8 Common Solar Panel Scams to Avoid

8 Common Solar Panel Scams to Avoid

Last Updated on March 21, 2024 by Jeremy Pearl
Mar 21

When you install a solar array on your home, you expect to have a good experience working with a solar panel company. You also hope that the “experts” will be reliable and professional.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

The solar industry has changed, and today’s consumers must know how to identify which solar panel companies to avoid.

In this blog, we share our top tips for identifying subpar solar companies and protecting yourself and your home.

The Current State of the Solar Industry in California in 2024

There is a shift taking place in the solar industry in California and it’s causing a variety of challenges for the region’s solar installation companies.

The main culprit?

NEM 3.0, which slashed compensation rates for homeowners who produce excess energy and send it back to the grid.

While the solar industry is far from risk of going away, the introduction of NEM 3.0 has altered the solar market and caused some less-established companies to begin making false promises to attract business.

8 Solar Scams & Red Flags to Avoid

scams to avoid

1. A Solar Installer That Can Begin on Your Project Right Away

At first glance, encountering a company that promises an immediate start can seem like great luck.

Unfortunately, it’s actually a big red flag for discerning homeowners. 

In the solar industry, a reputable company often has a backlog of projects lined up, and this is a very good thing for you, the customer.

For the healthy solar company, there’s almost always a waiting period before the team can start a new installation.

If a company is ready to start immediately, this might indicate a lack of current business, which could suggest deeper service or product quality issues.

Additionally, a solar installation company with no waiting list may be experiencing financial difficulties. Businesses in healthy financial standing usually have ongoing projects and future commitments indicative of steady cash flow and operational stability.

A company available for an immediate start could be on the brink of bankruptcy and desperately looking for any business to avoid closing its doors.

This situation can lead to cutting corners, rushed installations, or using inferior materials to reduce costs and complete the job quickly, affecting your solar energy system’s long-term performance and reliability.

It’s also worth considering the impact of a company potentially going bankrupt soon after installing your solar panel system. Such a situation could leave you without access to after-sales service, workmanship warranties, or support in case of malfunction or suboptimal performance.

With all of this in mind, it’s usually worth waiting a bit longer for a reputable and stable company to handle your solar panel installation.

Prioritizing a company’s reputation and financial health over the allure of immediate installation can save you from future complications and ensure a more sustainable and efficient solar energy solution for your home.

2. A Company That Won’t Visit Your Home Prior To The Installation Day

Some companies try to save money by eliminating the “salesperson” or technical field assessment. Instead, they design and prepare for the solar installation remotely.

Unfortunately, this can lead to problems when installation day rolls around and the installer needs to satisfy all building and electrical codes.

A reputable solar company will prepare for your installation by assessing your property, roof, and electrical system before arriving to install your solar energy system.

If your chosen solar company doesn’t properly assess your project build site during the design and engineering phase, that could lead to costly change orders. Worse, the installer could walk off the job without installing your system, leaving you months behind schedule and having to start your project over with a new company.

Contact us for a free solar consultation today: (831) 469-8888

3. Lease Agreements with Unfavorable Terms

Some scammers offer solar panel leases with terms that are highly unfavorable to the consumer, such as extremely long lease periods, high cancellation fees, or escalating payment schedules that become unaffordable over time.

Some solar leases also create unwanted encumbrances when you wish to sell your home.

To avoid this, always read the fine print and consult a legal expert before signing a lease agreement.

4. Misleading Claims about Government Rebates and Incentives

Scammers might exaggerate or fabricate claims about the availability of government rebates or incentives for solar panel installations.

While legitimate incentives are available in many regions, they have specific qualifications and are not as universally accessible as scammers may suggest.

5. The “Free” Solar Panel Scam

Some scammers will entice homeowners with ‘free’ solar panels.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and there’s no such thing as free solar.

The only exception we’ve seen to this is that some emerging programs will provide rebates and incentives to cover the full cost of a small solar energy system for some low-income families—if they meet all of the qualifying criteria.

So, what’s the deal with offers for “free solar?” The catch often lies in hidden fees, high interest rates for loans associated with the panels, or financially disadvantageous long-term contracts.

6. Promises of Exaggerated Energy Savings

Scammers may promise dramatically reduced energy bills that seem too good to be true.

While solar panels can reduce energy costs, the extent of these savings can vary widely based on location, energy usage, and the solar system installed.

If the price, the savings, or the timeline look too good to be true, they probably are—and this should create some serious concern for you.

7. High-Pressure Sales Tactics

Using high-pressure sales techniques, such as suggesting that an offer is only good for a limited time, can be a red flag.

