What do I look for in a reputable solar company?

  • In the old days, a "snake oil salesman" was a common expression used to describe someone who sells or promotes some valueless or fraudulent cure, remedy, or solution. Unfortunately, these days that tactic is still being used and the snake oil is simply replaced with the latest trend.

    Solar energy is booming as many homeowners turn to harnessing the sun’s rays to produce their own energy.

    But with the increasing popularity of solar power, some businesses are taking advantage of the surge in consumer interest. While many solar companies are genuine and truly want to help consumers with a successful solar installation, there are bad actors to watch out for.

    You’ve likely heard a story or two about solar vendors who promised rooftop panels that would generate enough electricity to power an entire home or to where you would not have an electric bill. Then, after the homeowner has paid thousands of dollars for the installation, the claims are false and the vendor is nowhere to be found. Sadly, this story has been the reality for many consumers.

    If you’re interested in solar panels for your home, consider these tips before installation to avoid getting swindled:

    1. Talk to an energy adviser at HILCO Electric Cooperative first. We want you to feel confident about any decisions you make about your home energy use, especially decisions about generating energy at home.

    2. Collect quotes from at least three solar companies to ensure you’re getting a competitive deal. Ask friends, family, and neighbors that have solar who they recommend.

    3. As with any major purchase, research is key, so thoroughly read customer reviews for each of the solar vendors and check that they’re listed on the website of the Texas Solar Energy Society, txses.org. All the certifications and experience in the world won’t matter as much if the company doesn’t treat its customers well. Search for customer reviews on websites like Yelp and the Better Business Bureau. If you don’t find any, or only find a few, contact the company and ask for references.

    4. If you speak to a solar vendor and they use high-pressure tactics—like an offer that’s only good for 24 hours—run! Any reputable solar company will recognize that you need time to review a proposal and consider your decision.

    5. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So, if a solar company is making promises that sound unachievable and outlandish, they probably are.

    6. Finally, when it’s time to review and sign a solar contract, make sure the language is clear and easy to understand. Ensure any verbal promises are included in the contract.

    Remember, if you have any questions, you can always count on your electric co-op for advice. Going solar is a major decision that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, so do your homework first.