Solar energy installations on house rooftops are surging in Oregon and Washington state. Alongside, you might have seen an uptick in adverts pitching rooftop photo voltaic, and even received an in-person solicitation. A number of the gross sales pitches include doubtful or probably deceptive claims. And now, client watchdogs are urging householders to do their homework earlier than signing any contract.
In hindsight, Pasco, Washington, retiree Bob Layman needs he and his spouse had accomplished extra analysis concerning the photo voltaic installer they chose to place panels on their roof. A part of their system was improperly wired. That meant the Layman’s couldn’t get an correct meter readout to gather state photo voltaic manufacturing incentive funds.
“It runs easily apart from the truth that the meter was attached flawed and did not give us a payout,” Layman mentioned in an interview.
It took three years, innumerable telephone calls and a number of home calls earlier than the wiring snafu was mounted and the couple collected the again incentive payout.
“They have been deceptive in communication with me and making an attempt to get me to accept lower than half of what they really owed me,” Layman mentioned of the saga with the seller.
The installer firm didn’t reply to a request for his or her facet of the story.
Going inexperienced has a lot attraction, but when it prices you extra bucks or stress than you anticipated, you can be left feeling inexperienced across the gils.
In Oregon, complaints to the patron safety division within the Oregon Division of Justice associated to residential photo voltaic doubled between 2019 and 2021, albeit ranging from a low degree.
Earlier this 12 months, the Idaho Lawyer Common issued a client alert warning about deceptive gross sales techniques by some photo voltaic corporations.
A spokesperson for the Washington State Lawyer Common mentioned that company’s client safety division tallied almost 100 complaints since 2019 about this sector, together with about misleading promoting and excessive strain gross sales. The tally nonetheless pales beside high mills of complaints akin to e-commerce purchasing and telecom providers, so there was no indication of motion much like Idaho was imminent.
The onslaught of photo voltaic power advertising and marketing in social media and on-line is leading to adverts exhibiting up in such huge ranging locations akin to initially of bonsai pruning movies or 1980’s music hits.
A Nevada-based digital advertising and marketing agency produced one widely-seen advert that begins with this doubtful declare, “When you’re a Washington home-owner, 2022 is your LAST likelihood to go photo voltaic.”
When the employees at long-established Western Photo voltaic in Bellingham noticed that advert and others prefer it, they have been moved to put in writing a weblog publish titled, “Easy methods to defend your self from photo voltaic scams & high-pressure gross sales.”
The truth is that the state’s and most native utility photo voltaic packages aren’t scheduled to alter between this 12 months and subsequent. A federal tax credit score decreases solely barely subsequent 12 months.
“Installations accomplished in 2022 are eligible for a 26% tax credit score, with a 22% credit score for methods put in in 2023,” Trish Merriman of Western Photo voltaic wrote. “Except Congress renews it, the (federal) tax credit score expires for residential installs beginning in 2024.”
One other come-on that surfaced this spring in on-line adverts is that you can “get photo voltaic put in on your property without charge.” Respected photo voltaic installers mentioned similar to there isn’t any such factor as a free lunch, there isn’t any such factor as free photo voltaic panels both.
“Over the long term, they will pay for themselves, for positive. Over the brief run, they don’t seem to be free,” mentioned Todd Currier, director of the Washington State College Power Program. ten, twelve, fifteen years earlier than a system pays for itself.”
Currier mentioned he has sadly heard about seniors being bought methods with long-term financing plans completely unsuitable for an previous individual.
The president of the Washington Photo voltaic Power Industries Affiliation mentioned the commerce group’s members agree, there’s a drawback.
“Finally in Washington state, it is purchaser beware,” mentioned Markus Virta, who can also be director of gross sales for Western Photo voltaic in Bellingham.
Virta mentioned commerce teams like his haven’t got the ability to police non-member unhealthy actors, which embody gross sales lead compilers and different out-of-state outfits centered on distant advertising and marketing. Virta says the trustworthy gamers within the enterprise are speaking with utility corporations and state companies about tips on how to step up client safety.
“We’re doing our greatest to brainstorm what we will do, what leverage mechanisms we will take to attempt to snuff out these deceptive and albeit false claims which might be being made,” Virta mentioned in an interview Thursday.
Virta’s recommendation for folks eager to go photo voltaic is to get a number of bids. He reiterated to by no means signal the contract on the desk throughout your first gross sales assembly with a contractor. And ensure you find yourself coping with a system designer, not simply the gross sales or advertising and marketing individual.
Currier mentioned he would need potential contractors to return out and do website assessments in individual earlier than submitting their bids to put in a photo voltaic system.
A spokesperson at Oregon’s Division of Justice advisable beginning at a US Division of Power-backed web site named EnergySage.com.
This all is going on within the context of document numbers of latest rooftop photo voltaic installations. In keeping with knowledge from the Photo voltaic Power Industries Affiliation, annual photo voltaic installations in Oregon rose by greater than 50% final 12 months. Washington additionally skilled double-digit proportion development with Idaho trailing slightly behind, however nonetheless rising briskly.
Puget Sound Power alone reported to the WSU Power Program that it related 2,000 new residential photo voltaic arrays in 2021 and mentioned it was on observe for 3,000 new interconnections this 12 months.
Virta recognized a number of forces behind the acceleration of installations. He mentioned the coronavirus pandemic performed an enormous function by main folks to spend extra on house initiatives and renovations, which generally meant buying a photo voltaic power system. [Copyright 2022 Northwest News Network]