The first step to switching your home to solar power is to get one or multiple quotes. When searching for solar companies, you’ll likely notice a few things right off the bat: you can choose a local solar contractor or a national chain that operates in multiple states. Often, these national solar companies offer additional benefits of choosing them, like thousands in up-front savings, the best financing rates, the most experience, etc.
Choosing a company that promises significant up-front savings and low financing can seem like the best option – but is it?
A recent investigation of Sunun, one of the largest national solar companies, says otherwise. Read on to learn how to avoid choosing the wrong solar company and ensure you get the best solar panels for your home.
What reporters found after investigating Sunrun was that the number one complaint from customers (3,000 on the Better Business Bureau alone) was the lack of customer support after installation.
One customer reported having immediate problems after their solar panels were installed but had to wait six months or more for help from customer service.
Another reported never seeing a drop in their monthly electric bills, only to find out after hiring a third-party contractor that their panels weren’t operating at peak performance.
Checking online reviews is one place to start, but you should also ask to speak to prior customers about what their experience was like. This can give you a firsthand account of what to expect should you choose that solar company.
Beware Of Bait & Switch Offers
National solar companies are notorious for utilizing bait-and-switch tactics to generate leads. In fact, there have been several class action lawsuits filed against them for using deceptive marketing practices.
One of the most common is getting cash back once the contract is signed or huge discounts on the project itself.
While customers may end up getting the cashback, what actually happens is that amount is tacked onto the loan. Put another way; homeowners end up financing the “savings.”
To make matters worse, national solar companies often overcharge. In fact, a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that national companies quote projects 10% higher on average than local solar companies.
In most cases, huge discounts and limited-time offers should be considered a red flag. If you do get a solar panel quote to take advantage of a deal, just make sure to get an itemized estimate to understand if you’ll end up paying for it
Understand Solar Panel Performance
Most homeowners choose to add solar panels to their homes to save money on their electric bills. What’s important to note is that your potential savings depend on 50+ variables that directly correlate to the overall system performance. Home solar panels are not one-size-fits-all.
A trend we’ve noticed recently is for national solar companies to bypass these variables and provide quotes based on sun exposure only. Several of the homeowners we’ve worked with showed us estimates from these companies that didn’t even come close to covering their electric bills.
Stories like this have also made the news. One homeowner paid $75,000 to have 22 solar panels installed, only for his electric bill to double after installation.
Before getting a solar quote, make sure to understand solar panel performance and how it can be impacted by your home and energy needs.
For example, trees can block the sun from hitting your roof at peak hours in the day. This not only reduces the number of solar panels installed (don’t want to install them in a shaded area), but fewer panels reduce overall production. Less production means less energy is created, meaning you’ll either need to cut down the trees or accept that only part of your electric bill will be offset with solar.
Another example is home direction. Solar panels should not be placed on the north-facing slopes of a roof. On average, north-facing slopes receive less sun, which means less energy is created. The placement of solar panels (regardless of how many) can impact overall system performance.
A home’s energy demands can also influence the size system needed to fully cover electricity costs. A family with an electric vehicle will have very different energy needs than a single person living alone.
Before choosing any solar company, you’ll want to ensure all of these variables are analyzed to ensure the system you buy is the right size and offers the right performance for your home.
The Government Is Not Going To Pay You To Go Solar
Have you seen ads on Facebook or TikTok promising your home qualifies for a special solar program created by the government that will get you free solar panels?
That’s a lie.
Solar panels are not free, and the government is definitely not writing checks to homeowners who install them.
What the government is offering is a 30% tax credit to homeowners that install solar panels and/or solar equipment. BUT this only is available to people who have enough taxable income to qualify. In addition, homeowners have to apply for the credit – it is not automatically given.
Before getting a solar quote, call a tax professional or CPA and ask if you will qualify for the federal solar tax credit.
Key Takeaways On National Solar Companies
Switching your home to solar is a big investment and a big decision! Taking the time to properly qualify solar companies is an important first step to finding the best contractor and will help you avoid common scams. Here’s a quick recap of what to look for:
- Check online reviews from multiple sources
- Ask for references and speak to prior customers
- Understand your home’s energy needs and what size system is needed
- Know how home and roof factors could impact performance
- Watch out for bait-and-switch offers
- Call a tax professional to make sure you qualify for the solar tax credit
At Raze Solar, we are proud to go the extra mile to ensure our customers are taken care of both before and after solar panels are installed. That’s why we are the only local solar company to offer a lifetime warranty on parts AND labor.