25 Apr Understanding Door-to-Door Solar Sales: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Thanks to generous tax incentives and rebates from New York State, NYSERDA and the Federal government, as well as net-metering, it has never been more appropriate and timely for homeowners to convert to solar. However, finding a reputable company to work with can seem like a daunting task.
One method solar companies use is canvassing door to door, which remains one of the oldest and best ways of connecting with people. While going door to door is indeed a great way to spread the word about solar energy, there is a right way to do it, and, as with anything else, a buyer-beware way!
“There are solar companies — including several from out of state — that will set up in Western New York for a short period of time every year in search of unsuspecting customers and promising huge cost savings,” said Alicia Uebelhoer, who co-owns Buffalo Solar Solutions along with her husband Tyler. “They use predatory sales tactics to take advantage of their customers.
“Solar companies that come to your door and employ strong tactics to make the sale are not only hurting the customer, they are also giving a bad name to the well-intentioned local solar companies that practice door-to-door sales the right way. That’s why we encourage people to call us and ask us questions. We highly recommend avoiding these non-reputable companies that leave town as quickly as they appeared, and instead focus on working with a company that is truly invested in the community.”
The Uebelhoers went on to mention that they recently heard from a local home inspector who asked homeowners why they chose a non-local solar company instead of contacting one of the local solar companies. The homeowners replied that they were offered free gifts including a television, stereo equipment and gift cards.
“Any reputable company wouldn’t have to give things away like that,” added Alicia. “It should be seen as a big red flag because it screams desperation.”
Another tactic of non-reputable solar companies is to hire young people to go door to door who are instructed to tell homeowners that they “don’t get paid” unless the homeowner will sign up to receive more information. Feeling bad for the young canvasser, the homeowner will then provide contact information, which will often lead to numerous calls and/or emails until the homeowner finally agrees to a home visit.
During the home visit, the canvasser will offer general information without factual details to back their claims. The sales rep will then make a call to his or her manager to see if he can “get a better deal” to get you to sign up today. Pressure tactics are again used to get the customer to sign a blank contract. Then, they will quickly schedule a site assessment for three or four days later, which is obviously in line with the federal “out clause” on the contract signed by the homeowner.
During the next step, the homeowner is pressured — multiple times a day — into finalizing their contract via phone, e-mail and/or text. If they no longer want to move forward, they are forced into an additional meeting to sign “contract cancellation forms.” Even if they are successful in canceling the contract, the homeowner is then told they will be charged for the work completed such as paperwork, permits, site assessment, etc. This typically ranges from $200 to $1,000.
But there is good news. If you think solar energy might be right for you, do your homework and then contact a reputable solar company with hometown roots that will thoroughly educate you about solar systems before asking you to sign anything.
There is one thing that can’t be stressed enough: At no time should a solar company ask you to sign a contract until you have had home visits, a customized quote, negotiations, an actual site assessment and/or energy audit, and ample opportunity to have all your questions answered. Then, and only then, should you consider signing a contract.
(Read the full Buffalo Scoop article here.)
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