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Posted: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 9:05 am

When considering solar, consumers have a lot to think about, but Attorney General Tom Horne warns residents it’s important to read the fine print on any deal they sign.

“Dealers of photovoltaic systems (“PV system” or “solar system”) often claim that utilizing various federal, state and local tax credits and rebates will allow consumers to significantly reduce their total cost of electricity,” said a statement from Horne’s office. “In spite of these credits and rebates, however, there is no guarantee that installing solar panels will reduce your total electricity costs when you add in a monthly lease or finance payment. The PV system dealer (“solar company”), not the consumer, gets the tax benefits and incentives if it owns the equipment and leases it to consumers. Solar companies may also mark up the component costs and labor so significantly that the costs of the system far exceed the potential benefits.”

The attorney general suggests customers do their homework on the company they select. Because of the high cost of systems and the significant tax benefits, there are a lot of solar companies competing for business. Consumers should check the Corporation Commission, Better Business Bureau and the Registrar of Contractors website for information on any company. A reputable company will be able to provide the corporate name and Registrar of Contractors license number before doing any in-home presentation.

If you receive a cold call from a company looking to sell solar, just hang up, Horne said. Beware of companies offering gift cards, cash rebates, plane tickets or any other reward for listening to their presentation.

Horne also warned about high-pressure sales tactics. If a company says the deal they are offering you is running out or will expire soon, he suggests finding someone else. Some companies may say utility bills are expected to rise significantly very soon, but Horne’s office said those claims are unsubstantiated.

“In the last 10 years, Arizona utility customers averaged about a 2.5 percent annual increase to their utility costs, and the Department of Energy forecasts that the cost of electricity will remain stable or possibly go down in the next 20 years,” the statement said.

Residents should know the rules about solar tax credits. In order to receive tax credits for solar installation, consumers must have taxable income and many families do not meet the requirements to get those benefits. Taxpayers are eligible for a federal tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of installation of the power-generating components. Horne recommends having a tax preparer verify your eligibility before signing any deal.

Consumers should research any products companies offer in addition to the solar panels, and they should always receive multiple quotes. For agreements signed after an in-home sales presentation, you are required to be given 72 hours after signing to cancel the contract without penalty, the Attorney General’s Office said.

If you believe you have been a victim of consumer fraud in the sale or lease of a solar system, you can file a consumer complaint online at www.azag.gov or by calling (602) 542-5763 or by email at consumerinfo@azag.gov.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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