How to Avoid Solar Scams In 2024

By ·Published On: March 21, 2024·Categories: Guides & Tips, Residential Solar, Solar 101, Solar Financing·Last Updated: March 21, 2024·11 min read·Views: 106·

Solar scams and how to avoid them
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Imagine this: you’ve finally decided to join the ranks of forward-thinkers turning to solar energy to power their homes.

You’re picturing lower electricity bills and a smaller carbon footprint, feeling pretty good about making a smart, sustainable choice. The future looks bright, lit by the clean, green power of the sun.

But as you start exploring your options, you stumble across stories of people who, just like you, were dazzled by the promise of solar—only to find themselves ensnared in scams that left them out of pocket and disillusioned.

It’s the shadowy side of the solar boom, where for every reputable company offering genuine deals, there seems to be a scammer waiting to pounce on unsuspecting homeowners.

The journey to solar should be lit by excitement and hope, not clouded by the fear of being scammed. That’s why it’s more important than ever to arm yourself with knowledge.

This guide isn’t just about showing you the sunny side of going solar; it’s also about revealing the pitfalls so you can navigate them with confidence.

Recognizing the Signs of a Solar Scam

The Pressure’s On: High-stakes Sales Tactics

Remember the last time you walked into a store and immediately got pounced on by a salesperson?

You probably felt cornered, rushed, and uncomfortable. High-pressure sales tactics are a classic sign of a solar scam.

BBB: Homeowners beware of solar scams

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If you find yourself being pushed to sign a contract on the spot, with no room to breathe or think, alarm bells should start ringing.

Scammers know that the more time you have to think, the more likely you are to see through their schemes.

They’ll use urgency—”This offer ends today!”—to cloud your judgment. True solar professionals understand the significance of this investment and encourage you to take your time.

Too Good to Be True? It Probably Is

Ever heard the saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is”? This rings especially true in the solar industry.

Beware of promises like free solar panels or guarantees of electricity bills reduced to zero overnight. Solar energy can indeed save you money in the long run, but it’s not magic.

A reputable solar consultant will be upfront about the costs, savings, and realistic outcomes of installing solar panels.

They’ll talk you through the process, from the initial investment to the eventual break-even point and beyond, without sugarcoating the facts.

The Ghost Company: No Address, No Problem?

A solar company without a traceable physical address or legitimate contact information is as reliable as a cloudless forecast in Seattle.

Trustworthy companies are anchored in reality, with offices you can visit and real people you can talk to. They’re part of the community, not just a fleeting ad on your social media feed.

In the digital age, it’s easy for scammers to set up shop online without any real-world presence.

They’re like ghosts—there one minute, gone the next, especially when complaints start rolling in. A legitimate solar business, however, stands firm in the face of scrutiny, proud of its roots and record.

Tips For Avoiding Solar Scams

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The Most Common Solar Scams

As you venture deeper into the solar landscape, the path forks. One direction leads to genuine savings and sustainability; the other, to pitfalls cleverly disguised by scammers. Let’s explore the latter path, not to dismay you, but to equip you with a map of the terrain.

Leasing Scams: The Mirage of Savings

Picture this: A company offers you solar panels at no upfront cost. It sounds like you’ve struck gold, right? This is the essence of leasing scams.

The allure is undeniable—solar panels on your roof, supposedly saving you money from day one. However, this mirage fades when the long-term reality sets in.

Under the lease agreement, the company retains ownership of the panels, along with the lion’s share of savings and any government incentives.

Over time, you might find yourself paying more than if you had purchased the panels outright. Moreover, getting out of these leases can be as tricky as escaping quicksand, especially if you decide to sell your home.

Fake Rebates and Government Incentive Scams

Next, we have the siren song of fake rebates and government incentives.

Scammers will claim you qualify for a special program, promising dramatic reductions in the cost of your solar setup.

Yet, these too-good-to-be-true offers often lead nowhere but a dead end.

