Like many other industries that has suffered from unscrupulous companies, or individual salesmen, the solar industry is no different. Fly-by-night companies, unethical salesmen, and flat out lies have put the solar industry into the category of shady business. Luckily, as the solar industry has settled, many of the less reputable companies have been put out of business. This article will briefly overview common solar scams in California and offer insight on what to look for when looking for a solar installer you can trust.
Posing as a Government or Utility Entity
Recently, there has a been a large increase in the number of telemarketing calls, Facebook ads and even websites that are solar scammers posing as a government or utility workers. The overall pitch is that they will schedule an “energy audit” on your home. Once you provide your information, the scammers now have all the data they need to further pressure the home visit. Because many homeowners then feel obligated to go through with the audit because it is from a ‘trusted’ entity, soon they find a high-pressure sales person in their home selling a solar system under the guise of it being mandated by the utility or the government.
Another common scam that is seen throughout social media feeds is “No Cost Solar” for people who live in Contra Costa County, or just in the state of California. The problem is, even with rebates, the government is not giving away free solar panels and installing them for free. However, the “bait and click” scheme allows the scammer to collect important personal data about the consumer and then bait them into buying expensive solar panels. And again, as they are posing as government or utility workers, people trust their information will be used honestly.
Promising Huge Tax Breaks and Grant Money.
While it is true that many solar customers qualify to receive a 30% tax credit for the purchase and installation of their solar panels, there are not major tax breaks, refunds, rebates or government grants. The tactic is sneaky as it allows the customer to get quick buy-in due to the belief they are going receive a large check in the mail that will ultimately pay off much, if not all, of the overall cost of their solar misleading overly excited customers.
There is a 30% tax credit that many consumers do qualify for. However, even with the largest solar installations, the tax credit is not going to eliminate the cost of the system completed. Additionally, a tax credit is not something that a homeowner will see being presented as a check, assuming they qualify.
Door Knockers and People Chasers
Most consumers should beware of solar scammers, specifically those that show up and knock on your door. There are multitudes of examples of fake logos being used and people representing companies that do not exist. They are seeking your personal information that can be manipulated and sold. Unless someone in your neighborhood is getting solar installed and a representative from that company comes up to speak with you, do your due diligence and ensure your solar relationship is with an installer that is an “Approved Solar Installer.” (Top questions you should ask any solar company)
Another common door-to-door scam that consumers should be aware of are ‘sales men’ who offer to replace your damaged or low functioning panels. The core problem with this is
- Most panels are well under warranty and maintenance issues should be reviewed with the solar installation company or the manufacturer.
- The panels that are used as replacements tend to be of low quality, and may not work with the other panels in the array or be compatible with the inverter.
Starting Construction Before a Contract is Signed
A good solar company will always provide a free estimate that includes the type of panels and inverters, costs and a depiction of what the installed solar array will look like on your roof. However, this is an estimate and not a contract.
There are companies that will try and begin working on the installation prior to the actual contract, that outlines specifics and includes finance details, is signed. The pitch might be that it will provide for a quicker install – however, it will also mean that the customer has not idea what they are actually getting or what the final costs are. Companies who work before there is a contract in place can easily manipulate costs and products. Make sure you have a signed contract in place that outlines the costs and the work that is being performed before you let anyone on your roof. If a contractor does get on your roof and begin work, call the police immediately.
Going solar is a big decision that has a great return on investment, both financially and environmentally. It is unfortunate that so many shady solar companies exist because it discourages homeowners from moving forward with their solar installation. However, knowing that there are good solar installation companies out there will allow you to reap the benefits of solar energy. As you do your research, ensure you are working with a fully licensed and insured company that has a local storefront you can visit. Review online reviews and look for companies that offer high-quality products with manufacturer warranties.
When you are ready to reach out and ask more questions about your residential solar installation, or learn if solar is the right option, we invite you to stop by our showroom located in the historic downtown Brentwood corridor.