Learn How To Protect Yourself Against Shady Sales Practices, Outright Scams And Overpaying When Purchasing A Solar System For Your Home Or Business.
2012 will be remembered as the year of the great flood. Not of the hydrological variety kind but rather the great flood of solar panel brands, literally hundreds from all over the world that have hit the U.S. market.
Some of these brands are actually quite excellent in both quality and performance, while the vast majority of other brands are the last thing that you would ever want to put on your roof. The problem for most consumers is knowing the difference.
In the following article we'll teach you how dig through the most common gimmicks, hype and scams so that you can feel completely comfortable when purchasing a solar system.
1. "$1,000.00 Off Solar Panels" I'm sure you've seen ads like this. The problem is $1,000.00 off what ? Click into these websites and you'll almost never find any pricing.
In fact, the only thing you will typically find is a form for you to fill out so that a well trained, high pressure salesperson can come out to your home with a single goal in mind and that is to get your signature on his air tight contract.
The problem is that because these companies don't post any pricing, in most cases, the sales rep is free to quote you anything he or she wants. Live in a nice neighborhood, better bump up that price. Got a nice home or a nice car in the driveway, better bump up that price.
With the advent of satellite imagery and aerial photography, there is absolutely no reason why a salesman needs to visit your home. An installation contractor yes, a salesman, absolutely not. Everything including a price quote can be discussed in a few minutes over the phone, all without the high pressure tactics of an in home salesperson.
In reality, the only person that would need to your home to perform an evaluation is a licensed contractor and that is after you have been provided with an acceptable price quote and you’ve made your decision to proceed.
2. "The Most Powerful Solar Module In The Universe" You may run into solar salesmen that will make this claim. The problem for most consumers is that this claim is not completely understood. We have talked to some consumers who believed that they would somehow receive substantially more power from solar panels that are sold by companies that make this claim.
The truth is that a 230 watt solar panel is a 230 watt solar panel. You will never get more power from a solar panel than what it is rated to produce. What these salespeople are actually talking about is efficiency. And the higher the efficiency the smaller the solar panel for the same wattage rating.
The question is, if you have plenty of roof space available, why would you pay more for the privilege of having smaller solar panels on your roof. Buying an inverter that offers higher efficiency is critical to your return on investment. Paying more for a higher efficiency solar panel is nearly meaningless when it comes to your return. In fact if you pay more for a higher efficiency solar panel then you've effectively extended the time that it will take before you see a return on your investment. If you can get a competitive price for a higher efficiency solar panel then by all means you should buy that panel. On the other hand if you're being quoted a higher price per watt, steer clear.
3. "Best Deals On Solar Panels" You'll find ads like these all over the Internet and of course you want the best deal on solar panels but beware. Before you fill out that online solar quote form, make absolutely sure that you're dealing directly with a real solar dealer and not some solar lead generating business.
The problem with a solar lead generating business is that your personal information will be sold over and over again and there's no guaranty that your personal information won't be sold to just anyone.
To confirm that you're dealing with a real solar dealer always check for a physical address that you can visit. Is there a phone number and fax number listed on the website that you can call ? Are there products and prices posted on the website. Is the domain name privately registered ? Does the website consist of only a quote request form and a few gibberish solar information pages ?
4. "Solar Panels Lowest Price Per Watt" Price per watt when considered alone is one of the absolute worst ways to shop for solar. For instance, you can get a low price per watt on solar panels from several Florida based solar dealers that are made by one Massachusetts company. (As a courtesy, we won't mention their name for fear of sending their stock value crashing even further but we will tell you this manufacturer's name rhymes with "Neverclean" )
The problem for consumers is that even though this manufacturer is a US based publicly traded company, their stock value has plummeted to a tiny fraction of its previous value and after eliminating 800 jobs, they have publicly warned that they may soon go out of business. If they go out of business, then their warranty will probably be void.
Unfortunately, the dealers that are selling this brand of solar panels are fully aware of the manufacturer's financial condition, yet they're still actively selling these solar panels to unsuspecting customers all across the country. Click here to read an real email that was sent to us from a customer (not one of our customers) who experienced first hand what it means to buy solar panels from a manufacturer that has gone bankrupt.
Now remember, solar panels typically come with a 25 year warranty. If you were to purchase these panels at their low cost per watt and they were to later fail, then you would be left with nothing but a bunch of glass and aluminum that you would have to pay to have removed from your roof.
