Misleading Solar Sales Tactics
We’ve been in solar for quite a while. In that time we’ve seen many questionable solar sales tactics that aren’t in your best interest. In this article we’ll focus on the system design process and ways to spot a poor quality proposal.
Disclaimer: Not every sales person who fails to present a quality proposal is doing so with gimmicks. Most solar sales people are minimally trained, especially those knocking on your door. Their job is to get you to agree to a meeting where they or another sales person will try pressure sales to close the deal quickly. Immense harm has come to homeowners from sales tactics that focus on profits only. This is not how we do business at Galusha Solar.
In no way is this article implying that everyone knocking on your door is out to get you. At the same time, intent matters little when you are on the receiving end of an overpriced, underperforming system. Hopefully this article will help you avoid the bad actors, high-pressure sales, and questionable tactics.
There are multiple issues that can appear in the initial system design process. We don’t recommend signing a contract without the following considerations being addressed.
Solar sales tactic #1:
They don’t at least ask for your prior 12 months electrical usage
Everyone’s usage is different, which is one reason why we need to see one year’s worth of electrical usage (in kilowatt-hours, not dollars). For instance, a person with gas heat will have a very different load profile than one with electric heat. Do you like to decorate your house to be seen from space during the holidays? We can see that in your electrical usage (see image below)! But it’s likely that you won’t remember it if talking to a solar company in June.
If a solar company wants you to sign anything before getting your electrical usage, you’ve run into questionable sales tactics. They can’t give you an accurate bid without this information. If they’d like to get you preapproved for financing at this step, wait. Make them do a more accurate bid before moving forward. Otherwise, you’ve encountered a solar sales tactic.
Many companies will do a preliminary design without full usage information. This isn’t necessarily a red flag, but again, do not sign anything at this stage.
It should go without saying, but don’t trust your own memory either. Get your usage from the electrical company. It’s a short phone call or a quick check of your online portal and will ensure a more accurate system design.
Also, if you recently changed your usage, such as installing a more efficient air conditioner or adding an electric car, that’s important information. Your new usage can be estimated from that information.
Solar sales tactic #2:
No effort put into ‘Shading’ considerations
It used to be more difficult to calculate the loss in production due to shading, but with good solar modeling software it is relatively easy. However, not everyone uses that software. If you have trees nearby, or a chimney or swamp cooler on your roof, ask if they did a shading analysis. Note, if they say, I don’t think it will make a difference, press for more information because our intuition can be wrong.
How will you know if the system took shading into account? The pictures will include the irradiance, which looks like this picture. Note, the image is rotated to show the structure. The yellow roof face is due south.
In this picture, bright yellow is the highest solar access (most amount of sunlight throughout the year) and darker colors are lowest. See that tree? When this customer showed us a competing bid that system had solar panels on that small bit of roof (which is the garage), despite there being a large tree that would provide significant shade all summer.
Intuition might have told him it wouldn’t cause that much trouble, but the tree isn’t the only issue. That roof is blocked all afternoon by the house. This is why we use software. Intuition can be wrong, especially if they are on sight during the time of day when there’s plenty of sun in this area.
To make matters worse, this sales person, who sells for one of the largest solar companies in the United States, wanted the homeowner to sign a binding contract with their unworkable design before they would do a full and proper system design.
This is standard practice with many solar companies, but not with Galusha Solar.
We’ll address other concerns about the solar sales process in future installments, including: equipment, pricing, incentives, and financing. In the meantime, if you have any questions about what we shared here, just ask.