Listen Up: Ten Rooftop Solar Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes — and I’ve certainly made my share of them. On this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World we will discuss in detail some of the most common homeowner and installer mistakes that I’ve seen over the past 15+ years — as well as the actions we can take to do things right the first time.

The vast majority of solar installers are honest and ethical; they truly believe in their products and company. Nevertheless, there are some companies (and unfortunately rogue employees) who take advantage of customers. Here are a few of the solar mistakes I have observed during the sales and installation process:

  1. Poor installation practices — missed rafters, inadequate safety procedures, etc.
  2. Employees who are not properly trained or incentivized — compensation per kw, poor quality control, etc.
  3. Oversizing the system — panels in the shade, orphan panels, stuffing the roof, etc.
  4. Overestimating system output or dollar savings — easy to do by fudging inputs for design and proposal software
  5. Financial or contractual monkey business — poor explanations of actual contract terms, escalation rates, warranty obligations, etc.

Since solar is still relatively new, what customers learn about solar technology, installation processes and savings comes from the solar salesperson. With a little bit of education and caution, homeowners can avoid these common mistakes:

  1. Comparing solar estimates based on total costs — not the more accurate $/watt basis
  2. Lack of understanding of solar financing options and terms — escalation rates, buyouts, warranties, etc.
  3. Getting pressured into buying immediately — the “drop close,” special pricing, artificial incentive deadlines, etc.
  4. Hiring an inexperienced or improperly licensed contractor — usually not from a referral
  5. Installing a system that is undersized for current or near future needs — adding on to a system at a later date is usually expensive

About the Energy Show

As energy costs consume more and more of our hard-earned dollars, we as consumers really start to pay attention. But we don’t have to resign ourselves to $5/gallon gas prices, $200/month electric bills and $500 heating bills. There are literally hundreds of products, tricks and techniques that we can use to dramatically reduce these costs — very affordably.

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World is a weekly 20-minute podcast that provides tips and advice to reduce your home and business energy consumption. Every week we’ll cover topics that will help cut your energy bill, explain new products and technologies in plain English, and cut through the hype so that you can make smart and cost-effective energy choices.

About Your Host

Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. In 2001 he founded Akeena Solar — which grew to become the largest national residential solar installer by the middle of the last decade with over 10,000 rooftop customers coast to coast. He partnered with Westinghouse to create Westinghouse Solar in 2010, and sold the company in 2012.

His pioneering work on reducing costs of rooftop solar power systems include Andalay, the first solar panel with integrated racking, grounding and wiring; the first UL listed AC solar panel; and the first fully “plug and play” AC solar panel. His current efforts are focused on reducing the soft costs for solar power systems, which cause system prices in the U.S. to be double those of Germany.

Although Barry may be known for his outspoken work in the solar industry, he has hands-on experience with a wide range of energy saving technologies.  He’s been doing residential energy audits since the punch card days, developed one of the first ground-source heat pumps in the early ‘80s, and always abides by the Laws of Thermodynamics.

This podcast was originally produced by Cinnamon Solar and was presented here with permission.

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