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Every week, join Whitney Quick as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Purchasing Solar Panels

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This week we’re talking about solar panels. People looking to save money on energy bills and live a more environmentally friendly life are turning to solar power in increasing numbers. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, one in every 600 Americans is adding solar panels to their home every quarter.

Better Business Bureau advises consumers to do careful research before joining the solar energy movement. BBB received more than 2,300 complaints last year about solar energy businesses. In many cases, consumers said the solar panels did not work as promised and they didn’t realize the promised energy savings. Others said there were problems with the installation of the panels and other service issues after the sale. Some consumers told BBB they were misled by sales representatives.

BBB offers these tips when shopping for a solar energy system. Is it right for you? Consumers should conduct an audit to determine if a solar unit will help save them money on energy bills. They should determine how many sunny days they see on an annual basis and check their roof to make sure their home is equipped to sustain a solar panel system.

Make a budget. Solar energy systems are a major expense. Make sure to get bids from several different companies and remember that the lowest bid isn’t always the best. Inquire about tax credits. If you buy a system, you may be eligible for various local, state and federal tax credits. The federal renewable energy tax credit for homeowners is equal to 26% of the system’s cost if installation is completed before the end of 2022, or 22% if installation is completed in 2023. The credit is scheduled to expire at the end of 2023. The U.S. Department of Energy keeps a database of state-specific credits.

Read the contract. Make sure the contract mirrors everything a sales person told you. Report the bad actors. If you have trouble with a solar energy company, file a report with BBB, the Federal Trade Commission and your state attorney general’s office.