7 Ways to Avoid Solar Panel Installation Fraud

Using solar panels to offset electricity costs is far from new, but recently there has been a surge in their installation.

Since 2020, a steady increase of states across the U.S. are taking advantage of saving on their utility bill and positively affecting the environment with solar panel installation.

Georgia is no exception. Both its residents and commercial entities are getting some sun.

Google, Walmart, and Meta all hold solar initiatives in Georgia. Social media giant Meta is the largest corporate solar project in the state, with its solar project in Denton.

On a smaller scale, Georgians are purchasing solar panel installation for their private residences at record numbers.

With expensive electricity rates and the decreasing cost of solar panels, 53% in the last decade, using sunny days to power homes is a great advantage. To brighten the deal, the U.S. government offers eligible households the federal residential solar energy credit.

Touting a quarter million workforce, the solar industry in Georgia is booming. With 221 solar companies, the competition is as fierce as the demand.

With this increased interest comes a need for awareness of consumer protection. With the influx of companies, it has become difficult for consumers to determine the validity of their business practices.

Since 2022, there has been a surge of consumer legal claims ranging from faulty solar panel installation to false promises from fraudulent solar companies. In response, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr issued a statement warning Georgians of fly-by-night solar-panel companies.

“Solar panel installation is a significant investment, whether you buy or lease a system,” said Carr. “We strongly urge Georgians to thoroughly research whether this is the right solution for them and to confirm that the solar panel company they are considering is reputable.”

But what about those that fall prey to predatory vendors?

This blog post aims to arm you with knowledge and tools to protect yourself and loved ones against solar panel fraud, provide actionable steps to qualify solar power companies, and review actionable steps if you or someone you know has experienced being scammed by a fraudulent solar panel installation company.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of predatory solar panel installation, Thrift McLemore law firm is here to help. Call us at (678) 784-4150 to connect with a team invested in helping you.

The Problem: False Claims & Deceptive Mass Marketing

According to Atlanta news station Fox 5, Georgians are getting duped at alarming rates by companies advertising the benefits of residential solar panel installation.

Misleading ads mixed with false claims and persuasive wording to ignite consumer interest successfully fool many.

For example, an ad by one company falsely claims that solar panels eliminate electricity bills. However, the ad neglects to include one major detail: solar panels do not replace electrical power.

Such marketing exploits the common misconception that solar panels replace the need for an electricity service plan.

To be clear, customers do save on electricity. But the solar power service works in tandem with a client’s existing Georgia Power account. This enables the resident to save on their consumer electricity bill.

Unfortunately, residents, unaware of the falsity of the ad’s claim, hire these companies under the guise of saving money but soon after face a rude awakening.

The Solution: Consumer Awareness & Education

Here are seven things to consider before meeting with a prospective solar panel installation company:

1. Do your research about your individual situation to determine if solar panel installation is right for you. 

Georgia Attorney General Carr urges consumers to study their bills. Their usage will indicate if solar panels are in their best interest. By surveying those numbers, they can do a cost analysis before contacting a prospective solar company.

2. Understand the process and eligibility for tax credits.

Another scam these companies use is dangling the carrot of the federal government tax credit in the eye line of consumers. To determine your eligibility, click here to read about the qualifications. If you meet with a solar company with this knowledge, you are less likely to fall prey to any fast talk.

3. Research the solar company thoroughly before scheduling a consultation.

The U.S. Department of Energy suggests asking the following questions while vetting a solar company:

How long have they been in business?

How many solar energy systems have they installed?

What modules do they use and why?

Are they licensed?

How many years of experience do they have? (The U.S. energy department suggests only working with a company with at least three years of experience.)

If a company fails to answer any of these questions sufficiently, move on.

4. Read reviews and ask the company for references.

Solar panel installation costs typically start at $20,000.

Before making such an investment, it’s best to hear from others who have worked with that company. Do they make timely repairs? Once you buy from them, do they disappear? Arm yourself with this knowledge.  

5. Knowing which financial agreement terms work best for you. 

Do you want to lease your solar panels or own them? Each option has pros and cons, but you have the freedom to find which option works best for you.

6. Ensure you understand solar contracts or consider hiring someone who does.

Before signing a contract, read it thoroughly. If the company complicates any legalese or you have any questions, seek legal counsel for clarification.

The team at Thrift McLemore is well-versed in cases like this and can give you the counsel you need.

7. Educate yourself on the entire process. 

We are in the information age. Before you invest your money, invest your time to research the process from beginning to end.

Work With an Experienced Legal Team

Protect yourself and your loved ones by thoroughly researching and qualifying a solar power company, understanding the installation process, and knowing your rights as a consumer.

If you fear you have been scammed, remember that help is available. Contact Georgia’s trusted legal firm, Thrift McLemore, to explore your options and get the justice you deserve.

About the author

A Partner at Thrift McLemore, Joseph Williams is an experienced attorney who focuses the majority of his practice on helping clients navigate the probate court process throughout Georgia. He also has extensive experience representing clients in Consumer Litigation as well as guardianship and conservatorship proceedings.