- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Offers Advice To Homeowners Considering Solar Panel Installations
Boston — As more Massachusetts homeowners seek clean and renewable energy sources to provide electricity, Attorney General Maura Healey is providing tips for consumers when purchasing or leasing solar panels.
“Our office encourages the continued expansion of the solar industry, but we urge consumers to take the time to research the costs and benefits of buying or leasing solar panels for their homes,” AG Healey said. “This is a long-term investment for homeowners, so it is crucial that residents have the information they need to make informed choices for the future.”
Massachusetts is ranked as one the top states in the country for installed residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. With more solar options for residents, it is important to check information online about specific solar companies, ask questions and check references. For homeowners considering installing solar panels, the AG’s Office advises consumers to understand the following:
- Know Your Electricity Usage: Look at your utility bill to determine how much electricity you consume and what price you pay per kilowatt-hour. Consumers should consider any planned changes to property, family size, or purchases that may impact electricity use in the future.
- Be Realistic about Savings: Solar companies often calculate your projected savings by assuming utility rates will increase by a certain percent each year. Consumers should watch out for exaggerated projections. Do your own research about electric rate trends and projections in Massachusetts in order to evaluate the company’s representations.
- Energy Production May Vary: The amount of energy produced by your panels may vary at different times of the year, and it may not cover all of your energy needs. Understand how your system is likely to perform and what the financial impact may be.
- Identify Federal, State, and Utility Incentives: Look into whether you are eligible for solar-related tax credits and incentive programs, and do research on renewable energy certificates and net metering credits. These resources may help defray upfront costs and improve the return on solar PV systems.
- Understand the Different Arrangements: Consumers can purchase or lease a solar PV system and should know the differences before signing a contract.
- Purchasing: You own the system and the power it produces, and may benefit from available tax credits, incentives, renewable energy certificates, and net-metering credits. However, you will also generally be responsible for system maintenance.
- Leasing: Requires monthly payments in exchange for the right to use the system. You may spend less money upfront compared to purchasing panels and may not be responsible for system upkeep, but you will not be eligible for incentives like rebates and tax credits. Contracts are long term – some last 20 years or more.
- Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): A developer generally owns, maintains, and operates the system on your property and you agree to purchase the system’s electric output at a price specified in the agreement. There may be low or no upfront costs, but you will generally not be eligible for incentives such as rebates and tax credits. Contracts are also usually long term.
- Know Before You Sign: Do not rely on someone else to tell you what a document is or to summarize it for you. Pay particular attention to any rights and obligations you have under the agreement, including cancellation of the contract.
- Property Record Filings: Some solar companies make a UCC-1 filing in real estate records for the house where they have installed and leased the system, or entered into a PPA. This filing acts as notice that a third party has rights to the panels on the property. If a lender who holds a mortgage forecloses on a consumer’s home, the filing protects the solar company’s ownership of the system. If you sell your home, the filing gives notice to the new homeowner and lender that they are not taking ownership of the panels.
- Consumers should read their agreement carefully and pay particular attention to any provisions that could cause restrictions upon transfer of their home. Ask questions about how a UCC-1 filing may impact your future plans.
- Get Multiple Estimates: Obtain detailed quotes from multiple solar companies in order to secure the best deal for the installation of your system. Ask whether there are any costs that are not included in the quoted price. If you are considering a loan to help pay for the system, look into your options and check interest rates and loan terms. There may be state or federal government programs that can assist you financially as well.
- Confirm the Timeline: Ask the solar company for a written description of the work they will do, and the timeline for completing the installation and connecting to the grid.
Consumers who have questions about their rights or need assistance can call the Attorney General’s Consumer Advocacy and Response Division at 617-727-8400 or visit the AG’s website for more information about considering solar panels.