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Educational Consumer Tips

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Solar Energy

Author: Catherine Ralls
Published:
Category: Home Improvement

Solar Energy Industry tip

Shopping for a solar power system and choosing a solar installer can be exciting;
as with any investment, you'll need to be careful who you deal with. Like in any
industry, the solar power sector has its share of unscrupulous parties who have little
interest in the technology, environmental benefits and your needs. "If it sounds
too good to be true, it probably is," applies very much to purchasing a solar power
system.

BBB encourages consumers to be cautious in dealing with companies that call
you unsolicited. A well-promoted, professionally run company generates its own
business and does not “cold call” because it doesn't need to do so. One should also
take note of the length of time a solar company has been operating. If you lease
a system and it breaks, will the leasing company be around in 5 years to pay for
repairs?

Beware of energy savings claims such as “will lower your utility bill by 40%” or
“savings up to 50% on your electric and gas utility bills”. While making solar
upgrades can save you money on your bill, your bill comes from multiple sources.
By installing a solar electric or hot water system, you are only investing in saving
on one source, such as the kilowatt hour (kWh), therms or energy charges. Ask the
salesperson, for example, what percentage of your total bill is related to powering
your hot water heater? The above savings claims could be referring only to that
small portion of your bill.

Beware of claims such as “free solar”, “no out of pocket expenses”, and “no upfront
costs” due to rebates, etc., as these claims are likely related to solar systems which
are completely financed at the consumer’s expense with interest or are leased from a
company and not owned by the consumer at all. Consumers may also purchase their
system outright and BBB recommends consumers “do the math”. If leasing, will the
lease payment on top of your remaining power usage plus fixed costs actually add
up to saving money each month? If buying, how long until you have paid yourself
back on this system and start saving money? 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.

Consider other ways to save energy that cost less. Speaking with your utility
company on ways you can save energy may provide you with many low- to no-cost
options such as unplugging certain electronic items when not in use and changing
the type of light bulb you purchase. Your utility company can also provide you with
information regarding rebates and incentives and should be considered a resource
when considering this purchase. While the utility cannot advise you as to the merits
of any sales proposals you are reviewing or recommend installers, they can guide
you as to the specifics of your rate plans and your monthly power usage – both of
which will help you evaluate savings claims.

APS customers can review their billing and rate information by calling 602.328
.1924.
For more information on APS renewable energy incentives or energy efficiency
rebates, please go to www.aps.com/gosolar or www.aps.com/save.

To learn more about SRP’s Residential Solar Energy Programs, call 602.236.4448
or email at srpsolar@srpnet.com.
For more information on SRP renewable energy
incentives go to www.srpnet.com/environment/earthwise/solar.

For more information on available Southwest Gas renewable energy incentives,
please go to www.swgasliving.com/efficiency/az or call 1.800.654.2765.

About the Author: Catherine Ralls for BBB serving Central, Northern and Western Arizona.