Doubt and Research, Part 2: Customer Complaints and Fear of Commitment

So two major doubts about solar leasing had been resolved for me: it’s not simply a scam and the rare earth elements issue is largely blown out of proportion.  I continued diligently onward to make sure we were making the right choice.

In terms of public perception of how our house looked, we weren’t too worried what the neighbors would think.  Personally, I think solar panels look cool, and when it came to helping the environment, we were happy to be the Big Orange Splot house on the block.  And as it turned out, we weren’t even the first house in our neighborhood to get solar panels!  But that’s a story for another day.

The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Manus Pinkwater

I knew that Verengo was incentivized to set us up with the most affordable panels available on the market that can still regularly produce energy, and for a moment I worried that we wouldn’t be getting the most efficient panels possible.  But I had to ask myself—efficient compared to what?  The amount of panels currently on my roof was zero.  The more expensive options were not something we could afford in the first place.  So yes, Verengo would seek to get the most profit by putting a lower cost system on my roof.  But you know what?  The panels will still generate electricity out of the light in the friggin’ sky.

So I went on to research Verengo Solar further as a company, and I found the Better Business Bureau’s site to be the perfect place to do it.  There I found a list of customer complaints that had been filed and closed with the BBB.  At first, I was worried that Verengo had any customer complaints at all.  But having been involved recently with the creation of a social media analytics app, I reminded myself that user feedback was a natural part of any business.

There are always hiccups or delays in a sales or operations process that can lead to customer anxiety, especially with something so complex as a rooftop solar panel system (which involves intricate technology, weeks of permitting, contractors to install the panels, etc).  What I found, actually, after reading through Verengo’s customer complaints (and their responses to those complaints) is that, by and large, as soon as an issue arose, Verengo was incredibly communicative and worked with their customers to resolve the matter quickly and smoothly.  The complaints ranged from misunderstandings about the kilowatt output of the system (resulting from DC to AC conversion), to someone whose roof was in bad shape and needed to be fixed after the panels had been installed, to complications arising from Verengo’s partnerships with other solar providers like SunRun. In each case, Verengo’s response eased my worry that they would not support their customers.

The Yelp reviews of Verengo were a bit overwhelming, and, unhelpfully, all the negative reviews seemed to relate almost exclusively to the sleaziness of particular salespeople.  Stephen Lacey wrote a great breakdown of the nature of the sales process in the solar industry where customer acquisition feels for many companies like a life-or-death imperative right now.  The article is accompanied by the best and worst Yelp reviews given to each of the top 5 US solar installers (Verengo is second in the country), which helped me to understand that this is clearly an issue facing all the major companies.  Since my sales process had gone smoothly so far and there were several glowing reviews of people who had undergone a successful installation, I felt satisfied that Verengo was “good as any, better than some.”

Improvements to solar efficiency since the 1970s. Courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Improvements to solar efficiency since the 1970s. Courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

My final concern was about just how long of a commitment the lease required.  20 years is a long time, and there’s no getting around that.  However, you can transfer the lease to a new owner if you sell the house.  And honestly, solar panels on a house are likely to be an attractive thing to most home buyers (and will self-select to attract the kind of buyer who wants them).

Getting panels immediately also quite simply allows us to start making an impact on the environment right away.  Given the urgency of the climate crisis, this was (and is) incredibly important to Amie and I.  Going solar allows us to be the change we wish to see in the world.

Lastly, solar panels will always get progressively more efficient.  If we were to wait 5 years until costs were lower, or until we’d saved up money to buy them ourselves, we would still find ourselves imagining five years from then when the panels would be even more efficient.  And in the process of waiting, we would have wasted money on our electric bills and continued to contribute to the production of dirty energy in the Hudson Valley.

The time for waiting was over.  We were ready for solar panels.

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One thought on “Doubt and Research, Part 2: Customer Complaints and Fear of Commitment

  1. Pingback: To Be Continued… | My Solar Journey

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