Thinking of Going Solar? What Consumers Can Consider

North Texans, looking for ways to cut energy bills, may wonder if going solar is a good fit for their homes

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Angled toward the sunny North Texas skies, Veronica Rendon Leal pointed to the 20 solar panels installed on the roof of her home six years ago.

Leal told Telemundo 39 Responde reporter Martha Minjarez the salesperson who sold her on the system explained she’d continue to get electric bills, though Leal said they are lower.

Asked if she is happy with the panels, Leal responded that she was very happy with them.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Texas ranks second in the nation in the installation of solar with solar generating nearly 5% of the state’s electricity.

Though, some consumers said they’re not seeing the benefits.

According to complaint data obtained from the Texas Office of the Attorney General, its consumer protection division counted around 700 consumer complaints about solar panel companies between January 2020 and October 2022.

In the complaints we reviewed, consumers reported issues with the operation of the panels, promises of energy savings falling short and confusion over promised tax incentives.

Don Jesus Hernandez told Telemundo 39 the person who sold him on his system said Hernandez would get thousands of dollars back when filing federal income taxes. Hernandez said he didn’t.

While there are residential energy tax credits available, it’s a credit against the amount a taxpayer owes in federal income taxes. It’s not a guaranteed refund.

If a consumer would benefit from a tax credit, be aware of sales pitches that claim they’re expiring now.

“Sometimes we hear people saying, ‘I was told the tax credit is expiring next month and I have to sign up now.’ The federal income tax credit for solar was recently extended to 30% for the next 10 years,” explained Hanna Mitchell with Solar United Neighbors of Texas, a nonprofit that advocates for solar and helps neighbors form co-ops.

You can read up on available tax credits here.

Mitchell also said, “Anything that claims that you will be making money by going solar, is usually a red flag. Solar can really help bring down your electricity bill costs, but no one is going to be paying you to install the system.”

When considering solar, consumers should get multiple bids and research companies.

Check reviews and make sure the installer is a licensed electrician.

Ask about the process to get the system connected to the grid.

Determine if your roof is a good candidate for solar. Does it get enough sun exposure? Is there enough space?

Read contracts closely and ask about the terms. Some consumers may buy panels outright and own them, while others may sign up to finance the panels.

Christine Graham with the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner explained consumers should take the time to decide if solar is the right decision for them.

“If it's a high-pressure sale situation, just step back for a moment,” said Graham. “What solar panel I decide on today or tomorrow, it’s not going to make any difference whether I buy them today or whether I buy them tomorrow.”

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