How to Avoid the Solar Scammers That are Out There
Unfortunately, the solar industry is not immune to businesses and individuals who try to scam consumers. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We hear these stories all the time and see some of the work these “professionals” have performed. These types of companies exist. Things like this happen in almost every industry, from HVAC to selling a homeowner a new driveway because they had “extra” asphalt. The better informed you are only helps protect you from things like this. Here’s some tips on avoiding solar scams and protecting your hard-earned monies:
The Really Big Warning signs:
If it sounds too good to be true, it's probably is!
If someone calls you on the phone and tries to sell you a solar system, hang up!
If someone shows up at your door and wants to sell you solar, close the door!
If they are located in another state, that is a warning sign.
If ANYONE asks you to SIGN NOW, STOP!! Never sign a contract during the first visit, ever!! Get at least 2-3 quotes and then compare, apples to apples.
If they tell you they can get it installed in a week, run away!! It takes roughly 30 days+ to get all the permits, utility approvals, etc.
If it feels like high pressure, it is! STOP!
Some of this may seem extreme but we hear these stories all the time from people it happened to. We all think there is no way something like this would happen to us but is does. Check out this link:
As sad as it is, there are always companies out there looking to take advantage of consumers. In MN, this is a hot solar market so companies from around the country set up shop with salespeople that make all kinds of commitments just to get you to sign NOW! The safest and smartest way is to work with companies that are located here, invested in their local communities, their owners live here, their employees are from here, are Licensed Class A Electrical Contractors, have solid reputations (BBB, Google Reviews, SolarReviews.com), and current reviews as well as older reviews.
These companies understand local and state regulations, have working relationships with the utilities, inspectors, both electrical and building, knowing the fire code regulations (how the panels are placed on a roof), and the permitting process in MN.
When working with a reputable solar company, when they give you their quote (which should always be free and absolutely NO obligation), they should explain the size they are proposing and why, an estimate of what the system should produce annually, where the solar panels are located and why, the price per watt, cash price, any rebates, tax incentives, utility participation $$, and, information on how the panels will perform over the warranty period (should always be 25 years or more), tell you what the warranties are on everything. Typical warranties are 10 years parts and labor on everything, 12 years on the SolarEdge Inverter (What we use), 25 years on panels and 25 years on optimizers. Keep it to the facts so when you compare quotes, you can quickly compare "apples to apples".
Before you let anyone into your home and especially before you sign any contracts, check with the Better Business Bureau - https://www.bbb.org
A reputable solar company should always first educate. Explaining the entire process, from the quote to the interconnection, how it will be installed, what products they use and why, and answer your questions. You've decided to explore the option of going solar, it should be a pleasant and exciting experience.
Request references. Call and talk to the references provided and ask about their experience with the installer. Always ask for at least 3, with a mix of current and older customers.
Does the solar company use their own crews or sub-contract the work out? This can be a tricky one. If they have their own crews, the people installing will be the same people that come out to make any repairs if needed. If they use sub-contractors and you have an issue, find out your “pecking order”. If you have an issue, how fast will someone be out to help? Does the company send out someone who is already familiar with your project?
It may seem to be a small issue now but if you’re having problems with your new solar array, you want to know that you will receive expedited service from a company that is already educated on your system and it’s design, a system that tracks your system for the lifetime. We personally look at all of our customers systems weekly for any issues. We want to find them and repair them quickly and hopefully, before you are even aware that there was a service need
You paid a lot of money to have your own solar system so it’s fair to expect that your needs will be addressed quickly and to your satisfaction. Your solar system is designed to last over 30 years, it’s a good idea to have a company that is located in your area, is a part of your community, and will be the same people who provide you with great service over the lifetime of your system.
Ultimately, you will decide on an installer who you trust. Even so, you should always verify your installer’s qualifications.
Below are just some of the complaints from the MN BBB Website. These are actual complaints in the MN market. Company and names have been left out:
"The person that came to give us a quote on the solar panels lied. He stated false information about Xcel Energy and how much they would pay out with the energy going back into the system. This was not found out till after the contracts were signed and Xcel reached out to us. I then canceled the Solar panel job and now they are asking for $1000.00. The contract was signed under false information given to us by XXXXXX. They even came to my door asking why I canceled trying to earn my business back. I have called both numbers on the letter that was sent to us and no one will answer or return the 3 voicemails I have left. I reached out to an attorney as well to cover all my bases."
"We love solar technology and had been planning on installing some on our roof. When we saw a Facebook ad for XXXXXXX, we decided to contact them to see how we can proceed. Their salesman in Minneapolis, visited our home and proceeded to ask us to apply for a loan for the panels - which we got immediately approved because of our excellent credit. However, because of the pandemic, I got furloughed from my job. I contacted the loan officers and asked them to cancel the loan - to which they were perfectly fine and very understanding. I left a message to the XXXXXX rep, saying we would like to postpone for now, because of my current job situation at that time. Their salesman came to our house and was quite irritable. He tried to force us to say "yes" on a recorded line to agree to have the panels installed on our roof immediately. He was completely devoid of empathy about my job loss and was quite threatening. This made my wife very uneasy and we started to question the profile of this company. Weeks later, they sent a "cancellation fee". We dispute this fee because we had never yet agreed for their panels to be installed in our roof. There are no panels installed on our roof. They have always said that the quote is free and we were under no obligation until the panels are installed - and now they seem to have fully taken that back."
“my husband and I were interested in putting solar on our home. we had a man come and consult us and he said it was paperwork to see if we could qualify for the loan. He repeatedly said we wont be charged anything, the inspection is free and not to worry we were not going to owe anything until the we sign for the equipment and permits were issued and work by contractors had begun, We would have to sign additional paperwork at a later date to accept the loan but before this happens the company will send an actual image of what the panels will look like on our home. we got even more of a weird feeling when the man drove away with out of state plates. After we re-read the contract we realized this is ACTUAL loan paperwork and this guy was being snakey. we found the must cancel within 3 business days to not incur any costs Claus. we paid for a telegram. it was delivered within the 3 business days. we even paid extra for a certified certificate of delivery confirmation. within a day we received a phone call telling us we didnt need to spend the money on a telegram the contract wasnt active and that they got the message and EVERYTHING was canceled. we wouldnt incur any fees from XXXXXXX or XXXXXXX. they are so sorry for the "misunderstanding" and that they would send me a $100 amazon gift card to pay back the money for the $100 telegram we sent. then in a text wrote me "just want to reitirate, you will not be charged any fees, or any kind from XXXXXXX or XXXXXXX". That conversation took place on August 26th 2020 we thought this was resolved and over, today is october 17th 2020 and we received a bill by certified mail for $500. If we do not pay by the due date of november 1st 2020 it will go to collections. this is NO WAY TO DO BUSINESS, plus you are doing business in Minnesota and are based out of Utah. Why doesn’t the phone number on the bill you sent me work? Why doesn’t the FaceBook page phone number work? I can't get in contact with anyone."