MAGNOLIA, Texas – You’ve heard the expression “selling like hotcakes.”
Today in Texas, new companies and salespeople are getting rich selling solar panel power systems to homeowners.
All of this creates the perfect environment for solar panel scam artists and shady business people.
That’s something 92-year-old Tommy Ellis, a navy veteran and former AT&T technician, now retired from Magnolia, knows.
He signed up for solar power months ago and now deeply regrets signing up with the company that approached him with big promises and not much else.
Last January, Tommy and his wife Nell took more than $75,000 in cash from their retirement savings to pay a solar panel company to put 22 power collecting, solar panels on their roof.
The salesman promised them that they would save the planet and save electricity in a big way.
“Well, I want to do the right thing, and I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve been thinking that I can lower my electric bill to where I don’t have to pay a lot of electricity. I’m going to make my own electricity,” Tommy said, shaking his head. shook his head in annoyance.
Seven months later, Tommy wishes he hadn’t allowed the solar panel salesman on his property.
“What has happened to your electric bills since you put these solar panels on?”, KPRC 2’s Bill Spencer asked Tommy.
“Well, they have gone up. They really went up. It used to be $250 to $350 a month, but now it’s over $400 a month,” he said. “I’m ashamed you should say that.”
Over the past five years, the Better Business Bureau has received a total of 2,382 complaints against solar panel companies across Texas, more than half of those filed against solar panel installers.
Gage Mueller is a solar energy specialist at ADT Solar who says the solar panel business in our state is literally exploding right now with new companies jumping in every day to hopefully make a killing.
Mueller says, given this environment, there are three big lies you’re likely to hear from some salespeople who approach you for a sale.
What is big lie number one?
“The government will write you a check for 30% of the total cost of your solar system. So, if the system is $100,000, the government will write you a check for 30 grand, and that’s not true,” said Gage.
In fact, the government offers a 30% tax credit, but that’s only for those with enough taxable income to qualify for that and you have to apply for that credit.
Big lie number two is that you won’t pay another electricity bill.
”The truth is you can’t eliminate the electricity bill because the utility company charges a delivery fee that you have to pay. You have to run your system through the utility company’s grid and they’ll charge you for that, regardless of how much energy you can collect on your panels,” Gage said.
About big lie number three…
“Big lie number three, Bill, you have power when the power goes out. That doesn’t happen unless you have batteries and batteries are expensive,” Gage said.
The reality is that you need solar power batteries to do that which can cost up to $15,000 each.
So what can be done? With a good solar panel system?
“In terms of saving you money, any solar company will try to get you under a $50 to $60 electric bill per month,” Gage said.
“So with so many new companies now putting solar in place, how do you protect yourself and really get the kind of electricity storage you want?
We have 3 important steps you need to take:
First Step: Call Your Tax Professional/ IRS first
“Call your tax professional or CPA to confirm that you qualify for the tax credit. A sales guy is a sales guy trying to make a sale, but you need to know if you qualify for the tax credit or not,” said Gage.
Second Step: Make sure Your Roof is ready for the sun
“So, you need to know how old your roof is. How brittle your roof is. Can it withstand everything that’s going on up there. Sometimes people have to replace their roofs first or will end up paying thousands of dollars more to have their newly installed panels removed and reinstalled after a roof repair,” Gage said.
Step Three: Buy From One Company That Does It All, Sales, Installation, And Service
“That way you call a company, or someone throughout the life of your system versus I call the sales guy, the installer, do I call the 3rd party warranty company. I mean, where do I go to ask help when something goes wrong,” Gage said.
Finally, keep in mind that in the Houston Metro area there is currently a backlog of solar panel projects that must be approved by CenterPoint Energy before new solar panel systems can be turned on.
Watch a long interview with Gage Mueller talking about that problem below:
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