Ask Amy: Questions to ask before buying solar panels

Why you might have to wait to get them hooked up once the panels are installed

(Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

More people might be rushing to buy solar panels right now, hoping for the end-of-the-year tax write-off. It’s a big purchase so you want to make sure you ask the right questions.

Question: I’ve had estimates from three companies that have ranged from $40,000 to $80,000. How can I determine the legitimacy of these providers prior to making such a major purchase? David from Waller

(Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

Answer: You’ve done your homework and gotten quotes from multiple installers. Now what? We’ve had several of you ask what you should be looking for - when doing your research.

  • Check reviews. Look up the company’s business rating at the Better Business Bureau. Besides reviews, you can see the year the company was established along with any BBB action that has been taken against the company.
  • Check warranties. A reputable company will offer you an equipment warranty, usually lasting 10 to 12 years, and a performance warranty that should last up to 25 years. Larger companies will take out insurance policies so if the solar manufacturer goes out of business, warranties are backed by the insurance policy. You can ask if they do this.
  • Research installers too. When researching specific installers pay attention to the cost of installation, specific equipment they use, quality of work, and how many years of experience they have.

Wait times to get solar panels connected to the grid

Once you get your solar panels - you have to wait for CenterPoint Energy to connect the grid. We’ve had some of you tell us this process is taking months.

We asked CenterPoint what is the average time people are waiting and they did not give us an estimate. They did say requests have doubled since the start of the year. They’ve streamlined the application process and have a portal where you can track the progress of your request. So far this year they’ve connected 13,000 customers.

If you need help you can call 713-945-4155 or email Residential_DG@centerpointenergy.com.

RELATED: KPRC 2 Investigates solar panel problems


Full statement from CenterPoint Energy

First and foremost, CenterPoint Energy continues to support renewable energy, including the safe installation of solar panels, in support of our customers.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) has established statewide rules for installing distributed generation devices, such as solar panels, that will be connected to and run in parallel with a utility system. The interconnection application process and information requested are set forth in the tariff approved by the PUCT. The information is necessary to evaluate whether the distributed resources such as solar can be safely integrated with the grid, while maintaining grid reliability and resiliency for CenterPoint Energy’s system and our other customers. Also, under the tariff, CenterPoint Energy retains the right to inspect an interconnection at or before the installation first produces energy or as needed in the future.

The regular approval process for solar panel installation and usage consists of the following steps:

1. Online application is submitted

2. Review of application and information and design acceptance

3. Verification of installation matching design and meeting all applicable codes and specifications

4. Interconnection agreement electronically sent for signatures

5. Permission to parallel with the utility grid - This means the customer is granted permission to connect to the CenterPoint Energy system

CenterPoint Energy recognized that processing time for solar panel installations had increased due to the growth in the number of applications received from our residential customers by more than 100 percent since the start of 2022. This year, solar system installations that have gone through the process detailed above is more than 13,000. As a result, CenterPoint Energy implemented changes to improve application processing times for customers, including hiring additional employees to review and process the significant increase in the volume of applications; using an updated process allowing applications to be approved more expediently, provided all required information has been submitted; and expediting the resolution of issues that may arise with the review of applications. The plan has been successful in significantly reducing the application processing times that are under CenterPoint Energy’s control.

There are many factors that go into the application and installation timelines, only some of which are within CenterPoint Energy’s control. As to those, CenterPoint Energy has developed a web-based portal where installers submit applications on behalf of the customer. This portal allows for the installers and CenterPoint Energy to have visibility into the overall processing of each application. In this portal, CenterPoint Energy provides notes (both specific to projects and general) and notice on the web that processing times have increased lately with an explanation that we are working to improve processing times going forward.

Customers can contact us at 713-945-4155 or Residential_DG@centerpointenergy.com.


If you have a question for Amy, email AskAmy@kprc.com. Plus, you can catch the latest episode of Ask Amy here!


About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.