The shift towards renewable energy sources is not just a trend but also both a way to be earth-friendly as well as a way to become more budget-friendly.  Solar energy, with its promise of clean, inexhaustible power, has soared in popularity among homeowners and businesses alike. However, as we see more and more solar panels light up rooftops across the country, the shadows of scams and deceit cast by disreputable companies have become a risk. There are so many scams on the internet and they are becoming more and more tricky to spot.  Here’s how you can ensure you’re making a sunny investment and not getting burned when you’re searching for a solar company in California (or elsewhere) that’s right for you!

The Spark: Why Go Solar?

Before diving into the darker waters, let’s celebrate the sunny side! Solar energy can significantly reduce electricity bills, increase property value, and cut down on carbon emissions. It’s mostly a win-win-win! With benefits like these, it’s no wonder many are eager to jump on the solar bandwagon. We have some friends who set up an entire Tesla solar system on their home and are very happy with it.  However, this eagerness can sometimes lead us into the traps set by less-than-sincere companies.

a house with solar panels on top with a bright blue sky in the background.

Spotting Clouds: The Warning Signs of a Solar Scam

Here are some red flags that signal it’s time to put your solar plans on hold with a particular company:

  1. High-Pressure Sales Tactics: If a salesperson pushes you to make a quick decision to get a discount or avoid a price increase, that’s a red flag. Don’t sign anything on the first meeting.
  2. No Details, No Deal: Be wary of vague promises without specifics. Good companies provide clear details about the costs, savings, and the installation process IN WRITING. Don’t agree to verbal promises.
  3. Unbelievable Promises: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Extremely high energy savings or unrealistic government incentives might be exaggerated to lure you in. I’m sure you’ve seen the ads when your browsing online that say something like “This new program for those living in “(Insert state here) will almost completely pay for your solar installation. But time is running out!”.
  4. Lack of Documentation: Reputable companies will have licenses, insurance, and permits. A company reluctant to show these might not be following industry standards.

The Bright Questions to Illuminate Your Solar Path

As you communicate with potential solar providers, sharpen your inquiry skills. Here’s a sunshine-lit path of questions that can help you gauge the credibility and competence of a solar company.

  1. Certifications and Licensing: Are you certified by any national or state organizations? Can I see your business license and insurance certificates?
  2. Experience and Track Record: How long have you been installing solar systems? Can you provide references or testimonials from previous customers?
  3. Financial Options: What payment options do you offer? Do you offer financing? What are the terms?
  4. Partnerships and Manufacturers: Which solar panel manufacturers do you partner with? Are the equipment brands reliable and well-known?
  5. Guarantees and Warranties: What warranties apply to the equipment and your installation work? What do these warranties cover?
  6. Post-Installation Support: What kind of customer service and maintenance support do you offer post-installation?

Shining a Light: Steps to Finding a Reputable Solar Company

Finding the right company is like finding a sunny spot on a cloudy day. It requires careful consideration. Here are the steps to ensure you’re dealing with sunshine professionals:

  1. Research is Key: Start with solid research. Websites, reviews, and solar energy forums can provide insightful information. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is also a resource for checking if any complaints have been filed against the company.
  2. Understand Your Needs: Assess your energy usage and discuss with potential providers about what systems would best suit your property. A good company will help you understand your needs without pushing the most expensive options. You can find solar calculators online that will help you estimate how many panels you’ll need, how quickly it will pay for itself and any rebates that might be offered.
  3. Compare Quotes: Get quotes from multiple providers. This not only gives you a better idea of the fair price but also an insight into different products and services available.
  4. Visit Completed Projects: If possible, visit or speak with past customers. Experiencing their solar setups and hearing firsthand accounts can provide an additional layer of assurance.
  5. Transparency Throughout: From costs to installation processes, a reputable company will maintain transparency. If you feel information is consistently withheld or glossed over, it might be time to look elsewhere.
  6. Negotiate: Don’t be afraid to negotiate terms or ask for better pricing. A confident and legitimate business will often be open to discussions to secure your satisfaction and trust.
  7. Legal Check: Ensure all agreements are in writing and vet them through a legal expert if necessary. Contracts should be clear on all terms, including installation, maintenance, warranties, and financing.

Shielding Yourself: What to Do If You Suspect a Scam

If you feel you’ve encountered a scam, it’s important to act:

  • Stop Communication: If you haven’t signed anything, discontinue negotiations.
  • Report It: Notify the FTC, BBB, or your state attorney general’s office about your experience to help protect others.
  • Educate Others: Share your experience in reviews, social media and online forums to raise awareness of the company’s practices.

Conclusion: Letting the Sunshine In

Transitioning to solar energy is a brilliant way to contribute to our planet’s health and your financial well-being. Although the road may have a few shady spots with scams from disreputable companies, equipped with the right knowledge and vigilance, you can confidently choose a path illuminated by integrity and sincerity. Remember, the best solar energy experience comes from informed decisions made calmly and wisely. Do not rush into making a decision. Take your time. Here’s to harnessing the sun’s power responsibly and beneficially!

The future is bright, but only if we embrace it wisely. Shine on!


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