7 Red Flags In A Solar Sales Pitch: How To Buy With Confidence

July 20, 2022
7 Red Flags In A Solar Sales Pitch: How To Buy With Confidence

Navigate unfamiliar shopping processes and avoid fraudulent sales tactics. Solar panel sales continue to set records. That means an increasing number of people are buying a strange product in a peculiar industry. Residential solar is expected to keep growing at record rates, too. The federal tax credit is set to drop from 26% to 22%, and several state and local incentives are changing.

All of this means it may be an excellent time to purchase solar panels. Many solar panels have warranties of 25 years, and you could be saving the exact amount you paid for them in under 10 years.

Several Solar companies make promises about their solar panels they cannot keep. They sell high-priced solar panels that produced much less power than promised. While this is an excellent opportunity to save money and create clean energy, it may open solar customers up to less-than-honest sales tactics.

The good news is a little education can go a long way toward getting the best solar panels for your situation. There is fierce competition in the rapidly growing home solar industry. Companies are employing various sales strategies, ranging from in-house sales teams to third-party companies. While there is no reason to think unethical sales tactics are commonplace--customer satisfaction data is not readily available--they happen.

Tesla's solar unit relies exclusively on online inquiries. While industry guidelines exist to protect consumers, tactics differ among companies and may border on dishonesty. Going into a sale with a solid grasp on a few critical solar topics can help you detect when a salesperson is ignoring these guidelines. Salespeople are likely to tout federal tax incentives for solar.

When you install solar panels (and some other associated technologies), a percentage of your costs is returned on your taxes. In 2022, the share that you receive is 26%. In 2023, it is 22% until it expires in 2024 unless the U.S. government renews it.

The tax credit is not a check the government will mail you or a rebate.

Instead, it is a credit you can put toward taxes you must pay yearly. To fully benefit, you have to pay the federal income tax, and you have to pay enough to equal 26% of the costs of the system.

If the salesperson says that after installing solar, your electric bills will go away and that you will be able to throw the utilities to the curb, this may be overblown as well. Your account will vary depending on the net-metering arrangement with your utility, how much you use, and what the utilities customers pay a base rate for maintaining grid infrastructure. Solar panels installed and working correctly will lower your electricity usage and save you a bundle, but the impact on your bill will be different. Ensure you understand how your utility will compensate you for electricity produced before going solar.

These rates are not necessarily set in stone.

In California, regulators are trying to modify net metering across the state. However, proposals thus far include provisions allowing established customers to stay at previously agreed-upon net-metering rates.

If you see an ad saying that you can install solar panels on your home free of charge, be sure you know what "free" means. Probably, this means that the products advertised are probably power purchase agreements or leasing. While that means you are not paying any high up-front costs for the panels, you are paying a company that owns them every month.

These are legit services and are a part of why residential solar has boomed over the past decade. You will probably save more by buying vs. leasing or paying for an energy service agreement. However, the lower up-front costs for those two options can make solar more affordable, and it will still save you money over the long term, even though the electricity from solar is not entirely free. With leasing and PPA, you save cash unless itas are going to increase more quickly than your utility's cost of power. You can find out how much electricity has increased over the past few years on the internet.

Putting solar panels on your roof is another potential concern. In the Northern Hemisphere, panels facing the south generate the most power, although panels facing east and west also do. West-facing discussions may be helpful in areas where the rate of use is variable. Solar output during afternoons and evenings could make up for the costlier power—a home with solar panels behind a tree.

If you have a shaded roof, be sure the installer has a plan to deal with it.

For solar to work correctly, you might have to trim trees or put panels in places other than on your roof. Your roof also needs to be in good condition. Taking boards off your top to repair it probably incurs extra costs.

Aor all these questions. Any installer should provide you with a definitive answer to all these questions. It is essential to work out those issues before signing the contract and installing panels on the roof. An installer who pressures you into signing a contract before you read it or answer all your questions is a red flag. If you sign something that you regret later, by law, you have three days to void most door-to-door sales, according to the FTC. Here's a short list of other red flags and claims, courtesy of DOE, to encourage you to do your research.

"The federal solar tax credit is going away very soon."

The credit gets smaller in 2023 and will disappear in 2024. There are deadlines involved, but at the time of publishing this story, none of them is anything you would not take a second to consider. There is one particular schedule coming up soon... Some utilities are moving away from net metering, and the state programs are ending.

Make sure to ask for the details and understand any programs being discussed.

"You have got one option for the hardware."

Most solar installers prefer a particular vendor for the equipment, but they may be open to customers' preferences. "Your utilities are going to increase your electric bill by XX% every year. . Electricity rates go up (and right now, they are incredibly uncertain), but you can look at the historical costs of electricity in your region, and you can judge if the company's estimates pass the smell test.

"You could save as much as 70% on your electric bill."

Seventy percent sounds impressive, but that "up to" can go a long way. Are most people saving at 70 percent, or is it much lower for all.

Put Solar Energy on Your Roof For Free!

This almost certainly does not mean free, but rather, with no upfront cost. You still will have monthly payments after that.

"You could say that your house is powered by green energy."

That is true only in law if you can keep the renewable solar energy certificate. In a PPA, you can hand these over to your solar provider, which can then demand an environmental credit.

Many organizations are trying to help people get into solar power as much as possible, including industry groups and governments. The DOEs Guide to Going Solar has a lengthy list of things to consider before you commit to an installer.

Many states have Consumer Protection Bureaus that provide state-specific recommendations, sometimes specific to solar. There are national groups dedicated to helping individuals and communities take up solar.

Asking for quotes with Our Solar Team can ensure that installers know that they are competing for your business and allows you to explore options without the pressure of a face-to-face meeting. It is always good to solicit quotes from a few companies. Checking out the company through the Better Business Bureau and talking with neighbors or friends who have had experiences with them is a good idea if you can. The Better Business Bureau gives companies scores on how responsive they are to complaints and their honesty.

Since many people do not have any solar energy experience, choosing an installer can seem daunting. But going solar -- and starting to save on energy costs -- is doable. You can find certified installers by checking the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners or have us do it.

There were a million solar installations from 2016-2019 (not just residential). If you plan to add to that number, you can ensure this is a good experience by doing some legwork or having experts look for you.

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