Understanding Your Rights – Washington’s Solar Consumer Protection Law

Washington’s Solar Consumer Protection Law

In 2024, Washington passed the Solar Consumer Protection Act to shield residents from unethical solar companies. This law, supported by the Washington Solar Energy Industries Association (WASEIA), sets guidelines for sales, contracting, installation, and post-installation support. A key provision of the law requires solar companies to provide detailed disclosures about system performance, warranties, financing alternatives, and potential cost savings.

Knowing your rights can help you make informed decisions and avoid pitfalls when choosing a solar installer.

Understanding How It Protects You

It is an unfortunate fact that the Washington solar industry has not been immune to deceitful actions by a few unscrupulous companies. Some consumers have reported things like:

  • High pressure and aggressive sales tactics.
  • Exaggerated claims about a system’s performance or a company’s qualifications
  • False representation as affiliates of utility companies.
  • Claims that local solar companies are less competent than their nationally based counterparts.
  • Assertions that a specific company is the sole provider with access to certain incentives.
  • Misleading information about financing terms.
  • Poor quality installations.
  • Completed systems that were not approved for or connected to receive net metering.
  • An installer not responding to requests for warranty support.

The Solar Consumer Protection Act aims to address these and other issues, giving homeowners the knowledge and resources they need to make informed decisions, and holding shady solar companies accountable for their actions.

How to Choose a Reputable Solar Installer

With the Solar Consumer Protection Act in place, you now have a clear framework for evaluating and selecting a solar installer in Washington. The best way to protect yourself is to get at least 3 bids, and to carefully read and compare the quotes you receive.

Here are some key factors when considering which businesses to request a quote from:

  • License, Insurance and Bonding: Any company selling solar must be a licensed electrical contractor, and be insured and bonded. You can verify a contractor on the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) website through their Contractor Verification Tool.
  • Track record and reputation: Look for a solar installer with a proven track record of successful projects and positive customer reviews. Use third-party online ratings and testimonials to gauge the quality of work and customer service.
    • SolarReviews.com is a top site for solar contractor reviews, ensuring all feedback comes from actual customers.
    • Surprisingly, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) does not take customer complaints into account when rating companies. So be sure to check other review sites too.
    • WASEIA is another excellent resource, because it requires its members to commit to the highest standards for ethics and workmanship. Wouldn’t any reputable company want to be a member?
  • Transparency and communication: A reputable solar company will be upfront about all aspects of the installation process, from the initial consultation to the post-installation support. They should be willing to answer all of your questions and address any concerns you may have.

By thoroughly vetting potential solar installers and prioritizing your rights as a consumer, you can choose a reliable partner who will provide an excellent solar installation experience.

Carefully Review Proposals and Contracts

Once you have selected contractors and received their bids, carefully review all proposal details. Be sure to ask questions about anything that may be unclear or that is contradictory to what you have learned from other sources. Additionally, it is always a good idea to verify any information that appears too good to be true. This is a legal document outlines the terms and conditions of your solar installation. It’s crucial that you understand and agree to every aspect of it.

Here are some key factors to consider when reviewing a solar contract:

  • System specifications: Ensure the contract accurately reflects the size, type, and performance characteristics of the solar system you’ve agreed to have installed. By law, each proposal/contract must disclose details about the methodology and tools used to calculate system performance.
  • Warranties and guarantees: Confirm the solar installer offers comprehensive warranties and guarantees on the system components, workmanship, and performance.
  • Financing terms: Be cautious with in-house financing, as it often costs more than financing from a financial institution. Review terms carefully and ask questions. By law:
    • Any financing that is incorporated directly into the contract must be identified as a separate line item and conform to all state and federal consumer loan regulations and disclosure requirements, including terms, conditions, interest rates, annual percentage rate, the amortization schedule, and information on how the loan is secured;
    • The contract must disclose the exact amount paid, if any, by a solar energy contractor or solar energy salesperson to any lender or third-party financing company in the form of a dealer fee, or other similar inducement to obtain financing, irrespective of whether financing is incorporated within the contract or in conjunction with a third-party lender;
  • Permits and inspections: Confirm that the installer is responsible for obtaining all necessary utility interconnection paperwork and permits, and for passing required inspections.
  • Timeline and project milestones: Understand the expected timeline for the installation process and any important milestones or deadlines including the payment schedule.
  • Maintenance and support: Clarify the installer’s responsibilities for ongoing system maintenance, troubleshooting, and customer support after the installation is completed.

By carefully reviewing the contract and asking questions about any unclear or concerning provisions, you can ensure that your solar installation project aligns with your expectations and protects the rights afforded to you under the Solar Consumer Protection Act.

Curious if going solar is right for you?

Fire Mountain Solar – A Solar Company You Can Trust

For over 23 years, Fire Mountain Solar has been committed to unwavering ethics, superior craftsmanship, and outstanding customer care, which helps us stand out among the best solar companies in our state. We genuinely value your business and will always go the extra mile to ensure your complete satisfaction with your solar panel installation.

By choosing Fire Mountain Solar, you can rest assured that your solar installation project will be completed in full compliance with the Solar Consumer Protection Act, giving you the peace of mind that comes with working with a reputable and trustworthy solar provider.