Everyone makes mistakes – and I’ve certainly made my share of them. On this week’s Energy Show on Renewable Energy World we will discuss in detail some of the most common homeowner and installer mistakes that I’ve seen over the past 15+ years – as well as the actions we can take to do things right the first time.

The vast majority of solar installers are honest and ethical; they truly believe in their products and company. Nevertheless, there are some companies (and unfortunately rogue employees) who take advantage of customers. Here are a few of the solar mistakes I have observed during the sales and installation process:

  1. Poor installation practices – missed rafters, inadequate safety procedures, etc.
  2. Employees who are not properly trained or incentivized – compensation per kw, poor quality control, etc.
  3. Oversizing the system – panels in the shade, orphan panels, stuffing the roof, etc.
  4. Overestimating system output or dollar savings – easy to do by fudging inputs for design and proposal software
  5. Financial or contractual monkey business – poor explanations of actual contract terms, escalation rates, warranty obligations, etc.

Since solar is still relatively new, what customers learn about solar technology, installation processes and savings comes from the solar salesperson. With a little bit of education and caution, homeowners can avoid these common mistakes:

  1. Comparing solar estimates based on total costs — not the more accurate $/watt basis
  2. Lack of understanding of solar financing options and terms – escalation rates, buyouts, warranties, etc.
  3. Getting pressured into buying immediately – the “drop close,” special pricing, artificial incentive deadlines, etc.
  4. Hiring an inexperienced or improperly licensed contractor — usually not from a referral
  5. Installing a system that is undersized for current or near future needs – adding on to a system at a later date is usually expensive