The word is going around that you can get cheap solar panels at low prices in Southwest Florida. Just like any “creative marketing,” you have to read the small print. Let’s just get one thing straight – you get what you pay for.
I will be the first to tell you that you can install a cheap solar energy system on your home, and it will produce energy and save you money. If you want to do it yourself, there are lots of resources online that offer discount pricing on solar panels and related equipment. The truth is, you can buy most solar energy equipment for pretty close to the price that I pay for it. There are no deep wholesale discounts for solar energy dealers.
The problem is, solar energy systems are relatively complicated additions to your home that require proper design, permitting, installation, configuration, and inspection. That’s why there is a special license offered by the Department of Business & Professional Regulation called the Florida State Certified Solar Contractor License. In recent years and month, the competition has become more cutthroat, resulting in many low cost installers flooding the market. That is a good thing for consumers in a way, as prices have come down substantially. The bad news is that poor workmanship is rampant. I’ve witnessed many poor installations, some which were clearly the result of cost cutting measures and some that can only be explained by an incompetent installer.
Think twice about going with a contractor that is offering the lowest price. Often there is a bait-and-switch, or only very specific homes with very specific roofs and locations qualify for the low, low price. The advertisement will certainly be for the lowest quality equipment with only basic warranties, and a company that provides little to no service after the sale.
One email advertisement I saw this week offered an amazing price for a solar electric (photovoltaic) system. The price was below my cost of an installed system. If you add up the actual material cost, permits, design, engineering, and installation labor, I would lose about $500 installing the system. Something is obviously wrong, because I’m quite sure that my material costs are among the lowest in the business. One “feature” of the system in the advertisement caught my eye. It said that with this system, you would have power during blackouts. That was obviously not the case, because the system offered was grid-connected without batteries! This is where creative marketing starts to look more like false advertising.
Be careful when shopping for the lowest price for a solar energy system. A reputable dealer will give you a fair price with a healthy-but-fair profit built-in that ensures you will have a properly installed, long lasting, safe and proper installation with quality equipment and solid warranties backed by a company that will be around for years to come.