Of course, some companies offer the occasional discount or promotion, which can be beneficial for consumers.

That said, any company that is losing money on your project is not a company that is likely to be around 6 months or a year from now.

Reputable solar companies allow you to take your time and make an informed decision without feeling rushed or pressured.

8. Lack of Licensing and Credentials

Before engaging with a solar provider, always verify their licensing, insurance, and credentials.

A legitimate solar installation company will have the necessary qualifications and will happily provide proof upon request.

What Solar Companies Don’t Tell You (But Should)

Solar energy has emerged as a popular and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional power sources, offering significant benefits to those who adopt it.

However, while the advantages of going solar are frequently discussed, there are some important aspects that solar companies may need to fully disclose upfront.

Here are a few of the main things that cut-rate solar companies won’t tell you:

  • Initial Costs and Break-Even Point: The upfront cost of purchasing and installing a solar panel system can be quite high, and it may take several years before the savings on utility bills offset these initial expenses.
  • Maintenance Requirements: While solar panels are generally low maintenance, they are not entirely maintenance-free. Occasional cleaning and checks are necessary to ensure they are functioning optimally.
  • Sunlight Dependency: The efficiency of solar panels highly depends on the availability of direct sunlight. Shading from trees or buildings, as well as geographical location can significantly impact the energy output.
  • Roof Suitability: Not all roofs are suitable for solar panel installation. Factors such as roof size, angle, condition, and material can affect the feasibility and efficiency of a solar PV system. While flat roofs and similar structures can work for solar installations, you’ll need a skilled company to help you.

How To Choose A Reputable Solar Installer

sandbar solar installation

Choosing a reputable solar installer is a crucial decision that can affect your solar energy system’s efficiency, performance, and longevity.

To ensure you select a trustworthy and skilled installer, follow these steps:

  • Research and Read Reviews: Start by creating a list of potential solar installers in your area. Then, check their reputations by reading online reviews and ratings on platforms such as Google, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau.
  • Assess Experience and Expertise: Look for an installer with significant experience and expertise in installing solar systems. It’s beneficial if they have experience with the type of solar system you’re interested in, whether it’s photovoltaic (PV) panels, solar thermal systems, or a particular brand of equipment.
  • Verify Licensing and Certification: Ensure the installer holds all necessary licenses and certifications required in your area. A reputable installer will also be certified by national organizations such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), which sets the standard for solar installation professionalism and knowledge.
  • Get a Few Quotes: Gather multiple quotes to compare pricing and financing options. A trustworthy installer should offer a clear, transparent cost estimate and explain any available incentives, rebates, or financing programs that can reduce the overall cost.
  • Read the Fine Print on Warranties and Guarantees: Understand the warranties offered by both the installer and the manufacturer of the solar panels and inverters. A comprehensive warranty covers the solar system’s performance and includes workmanship warranties for the installation.
  • Ask About Post-Installation Support: Confirm that the installer provides post-installation support and maintenance services. Having access to ongoing support can be critical for troubleshooting and ensuring your system operates efficiently over time.
  • Look for an Installer That Offers Consultation: Opt for an installer who provides a thorough consultation, evaluates your property’s solar potential, and customizes the solar system to your specific energy needs and goals.
  • Interview Every Pro: Arrange consultations with your shortlisted installers. This is your opportunity to assess their professionalism, responsiveness, and willingness to answer your questions thoroughly.

Choose to work with a company where you feel they’ve listened to your needs and concerns and have put in the time and effort to build favorable rapport with you.

By following these steps, you can confidently select a solar installer who will provide a high-quality, efficient, and reliable solar energy system for your home or business.

Sandbar Solar & Electric is Here for All Your Solar Installation Needs

Hiring a solar installer is a major decision, and it always requires trust.

Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate the process alone.

By understanding the top solar industry scams and red flags, you can avoid low-quality solar installers and choose a provider with a track record of success.

Here at Sandbar, we’re celebrating 20 years of providing outstanding solar installation services to customers in and around the Bay Area.

Whether you have questions about a new solar installation project or just want to learn more about whether your home is a candidate for solar energy, we’re here to help.

Contact us today to learn more: (831) 469-8888

About the Author

Jeremy has worked in the solar industry since 2006. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from UC Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies. Jeremy has spent most of his solar career in residential sales and Sales Management in both California and Hawaii. He was raised in Santa Cruz County and is passionate about helping local residents make the switch to clean and reliable renewable energy. Jeremy lives on the Westside with his wife and two boys and enjoys music, photography and hiking in his personal time.