There’s no doubt that going solar can be a great investment; between the rebates, federal and state tax credits, and environmental benefits, it seems like a no-brainer. But hidden amongst the rays of good solar companies out there are the bad ones, and if you’re not careful you could end up owing in addition to what you have already invested.First, determine if going solar makes sense for your current home:Are you planning on being in your current house for at least another five years? If not, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) recommends taking this consideration very seriously, as it takes a number of years to see a return on your investment from your solar panels. How much energy are you currently using, and how much are you paying? Talk to your current energy provider to find out how much energy you would need to produce to break even with the cost of the system. Does your roof receive a decent amount of sun? Consider which way your roof faces, and if there is anything preventing your roof from receiving direct sunlight. Consider your financial options. Buying. Buying your solar panels and system outright means that you are responsible for all maintenance and repairs. It also means that if you aren’t producing enough energy to pay for the system, you’re out of luck. However, buying also means you receive all tax credits and other incentives. Leasing. If you choose to lease your solar panels, your solar company will be responsible for all system maintenance and repairs. This also means that the company will receive all tax credits and incentives. It can also be difficult to sell your home while you are in the middle of leasing a solar system, and unless your contract allows you to purchase your system at the end of the lease, the company may choose to remove it. Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). This is when a solar company installs a system at no cost to you, and sells you back the power it generates. The solar company will receive tax credits and incentives. For more information and full details on each of these financing options, visit the CSLB’s Solar Smart Guide. Additional tips for going solar in California:Get bids from at least three licensed solar contractors. In California, anyone doing work where combined costs in labor and materials is over $500 must be licensed with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Contractors who are installing, modifying, maintaining, and repairs solar systems must be a licensed C-46 Solar Contractor. Verify the contractor’s license and do not hire someone who isn’t licensed to do the work. Other license classifications that may install solar energy systems include: General Engineering contractors - can install solar energy systems no questions asked. General Building contractors - can install solar energy systems no questions asked. Boiler, Hot-Water Heating and Steam Fitting contractors - can install solar energy systems with respect to solar heating equipment. Electrical contractors - can install solar energy systems that generate or utilize electrical energy in any form. Plumbing contractors - can install solar energy systems used to heat water or fluids. Swimming Pool contractors - can install solar heating systems in swimming pool projects. Check out the business on bbb.org. Look for things like customer complaints and reviews, the company rating, and consider how long the company has been in business. Ask for, and verify, at least three references. If the company is not willing to provide you with references, they may not have decent references to give. Ask the customer if they were satisfied with the installation of the system, and if their expectations of the system are being met. Read the contract thoroughly and make sure you understand what you are agreeing to. Are all offers that were made to you verbally in the contract itself? Do you have control over the payments being made to the contractor, if any? Do not let your financial institution make payments on your behalf before the work is performed. What happens if you want to sell your home while you are making payments? If you are buying your energy system, California law requires the company provide you with a financing estimate and disclosure document before you enter into an assessment program. If you are leasing, are you allowed to purchase the system after a certain amount of time? If you are entering into a PPA, does the solar company offer a fixed rate instead of a variable rate? A fixed rate would lock in your rate for the entire life of the PPA. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the rebate distribution process, and be sure it’s included in your contract. Determine who has to apply for the rebates, either your or the company, what portion you will receive (if any) and how much the business will receive (if any). Do not hesitate to ask questions.