“A Cautionary Tale”
Just recently we installed a 16 panel solar solution for Cathy M., here in San Diego, who told us a sad story, that unfortunately, happens more frequently than it should.
We installed Cathy M.’s, solar system 4 weeks after she signed her contract, and she received her “Permission To Operate” or (PTO), the same day as her inspection. So Cathy was producing power the same day as her final inspection. Cathy called us that day, surprised she had her authorization from SDG&E to start producing her own power so quickly, since her friend Linda, who had purchased her solar system from Vivant, was still waiting, 4 months later to be able to turn her system ON.
We hear this problem often and we were concerned enough to call Linda to see if we could help. Linda had signed a lease with Vivant for her solar system, the system had been installed for 4 months now and she was very concerned that after multiple phone calls to Vivant she still did not have authorization to start producing her own power. With our assistance, it turns out that Linda’s notification was sent by Vivant, 1 month after her install, but to an in-correct email address.
Linda will now owe SDG&E another 3 months of GRID usage when she receives her annual “True Up” bill from SDG&E for the months her system should have been up and running.
So what can we learn from Linda’s sad situation and how do YOU avoid problems like this?
- Use “Local” Solar Contractors that have offices that you can drive to and speak with an actual representative, in person, if you have a problem. Not a PO Box, or an 800 number in another State. Here at Palomar Solar we own our building here in Escondido, we maintain normal business hours and have a customer service department, so problems like this don’t occur.
- Never “lease” your system. In most cases the leasing company keeps YOUR 30% tax credit and your contract is 20 year’s long. Once they have you locked into your contract and the equipment is installed, the customer service evaporates and they simply move on to the next sale. Vivant should have been monitoring Linda’s system and noticed her system was not producing power long before she made the 1st phone call. Why it took multiple phone calls and threats of cancelling the contract to determine that her PTO had not been issued is still a mystery to us. Vivant’s Energy Consultant, that sold Mary the system, should have visited with her after her install and acted on her behalf months ago.
- Reliable, solar contractors should have your PTO within a week or two depending on the utility company after your final inspection. Here at Palomar Solar, a large majority of our client ‘s have their PTO’s the day of their inspection or within a week at the latest.
- Trust worthy solar contractor’s will not only offer Per-Panel-System-Monitoring to their client’s, but have a system in place that alerts the solar contractor and the homeowner if a service problem occurs. Here at Palomar Solar we don’t wait to be contacted by the homeowner if a service issue occurs.
- Reputable solar contractors will visit with you after your system is up and running to review your project, equipment, up-load your monitoring, explain what to expect on your monthly Net Metering Statements and your Annual True-Up Bills.
Do your homework on your solar contractor before you sign any paperwork, choose local companies that value their reputations and insist on a Final Project Review Mtg before you issue your final payment.