Learn How To Protect Yourself Against Solar Telemarketers, Shady Sales Practices, Outright Scams
And Overpaying When Purchasing A Solar System For Your Home Or Business.
2016 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. Click Here To Read An Excellent Article And Draw Your Own Conclusions.
2. "$0 Down Solar leasing company Loans, Leases and PPAs" What's the catch ? Well, there are several, but the three biggest catches with these types of deals are the following:
A. Price: You'll pay a much higher price (thousands, even tens of thousands) more for these $0 down leasing company loans, leases and PPA systems than had you purchased your system with a $0 down solar loan from a local or regional (non-solar leasing company) instead. Why the big difference in price ? More profit for the solar leasing companies.
B. Payment Escalator: Nearly all $0 down solar leass and PPA deals will include an annual payment escalator that will raise your monthly payment by up to 2.9% per year, every year for 20 years. So if your utility company's rates stay flat for a few years or the utility company is ever mandated to lower their rates, then you could end up paying more for your electricity than had you never signed that 20 lease or PPA contract to begin with.
C. Tax credit and tax deductions: When you sign that solar lease or PPA contract, you're basically handing over what would have been your 30% federal tax credit that could be worth more than $7,000 on an average sized, installed solar system to the leasing company. You also will not be able to write off any interest on your payments on a lease or PPA.
Many $0 down loans do offer tax deductible interest. Lease and PPAs do not offer tax deductible interest. Learn More
3. "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 higher efficiency solar panels that are sold by companies that make this claim.
The truth is that a 327 Watt low efficiency solar panel produces the same amount of power that a 327 Watt high efficiency solar panel produces. The only difference is the physical size of the solar panel. You will never get more power from a solar panel than what it is rated to produce no matter what its efficiency is.
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 virtually 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.
4. "We'll install your solar system for free !" I'm sure you've heard the old saying that "Nothing in life is free" This is even more true when it comes to solar panels. Oh, you may get a "nothing down" offer, but you can rest assured that the solar lease and PPA companies will more than make up for that nothing down offer many times over with their much high solar system pricing.
In fact, if you simply add up your payments over the 20 year term of a solar lease or PPA, you'll typically find that you'll be paying nearly three times more for that $0 down solar power system when compared to buying the system outright. In fact, with a $0 down solar lease PPA or solar leasing company loan, you'll pay so much more for that system when compared to a purchase, that it will actually be you who will be paying for your own repairs, monitoring and insurance, many, many times over, not the leasing company.
5. "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 ?
6. "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.
7. "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.
8. "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.
9. "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.
10. Solar Telemarketers (The scourge of the solar industry !)
SOLAR WEBSITE AND CALL CENTER SCAMS
It's been said that solar
telemarketers are worse than debt collectors.
Once a solar telemarketer gets a hold of your phone number, you can say goodbye to your privacy !
Today, solar energy is an immensely popular subject. After all, who wouldn't want to get rid of their ever increasing electric bills with no money out of pocket ? Unfortunately when any subject gains the worldwide recognition that solar has, it tends to attracts scammers from every corner of the globe.
Over the past 18 years we've watched as the Internet has slowly become flooded with fake solar websites whose sole purpose is to collect your information so it can be sold not only to hundreds of solar dealers across the country but also to any interested parties that are willing to pay the price for your valuable personal information.
Search the Internet and you'll find hundreds of complaints from consumers who provided their contact information to these scammers without first making sure that they were even dealing with a real solar company.
We've created this short guide that you can use to protect your self by identifying some of these scammers before you hand over any information.
1. Are you dealing with a real solar sales company or a fake ?
Fake solar websites are easy to spot. Some are single page websites and some will have multiple pages filled with generic content concerning solar that has been specially written by copywriters for the purpose of helping the website to place high in the search engine results.
A. They all will have one thing in common and that is a "solar/savings calculator" or "contact" form prominently placed, near the very top of the first webpage with no references anywhere on the website to specific solar products or pricing.
