The Smart Service Dispatch

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January 21, 2021


How to Start a Business Installing Solar Panels

The solar panel installation industry is a rapidly growing field that offers great opportunities for technicians and entrepreneurs.

Starting a solar panel installation business is an excellent way to jump straight into the workforce without paying for a costly formal education. In fact, most of the training for solar panel installers happens on the job and without an apprenticeship. If you’re interested in a physical job with a touch of technicality and prefer to learn while doing rather than from a textbook, a career installing solar panels could be perfect for you.

Career Outlook for Solar Panel Installers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the solar panel installation industry will experience a job increase of 63% over the next ten years, representing a much higher average growth rate than most other industries will experience. This is likely due to growing interest in solar energy coupled with more affordable prices for solar panels. 

As an installer, the average income reported nationwide is just over $20 an hour (or $42,000 in yearly wages). If you decide to start your own business installing solar panels, you will have some control over what you charge for installation. However, in order to receive proper training, you may wish to start out working for an established solar panel installation company. 

Getting Started in a Solar Panel Installation Career

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that most solar panel installers begin their careers with a high school diploma. While technical training and certification is not required, employers may be more inclined to hire candidates who do posses a solar panel installation certificate or training in solar panel installation from a technical college. 

It’s also possible that additional training can result in a higher initial pay rate. However, it all depends on the company hiring new solar panel installers. It doesn’t hurt to get on the phone and ask a particular company about their hiring requirements. 

A valid driver’s license and clean driving record are also common requirements among field service technician positions, including solar panel installers, due to the need to drive trucks to and from the installation site.

State Licensing for Solar Panel Installation

As with all field technician licenses, rules and regulations vary from state to state, and even from county to county within a state. As a newer type of service, solar panel installation is not as highly regulated as other industries. You can visit the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s website to view information about state solar licensing requirements. 

Most states that do require solar licenses look for certification by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. This organization offers multiple certifications for photo-voltaic solar panel installation or related fields, including Installation Professional Certification, Design Specialist Certification, Installer Specialist Certification, and Solar Heating Installer Certification. The requirements vary, but most of their certifications require at least one year of suitable experience.

You’ll need to meet the state licensing requirements before you can start a business installing solar panels, so there’s plenty of incentive to join an existing company’s payroll, learn as much as you can, and get certified and licensed.

Note that a licensed plumber and/or licensed electrician are needed to complete the solar panel set up in most states. This means that if you already work as a licensed plumber or licensed electrician and want to pick up extra work, contracting with a solar panel installation company can function as a great way to earn steady business. 

Starting Your Own Business Installing Solar Panels

Ready to be your own boss? Once you meet the proper state licensing requirements, you can branch out and hire your own employees. Just keep these business-starting essentials in mind:

  • Register your business: You’ll need to register your business with your local government for tax purposes. You can easily do this by visiting the local city council in person or online. (Note that you may have to pay a small fee.)
  • Business insuranceConsider taking out a business insurance policy that will adequately protect you and your business in case of damage or loss.
  • Vehicles: Budget for the number of vehicles that you’ll need to efficiently haul your equipment and your team from site to site.
  • Equipment: What kind of equipment do you need to install solar panels? Budget for that as well.
  • Daily management: Use an all-in-one field service management tool like Smart Service to manage client calls, scheduling, payroll, and more.
  • Marketing: Set yourself apart from the competition not only with your certifications, but with a modest marketing strategy and budget.

Sometimes owning a business means you end up doing less of the fun hands-on work and more of the daily grind administration. Hiring the right people and using solar panel software can alleviate some of that burden.