By Shay Moser

Solar panels are a lot less expensive than they were a decade ago. But they’re still an investment and determining whether you can install a system can be daunting — something Val Berechet learned firsthand.

His journey with solar started in 2014 when he invested in a system for his home that wasn’t correctly installed. While permits and inspections were delayed over eight months, he learned the ins and outs of solar installation, let go of the company installing his system, and reinstalled it himself. In 2015, Berechet put his frustrating experience into co-founding Sunsolar Solutions and has since helped more than 10,000 homeowners go solar by providing education, honest quotes, reputable installations, and transparency.

Berechet says people tend to hold a few common misconceptions about solar panels, which prevent them from making sound financial decisions.

“We help homeowners understand how solar panels work, choose a system that meets their needs, and know what to expect,” says Berechet, president and CEO of Sunsolar Solutions. “Unfortunately, many companies set the wrong expectations or sell smaller, cheaper systems while telling the homeowner it will perform like a larger system. This gives our industry a black eye.”

As chairman of the Consumer Protection Committee for the AriSEIA, the Arizona chapter of the national Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Berechet helps educate the public and key decision-makers about solar, storage technologies, electrification, and energy efficiency. The nonprofit 501(c)(6) trade organization also focuses on promoting professionalism within the industry and helping create and protect public policies that support the sector and its customers.

“A lot of new companies that come from out of state are not educated about the market, such as how SRP and APS utility companies work with solar,” says Berechet. “It’s more complex here than it is in other states. There will be bad apples in every industry, but I don’t think that’s the issue. A lot of it is misinformation and miseducation on the sales side.”

Berechet says homeowners can also help by asking the right questions, such as “How will my utility bill be impacted after I go solar?” He stresses that technology and resources to accurately estimate the effects of solar are available today, and homeowners should not accept vague answers when looking into solar.

Also, many solar companies don’t install the solar panels they sell, continues Berechet. Sunsolar Solutions sells and installs, providing multiple design options and sharing the total cost upfront so customers can pick the best system for their budget.

“Because we are local and hands-on, we walk the customer through the entire process and handle every aspect of installation,” Berechet says. “Our customers know what to expect because we ensure our sales reps are properly educated and explain it well.”

Some of the frequent expectations Sunsolar Solutions customers have, says Berechet, include grid reliance, energy output, roof impact, weather and climate requirements, the lifespan of solar panels, and the return on investment.

While the answers can be complicated, Sunsolar Solutions helps customers understand everything from the get-go — from how many solar panels are needed to meet energy usage to factors about the roof, such as age and tree cover.

“One of the important things in our process is to get the correct information from the homeowner,” Berechet explains. “We need to see customers’ electric bills or at least get the last 12 months of electric usage because solar systems are built around how much power a house uses.”

Once Sunsolar Solutions understands a customer’s home’s energy usage, it puts together a detailed quote, including incentives.

Berechet says there are federal and state tax incentives to offset the upfront costs, which Sunsolar Solutions’ energy consultants ensure customers don’t miss if they qualify. For instance, the Federal Solar Tax Credit allows eligible homeowners to reduce the taxes they owe by up to 30% of their solar panel installation cost from their federal income taxes. If the homeowner already paid their taxes through their employer’s W2 withholding, they’ll receive a check back from the IRS. Consider state incentives, too, like in the Valley, which provides a 25% tax credit, up to $1,000, for purchased systems.

After Sunsolar Solutions does a site survey, it puts together an engineering plan, gets permits from the city or county, and seeks approval from the utility company. Then it’s time for the system to be installed.

“We’re big on installing things the right way, using the right equipment and installation methods,” Berechet says. “We even have an internal quality control specialist that checks the system post-install.”

If Sunsolar Systems’ quality control specialist approves the installation, the city is called to do its inspection. If everything looks good, Berechet says they file a few remaining documents with the utility company, and then, after that, the system gets turned on.

“It depends where you live; if you live in a city where the permitting process is quicker, installation can be completed within a matter of weeks, and the entire process is done within two months,” Berechet says.

Throughout the entire project, Sunsolar Solutions customers have a dedicated project specialist as their point of contact who answers questions and keeps them updated about the timeline.

Valley residents looking into solar can soon make the Consumer Protection Committee of the AriSEIA their point of contact. One of its significant initiatives, says Berechet, is ensuring consumers are educated so they can protect themselves by asking the right questions about it. Also, the committee is assembling a preferred installer program with local utility companies, much like the one SRP offers, which Sunsolar Solutions is a part of.

“If a solar customer doesn’t have a good experience, they often call the utility company and complain about it,” explains Berechet. “So, our interests are aligned, and we need to make sure homeowners understand solar and have the right expectations.”

If you’re ready to start with solar, call Sunsolar Solutions for a free quote at 602-848-9574.

This content is sponsored by Sunsolar Solutions.