idea of what to expect when installing solar panels:

Solar Installation Step What to Expect from Solar Installers Near You

Sign contract and submit paperwork

Customers should be prepared to provide a copy of a utility bill, a down payment (depending on their chosen financing) and a signature for their net metering agreement if applicable.

Obtain permits and approvals

Similar to some other home improvements, an approved permit from the presiding city or county is required for solar projects in most areas. The solar installer will handle the permitting, but this process can take a few days to weeks depending on the efficiency of the area.

Most energy providers also require approval for solar installations in their network. This can come in the form of a net metering agreement or interconnection agreement.

System installation

Once all the permits and approvals are secured, the company will schedule a day to install the solar panels, inverters and other equipment.

The timing will vary depending on the complexity of the installation, but most are completed in less than one day.

Pass inspections

Both the presiding permitting office and utility company need to inspect the installation before it can be turned on. The solar installer will handle the inspection logistics, but scheduling and completing an inspection can take a few weeks.

Obtain PTO and turn system on

Once your utility provider approves the inspection and processes the necessary paperwork, it issues permission to operate (PTO). Obtaining PTO is the final step before a system can be turned on.

After this happens, your solar installer will notify you and walk you through the steps of turning the system on or come and do it for you if necessary.

FAQ: Solar Installers Near Me

Who is the best solar panel provider?

Though we can recommend some top solar companies that operate across the U.S., the best solar panel provider and installer for you will depend on where you live. We encourage readers to compare quotes from local companies, read reviews and talk to neighbors who have installed solar panels. Referrals are also a popular method for finding a trusted installer.

What is the average cost of installing a solar system?

The cost of installing solar will vary greatly depending on the size of the system, your location and the type of solar panels and other products you choose. On average for a modest system, one can expect to pay between $15,000, and $20,000 after the tax credit is applied.

Is installing solar panels worth it?

Unless you deal with a shady property, a rainy climate or an unfit roof, solar panels are one of the most reliable investments you can make. Most solar panel installations pay for themselves in energy savings within five to 10 years and last an expected lifetime of 25 years. Even if you intend to move, solar panels add to property value, so your investment is protected.

How much will solar help me save on my electric bill?

Energy savings depend on a variety of factors such as monthly energy usage, the size of the system and the size and shape of the roof exposed to sunlight. The best way to calculate estimated savings on your electric bill is to consult a solar installer near you.

Katharina Jaeger / LOOK / Getty Images

By Wyatt Massey

Sue George never intended to be an activist. The soft-spoken, retired elementary school teacher was content on her century farm near Lime Springs, a town in the rolling hills of northeast Iowa with a tad under 500 people.

Read More Show Less
Trending
A North Carolina concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO, on Sept.18, 2018, Larry Baldwin / Crystal Coast Waterkeeper.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that the historic flooding from Florence has killed about 3.4 million chickens and turkeys and 5,500 hogs.

"This was an unprecedented storm with flooding expected to exceed that from any other storms in recent memory. We know agricultural losses will be significant because the flooding has affected the top six agricultural counties in our state," said agriculture commissioner Steve Troxler in a press release.

The footprint of flooding from this storm covers much of the same area hit by flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which only worsens the burden on these farmers.
Read More Show Less
Scott Olson / Getty Images News / Getty Images

By Olga Naidenko and Sydney Evans

Residents of communities near industrial-scale hog farms in North Carolina face an increased risk of potentially deadly diseases, Duke University scientists reported in a study released this week.

Read More Show Less
Excrement from a chicken CAFO leaked from an inundated barn, contaminating water draining into the Neuse River near Seven Springs, North Carolina following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Waterkeeper Alliance

When Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina in 2016, it flooded more than 140 feces-strewn industrial-scale swine and poultry barns, more than a dozen open pits brimming with liquid hog waste and thousands of acres of manure-saturated fields. As Hurricane Florence—far bigger than Matthew—bears down on the state, Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Waterkeeper Alliance are prepared to again assess the impact on North Carolina's concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFOs.

Read More Show Less

Left: April and Brad Thatcher with sow, Rosie, the matriarch of the farm. Right: Matriarch of the farm, Rosie.

April Joy Farm

By Lauren Turner

April Joy Farm is also the first Clark County farm to be approved by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries to offer an apprenticeship program to train aspiring farmers.

Read More Show Less
Trending