It seems that there is a constant battle in the solar industry. As a small, legitimate solar company – we find we are constantly having to educate our customers about the solar scam artists that infiltrate social media feeds and come knocking on their doors in the evening hours. We are also intimately aware that many of the ‘sweet words’ we see on our social media feeds are alluring. It is hard to not click through and learn more. But, here are some of the things we did learn when we fell for the “click bait” and were introduced with some of the most common solar scams on the internet today.
The Big Solar Scams: Tier Zero Utility Rates
One company claiming to be a California solar company is touting “Tier Zero” rates for families who go solar with their company. This, unfortunately, is a false statement. None of the core utility companies in the state of California offer a ‘Tier Zero’ utility rate for people who install a residential solar system on their home.
Upon going solar, in California, you are not able to move yourself off the utility grid. However, you do move on to what is referred to as “Net Metering.” Net metering is a metering process that only pertain to solar customers. It is not, however, a “Tier Zero” and rates that are paid out to the utility for over-usage, as based on current Tiers 1-Tier 5. Anyone claiming anything different is not being honest or ethical and is potentially scamming you.
Solar Scams: Free Solar
Although we feel like a broken record, there is no such thing as free solar. There are multiple finance options. However, a finance option requires payment and is not a free option. There are many discussions of payment options and purchase options for very low-income families, however, those are also not free solar products.
If a company is promising you Free Solar, be aware that California does not offer free solar programs through federal, state, county, or city jurisdictions. Any company offering free solar should be approached carefully and should be seen as a potential solar scammer.
Another Solar Scam: Zero Down, Zero Payments, Zero Interest
A recent scam we see on the internet through social media and ads is the statement that a solar company will install your solar for zero down, finance the system for zero percent interest rate and homeowners will not have to make a payment for up to one year. As alluring and exciting as this is, this offer is really word-smithing at its best.
- Solar finance agreements do not require money down.
- Most solar finance agreements are zero down payment.
- People can choose to put money down.
- Zero down is standard.
This entire ad is based on “base case credit score” scenarios. Upon spending a notable amount of time on the phone with consultants from this company, I was assured that with a credit score of at least a 650, I would qualify for either zero payments for 18 months, zero percent interest for 18 months, zero down payment or the ITC tax credit.
Let’s break this down:
- If any customer has tax liability (i.e. you pay federal taxes), you qualify for the tax credit. This is NOT a credit-based incentive. Second, the consultant told me I only had until the end of the year to take advantage of the ITC, because “It is going away fast.” This is actually a false statement as the ITC is dropping to 26% from 30% in 2020, but is not going away.
- Only a select few, if any, customers will qualify for all their incentives. It was very clear on the phone, with a credit score of 650, I would probably qualify for at least one incentive, depending on the sized solar system I purchased for my home.
The advertisement makes false claims. They are absolutely alluring and intriguing and interesting. However, they are offers that are limited to a very specific few in the purchasing population. And even on the phone, providing all the relevant information they asked for, was I able to get the consultant to confirm what I qualified for. This is a sales tactic to manipulate people into diving deeper and deeper into the process without ever providing the customer hard information. From a solar sales perspective, this is deeply problematic.
Solar Scams: Sweet Words of Solar Nothings
As a local solar company, focused on transparency and education, it is exceedingly difficult for us to compete with companies that lure customers into making a purchase through false claims and misleading advertising. Our objective is to continually educate our customers and local community members. This allows us to maintain high solar standards and protect potential solar customers.
Thoughts, comments or concerns, reach out to our Energy Advisers.
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