Going green is all the rage these days. Sometimes going green can save you money and other times you just have to think of it as helping to save the environment a little bit at a time, with no monetary savings. Solar panel prices are starting to come down and more consumers are considering installing them on their homes or in their yards. In addition, more businesses are getting into the solar business because of the government subsidies that can be obtained.
Keep in mind that solar energy requires the sun. So find out how many sunny days your area has each year. As with every product or service, comparison shop with several businesses to make sure you are getting the best deal.
BBB offers the following tips for those leasing, buying or installing solar panels themselves:
Talk to your energy (electric) company.
· Most utilities have net metering programs. Net metering measures the difference between what consumers pay for the energy purchased from their utility minus the cost of energy that the consumer provides to the utility collected through the solar panels.
· Make sure you meet all standards and codes that are applicable along with local, state and federal laws.
· Ask about the cost of installing a new meter.
Find out about federal and state tax credits.
· How much will you receive – for what amount of energy generated?
· Will you be taxed on these tax credits?
· How long (months, years) will you receive tax credits?
· What do you have to do to receive the tax credits? Is there a filing date?
Choosing a business
· Check out the business with the Better Business Bureau, www.bbb.org
· Will you be leasing or purchasing the solar panels? Compare costs - upfront versus long-term.
· Who receives the government (federal and state) benefits?
· Who pays for maintenance costs of the equipment?
· How long is the contract? 10, 15, 20 or 25 years?
· Is there a cancellation fee?
· If you move will the panels be moved for free? What if your new home will not accommodate the panels? Can you cancel?
· Consider location – on your house or in the yard?
· If the panels are located on your house, what happens if there is damage during installation – who pays to repair?
· If you have to have a new roof replaced (on average every 20 – 25 years) will the company remove and replace the panels for free or a cost?
· If the business promises a percentage savings from your current utility bill – what happens if that savings don’t materialize?
Complaints to the BBB and ways to avoid these complaints.
· Utility bill is more than promised by the sales person.
o Savings are usually based on past years utility bills – which may or may not reflect the weather of the current year.
o Obtain savings claims in writing and ask if the business guarantees to make up the difference if the savings claims are not accurate.
· Damage was done to roof, gutter, vents or wall during installation
o Ask who will pay for damage, if done by the business and make sure that’s written in the contract.. Make sure the business is licensed and insured for the work to be done.
· Panels were not installed in a timely manner.
o Ask for a date of installation in writing. Read the contract to find out when you can cancel if the panels are not installed promptly.
· Electrical system in house where panels are to be installed is too outdated to add solar panels/new meter.
o The new panels and electric wiring will usually need to be inspected by a licensing authority. If you believe your electrical system is outdated, ask your licensing authority prior to signing a contract if they will approve solar panels being installed.
· The business selling or leasing the solar panels says that they are working in conjunction, in partnership with, or in cooperation with your utility.
o Verify any partnerships, with your utility company, prior to signing a contract.
· Delays in receiving permit, if required.
o Check with municipal agencies on current average permit process time to have a realistic project timeline.