How To Avoid Solar Panel Scams | Ask This Old House

In this video, This Old House home technology expert Ross Trethewey teaches host Kevin O’Connor what he needs to know about solar installation plans, financing, and rebates to ensure homeowners get the most for their investment.

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Why Solar is So Popular
Everyone’s phones and internet browsers are full of solar panel ads, and there are now door-to-door salesmen walking through neighborhoods attempting to sell systems. Why is solar so popular right now?

Ways to Finance Solar Installation
There are essentially four ways to pay for solar installation. Those ways include the homeowner paying for the solar system themselves out of pocket, using a third-party lender to secure a loan for the system and installation, leasing the system from a solar company, and a power purchase agreement. The benefits of these options vary.

Cash
When a homeowner pays for their own installation, they own the system. This means they can take full advantage of the solar rebates offered by federal and local governments. While they do have to come up with a lot of money (typically north of $13,000), they don’t have to pay interest. They might also be able to obtain a discount for full payment.

Loan
Some homeowners may choose to secure a third-party loan to pay for their solar panel system. In this scenario, the homeowner still owns the panels, and they retain all of the tax rebate benefits, but they’ll have to pay back the loan amount plus interest.

Leasing Agreement
Homeowners who want solar but don’t want to pay out of pocket or secure a loan may choose to lease their system from a solar company. When this is the case, the homeowner benefits from lower electricity bills, but the leasing company retains all of the tax benefits and rebates, and owns the system.

Power Purchase Agreement
Similar to a leasing agreement, homeowners who enter into power purchase agreements will pay less each month for electricity. They agree to purchase their electricity from the solar company in exchange for the solar company installing the panels on the homeowner’s roof. Again, in this scenario, the solar company retains the right to rebates and tax benefits.

How to Choose a Solar Company
With the ability to finance solar panel systems, get paid for them, and retain tax benefits, there are a lot of solar companies sprouting up. Not all of these solar panel companies are reputable, however. Some are simply in it for revenue generation, and once they land the agreement, there is very little incentive to return and service the system.

Instead of choosing the first solar panel installer that knocks on the door, do a bit of research. Ask friends and family who they used for their solar panel systems. Also, for each potential contractor, find out where they’re from. It’s better to work with a locally owned company than one run by a conglomerate 3,000 miles away.

It’s also important to know how long a company has been in business. Ten years of experience looks better than 6 months. And while a new company isn’t necessarily a bad company, the homeowner should simply do more research to verify that the company is legitimate.

One other thing: Look for Solar North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) [ These contractors have undergone third-party certification that ensures they know what they’re doing.

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About Ask This Old House TV:
From the makers of This Old House, America’s first and most trusted home improvement show, Ask This Old House answers the steady stream of home improvement questions asked by viewers across the United States. Covering topics from landscaping to electrical to HVAC and plumbing to painting and more. Ask This Old House features the experts from This Old House, including general contractor Tom Silva, plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey, landscape contractor Jenn Nawada, master carpenter Norm Abram, and host Kevin O’Connor. ASK This Old House helps you protect and preserve your greatest investment—your home.

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How To Avoid Solar Panel Scams | Ask This Old House

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