Going solar can be a detailed process, especially when companies operate under unethical and dishonest business practices. At Clean Solar, we value customer satisfaction and transparency throughout the entire installation process, making sure you know what we are doing, when and why. We support The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) requiring all solar customers to read and sign The CA Solar Consumer Protection Guide. This 23-page document contains essential information about the solar industry and your role as a customer. Here are 3 key points from the guide you should know prior to purchasing a solar system.
(For signing, you have the option to provide a wet signature or an electronic signature. As of the date of this article, the e-signature option on the Consumer Guide is only available until January 28th, 2020.)
1) Know Your Solar Rights
As a solar customer, it is important to know your rights when talking to solar installation companies.
Right #1: To read the Consumer Guide before signing the contract
The solar company must give you adequate time to read and sign the consumer guide before handing out a contract.
Right #2: To be given the Solar Disclosure Form from your Solar Installer
The Contractors State License Board’s (CSLB) Solar Disclosure Form is a one-page document, placed at the front of every solar contract, that shows you the total costs for your solar system. This is to ensure you, as the consumer, are safeguarded from any hidden costs, finance fees, or change orders.
Right #3: To a 3-day cancellation period after signing the contract.
You have 3 business days to cancel your solar contract for any reason. The cancellation can be sent by email, mail, fax, or delivery by notice to your provider by midnight of the third business day after you receive a signed, dated copy of the contract.
Right #4: To be given a copy of the contract and financing agreement in the language your salesperson spoke to you.
The California Solar Consumer Guide is available here in several different languages.
2) Find the Right Installer & Ask Them Questions
The CA Solar Consumer Protection Guide provides a step-by-step process in searching for the best solar provider for you.
Step #1: Make a list of providers that service your neighborhood
You can find local licensed contractors, like Clean Solar, by referring to the CSLB website, the California Distributed Generation Statistics website, checking with your county, asking friends and neighbors who had solar installed on their homes.
Step #2: Narrow down the list by Solar Providers with a valid CSLB license
It is illegal to conduct business without a valid CSLB license. Go to the CSLB website or call 800-321-CSLB (2752) to check if a provider’s license is active and valid. Also, you can find out how long the company has been in business and the number of installation projects they have completed.
Step 3: Get Bids or Price Quotes From At Least 3 Qualified Solar Companies
After narrowing down the list of solar installers, ask for a bid or price quote. Important to note, is that the cheapest quote or bid isn’t always the best option. It could mean the solar provider is trying to cut corners.
Step 4: Ask Solar Providers Questions
Never be afraid to ask questions. The CSLB recommends asking questions regarding the company’s background, your roof’s candidacy for solar, and the types of warranties the provider offers (refer to pg. 10 of the CA Solar Consumer Guide for more details).
3) How Electricity Bill Savings Work
What is NEM?
With solar, you and the utility company have a special arrangement called Net Energy Metering (NEM). NEM allows you to earn financial credit based on the excess electricity your house is not using and sends to the grid. These credits will be earned at the retail rate, which means you will be credited the amount that you would have been charged during that time.
NEM & Your Monthly Electricity Bill
At the end of the month, you will receive an electricity bill that summarizes how much electricity you used and sent to the grid. Typically, you can transfer the credits you generated in the previous month to the next month. Furthermore, your monthly electricity bill will not charge you for usage – only a small utility connection fee.
12 Month Settlement Bill
The 12 Month Settlement Bill, also known as the “True-Up Bill”, is where you are charged for the net electricity you consumed after subtracting credits. If you produce more electricity than what you consumed, you will be eligible for “net surplus compensation”, which is 2-3 cents per kilowatt hour.