One of the most common solar scams, and hardest to identify, comes from door-to-door sales. This provides a level of convenience for homeowners since they typically don’t have to do any legwork. The salesperson shows up, does a pitch (or sets an appointment) on why you should go solar. Chances are, you’ve already had a solar company visit your home, and likely on more than one occasion.
Is what they are pitching too good to be true? Solar is a solid investment for most but it’s certainly something you should not rush into without doing research. So, while a door knocker may take out all the legwork, some research is still recommended to ensure you are getting 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 are getting appropriate pricing and comparing apples to apples (not all solar is created equal—and the upfront cost vs savings can be hard to navigate).
Every day Cape Fear Solar Systems takes dozens of calls from individuals that were quoted by a solar canvasser. While not all canvassers are providing false information, it is a valid concern, and we always recommend doing some due diligence ahead of signing a contract. Never feel pressured or rushed to sign-up. Solar is an investment that will be on your roof for 25+ years.
Here are a few red flags that should prompt you to get a second quote:
- Claiming to be with the electric company (or affiliated with your electric company). Electric providers such as Duke Energy or Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation do not sell solar, nor will they visit a customer’s home without proper identification. They do, however, have resources to help you locate a reputable solar provider.
- No company identification. Solar door knockers that are not wearing company apparel or do no not have company literature to leave behind should be avoided at all costs. Company’s sending out canvassers without investing in apparel, identification badges, or print material are testing the market but limiting their expenses so they can easily move on to the next “solar hot spots”. There is a good chance they will not return if your system needs servicing.
- Free or no-cost. If the solicitor mentions “free solar” or a “no cost solar program”, know that there is no such thing. Solar companies would love to offer everyone free solar, but the reality is solar is not free; solar is an investment. There are many attractive zero down financing options available but there is no such thing as free solar. The zero down financing options are something almost every solar company has access to offer. Solar will save you money but it’s never “free”.
- Pushy sales strategies. “You must sign now, or you won’t get the Federal Tax Credit” or “I can only give you this price if you sign now”. While honest solar companies want to earn your business, they won’t ever put you in an awkward position. If you haven’t done your homework in advance to make your decision, it’s okay to sleep on it. Make sure all your questions have been addressed and you have checked references from other solar customers in your neighborhood.
- Not local (several hours away or out of state). Some solar companies are quick to travel to you to sell you solar and install it. A few months later, your electric bill doesn’t look correct. You call the company who did the install who tells you they can’t help you because they are unable to 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 costly repairs for a system that may not have been installed correctly in the first place.
- Not familiar with your utility or rate structures. When a solar company can’t understand or articulate your utility rate structure, there is a very good chance your projected savings are incorrect. A local solar contractor will be familiar with your rate structure (and if they are not, you may want to get multiple quotes to ensure your proposal is accurate).
- Over-sizing. Unless you specifically ask for a system that will offset much more than your current energy use (perhaps you mentioned plans to expand your family or purchase an electric vehicle?), be cautious with companies promising you more than 100% offset. You don’t want to buy a system too large for your use because you may end up donating power back to the electric company.
- Bad reviews. Check out Google, Facebook, Solar Reviews, and the Better Business Bureau. What are customers saying? If they are a national solar company, be sure to sift through reviews to read local reviews. While they may provide great service near their main office, sometimes national companies do not return to service systems further away after installation.
- No license, insurance, or certifications. Does the company have the appropriate licenses, insurance, and certifications? Before having a contractor on your property to perform any work, you should always ask them to show proof that they meet all state requirements. It is also recommended that the solar company holds a NABCEP certification—which is considered the gold standard in solar.
- 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 perhaps even a new roof. A company might pair the package with some mediocre or low-efficiency solar panels and present it as a complete solution. The problem is, only the solar portion is eligible for the Federal Tax credit and all the added stuff won’t save you enough to make up for that hefty price they buried in their proposal. While energy efficiency upgrades are great, be sure to look at what the solar alone will do for your home and when the company does more than just solar, it’s a good idea to get multiple quotes to compare.
- Use of subcontractors. Will the solar company be hiring subcontractors, or do they have an in-house installation and electrical crew? It is important that the individuals working on your solar project have the proper training. Without proper training, you risk having an improperly installed system or even worse—a leaking roof. Furthermore, it is important for you and your family’s safety that the solar company knows who they are sending to your home. Have they done a background screening for each employee? This may be especially important for families with small children.
- The price is low. You are presented with an amazing price. How could you pass this up? It’s lower than all the other quotes you have seen. Chances are you are paying for a solar system that won’t offer you much offset. It is a cheap inferior solar product that may not have the best warranty. Installations are often done by subcontractors who offer the cheapest installation price. With solar you get what you pay for…
- Sudden price markdowns. The company suddenly knocks $5,000 or even $10,000 off the price without you even asking for a reduction. 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 aren’t saving but avoiding overpaying.
- Selling for multiple companies. Canvassers are generally paid an hourly wage but rely heavily on commissions (set 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 canvassing such as pest control). If they are selling for multiple companies, they may not be putting your best interest first.
- Those trees won’t be an issue. While having some shade won’t always be a major issue, there is a good chance the production will be affected. Make sure the solar company calculates the shading into the expected projection. Some customers need to remove trees for solar to be a viable energy source.
While door-knocking isn’t part of 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. All individuals 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. Additionally, our staff will always have identification (business cards, photo ID or website verification, and company literature).
We’ve even had a few solar companies impersonate Cape Fear Solar staff. If you are visited by a solar door knocker impersonating the utility company or us, visit www.capefearsolarsystems.com/alerts
to learn how to report the imposters.
If you are considering solar 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 as you do your due diligence. And, if your home isn’t a good candidate for solar—we can share that too. Solar is a smart investment, but it needs to align with your energy goals.