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Misleading Solar Sales Tactics that Solar Customers Should Avoid

Sep 2, 2021 | Common Mistakes, Industry Secrets, Solar

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In this article, we outline a few misleading solar sales tactics and red flags that customers should look out for when working with solar sales representatives.

Going solar is a huge decision and a major investment. Therefore, it’s totally understandable for homeowners to take time to do thorough research and evaluate their options. Most good solar companies and sales representatives respect that. In fact, we encourage homeowners to educate themselves on solar and ask questions when they’re uncertain. 

However, there are still many aggressive reps who use unethical and misleading sales tactics that give the solar industry a bad reputation.

Going Solar Will Eliminate 100% of Your Utility Bill

In most states, it is impossible to fully get rid of utility bills even after you go solar. As long as your house is connected to the electricity grid, you’re subjected to a small customer service and maintenance fee.

During the sunny months, your solar system can produce more electricity than what you need. The extra energy will, then, be sent back to your utility company for credits. Vice versa, if you need to pull electricity from the grid when your system doesn’t generate enough energy, you’ll get charged. If the solar company has done its job right, your credits and charges should even out.

When you go solar, you are protected from the ever-rising price of electricity. If you have chosen to finance your solar system, your monthly solar payment is a set amount, much like a home mortgage.

Look out for these claims:

  • “Your energy bill will be $0 when you go solar”
  • “Never pay for your energy bill again”

Solar is Free. Go Solar at No Cost.

The solar energy we get from the sun is, of course, free. However, converting it to the electricity used in your home isn’t.

When a solar sales representative or a solar ad tells you “solar is free”, it’s not totally a scam. But you need to be aware of all the fine print and details that come after it in order to make an educated decision.

When a sales rep claims that “solar is free”, here is what they mean:

  1. Through Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) or Solar Lease, you sign a long-term contract with the solar installer. They will then install solar panels on your property at little to no cost but will charge you for the electricity generated by the panels. Your monthly payments will typically be lower than what you would pay to the utility company. With this arrangement, the solar panels are free because you don’t own them. They belong to the solar installer. And at the end of the PPA period, installer can remove the panels from your property.
  2. When a solar sales rep promises you a $0 down payment solar installation, please think twice about it. While it sounds like a good deal, the amount you don’t pay upfront will be added back to your overall loan. Ultimately, it will make your solar panel system cost more in a long run and reduce your return on investment. 

Look out for these claims:

  • “Go solar with $0 down” 
  • “No payments for the first year/month/etc.”
  • “Free solar panels”

Promotional Gifts. Get Cash Back When You Go Solar.

The promotional gifts can be a vacation, gift cards, electronic devices, household appliances, etc. Gifts and cash-back offers are one of many ways salespeople use to entice customers to make their decisions on the spot without having a chance to compare quotes. 

Remember: the cash doesn’t come from nowhere. In order for salespeople to offer these appealing cash back and rewards, they inflate the prices of your solar system. Unethical salespeople can add a few thousand to your final purchase price so they can give you “cash back” and still make a huge profit.

Look out for these claims:

  • “Get a free vacation to ______ when you go solar with us” 
  • “Get $5,000 cash back when you choose us”
  • “We’ll pay your bills for the first 6 months”

If you want to learn more about what actually goes into your final system pricing, check out this article: Why are Solar Panels so Expensive?

Receive Cash Back from Tax Credit. Federal Tax Credit is Ending Soon.

In order to push customers to sign on the same day, many unethical sales reps even fabricate information on government solar incentives and tax credits. 

The solar tax credit isn’t a type of cash back. It only offers you a reduction in your income tax. In fact, the solar tax credit is one way that the state and the federal government implements to support solar energy growth in the United States. 

The most well-known government incentive is the Solar ITC (Federal Tax Credit). As the time this article is published, the ITC is providing a 26% tax credit for solar systems on qualified residential properties. The credit will stay at 26% until the end of 2022 and drop to 22% by 2023 until it ends in 2024. However, the government has been extending the ITC many times. Therefore, claiming tax credits ending soon isn’t necessarily true.

Although we always encourage homeowners to take advantage of solar tax credits, it shouldn’t be a major reason why you sign a deal. Read this article to learn more about a few key factors to pay attention to when checking a solar quote

Look out for these phrases:

  • “Solar tax credit ending. Go solar TODAY” 
  • “Get cash back from the solar tax credit”

Solar Installers Quote You for A System that Is Smaller than What You Need

Your system size should be determined based on how much electricity your household uses. A good solar installer will size your system in a way that maximizes your electricity usage offset, hence, your return on investment. 

However, in order to make your final system price appears low on the quote, a bad installer or salesperson can recommend a system that is way smaller than your energy demand. When a solar system produces less electricity than what you need, you’ll end up pulling a lot of energy from the utility company. As a result, many customers are bewildered to see huge true-up bills on top of monthly solar payments that they have to pay for. It defeats the purpose of going solar, doesn’t it?

When it comes to comparing quotes, we do not recommend fixating on the system cost alone because it can vary depending on the system size, the number of panels needed, and brands. Instead, price per watt is a much useful metric if your system is priced fairly. 

The majority of these misleading sales tactics are used to get interested homeowners to sign the contract on the spot. This way, the homeowners don’t get a chance to compare quotes from other solar companies. We can’t stress enough how important it is to compare and review multiple solar quotes to make sure you get the most bang for your bucks. 

Evaluating solar quotes isn’t an easy task. Check out our FREE Quote Evaluation Tool where we break down your quotes and help you fully understand the offers you’re getting.

If you prefer to compare quotes on your own, make sure to grab this Sample Quote Guide so you’ll know exactly what to look out for when reading a solar quote.

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