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Selecting a Solar Energy System

When warm weather approaches, many consumers turn to green solar energy as a solution to improving their home and saving money on their utility costs. BBB advises consumers to be smart about investing in any home improvement project.

Solar energy scams are no exception when it comes to the typical contracting scam. Fraudulent contractors prey on those who are unfamiliar with their product. They may show up at your door, advertise in local papers or deliver fliers to your home. Like the typical contracting scam, solar paneling scams can range anywhere from issues with the installation and costs to the actual solar panels themselves.

Consumers need to know how solar energy works and how the benefits will affect them before investing $5,000 to $60,000 in any solar energy products. There are many state and federal rebates that offer a reduction in the initial costs, but these rebates are typically awarded after installation and involve a significant amount of paperwork in order to qualify. However, consumers who opt for a "greener" remodel need to be wary of the less-than-reputable and unqualified contractors that breeze into town promising a variety of "green" services at cut-rate prices.

BBB recommends considering the following before investing in solar energy:

**Determine if solar energy is right for you. Due to the high costs associated with the initial investment of solar power, it is important to conduct a self energy audit to determine if solar energy is right for you. Usually, if your monthly bill is less than $100, consider other ways to save energy that cost less.

**Consider all the costs associated with solar energy. Ask about all the costs associated with the maintenance and upkeep of the system. Determine if the benefits and savings outweigh the costs over the long run.

**Stay informed about state and federal incentive programs. Depending on your location, state and federal programs can save you on installation costs. However, these savings may be delayed if the incentive programs are backlogged or the paperwork is not filled out appropriately. Be sure to understand the terms and conditions of the incentive programs and conduct your own research prior to signing a contract with an installer. For the latest information on various state programs, visit http://www.dsireusa.org/.

Maryland consumers can view the latest incentive information from the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA): http://energy.maryland.gov/home.html

**Be cautious of installers that promise no out of pocket costs prior to reviewing your specific situation. Be leery if an installer suggests obtaining credit for the full amount of the system even though they are promising very low or no costs due to rebates. If a business claims to take care of all of the state and federal incentive paperwork, obtain that promise in writing and request a timeline of when you can expect for it to be completed. Also be sure that your application to connect to the local power grid and sell your unused energy back to the electrical company is approved prior to the installation of the system.

**Make sure the roof of your home is equipped to sustain a solar panel system: Even though a properly installed solar system will not damage your roof, make sure your roof is in good condition before you begin the installation to avoid any future problems.

**Understand how your solar energy works: Be sure to research the various solar energy options that are available and, once you've selected a model, learn how your specific system works. The Maryland Energy Administration (http://energy.maryland.gov/home.html) and the United States Department of Energy (http://energy.gov/) offer helpful guides for consumers to ensure you have the information you need to understand all aspects of your renewable energy investment.

For more advice you can trust and information you need for hiring the right contractor for your home improvement projects, go to www.bbb.org.

As a matter of policy, BBB does not endorse any product, service or business.

BBB Business Reviews are provided solely to assist you in exercising your own best judgment. Information in this BBB Business Review is believed reliable but not guaranteed as to accuracy.

BBB Business Reviews generally cover a three-year reporting period. BBB Business Reviews are subject to change at any time.

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BBB Reporting Policy

As a matter of policy, BBB does not endorse any product, service or business.

BBB Business Reviews are provided solely to assist you in exercising your own best judgment. Information in this BBB Business Review is believed reliable but not guaranteed as to accuracy.

BBB Business Reviews generally cover a three-year reporting period. BBB Business Reviews are subject to change at any time.