Everyone likes to save money – even us! And as the cost for pretty much everything rises, more and more of us are taking the time to seek out deals and offers that will reduce our costs.
In recent years, solar energy has soared in popularity. Homeowners and businesses alike have recognized the huge potential savings they can make on their energy bills and are clamoring to get their panels installed.
This has opened the floodgates for a slew of adverts online and in printed publications, all promoting the very attractive offer of “free solar panels.”
But are these ads legit? Or is it just an elaborate scam designed to empty our pockets?
Let’s find out.
In a Nutshell
- There is no such thing as free solar panels!
- The ads either refer to solar leasing or power purchase agreements or are outright scams.
- No reputable solar developer will ever try to trick you with the promise of free solar panels.
- You can save significant amounts on the cost of your solar installation through government incentives, tax credits, and net metering.
Why Free Solar Panel Ads Are Misleading
Where there is an opportunity, there is always someone looking to take advantage of it, and not necessarily in a good way.
While some of the “free solar panel ads” you frequently see are outright scams, the vast majority are simply incredibly misleading.
They might say “free solar panels Colorado” or “free solar Colorado” and then follow with a story about how “Dave” got his panels for free and that you can, too. Or, the ads play on the rising costs of electricity bills and how free solar will save you from economic hardship.
The truth is that no one is offering free solar panels. And despite the ads claiming that you can get free solar panels from the government, this isn’t true either.
What Free Solar Panel Ads Actually Mean
For ads to be convincing, there has to be a tiny (alright, miniscule) kernel of truth in there somewhere and this is where it can get confusing.
“Free solar panels” is a clever marketing tactic used by companies that are offering one of two things:
- Power purchase agreements
- Solar leasing
We’ll get onto what these mean in a moment, but if you find that the ad doesn’t relate to either of these two things, then you know you’re dealing with an outright scam.
Power Purchase Agreements
A power purchase agreement (PPA) indeed does involve the installation of “free” solar panels, and throughout the agreement period, the solar developer is responsible for the operations and maintenance of the panels. However, that’s where the savings end.
Before the company comes and sets up the “free” panels, you will have to sign a PPA agreement.
A PPA agreement locks you into paying a charge for any electricity generated by the solar panels for a pre-determined period (usually 10 – 25 years). To make this appealing to consumers, this charge is initially oh-so-slightly cheaper than your local electricity tariffs.
No big deal, right? You get free solar panels and a cheaper electricity rate – what’s not to like?
Note we said “initially.” In reality, you tend to end up paying way more than if you just stuck to good old-fashioned grid-produced electricity. This is because most PPA’s contain an “escalator.”
This is where the monthly fee is raised by 1-5% each and every year for the entire duration of the PPA contract. Over time, this increase makes PPA’s way more expensive than if you’d purchased a solar system yourself via cash or traditional financing.
In worst cases, some PPA agreements start out with a charge that is more expensive than your electricity tariffs, resulting in exorbitant costs later down the line.
A solar lease is exactly as the name suggests. A company comes and installs the solar panels (for free), and you pay a flat monthly fee to use them.
This fee replaces your electricity bill, and you are generally locked into a contract that typically lasts 10 – 15 years.
This setup works – in theory – if the flat fee is lower than your electricity bill. More often than not, it isn’t.
Additionally, despite paying for them over a good number of years, you never actually own the panels. The company that installed them calls all the shots, and you have no say in anything. For example, if you want to benefit from battery storage, you can’t just go and install one in a solar system that doesn’t belong to you.
Furthermore, solar installations increase a property’s value by 4% – 14%. This is not the case with leased panels, which add no value whatsoever.
Why Did People Rent Solar Panels?
Solar panels are expensive, but they’re nowhere near as expensive as they were two decades ago.
The price of solar installations has dropped by 89% in the past decade alone, and as they become more popular and easier to manufacture, this is set to drop further. Thanks to this, and thanks to the current incentives and tax breaks, it is now far easier to raise the capital or to secure funding for solar panels than it was a few years back.
