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How To Avoid Home Solar Power Scams

BOSTON (CBS) - Excited about the opportunity to reduce his carbon footprint and save money, Charles Bomfalk jumped at the opportunity to install solar panels and small wind turbines on his roof.

But several months later all that equipment is now little more than an eyesore on his home.

"We have not saved one penny," he said.

WBZ-TV's Paula Ebben reports

Not only has it failed to reduce his energy bills, the system has not generated a single kilowatt of electricity.

To make matters worse, the contractor who installed the system is now refusing to return Charles' calls.

Charles is one of several hundred people who have complained to the Better Business Bureau saying they were victims of solar scams.

"I think it's horrible that contractors take advantage of people that are trying to do good by their environment and by their community by going green," said Bureau spokesperson Paula Fleming.

Another consumer, who did not want to reveal his identity, said he fell for a rebate scheme.

He paid a contractor $12,000 to install a system of solar panels on his roof and was promised over $2,000 in rebates.

He never got the money but that's not even the worst part.

"This particular system has not shown its benefit," he said.

Monique Hanis of The Solar Energy Industries Association says there are plenty of reputable solar contractors out there.

"Most people are having a great experience with installation and they're usually surprised to find out how affordable the system is and how quickly and easily it can be installed," she explained.

Hanis has several recommendations for anyone considering solar power.

  • Use a contractor who is licensed in your state
  • Make sure the contractor belongs to a national solar energy professional association
  • Check references
  • Get three estimates

Many homeowners choose solar energy for environmental reasons, but if saving money is your goal you need to do the math.

"We encourage people to look at it," Fleming said.

"Look at the initial cost and the long lasting costs (monthly energy bills) and decide if it's right for your home," she said.

For help on legitimate rebate programs for solar energy installation in Massachusetts and around the country, click here.

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