What Do I Do if My Old Solar Company Goes Out of Business?
It's been an interesting few years on the "solar coaster.” A combination of government incentives and plummeting solar panel prices caused the biggest boom in solar installations of all time in California back in 2015 and in to 2016. Consequently, many small-scale contractors and even electricians realized the amount of money being invested and hundreds of companies popped up in a flash. It was a solar gold rush.
But when the federal tax credit was extended for four more years at the end of 2015 – instead of ending in 2016 – the urgency to “go solar NOW” drifted away as the deadline was now extended. This caused solar sales for 2016 overall to temporarily slow down for the first time in many years.
As a result of this slowing in the market, many solar companies who had been getting lots of work without even trying were caught off guard by new costs and new challenges. With too many companies going after many fewer customers, customer acquisition costs suddenly increased. And some of the old aggressive techniques – like door-to-door canvassing or outbound telemarketing – now did more harm than good as homeowners declared they were fed up with such tactics. And so, the dominoes began to fall.
Unable to keep up with the new, higher operating costs during the slowdown, even some large companies with lots of customers are no longer around. If your solar company recently went out of business, you probably have a few questions:
1. My solar system needs maintenance, what do I do?
In general, the responsibility for ongoing service is handled under the warranty of the manufacturer that makes the equipment; the solar company handles the solar panel warranty and the inverter company handles the inverter. The business model is similar to home appliances. If you have a washer and the people you bought it from are not in business anymore, you can usually find some other company that is a designated repair company for that brand of washer. So, if you got LG panels installed, by your solar company that is no longer in business, no problem, just call another LG dealer and they should take care of it. The good news is that SunPower by Stellar Solar has installed and serviced all the major brands of solar panels and can usually take care of yours.
2. What happens to my lease?
Leases are transactions mostly made with a third party financing group. So solar customers sign a contract with a separate leasing company (not their solar install company) and that is who is responsible for ongoing maintenance and upholding the terms of the lease – (whoever you make your payments to).
In the case of bankruptcy, those lease contracts that are still in force are considered assets and can therefore be sold to other companies as part of liquidation proceedings.
But in either case, these companies usually sub-contract the work to local companies – such as SunPower by Stellar Solar – and that is who does the work. In fact, we are currently working on replacing hundreds of solar panels for customers (at no charge to them) who were part of a national recall action.
3. What if I want more panels or add new wireless monitoring?
An experienced solar company should be able to adapt new panels or monitoring to your existing system. As with your initial solar company decision, you should do your due diligence to find a reputable, long-standing company with a track record.
If you can, choose a local company that has a great reputation - especially on review sites like Yelp, Angies List and Google+. Also, look for a company that has been around awhile, preferably 5+ years, so you know they have the financial longevity to make it through dips in the market. That way, you'll know you'll have a company backing you up for years to come.
A few good local companies that have been around awhile are easy to find when you look. In San Diego and Orange County, you have Baker Electric Solar, Sullivan Solar Power, Sunline Energy, and of course, SunPower by Stellar Solar. We have been around since 1998, longer than any other solar company in the area, and have completed over 6,500 installations since our inception. We can service your system, set you up with monitoring, and even add panels to your system if you need them.
So if you'd like service or maintenance for your existing solar system, shoot us an email or give us a call. Likely, we can help you with whatever your needs may be.