Go solar, but go with your eyes open – pv magazine international
Solar is particularly virtuous among energy industries. But like all industries, consumers need to be very careful to protect themselves.
From pv USA magazine
By providing CO2-free energy without polluting our air, water or soil, solar is particularly virtuous among energy industries. But like all industries that involve people, consumers need to be extra careful to protect themselves.
Earlier this year, the California Public Utility Commission released a 24-page Solar Consumer Protection Guide. All homeowners must sign it before being allowed to purchase a solar project.
The main purpose of the document is to protect homeowners from aggressive door-to-door salespeople who request digital signatures on portable tablets. He advises against clients signing contracts until they have reached a comprehensive understanding of the project and its implications.
Here has pv magazine United States, we believe that the most important step of the Solar 101 series is to find the right contractor for your project. California Guide Step 3 – “Find a Qualified Solar Power Supplier” – agrees with us.
The document effectively guides consumers through the pros and cons of different types of finance and leasing options. It is strewn with warnings against unscrupulous sales attempts to stretch the truth. She advises consumers to be particularly wary of “free solar power” offers. What does “free” actually mean?
Typically, “free solar” refers to a contract for the rental or purchase of solar electricity. In this type of arrangement, the owner agrees to exchange his roof for a 10 to 30% reduction in electricity costs. The signs are owned and maintained by the lessor (not the owner). Keep in mind that your electric bill will not be zero if you install one of these third party systems.
Two other areas covered by the California paper are comparing your financing options and understanding how solar savings work.
Note that there are at least two negatives to accepting these “free solar” offers. First, you won’t get all of the financial benefits that accrue if you actually own the system yourself. You’ll save 10-30% on your electric bill, but you’ll lose state tax credits and incentives.
Second, the value of your home will not necessarily increase with solar installation because the system is owned by someone else. In fact, the added complication of a solar lease – including the need for an additional credit check – has the potential to deter some potential home buyers.
And take note: Federal and state laws provide for a three-day cooling off period for those who have purchased products from door-to-door sellers. Don’t be afraid to exercise your rights if you are cold in your eyes.
Technology and business risk
A second risk of solar energy comes with new technologies and new businesses.
For example, sometimes the material you want isn’t available when you want it, or the price for which you were originally offered (and for which you signed a contract) is no longer valid.
Tesla’s solar roof is a beautiful product and its image could possibly represent the residential solar industry. However, the company struggled to scale the product for mass deployment, as well as meeting long-standing building material quality standards. This has led some customers to endure long waiting periods, while others have had their purchases canceled.
Additionally, some installations took weeks – versus days – to complete as the company learns how to deploy the product. Finally, some clients have complained that the price of their project increases dramatically, even after signing a contract for a specific amount.
Selling newly created technologies with innovative business models means solar companies often take advanced risks.
For example, this author installed a Solyndra solar panel and a Satcon solar inverter project in 2011. Shortly after installation, both companies went bankrupt. Fortunately, the hardware has been very reliable over the past decade. However, it has become difficult to find replacement modules when occasional falling quahogs smash a solar panel.
In addition, solar installers can go bankrupt from time to time. There are thousands of installers across the country, large and small. This range of options provides yet another reason to carefully review your O&M contract before signing.
Like any other product, it’s important to pay attention to where your money is going. When accepting offers from door-to-door sellers, take a long time before signing anything. Take the time to research the many details involved in your solar purchase. Shop around before you lose thousands of dollars or rent your roof. When choosing companies and equipment, make a concerted effort to identify their limitations and fallibility.
Answer a complete list of questions about residential solar, pv magazine United States‘s Solar 101 focuses on the tools and knowledge that will help consumers confidently answer their questions about solar energy.
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