Becoming a certified solar panel installer requires obtaining certifications from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Considered the “gold standards” for solar installation certifications, the ‘PV Installer Certification’ and ‘Solar Thermal Installer Certification’ provide a potential installer with the credentials and standards required to shine out against his or her competitors. In particular, obtaining these certifications requires filling out a long application, possibly taking courses, and then completing a very comprehensive examination.
The first decision to be made is deciding whether to work with photovoltaic (PV) systems or solar thermal systems. The former harnesses solar energy to power electrical devices like televisions and computers, while the latter uses solar energy to heat a home. The best bet is to specialize in both systems, but keep in mind that this option requires double the workload.
Regardless of certification, interested applicants must have a minimum of 69 hours of coursework training, and 1 year of sales experience. They must have also passed the NABCEP Entry Level PV Exam. Another option is to just have 32 hours of training and 2 years of sales experience, plus the exam.
A potential certified solar installer with a college education definitely has an advantage. Those with a two-year degree need only have 1 year of experience and the exam, while a graduate with a bachelor’s degree, on the other hand, needs just 1 year of experience without the exam.
Most interested installers do not possess any formal education, which is why they will need to supplement their work experience with many hours of class work. The problem is that NABCEP doesn’t offer any classes, which means interested applicants must pursue education elsewhere. Thankfully, NABCEP is partnered with a plethora of educational centers, including Allied Schools, BP Solar, Magnum Energy, and SunPower Corporation, among others.
NABCEP offers ‘PV Installer Certification’ and ‘Solar Thermal Installer Certification’ exams no more than twice a year, including in January and in March. Interested parties must apply at least three months before a exam to be considered. Due to the length of time involved, applicants should ensure they meet all the above requirements. A good place to get started is by reviewing the resource materials on the NABCEP website.
Shannon M. Combs contributes articles for the http://www.residentialsolarpanels.org blog, her personal hobby blog centered on ideas to aid home owners find solar installers and learn how to to conserve energy with solar power.