As you can imagine, a decade ago when solar costs were much higher, this paved the way for solar leases. While people could not afford to own solar panels, they could afford to rent them.
Nowadays, solar leasing is simply an outdated, inefficient way to get solar energy and a way for unscrupulous companies to fleece you.
Why You Should Avoid Solar Developers That Use Free Solar Panel Ads
No reputable and honest solar developer has to rely on dodgy ads to get customers through the door. And if a company is trying to drum up business through misleading ads, then how are they going to conduct the rest of their business?
If you see a solar company making exaggerated or downright false claims about “free solar panels”, then it’s likely their approach will be similarly dishonest in all other areas.
For example, ordering inferior or cheaper equipment and selling it to you for an inflated price, or not being fully transparent with its pricing.
When searching for a solar developer for your solar system, do thorough research and choose one that has a solid background of happy clients and testimonials. Make sure their quoting process is clear and not misleading, and if you get even an inkling that they might be running shifty ads, it’s best to stay away.
What Is the Best Way to Finance Solar Panels?
Solar energy isn’t the niche investment it once was, so there’s no need for deceptive PPA agreements or solar leasing.
Many mainstream banks will now finance the cost of a solar installation through personal or business loans. There are even organizations that specialize in renewable energy financing, such as the Colorado Clean Energy Fund and CPACE.
If you’re interested in finding out which lenders will finance solar energy, we’ve put together a handy directory which we will keep updated.
How Can the Cost of Solar Panels Be Reduced?
While you will never get a free solar panel, you can take advantage of a number of tax credits and incentives that will greatly reduce the cost.
For example, you can claim a 30% ITC tax credit on the cost of your solar installation with bonus credits available for meeting certain criteria. REAP grant funding is available to farms and agricultural businesses that go solar, and there are state-specific tax incentives too.
Additionally, you can save more on your energy bills if you sell your excess energy to the grid by taking advantage of what’s known as “net metering.”
We’ve covered all the solar incentives for Colorado in-depth so be sure to check out our full article on the subject.
8760 Solar: Trusted and Legit
At 8760 Solar, we’ve been working hard to establish ourselves as a reliable and trusted solar developer in Colorado.
We’ve achieved this by building high-quality solar systems for our clients, making sure we’re fully licensed and insured. All our contractors and installers are required to be NABCEP certified and carry a master electrician license, and any other licenses that may be required.
One thing is absolutely certain – we’ll never put out a scam advert for free solar panels, but what we’ll do is ensure you’re taking advantage of all the available – legitimate – incentives!
While we do offer a PPA agreement, we offer it at cost and we’re upfront about the pricing and contract details. In most cases, purchasing a solar installation outright works out to be the best option.
To get started with 8760 Solar, text “READY” to 719 470-0254 or contact us via email: email@example.com. We’ll help you get great solar panels, for a fair price, via a completely transparent process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Are There So Many Ads About Solar Panels?
Many unscrupulous companies are trying to draw in customers with “free” solar panel ads. However, these ads are very misleading and refer to power purchase agreements and solar leases which can often be more expensive and far less advantageous than purchasing your own panels outright.
Are the Free Solar Ads Legit?
Free solar ads are not legit. There is no scheme or government incentive that gives out solar panels for free. The ads are either for solar leases, power purchase agreements, or are outright scams.
Is Elon Musk Offering Free Solar Panels?
Elon Musk and his company Tesla are not offering free solar panels or free Tesla Powerwalls. Any ad that claims this is the case is 100% a scam and should be reported.
How to Get Solar Without Getting Scammed?
To get solar without getting scammed, you must approach a legitimate solar developer or company. Find which ones operate in your area and check their credentials, reviews, and customer testimonials. Never click on any ads that claim you can get free solar panels – these are false claims.