Solar panels can significantly reduce your home’s carbon footprint and energy costs, that is… when installed by the right company.
Unfortunately, in the constantly evolving US solar industry, the reality is that there are many homeowners who have had bad experiences with solar companies that have over-promised, under-delivered, or failed to perform proper post-installation customer service.
As a result, juicy headlines often expose the “dark side” of the solar industry, with stories that cover frustrating customer experiences, wrench heartstrings, and sometimes turn readers away from solar altogether.
To help you join the millions of homeowners who have had good experiences with solar, below, we’ll look at four steps you can take to avoid the dark side of solar.
1. Always check reviews and BBB complaints.
While looking at online reviews is practically second nature to most people looking for new coffee shops and restaurants, reading about past customer experiences is absolutely an essential part of the solar energy buying process.
Although there are many different places around the web where you can read solar company reviews (like Google Maps and Yelp), few sites are as important as the Better Business Bureau (BBB) when it comes to checking credibility and measuring the likelihood of a good experience.
In this recent article from TIME, many customers found the dark side of solar while working with Spruce Power, the largest privately held owner and operator of residential solar in America. On its BBB page, Spruce holds an “F” rating (the lowest possible) and fields hundreds of customer complaints every year.
2. Avoid companies that subcontract.
Avoiding companies that subcontract installations has always been one of the most important messages we tell homeowners considering solar, and experiences like those shared in the TIME article expose the truth in this claim.
Companies with national territories like Spruce often exclusively rely on local subcontractors to perform and service their installations across the country, leading to less quality control and extended turnaround times at every step of the solar process.
All in all, subcontracting isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it can raise a red flag when exploring your solar options. When talking to potential solar installers, the most important questions to minimize risk and guarantee an efficient and high-quality experience include:
Who will be installing my system?
Who can I contact if I experience a problem?
What product and service warranties are included?
Read our article: Dangers of Subcontracted Solar Panel Installations
3. Look for signs of longevity.
Knowing that solar represents a multi-decade agreement, choosing your installer should be heavily influenced by whether you believe a company will be around for the life of your panels. While it is impossible to predict the future, there are a few things you can do to minimize this risk.
Most obviously, if your solar contractor or installer has only recently gotten into the business, this could complicate things if the company is never able to become fully established and folds within a few years. On the other hand, working with a company that only “dabbles” in solar (alongside other services like roofing or home security) may also be risky, even if the business is well established.
Within the volatile solar industry, many multi-faceted companies like Vivint have decided to shut down or sell their solar divisions and move on, complicating and changing things for existing customers. In the same sense, just last year, Tesla canceled and refunded many home solar projects in the US, after deciding to shut down several markets across the country that it will no longer serve.
Our advice: Don’t work with another company’s solar “division” - work with a business solely focused on solar!
4. Uncover hidden costs.
Finally, stories like this one from TIME are also exposing some of the hidden costs that exist in solar. Usually, these hidden costs are associated with misleading contracts, and more often than not, they are a byproduct of leasing solar panels.
While we have always leaned towards solar ownership as a better option financially than leasing solar panels, it is also important to know that owning solar panels (instead of leasing) can significantly decrease the difficulty of selling your home within the lifetime of your system.
In both lease and ownership instances, customers may also experience high energy costs if they increase their electricity consumption at home after the solar installation. Often, these “hidden costs” are the result of homeowners being misled by shady solar salespeople who fail to explain precisely how solar energy lowers utility bills.
Talk to Apollo about your solar savings today.
Serving homeowners and businesses in Colorado and Wyoming, Apollo Energy is a local solar company committed to long-term sustainability through the best possible service that we can provide. We don’t subcontract, exclusively use high-quality equipment, and are always available to help our customers (as well as those with solar from companies) with questions or issues anytime.