BBB Tip of the Week: Solar panels
As the weather warms, many of us are planning our outdoor projects. Installing solar panels to reduce (or eliminate) your electricity bill and help the environment may be on your to-do list or an idea to consider adding.
Many solar panels work with net metering programs that allow homeowners to send excess energy to the utility company and offset energy consumption costs at night or on cloudy days. Solar panels do continue to work on cloudy, foggy or overcast days, but at a reduced efficiency. They also work well after snowfall because the sun’s rays reflect off snow to the panels, so long as the panels are cleared of snow.
Before you tackle a solar panel project, here are some common complaints received at the BBB and their solutions:
The utility bill is higher than promised by the solar panel company. Solution: Ask for energy savings claims, and guarantees if claims aren’t accurate, in writing.
During installation the roof, gutter, vents or wall was damaged. Solution: Before signing a contract, determine who pays for damage during installation and make sure it is in the contract. Also, check that the business is licensed and insured for the work being done.
Panels were not installed in a timely manner. Solution: Ask for an installation date in writing, and read the contract to understand the terms of cancellation if the panels are not installed on time.
The house’s electrical system is outdated, but the contract has already been signed. Solution: It is true that in most areas solar panel installation, including a new meter and up-to-date wiring, needs to be inspected by a licensing authority. If you think your electrical system could be outdated, contact your licensing authority before you sign a contract to determine if you need to spend additional money on new wiring or a new meter to get the project approved.
The solar panel business says it has a partnership with the utility company. Solution: Contact your utility company to verify partnerships and any additional, promised incentives before signing a contract.
It is taking a long time to receive the permit for the solar panels. Solution: Check with your municipal agency for the average permit processing time, so that you have a realistic project timeline.
Before you start your next project, check out businesses and get more tips from the BBB at www.bbb.org or by calling 509-455-4200.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor