1. Installer selection

Get quotes

Just like any home project, it’s a good idea to gather quotes from a few different installers. From each installer, ask for a clear description of the project, how long it will take, the cost, and any potential extra expenses. You can also contact the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office to check for any complaints against installers you’re considering working with.

Check references and licenses

Ask for references from previous customers. It’s recommended to contact them and maybe even visit their installations if possible. Online reviews are also helpful. Remember that the solar installer needs to be licensed to operate in Massachusetts and have a licensed electrician for the electrical work. Many installers also have certifications from organizations like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). If subcontractors are involved, ask for their references too.

Sign an installation contract

After comparing quotes, choose an installer and sign a contract with them. Read more about what to look for in a contract here.

2. Review the system’s design

The installer will create a design for your solar electric system. This could be a simple site plan and electrical diagram or a more detailed set of plans, depending on the project. If you’re building a new home, it is recommended that you integrate the solar design into the overall construction plans to ensure ideal positioning of the system and construction efficiency.

3. Apply for the SMART program

Your installer will apply for the SMART incentive on your behalf. This reserves your spot in the incentive program’s current funding block.

4. Get permits

Solar installations must follow the Massachusetts Electric Code. The licensed electrician on the job is responsible for ensuring this. If an installation results in a structural change to an existing building, it must also follow the Massachusetts State Building Code. Solar installations require local permits and inspections. Your installer must have all necessary local permits approved before putting the system into service.

5. Connect to the grid

The utility company needs to approve connecting your system to the grid. Your installer will manage this process, including meeting technical and inspection requirements. If needed, the utility will install a new net meter to credit you for excess power and a production meter for systems participating in the SMART program.

What is net metering?

If your solar electric system is under 10 kW and generates extra power beyond what you use, you can sell the excess back to the utility through net metering. You’ll get credit on your bill for this excess power. You are billed for the difference between the amount of the electricity you use and the amount you create, also called the “net.” When you create more than you use, it’s documented on your electric bill as net metering credits and applied towards future bills.

6. Inspection and interconnection

Most homes in Massachusetts with solar panels can connect to the electric grid. This allows you to buy electricity from the utility company when your solar panels aren’t generating enough power. Before this connection can happen, utilities might need a special inspection to ensure that your solar setup meets technical, performance, and safety standards. A local wiring inspector will visit your site after your solar panels are fully installed. They’ll check if everything was installed correctly according to the Massachusetts Electrical Code. If all is good, the inspector will approve your electrical permit and give a completion certificate to the utility company as part of the connection process. There might also be an additional inspection by a building inspector. The whole process isn’t done until the wiring inspector and the utility confirm that your system can safely link to the power grid.

7. Testing, warranty and instructions

After installation, the installer should test the equipment to make sure it works properly. Make sure the installer registers the equipment warranties and provides you with copies of technical details and warranty information. Finally, they should also guide you on how to use and maintain the system safely.

8. Receive SMART incentives

Your installer will submit the necessary completion paperwork so you can start receiving SMART incentives. Within about 3 months of the SMART process being finalized, you should start receiving monthly incentive payments from your utility.

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