BBB Logo

Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Central Virginia
BBB Urges Consumers to Make Smart Solar Energy Investments
April 12, 2011

With warm weather approaching and many consumers looking to stick to a budget when making home improvements, many are turning to green solar energy as a solution. 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. However, consumers who opt for a “greener” remodel this spring need to be weary of the less-than-reputable and unqualified contractors that breeze into town promising a variety of “green” services at cut-rate prices. Consumers need to find an installer that is trustworthy and knowledgeable on the benefits of solar energy.

“As with any kind of home improvement contractor, consumers need to be cautious of installers that promise too-good-to-be-true offers,” says Steven A. Cox, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “It pays to look beyond the lowest bid when selecting a contractor.”

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 as much as 50% on installation costs. 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 state programs, visit http://www.dsireusa.org/.

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.

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. You can take full advantage of the benefits in solar energy once you know how it works. For instance, panels facing south with no shade obstructions receiving maximum sun exposure during the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., will provide the greatest percent of energy. Significant savings occur when you have excess energy that is not consumed by your household. This excess energy can then be credited to your utility bill, saving you money.

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.