How to spot misleading solar ads

The demand for solar energy is growing across Virginia and across the nation. This is great news! However, as the solar industry grows and more companies enter the market, chances are higher that you might encounter advertisements or sales practices that can be misleading—or potentially even a scam.

Facebook and other social media sites have become common venues for ads promoting “special low-cost, or no upfront cost solar programs”. These adds often target or promote a service for middle-class or low-income homeowners. And while the temptation of spending very little or even making money on a solar installation may be great, there are no special federal or state programs in Virginia that give low cost or no money down solar to homeowners.

These misleading ads are typically used by private companies, many based outside of Virginia, to generate “leads,” or consumers who they think are likely to buy their product or service. When somebody fills in their information through one of these sign-up forms (often marked “enter your information to see if you qualify”), a private company often follows up with some type of solar loan or financing product—which may claim to have zero upfront cost. But this is not a special government or municipal program, because such a program does not exist. It is a private company selling you a solar loan or finance product.

As you’re browsing social media or searching around the internet, here are a few things to look out for to identify these types of ads:

  • The ads may look like an article from an independent publication with a picture of a politician or government official appearing to sign legislation.
  • They might exaggerate the up-front costs of a solar installation and make it look like financing for solar is the only option.
  • They may use clever language that disguises their loan product as solar installations or other home improvements (i.e. roof replacements) that are special programs sponsored by a government or locality—again, there is no such thing in Virginia.
  • The ad may claim that their program “funding” is still available, but only in “your area” or that it is only available for a limited time.
  • They may urge you to fill out a form on their website with your address, contact information or your utility bill to see if you “qualify.” This is then used by sales staff to follow up with you and offer their product or services.

As a general rule, always make sure to do your research before signing a solar installation contract: get competing bids, understand your proposal so you can compare apples to apples, and reach out to your local installers with questions. Virginia has a lot of excellent local installers that service all areas of the Commonwealth!

Solar United Neighbors is always happy to be a resource. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, our mission is to help people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights. To learn how your can be an informed solar consumer, contact us and download our Go Solar Guide by following the link below.

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