The consumer protection division of the Iowa Attorney General’s office is seeing a dramatic upturn in complaints about solar energy companies in recent months.
AG’s spokesman Lynn Hicks says people go into the endeavor hoping to lower their energy bills, but some are finding more costs and headaches with solar than they’d expected. “We’re getting complaints about the delays in getting panels installed,” Hicks says. “We’re hearing that there are all kinds of promises and representations made, exaggeration of how much savings in energy costs. You may be told that you’re going to get a tax credit.”
From 2019 through 2021, the division received 15 total complaints over the three years regarding solar energy systems. So far in 2022, the division has already received 40 complaints. “You may be promised that the utility will buy back power,” Hicks says. “We’ve heard of problems with financing. We’ve heard about problems in the actual installation, defects in the panels, complaints over warranties, somebody saying we’ll give you a refund and then they never do.”
In some cases, Hicks says consumers who started the process of purchasing solar panels have spent thousands of dollars — or tens of thousands — on the systems. Solar energy can lower your carbon footprint while powering your home with clean energy, but Hicks says it’s not for everyone and before signing a contract, you absolutely need to do your homework.
“That includes just looking at your utility bill and getting a very good idea of how much you could actually save,” Hicks says. “Then consider things like how long am I going to stay in this home? How big of a system will I need? Look at your house itself. Where is it located? How much sun do you get?”
While the average solar lease may save consumers money, he notes that if the homeowner changes their mind, moves, or the system experiences production issues, it can quickly become very costly. To contact the Iowa Attorney General’s consumer protection division, visit iowaattorneygeneral.gov or call 888-777-4590.