Always check for the financial viability of the manufacturer as well as the performance specifications of any solar panel that you're considering. Saving a few nickels per watt on solar panels without an enforceable warranty or substandard performance and reliability will almost always wind up being money down the drain. Click here to learn more about cheap solar panels
5. "We'll Get One Of Our Representatives Right Out To Evaluate Your Home." We touched on this in the beginning of our guide but we wanted to revisit the issue of dealing with an in-home solar salesperson.
Rule number one: Before speaking to any salesperson, educate yourself on how to identify the important criteria for choosing the highest performance solar products at the best price. Here's a link to an excellent buyer's guide that can easily save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your solar system. This buyer's guide can save you thousands no matter who you buy your solar system from.
Rule number two: No matter how hard your salesperson tries to convince you that his or her deal is best, Never ever sign a contract with any solar salesperson until you've followed rule number one and have had a chance to compare system performance specifications. Remember in-home solar sales people are a tough breed and they will say almost anything to get you to sign their contract. Take your time and read through and make absolutely sure you understand what you're buying. Again, never sign any contract until you've received at least three quotes and never sign anything on the first appointment. Make your sales rep work for his or her commission.
6. "We've Been In The Solar Business For Over Twenty Years." Maybe they've been in business for over twenty years but odds are that they haven't been in the solar business for twenty years. Lately, this seems to be a common claim among new solar dealers. The fact is that over 97% of the solar dealers in existence today have less than 2 years of experience in the solar field. Be sure to check your dealer's claim with government sources as well as the Better Business Bureau. If a dealer will lie to you about their time in business, you can be sure that time in business won't be the only thing that they will lie about.
7. "AC Watts DC Watts." We recently heard a story about a dealer who would sign contracts with his customer indicating on the contract that the customer's system was rated in AC Watts which was in reality the DC Watts rating of the system. DC Watts will always be higher than the AC Watts rating of any system. The story goes that after signing contracts, he would go back to his office and draw up a new contract reversing the system rating so that the DC Watts rating now reflected the AC watts rating effectively giving the customer a smaller system than what he paid for. Most consumers fail to educate themselves before buying and can easily fall prey to these types of practices. The lesson here is know exactly what you're buying. If you don't understand the difference between DC Watts and AC Watts, then you shouldn't be buying a solar system until you do understand the difference.
8. "Rack Are Racks." We've discovered a disturbing trend where many dealers are providing solar system quotes without identifying the brand or model of the solar panel mounting racks that are included in the system. Solar panel mounting racks come in all different grades from those that are manufactured from the thinnest available aluminum that barely meets engineering requirements that don't even come with a factory warranty to heavier duty mounting racks that are made from much thicker aluminum that exceed requirements and come with 10 year warranties. If you've been provided with a quote for a solar system with no mention of the brand or model of the racking that is included with your system, run, don't walk to the nearest exit.
9. "$0 Down Solar Lease." While not a scam, a zero down solar lease or any solar lease for that matter is probably one of the poorest ways to invest in a solar energy system for your home.
First of all, many solar leasing companies have been known to inflate their pricing above typical market values so that their wall street investors can collect a larger 30% federal tax credit. In fact several leasing companies are under investigation for this practice. While name brand, high performance solar systems can be installed before incentives for less than $3.20 per watt. Solar leasing companies typically charge up to $7.00 a watt for their systems.
Second Add up your payments on that zero down solar lease and you'll find that you'll be paying up to triple the cost for a solar system when compared to purchasing a solar system.
Third. The zero down solar leasing company will take any cash rebate and the 30% Federal tax credit that should have gone to you.
Fourth. You'll probably have trouble selling your home because most home buyers will not want to assume the lease payment on a used solar system that's using yesterday's technology. Especially since they would only be saving a fraction on their electric bill.
Fifth. Your monthly lease payment will typically increase by up to 3.9% per year. Read the fine print, this is called a payment escalator.
Sixth. After making 20 years worth of lease payments, the solar system will still belong to the leasing company.
Seventh. And to add insult to injury, with the weather worsening like it is and and power outages on the increase, with a solar lease you probably won't have any backup solar power.
So when the lights go out in your neighborhood, even while the Sun is shining and even though you've made all those leasing payments on all those solar panels on your roof, most leased solar system are designed to turn themselves off, leaving you without power for as long as the power outage lasts.
In fact, in most cases you won't even be allowed to add battery backup power to your leased solar system's inverter. You would have to completely pay off 20 years worth of lease payments, then buy your leased solar system from the leasing company and then and only then would you be allowed to add an emergency power option to your leased solar system.