Tips for Navigating the Purchase & Installation of Solar Panels
Making the switch to solar energy can be a great way to save money on your electricity bills and reduce your carbon footprint. Current tax incentives will also reward those that make the commitment sooner rather than later. But there can be pitfalls if you don’t do your research and ask the right questions before you commit to the purchase and installation of solar panels.
Numerous consumer reviews on solar companies have exposed subpar or inadequate services, with businesses reportedly fabricating the savings their clients would experience from switching to solar energy. They may lure customers with lowball quotes that later turn out to be too good to be true, require them to sign unclear contracts, or perform subpar solar panel installation.
That doesn’t mean that all solar companies are unethical, but it does point to the need to inform yourself. What do you need to know ahead of time, what questions should you ask, and how do you negotiate issues you encounter before – and after – you enter into an agreement with a solar company?
Aggressive Sales Tactics
Set boundaries with pushy salespeople. When communicating with salespeople, ask for a detailed explanation of the system and its components, as well as the company’s installation and maintenance procedures. If a salesperson is pushing you for an immediate commitment, it may be a red flag. You should always tell a salesperson you need more time to consider your options.
Make sure you get at least two or three bids from licensed solar contractors. This allows you to compare the proposed solar system, costs for equipment and installation, warranties, and financing to help you make the right selection. Take your time, ask questions, and carefully review the terms of the contract, including the cost and any warranties or guarantees, before signing.
Be wary, but there’s no need to be pessimistic. Many homeowners have reported positive experiences with knowledgeable, transparent, and helpful salespeople who were able to provide detailed information about the system, costs, and contract terms.
The takeaway – thoroughly research the prospective company, get multiple bids, and don’t discount your gut feelings if you have concerns about a salesperson’s credibility.
Fluctuating prices quoted by solar panel installation companies are a common complaint from consumers. Solar customers have complained that the final price of the system was different at the time of installation from the initial quote:
“Our monthly payments were not $80 as the salesman told us. They installed 15 panels for $120 a month instead of the 18 panels for $80 a month that we had discussed.”
And others say that they were straight-up misled:
“…the sales rep with his aggressive sales tactic had stated they would give the 1.9% interest that it be no problem, we also asked if we can cancel at anytime which he indicated yes. […] After the install, I was notified by the financer that my interest rate is 2.9% and that the sales figures and payment figure […] is not the true numbers…”
Get a detailed breakdown of the costs and a written estimate. Prices will likely differ based on the type of panels, the size of the system, or the location of the installation.
Here are some questions to ask before making a purchase:
- What is the price of the solar panels and are there any discounts or promotions currently available?
- How does the price compare to similar products from other manufacturers or suppliers?
- Are there any government policies or incentives that may affect the price of solar panels?
- Is the price fixed or subject to change? If it’s subject to change, what factors could cause the price to change from what you’re quoting me now?
- Are there any additional costs such as transportation, installation, or maintenance that haven’t been factored into the overall cost?
Home Insurance Coverage
Companies may not mention that solar panels can impact the cost of your home insurance policy. The installation of solar panels can increase the value of your home, resulting in higher home insurance premiums, although increases to premiums are generally modest.
Make sure to check with your home insurance provider before installing solar panels to ensure that you are covered in case of any issues.
It’s crucial to check the condition of your roof before installing solar panels. A professional roof inspection can identify any problems that could affect the installation of your solar panels, such as leaks, missing or damaged shingles, or insufficient structural support.
If your roof is old and will need to be replaced soon, replace the roof prior to the solar installation. If you wait until after the solar panels are installed to replace the roof, the panels will have to be removed for the roofers and reinstalled after the new roof is done, so it’s wise to plan ahead to avoid that extra expense.
The many solar customer complaints regarding problems with poor installation or technical issues illustrate the importance of choosing reputable manufacturer and installer, and ensuring that your solar panels are covered by a warranty.
Faulty solar panels can reduce energy production and pose a safety risk. If you notice visible damage to the panels before or after installation, or the energy generated by your panels drops for no obvious reason after installation, report the issue to the manufacturer if the panels are still under warranty.
If the panels are no longer under warranty, call the installer. The company’s customer service representative should be able to direct you to the right contact for assistance. The service representative will likely ask for information such as the serial number and the date of installation, as well as details about the problem. They may also ask for photos or videos of the issue. Once the manufacturer or installer has assessed the problem, they will provide instructions on how to proceed, which may include arranging for a repair or replacement.
Monitoring your panels is important. Apps like Enphase Enlighten (Android or iPhone) and EMA App (Android and iPhone) allow you to track the performance of individual panels. Some solar panels are not compatible with certain apps. Before you get a monitoring app, make sure that it’s compatible with the panels you purchased.
If you tried all the above and your issue still hasn’t been resolved, you can file a complaint with your local Attorney General’s office. You will find the necessary contact information or a complaint form on their website. Depending on the Attorney General’s authority in your state, they may require the solar installer company to comply with your complaint.
Getting customer service after the purchase is another problem consumers report. In this video, a homeowner shares her frustrating experience with a solar installation company, citing, poor communications, which resulted in the company getting a permit approved for the installation without her agreement.
“…they didn’t return our phone calls… the one reference they gave us was horrible… no one ever answered, no one ever called us back…”
Head off customer issue before you buy — always review the equipment and installation warranties, read the fine print of the contract, and be wary of high-pressure sales tactics. Getting several bids from different companies allows you compare costs, terms, warranty, and company reputation.
Before making any commitment, it’s wise to read online reviews on websites such as PissedConsumer.com to check the company’s service and after-sales reputation. Many people have had a great experience with their solar installation, including clear communications and good customer service. So, take your time, research carefully, and don’t be disheartened.
Is Getting Solar Panels Worth it?
Investing in solar panels can be a smart choice for many homeowners. With proper research and planning you can find a reputable solar energy installer and a system that works for you.
The question of whether or not getting solar panels is worth it ultimately comes down to your individual circumstances, such as your energy usage, location, and budget. Be sure to consult with a professional, check the company’s reputation, and get multiple quotes before making a commitment. With the right information, you can make an informed decision that will benefit both your wallet and the environment.
About the Author
Joanna writes for the consumer advocacy website PissedConsumer.com. While doing her job, she analyses consumer experience and gets a better understanding of consumers’ behavior. Using this knowledge, she provides users with tips on how to avoid typical consumer issues and make informed purchase decisions.
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