Will solar panels save you money? And your other solar panel-related questions

Are you thinking about adding solar panels to your home? They won’t always lower your power bill

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Prices everywhere are increasing, so consumers are trying to find ways to save on household expenses, especially on essentials like the electric bill.

In recent years, solar panels have continued to grow in popularity and some people are choosing to install solar panels in their homes with the intent to save money. However, if you don't do it with a legitimate company or in the correct and appropriate way for your home, it can become a nightmare. 

“I was expecting to save a lot of money,” said Pablo Nava, a San Diego resident.

He was looking to save on his electricity bill. So he decided to sign a contract for more than $20,000 to buy solar panels for his home, a contract he says sounded like a good deal at the time, but today he regrets it. 

He says the service is not what he expected it would be and because of the cost of the panels, he’s not saving as much each month as he had hoped. This is a reminder that before signing any contract, you need to understand whether installing solar panels is the right fit for you. 

“You want to make sure you have a very detailed contract. You want to make sure it goes into all the costs, into the time of installation” said Katherine White from California’s Contractors State License Board. 

“Sometimes contractors will promise a minimum amount of power generation but that needs to be written in the contract. You need to be able to refer to it if it's not performing the way it’s supposed to,” White added. 

She says solar panels are one of the top complaints they receive. the most common issues are:

  • Project abandonment: they promise you an installation but then they disappear
  • -False promises: they promise you a quantity of solar panels or a specific brand and don't deliver that 
  • -Deception: they promise savings that don’t really exist, or do not clearly explain how much your payments will really be, or the whole price of the contract.

“You need to do the research to see if it works all together. Are you willing to pay more electricity bills in the short term until you can recoup the savings? There’s no guarantee when there is a solar system that you will eventually see energy savings,” White said.

Leo Diaz

So who should skip solar panels?

We checked in with the experts at EZ Solar and Electric in San Diego. The company is not connected to Mr. Nava’s project.

They tell us there are two main reasons solar panels are not a good investment.

For example, they're in a location with too much shade; it could be from buildings or trees on other people’s properties. The other possibility would be that a customer's utility usage is too low. 

In addition, it is important that your roof and electric system are inspected before signing up for solar, so you don't find yourself in a situation like Mr. Nava’s.

“I have one leak in the living room and another leak in one of the rooms,” Nava said.

If your roof needs repairs, it’s better to fix or replace it before the solar panels are installed. This will prevent you from having to wait and pay someone to come back and remove the panels for the work at a later time. EZ Solar and Electric says installing solar panels will not cause your roof to leak if it’s in good condition.

You'll also want to make sure the contractor and installer are licensed with CSLB, and have the required insurance. 

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