Solar: What to Know Before Buying

Published by Bob Hance on Sunday, March 31, 2024 in Electric

Last year, I shared a story about a solar panel company that had gone out of business, leaving customers with nonfunctioning solar arrays and thousands of dollars of debt.

Unfortunately, we continue to see people encountering issues, so I’d like to share some tips when considering adding solar to your property.

First and foremost, do not sign a contract without thoroughly reading it and understanding what is in it. Solar arrays cost thousands, with some loan terms lasting 30 years. Don’t let a salesperson pressure you into signing something on the spot. It can be difficult to say no if someone is at your house, but stay strong. This purchase will impact you for years to come, so give yourself the time to do your due diligence. Remember that the salesperson does not have your best interest in mind.

Understand available tax credits and the actual benefit to you. Right now, the federal tax credit is 30%, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get a check from the government. It means that the credit decreases your federal income tax. Consult a tax professional. He or she can tell you exactly how much you’ll benefit from the credit.

Watch out for talk of free equipment or panels. Nothing in life is free, and while you may have no down payment or no cost for installation, you will most certainly be paying out of pocket for the solar system. Similarly, be wary of a “limited-time deal” that ends in a matter of hours or days. That’s generally a sign that they are pressuring you to sign before you have the chance to thoroughly vet the contract or financing plan.

Make sure you get detailed information on the installation timeline and process, frequency of communication, timeliness of warranty, follow-up work if there’s an issue, and assistance with paperwork processing for loans, tax credits, and rebates. Ask what happens if the solar panel system doesn’t pass inspection. If it doesn’t pass inspection, it cannot operate, and we will not connect it to our system. However, you may still be financially responsible even if the solar panels are not operational. Finally, find out what other contractors you may need to hire for things like tree removal, installation of solar batteries, roof repair, etc.

Lastly, get a clear picture of how much energy solar will actually generate for you, and don’t go by what the salesperson tells you. Do your own research. Unless you can generate 100% of your electric from your solar panels, which will not happen in the Midwest, you will need a backup source. Additionally, you will still get an electric bill for fixed charges if you remain connected to our infrastructure.

I’ve said this before, but it warrants stating again. I’m not here to rail against solar. It’s part of our future. However, as we’ve seen, the world of solar does have some shady players, and it’s important to know exactly what you are getting into before you sign on the dotted line.

About The Author

Bob Hance

Bob Hance is the President/CEO of Midwest Energy & Communications.