Not Happy with Solar?

solar complaints by categoryYou wouldn’t be alone if you said you were not happy with your solar installation.  There are 1117 closed complaints over the last three years on the Better Business Bureau collectively between national solar giants SolarCity, Vivint Solar, and SunRun.  I’m sure the number of happy customers far exceeds the complaints.  However, it does show that the national companies may have a problem resolving issues directly with customers.   We looked at the BBB complaints to see if we could find any discernable patterns to give consumers an idea of what to watch for.

60% of solar complaints are problems with service.

The national solar companies are very good at selling and churning out solar installations.  Oftentimes, the complaints occur post-installation.  These problems can be abnormal, specialized, and time-consuming.  Project managers want their crews working where they make money.  They may ignore the complaint or set it aside because they don’t know how to tackle the problem or may not have the correct resources.

SolarCity had the largest number of BBB complaints, but it appears SunRun had the most complaints as a percentage of their work.

According to GTM Research’s US PV Leaderboard: Q4 2015, SolarCity had 34.1% market share of the leading US residential installers while Vivint captured 11.6% and Sun Run 2.6%.  However, the Better Business Bureau shows SolarCity with 582, Vivint Solar with 396, and SunRun with 199 total closed complaints in the last three years.  As a ratio of complaints to market share, SunRun tops the list at 76.5, Vivint is at 34.1, and SolarCity scores the lowest at 17.1

Top Solar Complaints Include:

Workmanship problems take a long time to get resolved.

“In July, **** reroofed my home. In doing so something was not done properly and a leak was created. I discovered mold on the closet wall in my bathroom from floor to ceiling. On January 2, I called **** to inform them of the leak. They have sent people out to my home 4 times to… fix the leak and take pictures of the mold. However, nothing has been addressed about the mold. I have been calling them everyday for about 2 weeks, and every other day before that, to try to find out what is going on and when they are going to get the mold cleaned up. Every time I call no one has any answers. “ – BBB Complaint

Solar companies don’t call back regarding service-related issues.

“I’ve had **** panels for just under 1 year. In November, I noticed my solar bill was $0. I called to see why. I was told my system had not communicated with them since mid-October. A technician came out and resolved the issue. 2 days later, the red fault light was on and my system was not… producing again. I called and a technician came out while I was not home. When I returned from work, the red light was still on. I called **** again and they informed me the technician needed to order a part and I would get a call in 1 week to schedule the repair. 2 weeks went by with no call. I called again and was told a part needed to be ordered and I would get a call in a week. Still nothing. I called again and was told this was a priority and I would get a call from a supervisor in the next 48 hours. Still no call. I reached out to my original sales person and he contacted service. He said they would call me in a day or so…it’s been another week, still no call, still no repair and my electric bill has skyrocketed from $50 to $300 for the last 3 months. I just want it fixed. My contract states repairs will be made within 30 days and we have clearly surpassed that timeframe.” –  BBB Complaint

Customers not happy with solar project delays where system is not operational.

“As of today this company has been unable to properly and safely install and hook up our solar panels and refuses to give any answers as to when this service will actually be turned on. The panels have been attached to a new roof and now we have panels plus holes on our roof that are absolutely… useless without hook up. The company has not been able to or will not give any information as to when or who I should contact to either get this hook or remove these panels as they are absolutely useless without being hooked up. I have called several times since these panels were installed to no avail I just want to either have the hook up or have this company remove and replace our roof that has holes in it because of their product. I have contacted an attorney for breach of contract to figure out how this will be handled as **** refuses to follow throught with their contract”. – BBB Complaint

Systems are not meeting production estimates and customers feel misled about expectations.

“So I signed up for solar city and had panels added to the house doing the 20 year no money down lease. Estimated production of our panels was like 5200 kilowatts the first year, I know it’s an estimate but we didn’t come anywhere near that. Also last year was ok was paying maybe **$ in the winter… for our electric bill to eversource now we are payin **$ a months play we are paying solar city. We were paying maybe **$ over the summer bc of producing so much solar power and none of what we made over the summer, so none of that banked solar power has been used for this winter and they are basically taking my money. I was paying less for electricity before the panes were installed!!! I feel I was very misled on the production of these panels , plus now I’m paying more re then I was before I would like to break this contract due to being misinformed but don’t know where to start! I would have never signed a contract for 20 years knowing what I know now!” – BBB Complaint

Customers choose national solar companies because of the name recognition, volume of projects, and warranties or production guarantees.  Solar is a big decision so customers want the job done right and want to be sure the company will be there to service their system.  These national companies are known for their sales and marketing, but workmanship and customer service many times take a back seat.

Selling your home with a solar lease or PPA can be challenging.

“Continue to get billed by Vivint solar after selling the property and having service transferred to new owners. After contacting Vivint solar billing department multiple times and speaking to a supervisor we were told if we did not pay the bill dated for after the transfer date that it would be put… into collections. “ – BBB Complaint

Solar consumers may register a complaint at the Better Business Bureau or to their state’s Office of Consumer Affairs.

The Better Business Bureau is a nonprofit that advocates trust between buyers and sellers.  It provides arbitration for resolving consumer and business disputes.  State offices may also offer some consumer protection services.  The State of Massachusetts, for instance, oversees an arbitration program and guaranty fund.  To qualify for this program, you must work with a registered contractor.  If your installation company is not responding to your inquiries, leaving reviews on Google and Yelp will also attract their attention.

Prospective customers should get multiple quotes and read reviews.

The best way to make sure you are happy with your solar installation is to do your research.  Get multiple quotes so you can compare opinions on the system size, estimated production, equipment, layout, and expected schedule.  Be wary if one solar company is designing with the same exact equipment as other companies, but anticipates a much higher annual production.  They don’t have any magic – their estimates are probably just optimistic!

Reviews will also be helpful, but don’t just go to Yelp, go on Google, Angie’s List, Facebook, and SolarReviews.  Read through actual reviews.  Ignore designations like“pre-screened”, “certified”, or “accredited” which are really code for paid advertising.  Make sure positive reviews are consistent between the review sites.  If a company only has reviews on mainly one site, I would consider that a red flag.  They may be advertising on that site and funneling their happy customers to write positive reviews there.

Local or regional solar companies don’t seem to have BBB complaints.

Local or regional solar companies, such as Brightstar Solar, live and die by our reputation since they don’t enjoy the name recognition of the larger companies.  You won’t see many complaints on the Better Business Bureau They typically have consistent construction staff which equal less workmanship issues.  They also have a flatter organizational structure which makes it easier to field complaints and tackle post-installation issues.

Brightstar Solar is a local, Massachusetts solar company that focuses on residential and small commercial projects.   We have zero Better Business Bureau complaints and have consistent perfect reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, SunPower and SolarReviews.   If you’re interested in a free evaluation of your home or business, please call us at 617-564-0050 or complete a request form on our website.