Be Aware of Solar Scams

Ruben Ugarte
By Ruben Ugarte | September 11th, 2019 08:23pm
Ruben is passionate about solar power and sustainability. He speaks and writes about renewable energy and contributes to the Solar blog at Ask-Solar.com.

Solar power is good for the environment and you will save money on your energy cost but there are many scammers out there ready to take advantage of potential solar customers. You need to do your homework and investigate all offers before installing a solar system in your home. You need to know:

  • The actual cost of solar installation
  • If it will increase your home's value
  • How financing works 
  • The real return on your investment

All of these issues must be addressed carefully before you agree to any contract for installation.

Solar Install

Potential Scams

A person selling solar may not actually represent a company that manufactures and installs the photovoltaic panels. He or she may have connections for imported panels of lesser quality. Many imported panels are not made to US specification and standards. 

The seller may contract with installers who are not qualified and they can damage your roof. The company many not file all of the correct paperwork and your power company will not know that you are using solar panels for electricity.

Deceptive solar sales reps will tell you that you will save up to 70% on your electrical energy since the utility company will actually "buy back" your excess power. That is not always how it works. You usually receive credit for excess power and that credit is used when your system is not absorbing solar rays on cloudy, overcast or rainy days. Which is still a net gain for the homeowner, nevertheless, do your research and don’t agree to go with the first sales rep you talk to. In reality, energy costs are going up over three percent annually and the sooner you install solar the better.

A solar sales scammer may insist on an up-front deposit and you may never see that person or your money again! They may also come up with excuses as to why the installation cannot take place as scheduled.

The Real Cost

Seventy percent is a large number and the savings is usually less. You need to evaluate the actual savings with a solar calculator. This is based on your area, local power rates, and the cost of the solar panels. Check with other people in your neighborhood who use solar power and talk to people at the utility company in your area. Utility companies usually support solar projects.

Most importantly, know the different forms of financing available to you. Understand the initial cost and how long it will take to earn that money back in savings on your utility bill. It may take five or ten years, depending on where you live. You need to understand Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), rebates, and incentives before you decide on adding a solar energy system. Learn about Solar Renewable Energy Certificates available in some states that allow you to sell energy credits.

Check with real estate agents to estimate how solar panels on the roof will add to the value of your home. It will help but how much solar adds in relation to installation cost is the most important issue. You may also need to make minor changes in your landscaping such as removing trees to give your roof better sun exposure. Add this to the cost of installation.

You also need to know how to care for solar panels on your roof. This includes understanding the decrease in production as the panels age.

AskSolar.com is a referral site and will help you find the most reliable solar panel sales and installation services in your area. You will have a list of qualified companies and you can interview them at your convenience. You can check their Better Business Bureau and credit ratings along with reviews on social media. This includes Angie's List and Yelp.

Talk to more than one company and learn how they work. Ask for reliable estimates based on the size of your home and your energy consumption. Then contact your financial institution and discuss your interest in adding solar to your home.

Solar is a major addition and investment in the future. Understand all aspects of this project and how it will benefit you and your home before you invest.

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