People looking to save money on energy bills and live a more environmentally friendly life have turned to solar power. Spurred by federal tax breaks, the solar energy industry has experienced unprecedented growth in the last decade, with thousands of people adding solar panels to their homes. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, more than 2 million solar installations have been done in America, with that number expected to double by 2023. Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to do careful research before joining the solar energy movement.
Check bbb.org for BBB Business Profiles on thousands of solar energy businesses, including their BBB Accreditation status, BBB Customer Reviews, complaints and their resolution, and a rating from A+ to F. This information can give you important insight into what to consider when you contact a company.
BBB received more than 2,200 complaints last year about solar energy businesses. In many cases, consumers said the solar panels did not work as promised and they didn’t realize the promised energy savings. Other consumers said there were problems with the installation of the panels and other service issues after the sale. Some consumers told BBB they were misled by sales representatives.
A Nevada, Missouri, man filed a complaint with BBB after he hired a company to install solar panels at his residence. The man said the installation was delayed and then never completed. He also reported that he did not know if he received as many solar panels as promised in the sale.
BBB offers these tips when shopping for a solar energy system:
- Is it right for you? Consumers should conduct an audit to determine if a solar unit will help save them money on energy bills. They should determine how many sunny days they see on an annual basis and check their roof to make sure their home is equipped to sustain a solar panel system.
- Make a budget. Solar energy systems are a major expense. Make sure to get bids from several different companies and remember that the lowest bid isn’t always the best. If you pay with a loan, make sure to factor in various charges associated with the loan.
- Inquire about tax credits. If you buy a system, you may be eligible for various local, state and federal tax credits. The federal renewable energy tax credit for homeowners is equal to 26% of the system’s cost. That credit is scheduled to expire at the end of 2021. The Department of Energy keeps a database of state-specific credits.
- Read the contract. Make sure the contract mirrors everything a sales person told you. Know the length of the contract and how much you will pay per month (if you are leasing the equipment) or per kilowatt-hour (with a power purchase agreement). Make sure any fees are detailed as well as who pays for any repairs that are needed during the duration of the contract.
- Report the bad actors. If you have trouble with a solar energy company, file a report with BBB, the Federal Trade Commission and your state attorney general’s office.