Let the buyer beware. 

It may sound cliche but cliches exist for a reason and consumers need to be regularly reminded that anything that sounds too good to be true probably is. 

That warning certainly applies to solar power. 

Consumers motivated either by an interest in protecting the environment or saving on monthly electric bills can be easily duped into costly solar panel projects that come with promises that simply aren't realistic. 

Solar is here. 

It is here to stay. 

But that does not mean it is time for homeowners to go off the grid, installing rooftop panels and generating their own electricity. 

While that seems like a good notion, it is not practical. 

Actually the only way solar panel generation works from a practical standpoint is within the electrical grid. 

Rooftop solar panel installers market their business with charts and graphs touting huge savings and a quick return on investments. 

The claims are often bogus. 

They sound too good to be true because they are. 

Here is what the Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit cautions about the residential solar power industry: 

"A new twist on the home-improvement scam targets folks who want to cut their energy bills with rooftop solar panels or windmills. Solar energy, of course, can reduce your electric bill. But making the big up-front investment is the equivalent of paying for 30 to 40 years of electricity in advance. And lots of variables can confound payback, including living where cloudy weather is commonplace or in the shadow of towering trees, terrain, or nearby tall buildings. Solar-panel scams. Consumers unfamiliar with those caveats give double-dealers an opportunity to lowball costs and talk up savings. The promised best-case scenario can lure you into paying a big deposit to a contractor who skips town or otherwise never delivers the system or savings. Some victims have been burned for several thousand dollars. Home-improvement companies are the third most complained about businesses, according to the latest survey of consumer-protection agencies by the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators" (consumer.georgia.gov).

That's right, it can take up to 40 years for homeowners to recoup the cost of installing solar panels. 

And the problem with that is the life of the panels, according to our reporting, is estimated to be about 20-30 years. 

It may sound counter-intuitive to people motivated by a desire to reduce high energy costs and to get off the electrical grid, but honestly the best people to advise you if you are considering solar panel installation is not the people selling you the panels and installation, but the people who own the grid where the power must be stored. 

Otherwise, you might just be buying a bridge in Brooklyn.


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