B. Another red flag is that these websites will rarely ever post a phone number. Click on their contact us page and all you'll typically find is another contact form. Remember, these business have only one goal in mind and that is to collect your contact information so they can sell it to third parties. They have no interest in selling you a solar system because they are not solar dealers.
C. Another dead giveaway is that their website's domain name will have a private registration. The last thing these companies want is consumers contacting them with complaints that they're being called at all hours of the day and night by dozens of solar companies that their information was sold to.
To check a company's website registration, simply visit networksolutions.com and search for the company's domain name under the whois section located at the bottom of Network Solution's website.
Simply enter the website's domain name, for example "asolardomainname.com" and the company's information should display. If the Registrant Name shows up as "Registration Private" then you have your answer. After all, what legitimate solar company would not want consumers to know their phone number and physical address. The answer to that question should be pretty obvious.
D. Most of these fake solar dealer websites won't post a physical address. Ask yourself, what legitimate company in any industry does not want consumers to be made aware of their address ? A small percentage of these fake solar dealer/lead generation companies do post an address but it's usually an address to a tiny office in town with little if any staff. A legitimate, reputable solar dealer will have an office, possibly a showroom and definitely a warehouse. After all, how on Earth can you install or sell solar systems without a warehouse ?
So here's a simple trick that will help you determine whether or not you're dealing with a legitimate solar dealer. If the dealer posts a phone number, call the dealer and tell them that you would like directions to his or her facility so that you can pay them a visit and take a look at some of their solar products. If the solar dealer is for real, you'll probably get the directions. If it's a fake dealer, then of course you'll hear nothing but excuses as to why you cannot come to visit them.
Here's another simple way to determine if the solar company is for real or fake. Maneuver to the website's "Contact Us" or "About Us" page. (That is, if they have one) and determine the company's actual business name. Then visit your state's Secretary of State's website. Enter the company's name into the Business Search page and see what comes up.
Most companies today operate as a Corporation or an LLC. If nothing comes up then you'll have another clue to work with in your search for the truth. Please note that some small businesses do operate under a DBA. If that's the case, you can always check for a business license in the city that they operate in.
2. Have the solar dealers that these companies sold your information to been pre-screened ?
A. Sure, these companies may tell you that they have fully vetted three or for contractors that have been specially selected to quote your project, but is that true ?
Remember, a lead generation company's sole source of revenue is from, well.......selling leads. Evidence of this is the fact that our company is constantly bombarded by emails from lead generation companies. We've had to add a spam filter setting to our inbox, specifically to block emails from lead generation companies.
Never has any of these companies asked us to apply to see if we qualified to offer our services to their clients.
"Referrals to three, pre-screened, certified solar installers" Don't count on it.
3. Caller ID Spoofing.
A. Some of these lead generation companies have gone as far as installing equipment that generates false caller ID information and are using overseas call centers located in India or the Philippines that makes them virtually impossible to track as well as very difficult to prosecute under U.S. Do Not Call Registry laws. So if you answer your phone and the caller is trying to sell you a solar system with a thick foreign accent, then our advise is to write the phone number down and then hang up because chances are very high that you've just been call by a solar lead generating company that want to collect and then sell your personal information. Keep that phone nunmber post near your phone so you can make sure that you never answer your phone from that same number again.
Recently we have received complaints from consumers that have claimed that they have received calls from us which is impossible given the fact that we do not now, now have we ever made unsolicited calls to consumers. All of our sales calls are inbound.
These lead generation companies are entering the names and phone numbers of established, reputable solar companies into their fake caller ID spoofing equipment with the intent of fooling consumers into thinking that a reputable company is calling them.
This same technique is used by identity thieves that spoof fake caller ID numbers from the IRS or other entities in an effort to convince consumers to provide confidential information such as social security numbers and credit card information.
While it is difficult to prevent this unethical and most likely, illegal activity. Just know that most reputable solar companies do not make unsolicited call to consumers. So when receiving such a call, its best to simply not answer the phone.
The key thing to remember is that you must determine whether or not a dealer is real or fake BEFORE you hand over your information not afterward. Hand your contact information over to a lead generation company that's masquerading as a real solar sales or installation company and it will probably be a decision that you will regret for a long time to come.