Our phones have been ringing off the hook due to advertisements for free solar panels (not ours). These ads say you can get solar panels installed at no cost for your home. They are billed as special programs to get more people to install solar energy. The claims are amazing!
There is only one problem: It’s totally fake news!
The shady competitors are flooding the Internet and social media with unbelievable promises of free energy. Obviously, this makes no sense. If it were truly free, everyone would do it, right? The ads claim all kinds of nonsense. Here are some things you might see:
- Government Rebates: False – There are no local, state, or federal “rebates” available for solar panels. There is an investment tax credit, but this is not a rebate. You have to actually pay taxes to get a credit. A rebate implies you can get a check back even if you don’t pay any taxes. There are other things that might be called incentives, like no sales tax in Florida. But rebates are long gone for solar panels, which have dropped in price dramatically over recent years.
- Utility Companies Will Buy Your Solar Power: False – Utility companies are required to absorb your excess instantaneous solar power production and keep it for your future use in the form of energy credits that can be applied to future billing periods. In reality, most solar panel owners consume all of the solar energy they produce on an annual basis. This is all handled via a billing mechanism called Netmetering. Utility companies may buy your annual excess produced solar power, but at a wholesale rate, which provides no incentive to homeowners.
- Zero Dollar Electricity Bill: False – Even if you produce as much or more than you consume in a given billing period, you are still required to pay a monthly customer charge, which ranges from around $7 – $20 per month. Regardless of how much solar you install, you will always pay something to the utility company.
- Community Solar Bands Consumers Together: So what? We’re here to tell you that community solar programs do not necessarily result in the lowest price and their cookie-cutter approach does not result in the best system for each individual homeowner. You can get better-suited products at the same or lower prices by going with a reputable dealer that didn’t win the lowest price bid. And some community solar projects actually charge the dealer a fee for each participant, which is ultimately passed on to the buyer! (Note: there are some reputable programs out there – we are talking about the “programs” developed by shady advertisers).
- Sell Electricity to Your Neighbors: Nope – that’s illegal in Florida unless you are a regulated utility. I can sell you solar panels, but I can’t sell you the energy they produce. You have to buy, finance, or lease solar panels. You can’t just buy the electricity they produce from a solar dealer. This differs from other states with more progressive electricity generations and distribution policies. Other states allow “power purchase agreements” where you get solar panels installed “for free” and just buy the resulting energy. This is not yet allowed in Florida, and probably won’t be for a very long time. The entrenched utilities oppose this.
- Power After a Hurricane: Not without batteries. This ends up being a huge bait an switch usually. An advertiser claims you can have solar power after a storm. That is true, but you need to also have batteries for that to work, which is extremely expensive. We estimate that less than 1% of Florida solar panel owners have batteries. They are not practical at this time. The vast majority of solar electric panels installed are intended solely to offset your electricity bill and will not operate without utility power. That’s okay – that’s exactly what these systems are designed to do – offset your utility usage and save you money over time.
And there is much, much more. The claims are as bright as the sun itself, but end up casting a shadow over the whole industry.
So what’s happening, and why are you seeing these ads? The answer is actually pretty simple – and annoying. Lead brokers are gathering your data and selling it to whoever will buy it. This accounts for the vast amount of the shady advertising you see out there.
Here is how it works… a company will recruit a number of solar contractors in an area to sell them sales leads from “interested” or “qualified” homeowners. Once they have a few contractors on the hook they start buying ad space and paying top dollar to get ads placed on Google. These ads follow you around the Internet once you have shown an interest in solar panels. When you finally relent and give out your contact details, the lead generator will sell your contact information to multiple solar companies at astronomical prices. In theory, you get contacted by multiple legitimate vendors to respond to your solar inquiry.
The problem is that these lead generation companies have no real interest in educating you. Their goal is just to get your contact details. Then you get contacted by the companies that have decided it’s a good idea to purchase these sales leads.
We’ll admit it – we have purchased sales leads at times. But we have found that the false advertising has become so egregious that we want no part of it. People call us all the time and finish the conversation dejected after finding out that they actually have to pay to get solar panels installed in one way or another. The sales leads are not legitimate prospects at all. They are just people that want something for nothing.
You might also be getting phone calls from telemarketers pushing free solar panels. These bottom feeders are even worse. They outright lie just to set up an appointment for you to meet a “solar advisor.” I have received the calls, and played along as long as I could to gather information about their tactics. They are shameful. But they are also really good at what they do, so many people get duped into an agonizing hard-sell sales pitch.
So why are so many people installing solar panels if they aren’t free? Demand is very strong. The financial benefits are undeniable. Environmental altruism is a major contributing factor. And a properly educated client can understand whether solar panels are a good investment for their home and family.
There are ways to finance solar panels where you have little to no out-of-pocket expenses initially. Your finance payment may end up being similar to what you pay your electric company. So yes, your electric bill may be near zero, but you still have to pay for the solar panels. You are just paying someone else for your electricity in essence. Over time your payments stay the same while the electric bill you no longer have will have kept going up.
And if you are fortunate enough to be able to pay up front for solar panels, your return on investment can be very attractive relative to other investments of similar risk and term. It can also be a great hedge against rising electricity prices.
As the saying goes – nothing is free. If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is!
When you are ready to find out the real scoop on solar panels, contact us for an honest and informative assessment.