One of the most common and hard to identify solar scams comes from door-to-door sales. This provides a level of convenience for homeowners as they usually don’t have to do any legwork. The salesperson shows up, makes a pitch (or sets up a meeting) about why you should go solar. Chances are a solar company has visited your home before, and probably on more than one occasion.
Is what they offer too good to be true? Solar is a solid investment for most, but it’s definitely something you shouldn’t rush into without doing some research. So while a door knocker can eliminate all legwork, some research is still recommended to ensure you get exactly what you were promised.
Unfortunately, not all solar companies are straightforward – so it’s not a bad idea to get more than one quote after researching local installers to ensure you’re getting appropriate prices and comparing apples to apples. apples (not all solar is created equal – and upfront cost vs. savings can be difficult to manage).
Every day, Cape Fear Solar Systems receives dozens of calls from people cited by a solar canvasser. While not all canvassers provide false information, it is a valid concern, and we always recommend doing your due diligence before signing a contract. Never feel rushed or rushed to sign up. Solar is an investment that will stay on your roof for over 25 years.
Here are some red flags that should prompt you to get a second quote:
- Pretending to belong to the electric company (or affiliated with your electricity company). Electricity providers such as Duke Energy or Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation do not sell solar energy and will not visit a customer’s home without proper identification. However, they have resources to help you find a reputable solar supplier.
- No company identification. Sun door knockers who don’t wear company attire or have company documentation to leave behind should be avoided at all costs. The company sends canvassers without investing in clothing, ID badges or printed materials tests the market but limits their spending so they can easily move on to upcoming “solar hotspots”. Chances are they won’t come back if your system needs fixing.
- Free or no charge. If the lawyer mentions “free solar” or a “free solar program”, know that there is no such thing. Solar companies would love to provide everyone with free solar power, but the reality is that solar power isn’t free; solar is an investment. There are many attractive financing options with no down payment, but there is no such thing as free solar power. No down payment financing options are something almost all solar companies have access to offer. Solar power will save you money, but it’s never “free”.
- Incisive sales strategies. “You have to sign now or you won’t get the federal tax credit” or “I can only give you this award if you sign now.” While honest solar companies want to earn your business, they will never put you in an awkward position. If you haven’t done your homework ahead of time to make your decision, you can sleep on it. Make sure all your questions have been answered and you have checked references from other solar customers in your area.
- Not local (several hours drive or out of state). Some solar companies come to you quickly to sell you solar power and install it. A few months later, your electricity bill does not seem correct. You call the company that did the installation and they tell you they can’t help you because they can’t travel that far for a repair. They tell you to call a local electrician or another solar company closer to you. You are now stuck paying for expensive repairs for a system that may not have been installed correctly in the first place.
- You are unfamiliar with your utility or rate structures. When a solar company cannot understand or articulate your utility rate structure, chances are your projected savings are incorrect. A local solar contractor will know your pricing structure (and if not, you may want to get several quotes to make sure your quote is accurate).
- Oversizing. Unless you’re specifically asking for a system that will offset far more than your current energy consumption (perhaps you mentioned plans to expand your family or buy an electric vehicle?), be careful with companies that promise you compensation greater than 100%. You don’t want to buy a system that’s too big for your use, because you could end up giving power to the power company.
- Bad reviews. Check out Google, Facebook, Solar Reviews and the Better Business Bureau. What are customers saying? If it’s a national solar company, be sure to browse reviews to read local reviews. Although they can provide excellent service close to their headquarters, sometimes national companies do not return to more distant service systems after installation.
- No license, insurance or certifications. Does the company have the appropriate licenses, insurances and certifications? Before having a contractor on your property to perform any work, you should always ask them to prove that they meet all state requirements. It is also recommended that the solar company hold NABCEP certification, which is considered the gold standard for solar energy.
- Energy efficiency packages. Some solar companies try to create packages that present more savings with an energy-efficient package. This may include LED lighting, insulation and maybe even a new roof. A company can associate the package with poor or low efficiency solar panels and present it as a complete solution. The problem is that only the solar portion is eligible for the federal tax credit and all of the additional items won’t save you enough to offset the high price they buried in their proposal. While energy efficiency upgrades are great, be sure to look at what solar alone will do for your home and when the company is doing more than just solar, it’s a good idea to get multiple quotes at compare.
- Use of subcontractors. Will the solar company hire contractors or have an in-house installation and electrical team? It is important that the people working on your solar project have the proper training. Without proper training, you risk having an improperly installed system or even worse, a leaky roof. Also, it is important for your safety and that of your family that the solar company knows who they are sending to your home. Did they do a background check for every employee? This can be especially important for families with young children.
- The price is low. You are presented with an amazing prize. How could you let this pass? It’s lower than any other quote you’ve seen. Chances are you’re paying for a solar system that won’t offer you much compensation. This is a cheap inferior sunscreen product that may not have the best warranty. Installations are often carried out by subcontractors who offer the cheapest installation price. With solar, you get what you pay for…
- Sudden price drops. The company suddenly cuts $5,000 or even $10,000 off the price without you even asking for a discount. You may think they are doing you a favor, but in fact they marked the price higher than it should have been in the first place. You do not save but avoid paying too much.
- Sale for several companies. Canvassers are generally paid by the hour but are highly dependent on commissions (appointments and sales). It has become common for door knockers to represent more than one company (sometimes two solar companies or even another industry that relies on doorsteps like pest control). If they’re selling for multiple companies, they may not be putting your best interests first.
- These trees will not be a problem. Although having shade is not always a major problem, there is a good chance that production will be affected. Make sure the solar company calculates the shading in the expected projection. Some customers have to cut down trees for solar power to be a viable energy source.
Although door-to-door is not part of the Cape Fear Solar Systems business model, from time to time our staff will place door hangers in neighborhoods, our staff will NEVER knock on your door uninvited. Everyone authorized to place door hangers on your door will have a photo on our website (Click here) and will follow all CDC, local, and federal guidelines to protect you and your families during the current pandemic. In addition, our staff will always have identification (business cards, photo ID or verification of the company’s website and documentation).
Some solar companies have even impersonated Cape Fear Solar staff. If you are visited by a solar door knocker posing as the utility company or us, visit www.capefearsolarsystems.com/alerts for information on how to report imposters.
If you’re considering solar power for your home or business, give us a call at (910) 409-5533 and we can walk you through the process, help you compare quotes, and serve as a resource while you do. due diligence. And, if your home isn’t a good candidate for solar power, we can share that too. Solar is a smart investment, but it should align with your energy goals.