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Educate Yourself: Don’t Get Fooled by Renewable Energy Scammers


If you’re thinking about purchasing a solar or small-wind system, make sure you do your homework! There’s a good amount of work that goes into making such an important investment, such as doing research on your installer, knowing about the product they’re installing and, most importantly, understanding the rebates available to you as a proud producer of renewable electricity.

There are an increasing number people overselling the benefits to solar and residential wind systems, so it’s extremely important that you know what you’re buying! Even worse – there are scammers out there trying to take advantage of this growing market. They’re looking to prey on uneducated, green-minded consumers, so don’t let yourself be one of them! You can help drive these people out of the industry by doing your due diligence.

Earlier this summer, the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA) received numerous phone calls from buyers who had very large deposits for solar systems taken from them. In two of the cases, $40,000 was taken and in the most egregious case, over $105,000 was taken! Now instead of enjoying the benefits of solar, these people are mired down in legal battles to get their money back. Don’t let yourself get into a similar situation.

There are a number of things to keep in mind when buying a renewable energy system for your home or business. Here are a few:

– Make sure your installer is a licensed contractor. All installers need to be licensed by their respective state. You can simply call your State Contractor’s License Board or visit their website and search for the company doing the job. They will be able to give you everything you need to know about a company.

– Know how much the contractor can legally take as a deposit. The cases mentioned above could have been avoided if the buyers knew that in California it is illegal for a contractor to take more than $1,000 for a deposit on a residential job.

– Ask if your installer is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). You can go to their website and search for the installer’s name. NABCEP certification is not legally required, but it will show that the installer has had good training.

– Compare at least two other quotes for an installation.

– Request at least two references from the installer.

– Know the various incentives that are available to you and how long it will realistically take to payback your investment. In some cases, sham solar companies are telling customers they will get a return on investment within 11 months! Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen.

– And finally, as Sue Kateley, Executive Director of CALSEIA reminds us: “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Trust your instincts about a deal. If you have second thoughts, make sure you take a step back and evaluate the relationship. In the above-mentioned case of the $105,000 deposit, the buyer said that they had second thoughts about the deal, but they went ahead and signed the contract anyway.

Most of the companies doing work in this space are well-established and trustworthy. Many have a long track record that you can easily look up. But as in any growing market, there are sketchy people looking to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. It’s important that you have a good understanding of this market before you sign a contract. Yes, it will take some work. But we want you to have a positive experience with renewable energy – the sustainability of the industry depends on it!

Author: Stephen Lacey

I believe clean, renewable energy is key to the evolution of society as a whole. Solar powers our planet, why not harness it to power humanity? Let's power our homes, our work, and our vehicles with solar energy. It begins with raising awareness and encouraging those around us to go green.

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