In reality, while legitimate incentives exist, they are not secret nor are they available to a select few. They are well-documented and accessible through official channels.

Any company that suggests they have exclusive access to government rebates is likely leading you astray.

Contractor Scams: The Disappearing Act

Lastly, the tale of the vanishing contractor. In these scams, companies promise top-notch installations at competitive prices.

Yet, once the contract is signed and the initial payments are made, the quality of work plummets, or worse, the company disappears into thin air.

Victims are left with subpar installations that may not only be inefficient but potentially dangerous.

These scams can turn the dream of sustainable living into a nightmare of financial and legal entanglements.

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Solar Door-Knocking Scams: The Wolf in Salesman’s Clothing

Imagine a sunny afternoon, disrupted by a knock at the door. There stands a canvasser, offering the dream of “free solar” or claiming to represent your utility company. They might even ask for a signature just to acknowledge their visit. However, as some have learned the hard way, that innocent signature could bind you to an unexpected contract.

How to Safeguard

Always conduct thorough research on any company before signing anything. If approached by door-to-door solar salespeople, especially in “No Soliciting” communities, inform your Homeowners Association. Transparency and community action can protect your neighborhood from these predatory practices.

Misleading Solar Ads: The Mirage in Your Feed

Online platforms are inundated with ads promising everything from “free solar installations” to exclusive “federal solar programs.” These ads, often found on Facebook and Google, craft an illusion of opportunity that, upon closer inspection, reveals hidden costs or nonexistent programs.

What to Watch For

  • Ads claiming “free” solar or battery backups — remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
  • Misleading information about state or federal solar programs. While tax credits exist, they are universally available, not through special qualification.
  • Promises of huge discounts, rebates, or the allure of being specially selected for installation in your area.

How to React

Report misleading ads when you see them. On platforms like Facebook or Google, you can usually find an option to report ads for being misleading or scam-like. Your vigilance helps protect others in your digital community.

Solar Panel Scams - How to Avoid Fraud and Rip-Offs

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Solar Phone Scams: The Unwelcome Ring

Phone scams have evolved with technology, and solar scams have joined the ranks. You might receive a call claiming association with government solar programs or offering payment for referrals to a company you’ve never interacted with.

Defensive Tactics

  • Gather as much information as possible during the call without providing any of your own. Ask for names, company details, and callback numbers.
  • Verify any claims by contacting the companies or government offices they purport to represent directly.
  • Report suspicious calls to the Federal Trade Commission to aid in their crackdown on these deceptive practices.

Choosing a Good Solar Company: How Hard Is It?

You wouldn’t launch a voyage without a trusted captain and a sturdy ship, right?

Similarly, picking a solar company is about finding a partner who not only knows the ropes but will also navigate you through the seas of solar installation without hitting any icebergs along the way.

Checking Credentials: The Captain’s License

Imagine you’re choosing a captain for your vessel. You wouldn’t hand the wheel to just anyone claiming to know the sea. The same goes for your solar company. Their credentials are their license to sail.

  • Licensing: Think of state and local licenses as the maritime license. It’s their ticket to navigate.
  • Insurance: Like a ship’s hull integrity, insurance ensures that if waters get choppy (accidents happen), you’re not left adrift.
  • Certifications: NABCEP certification? That’s like having a map drawn by the stars themselves. It means your captain really knows their celestial navigation in the solar cosmos.

Reading Reviews: The Sea Shanties of Solar

Reviews are the sea shanties of the solar world. They tell tales of voyages past, of storms weathered, and treasures found. But beware of sirens’ songs — not all reviews sing the truth.

  • Real vs. Fake: Genuine reviews have the salty tang of the sea — specific, detailed, and authentic. Beware of those that smell too sweet or sound like echoings from the same voice.
  • Quality Over Quantity: A ship with a thousand sails doesn’t guarantee the fastest voyage. Look for the craftsmanship in the reviews, the quality of experiences shared.

