From Magic City Morning Star

Don't Be Swindled by a Solar Energy Scam this Summer
By Better Business Bureau
Jun 13, 2014 - 7:45:13 AM

Marlborough, MA - Summer is almost here and homeowners looking for new ways to go green may find solar energy as a great alternative. Solar energy can help save the environment with the added benefit of saving homeowners a little money. Better Business Bureau advises consumers to be smart about investing in any home improvement project.

Solar energy scams are no exception when it comes to the typical home contractor scams. Fraudulent contractors prey on those who are unfamiliar with their product, such as solar panel scams that range anywhere from issues with installation to the actual panels themselves. In 2013, consumers inquired 83,970 times about solar energy equipment and systems dealers. BBB also received 259 complaints on solar energy dealers that ranged from contract and service issues to customer service issues.

"Consumers need to be familiar with solar panels and how the benefits will affect them before investing their money," said Paula Fleming, vice president of Better Business Bureau in Eastern MA, ME, RI and VT. "It's especially important for homeowners to do their research before hiring a contractor to install solar energy products."

There are many state and federal rebates that offer a reduction in the initial costs of solar products. However, consumers need to be wary of the less-than-reputable and unqualified contractors that breeze into town promising a variety of "green" services at discount prices. Homeowners should find an installer that is trustworthy and knowledgeable on the benefits of solar energy.

BBB offers the following tips when investing in solar energy:

Discuss with your energy company. Due to the high costs associated with the initial investment of solar power, it is important to conduct a self energy audit to determine if solar energy is right for you. Usually, if your monthly bill is less than $100, consider other ways to save energy that cost less. Be sure to ask about the local, state, and federal laws concerning the standards and codes of the solar panels.

Solar energy requires sun. Keep in mind that solar energy requires the sun, so find out on average how many sunny days your home sees annually. As with every product or service, comparison shop with several businesses to make sure you are getting the best deal.

Inquire about tax credits. Find out the amount of tax credits you will receive for the amount of energy that is generated. Ask about the length of time you will receive tax credits and if you will be taxed on the credits.

Settle the details. Be cautious of installers that promise no out-of-pocket costs prior to reviewing your specific situation. Be wary if an installer suggests obtaining credit for the full amount of the system even though they are promising very low or no costs due to rebates. Ask what will happen if the business promises a certain percentage of savings from your utility bill and the amount of savings is not achieved.

And finally, make sure the roof of your home is equipped to sustain a solar panel system. Even though a properly installed solar system will not damage your roof, make sure your roof is in good condition before you begin the installation to avoid any future problems.

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For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses and brands they can trust. In 2013, consumers turned to BBB 131 million times for Business Reviews on more than 6.5 million businesses, all available for free at The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs across the United States, Mexico and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.

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