California Solar Consumer Protection Guide (Solar)

What You Should Know Before Signing a Contract for the Installation of a Rooftop Solar System

Across California, a growing number of people are installing rooftop solar systems. If you are considering rooftop solar, there are some preliminary questions you should ask yourself and important facts you should know.

The California Public Utilities Commission, the state agency that regulates privately owned utilities in California, recently published its Solar Consumer Protection Guide to inform consumers of potential false claims about residential solar systems and provide homeowners with a roadmap on how to go solar.

Based on the consumer guide, you should be aware of three false claims that are often made by dishonest businesses and salespeople trying to sell you a rooftop solar system.

Myth 1: You can get free solar energy at no cost to you.

Solar energy is rarely free, and an honest company will be upfront about all the costs you will pay over time.

Myth 2: You will never pay an electricity bill ever again after a solar system is installed.

After going solar, you will typically pay a small electricity bill every month and a larger electricity bill at the end of the 12-month cycle.

Myth 3: Time is running out and you must quickly sign an electronic tablet to get solar.

An honest salesperson would never rush you to sign anything without giving you time to review what you are signing. Additionally, California law requires that a salesperson show you the contract terms before you sign.

Equally as important as being aware of solar scams is understanding your rights as an energy customer. Customer rights are outlined in the guide and include the right to a copy of a solar contract and financing agreement in the language in which the salesperson spoke to you, and to a 3-day cancellation period after signing a contract.

The guide is also a good resource to help you understand the pathway for installing a solar system. You should keep in mind the following facts and topics as you begin your evaluation process:

Ensure you have made your home energy efficient. Making your home energy efficient before installing solar can decrease your overall energy use and may reduce the size of the solar system you need, potentially saving you money.

Make sure your house is a good candidate for rooftop solar. The direction your roof faces, and the size and physical condition of your roof are important factors in evaluating whether rooftop solar is a good fit for your home.

Review low-income solar programs to see if you qualify. You may qualify for solar programs that will save you more money with little financial risk. To learn more and see if you qualify for low-income programs, please visit SDG&E’s solar rebates and incentive programs webpage.

Find a qualified solar provider. If you decide to move forward with rooftop solar, try to receive at least three bids from licensed solar professionals who serve your neighborhood.

Understand and compare your financing options. There are four common solar financing options: purchase (cash or loan), PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy), lease and power purchase agreement (PPA). It is critical that you understand all the pros and cons of all financing plans before signing a contract.  

Learn about electricity bill savings and rates. You should be aware that an electricity bill savings estimate provided to you from a solar provider is an educated guess about how much you could save with rooftop solar. You should speak with your solar provider and SDG&E about fees and rates related to the installation of solar panels.

By following the steps outlined in the consumer protection guide and doing your homework on rates and programs, you’ll have the ability to make a more informed decision and better evaluate whether solar is right for you.

For more information about solar programs and services available to SDG&E’s customers, please visit SDG&E’s residential solar webpage.