Questions to Ask: Charting Your Solar Map

Before you set sail, you’d chart your course. Similarly, asking the right questions helps you map out your solar journey. Here are the compass points:

  • Experience and Past Voyages: “Tell me of your travels. How many seas have you charted (years of experience) and can you share tales of your journeys (past projects)?”
  • Treasure Chests and Deals: “What treasures do you offer (financing options), and how are they buried (details and terms)?”
  • After the Horizon: “Once we reach our destination (post-installation), what promises of safe harbor do you offer (warranties and service)?”
  • Navigating the Bureaucracy: “How do you navigate the treacherous waters of permitting and paperwork?”

Keeping Clear of Solar Scams

Stepping into solar energy should feel exciting, not like you’re walking through a minefield. Here’s how you can keep it straightforward and scam-free.

Why You Need Multiple Quotes

Think of shopping for a solar system a bit like looking for the best deal on a new smartphone. You wouldn’t buy the first one you see without checking out a few different stores, right? Getting several quotes lets you compare prices, services, and what you’re actually getting for your money. It’s a simple step that can save you a lot of hassle and money down the line.

Understanding the Fine Print

Contracts can be a headache, but they’re also where a lot of scams hide. Make sure you understand what you’re signing up for. Look out for any weird clauses about price increases, what happens if the system doesn’t work as promised, and if there are any weird fees for selling your house. If something doesn’t make sense, ask about it. It’s better to ask a “silly” question now than have a big problem later.

Solar Scams Targeting Senior Citizens - AZNHA

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The Role of Solar Consultants

If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, it’s okay to bring in some help. Solar consultants or third-party advisors can be your guides. They’re like having a friend who knows all about solar and can help you understand the quotes and contracts. They’re not trying to sell you anything, so they’ll give you straight answers that can help you avoid scams.

Real Examples: Learning from Others

John’s story: He almost went with the first company he talked to because they promised him the moon. Luckily, he decided to get a few more quotes and ended up finding a better deal with clearer terms.

Emily’s experience: She felt lost in the legal language of her contract, so she hired a solar consultant to help her out. It turned out to be a great move because they found a couple of red flags she would have missed.

Steps to Take if You’ve Been Scammed

If you find yourself caught in a solar scam, don’t panic. Here’s what to do next:

  1. Report the Scam: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your state’s Attorney General. Have all your documents and communications handy to provide detailed information.
  2. Legal Recourse: It’s worth talking to a lawyer who specializes in consumer rights. They can advise on the best course of action, whether it’s suing for damages or negotiating an exit from a contract.
  3. Seek Community Support: Online forums and social media groups dedicated to solar energy can offer advice and support. Someone else might have been in a similar situation and can guide you.

Always keep records of all interactions and agreements. If you suspect a scam, acting quickly can help minimize the damage and potentially help others avoid the same trap.

And There Your Solar Journey Begins

When choosing the right solar company, knowledge is your strongest ally.

By learning how to identify common scams, from high-pressure sales to too-good-to-be-true offers, you’re setting yourself up for success.

Remember, protecting yourself starts with getting multiple quotes, understanding contracts, and perhaps consulting with a solar expert. If you ever find yourself entangled in a scam, don’t hesitate to report it, seek legal advice, and lean on the solar community for support.

Solar energy is not just about saving on bills or contributing to a greener planet; it’s a wise investment in your future.

So step into solar with caution, but also with confidence. Armed with the right information, you can navigate the solar seas smoothly, ensuring your transition to solar is both safe and rewarding.

Let’s light up your home with solar energy, scam-free.

Nate is a solar expert with years of hands-on experience. He knows solar tech and sustainable energy inside out. His advice has helped many homeowners and businesses go green. Nate is passionate about eco-friendly living. That's why he's a big voice in the solar community.

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About the Author: Nate Rodda

Nate is a solar expert with years of hands-on experience. He knows solar tech and sustainable energy inside out. His advice has helped many homeowners and businesses go green. Nate is passionate about eco-friendly living. That's why he's a big voice in the solar community.

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