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Solar Currents (As originally published in The Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today Newspaper, Jan 2013)

Read Original Newspaper Article PDF here

In the world in which we live, life would be so much easier if there was more transparency in our personal and business dealings. In advertizing and industry, we’re oftentimes subjected to factual omissions, misrepresentations, or “offerings” so onerous they’re borderline fraudulent. “Trust but verify” should be a practice all consumers adopt when conducting business.

Yesterday a potential solar customer told me that a competitor offered a “solar system output performance guarantee option” for an additional $2000. One of the cardinal rules in business is to never debase one’s competitors; allow your offerings to speak for themselves, and win the bid based on the advantages your business can offer the consumer. On the surface, a guarantee of performance sounds wonderful. In practice, this option is of no better value than the “rust-proofing option” for a new car. Fortunately, solar systems are very reliable, and the products come with warranties from the manufacturer. Those that sell and insure “performance guarantees” make a very good profit because they sell an onerous contract that makes it very difficult for a consumer to collect on the guarantee. The insurer/installer/seller of the guarantee is making the safe bet that the consumer does not have the skills to be able to prove that a solar system may be under performing due to causes other than the weather; variations of weather have the greatest impact on solar system performance. These performance guarantees offered by the installation contractor are a waste of money; the reliability of the products negates the need for more guarantees at additional cost to the consumer.

The kilowatt output of a solar array should be determined by one method only – that being online via one of the recognized government calculators that utilize the criteria of azimuth, tilt, standoff distance, products, shading, and 20 year weather data from the project zip code (www.csi-epbb.com).

Consumer Alert : Manipulation of kilowatt output estimations on solar estimates affect payback time and long-term gains , and they incorrectly underestimate post solar electric bills. These manipulations are intended to make a contractors quote appear more advantageous than a competitor’s quote.

Tax Credits : The Federal Tax Credit of 30% of the net cost of a solar system for a home or business is in place through tax year 2016. The only tax credit that recently “expired” was the ability of a customer to claim the 30% tax credit for tax year 2012. If the total tax credit cannot be exhausted in a single year, the remainder can be carried though subsequent years until the tax credit is exhausted.

Evaluating a Solar Contract : To learn how to validate a quoted solar systems performance or to see a list of questions you should ask a solar contractor before entering into a solar contract, see www.gosimplesolar.com/questions_for_contractors.html.

By Mark Becker , GoSimpleSolar

Mark Becker is the President of GoSimpleSolar , by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, a Danville based Solar Installation Firm (License 948715). Mark can be reached at 925.915.9252. Visit GoSimpleSolar’s showroom at 114 West Prospect Avenue in Danville or www.GoSimpleSolar.com, or email Mark@GoSimpleSolar.com.