From Scott Carlberg

Solar energy is growing and will keep growing. With success, though, also comes the need for homeowners to be careful. Among the upstanding solar developers there lurk a few people who may try to take advantage of power customers.

Nanette Edwards

“In many instances, solar energy has the potential for customers to save money on their energy bill – but only if it is done right and if customers do their homework,” said Nanette Edwards, executive director of the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff. The ORS has done terrific work as a consumer watchdog on this issue.

Solar scams can involve contractors who ask for additional funds after installation, high costs, and solar panel leasing problems.

“The SC Office of Regulatory Staff Energy Office has developed solar.sc.gov, a one-stop-shop about solar energy in South Carolina,” said Edwards. “It includes information about the benefits of solar, how to choose the right system for your needs, installation and maintenance and costs and financial incentives. This site also includes a downloadable booklet, A Consumer Guide to Solar for the South Carolina Homeowner

Nanette had an op-ed in the Aiken Standard that covers solar scams. It’s worth a look.

SC ORS has a video about solar scams on YouTube.

The WSOC report made this suggestion: “Make sure you ask the right questions before buying panels:

  • Look at your electric bill. How much is for kilowatt-hours (kWh) and how much is for delivery costs? Even if you save on kilowatt-hours, you’ll still have to pay your utility’s administrative costs.
  • How long do you plan to stay in your home? It could be decades before the panels pay themselves off.
  • Know your home — the amount of direct sunlight, the angle of your roof, the direction your roof faces and the condition of your roof.
  • Ask your utility company if it will pay you for the electricity your panels produce.
  • Ask the solar company how much you pay upfront, how much your payments are, what your financing options are and if the lender can put a lien on your home or system.
  • Ask your tax preparer if you’re eligible for tax breaks.”
  • Get multiple quotes, but make sure you compare apples to apples. That means comparing panels, installation, guarantees the company makes and warranties.
  • Ask the company who is responsible for maintaining the system.
  • Research the company.”

South Carolina’s ORS has its list of solar questions here.

The ORS has these Red Flags for solar scams. The ORS is a resource for South Carolina citizens.

A North Carolina Attorney General’s Office spokesperson told ECC, “Anyone who believes they are being treated unfairly by a company should contact our office at 1-877-5-NOSCAM or ncdoj.gov/complaint. (Image – right)

As with many scams, keep in mind that if something seems to good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Don’t get pressured into something. Do your homework and get help.