What is NABCEP Certification?
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NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) is a reputable solar certification and accrediting organization ensuring homeowners can rely on solar installers with the right credentials to meet their needs. Many people feel safer seeing doctors who have earned board certification in their medical specialty. And many drivers might feel better crossing a bridge if they knew the engineer who designed it had the highest professional certification. Few homeowners realize they can set similarly high standards when choosing a solar company. Mindful that solar customers sometimes worry about scams, the solar industry has created its own voluntary, rigorous system of accreditation to promote consumer confidence.
The Solar-Industry Gold Standard
The North American Board of Certified Energy Professionals (NABCEP), formed in 2002, sets the gold standard for solar industry professionals who sell, design, install, operate and maintain solar arrays. To qualify for NABCEP certification, professionals must document prior successful experience, take 10 hours of safety training and up to 58 hours of advanced skills training, pass a rigorous exam, and agree to a tough code of ethics. The credentials are so highly regarded in the industry that employees who hold NABCEP certification typically are paid $11,000 more annually than others who lack them.
Guarding Against Solar Scams
NABCEP certification isn’t a substitute for state licenses, such as an electrician’s license, or other credentials required by state laws. It does, however, give solar industry professionals a chance to set themselves apart from industry problems that drew headlines in the past, when some solar companies were guilty of shady sales tactics, confusing contracts or misleading financial come-ons. The NABCEP’s ethics code requires workers to treat customers honestly and fairly, inform them of any risks, and avoid conflicts of interest. The NABCEP credentials must be renewed every three years and supported by ongoing professional education, and they can be revoked for violations. Most certified professionals display NABCEP’s mark on their websites or other materials. Homeowners also can check NABCEP’s website directories to find out whether a solar professional is accredited.
NABCEP Certification Types and Functions
There are many different types of NABCEP certifications. Below we describe the purpose and function of each, including why these designations matter for choosing a solar company that works best for you.
The Project Lead: PV Installation Professionals
Professionals with this credential are qualified to perform just about any major role involved in installing a solar array, from assessing a home’s suitability to securing the necessary permits and hooking the system up to the grid. They’re required to take 58 hours of advanced training — far more than required for the more narrowly defined certifications below — and pass a rigorous four-hour exam. Our president and co-founder at Go Solar Group, Scott Cramer, holds this certification. Homeowners can rely on PV Installation Professionals to explain all components clearly and help them choose the best products for their needs. They can design, engineer and install a solar array, adjust it for the impact of wind, weather and shade, and design and install battery backup if desired. Reaping the Maximum Benefit from Your Solar Array. PV Installation Professionals also should be able to help homeowners make the best possible use of tax credits and other incentives. Other NABCEP certifications listed below cover separately each individual component of PV Installation Professionals’ job.
Framing the Project: The PV Design Specialist
The PV Design Specialist focuses on planning, diagramming, and producing a solar-project design that complies with the project budget, available space, the homeowner’s needs and aesthetic preferences, and all applicable regulations. This includes figuring out where to place a solar array, assessing the viability of either roof or ground mounts, avoiding hazards, and designing the electrical connections.
Setting You Up: The PV Installer Specialist
PV Installer Specialists can perform all tasks required to install electrical equipment and grounding systems safely and securely. They can connect wiring, roof or ground mounts and solar panels. Professionals with this credential can also install and connect battery-backup systems.
Expert Oversight: The Commissioning and Maintenance Specialist
PV Commissioning and Maintenance Specialists can test electrical wiring and make sure a solar installation complies with the project’s design and safety requirements. They can perform preventive maintenance and diagnose any problems that arise. These professionals also can make sure the homeowner understands how the system works and what to do in emergencies or outages.
Setting the Stage: The PV Technical Sales Specialist
This certification is designed to protect consumers from misleading, high-pressure sales tactics. PV Technical Sales Specialists are trained to explain the benefits of solar energy honestly and clearly, assess a homeowner’s goals, analyze utility bills, and calculate the size and potential savings from a suitable solar array. They should assess the home site, roof slant, and shading to determine whether installing a solar array makes sense. They also should be able to explain potential HOA, zoning, and permitting obstacles, as well as financing options and the pros and cons of battery backup.
However, certifications aren’t everything. Sometimes tips from an expert who also has solar on their home can be helpful in choosing solar installers with the right credentials. Download our free 10 tips to going solar guide today to learn more about the steps homeowners should take to choose the company best for their renewable energy needs.