Having a solar energy system installed is exciting and empowering. It contributes to a more sustainable future and results in substantial long-term savings amid soaring energy costs, especially when incorporating energy storage by installing solar batteries. Plus, solar can significantly increase your property value.
However, when your solar installer goes out of business or leaves your state, that excitement can be replaced with uncertainty and frustration. Such is the case for the customers of many solar companies including PetersenDean, Sungevity, Pink Energy, American Solar Direct, and most recently, Kuubix Energy, all of which went bankrupt.
These unfortunate customers are often called “solar orphans.” They can be homeowners, businesses, or non-profits.
These solar orphans are left to wonder:
- How will I get my solar panels serviced?
- What happens to my warranty?
- Where do I go from here?
These are valid questions that we are often asked here at Citadel Roofing & Solar. We've helped hundreds of solar orphans regain control of their solar energy systems. This ensures that the promise of sustainable, cost-effective energy remains a reality for them. So if you’re wondering what happens if your solar company goes out of business, you’re in the right place.
In this blog post, we’ll answer all of the above questions so you know exactly what your next steps are as a solar orphan.
Why Many Solar Companies Go Out of Business
Like any other industry, the solar industry sees frequent newcomers and departures. However, there are a few specific factors that lead businesses to depart from the solar industry.
Common reasons include:
When companies grow fast, they often run into installation issues. It is much easier to ramp up sales than it is to ramp up quality installations. At one point, some of these fast-growing companies boasted about their ability to have a single crew install 2 to 3 systems in a single day. This would be impressive if you could do so with quality work, but that is next to impossible to do with any consistency.
Poor customer service
Poor customer service can lead to poor customer experiences, leading to poor online reviews which impact some companies' abilities to drive new sales. Some large national companies continue to grow in spite of their poor customer experiences and negative reviews—perhaps because they are so well-known. Smaller companies, however, are not usually so lucky.
An unsustainable business model
Some solar companies focus on rapid growth, which can be challenging to maintain. This is especially true given the seasonal variations of solar demand. Some solar companies provide cheap pricing in order to get as many customers as possible as quickly as possible, but when this growth slows, the business may not survive.
Tied to this is the need for fast-growing companies to carefully manage their cash flow. Rapid growth entails large overhead costs. When business slows down more or faster than the company expects, it can suffer from cash flow problems and subsequent layoffs. This was the case for many now-defunct solar companies, including California-based solar company Kuubix.
When it comes to solar, you get what you pay for. You need the company to be around for long enough to honor its warranties. So if a price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
“Fly-by-Night” solar companies
This kind of bad actor has especially harmed the solar industry’s reputation. Fly-by-night solar companies have a strong desire for rapid growth. They are known for their aggressive sales tactics. Fly-by-night solar companies overcharge customers by reeling them into contracts with bad terms.
So, if a solar company knocks on your door unannounced, or applies pressure to sign during your first conversation, then run as fast as you can in the other direction.
During the solar sales process, most solar companies tell you not to worry about anything because you’ll have a 25-year warranty. The problem with this is that if the installer or the manufacturers aren't in business for 25 years, then you aren't getting the warranty that you expected.
That’s why it is so important to understand who is providing what warranty, and whether their business is likely to survive. A long warranty from a company that has been in business for 3 years isn't very valuable, especially if they also have any of the above red flags.
What if I Need My Solar Serviced?
When your solar company goes out of business, you still need services like repairs and upgrades.
Can I repair my own solar panels? Some homeowners and business owners might consider DIYing their solar maintenance. Unless you are a licensed solar professional, never try to service your solar panels yourself. Many manufacturers’ warranties are void if their parts are operated on by anyone other than a licensed contractor and/or a contractor who is certified by the equipment manufacturer. Plus, you could damage your roof, or worse: gravely injure yourself.
What to Do When Your Solar Company Goes Out of Business
If your solar company went out of business, it’s time to find a new solar company for your maintenance and upgrades. This can be a daunting task, especially after a bad experience with your previous solar company. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid being burned again.
Here are some characteristics to look for in your new solar installer:
- Years of experience – In the competitive solar landscape, terrible installers won’t survive—at least, not for long. Avoid businesses founded only a few years ago. Look for a wealth of experience. If possible, work with a company with decades of solar experience, like Citadel.
- Positive reviews – The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Scour the internet for reviews about your potential new solar partner. Be sure to not only look on the business’s website, but also on third-party platforms like Google, Yelp, and EnergySage.
- Licenses and certifications – Legitimate solar installers always have a solar contracting license. But to identify a truly trustworthy solar company, look for additional certifications and partnerships. Are they certified by solar product manufacturers, such as SolarEdge, Enphase, FranklinWH, SPAN, Tesla, and REC Group? This suggests that they uphold a high standard in their installation work.
- Homebuilder partnerships – Whether you are a business owner or a homeowner, it’s a great sign if a solar company has long-standing relationships with homebuilders. Because homebuilders are accountable for 10 years of solar system functioning in California, having subcontractors that they can count on to be responsive (and in business) throughout those 10 years is critical. Only subcontractors that meet strict criteria will be selected. For example, Citadel is trusted by more than 80 of California’s largest homebuilders.
- Insurance – Always confirm that your potential solar partner is fully insured. Read the quote they provide carefully, including the fine print. Be sure to also ask questions and get answers in writing when possible. Also, confirm their contractor license number with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to verify that their license and insurance are in good standing.
Are You in California?
If you happen to live in California, we at Citadel are here to help you regain control of your solar energy system. Between our solar and roofing expertise, 35+ years of experience, builder relationships, and tens of thousands of successful solar projects, we have the track record needed to be your reliable partner. Get in touch and we’ll be glad to maintain and optimize your solar system.
If being stranded by a solar company has left you wary of solar installers altogether, we understand. Fortunately, there are honest, reliable solar companies that can help you enjoy the full benefits of your solar panels over the long term.
Put your energy needs in good hands by choosing your next solar installer carefully. That way, you’ll avoid being a solar orphan again years down the road.
If you’re in California, be sure to request a free quote from us at Citadel. We’ll follow up promptly so you can get back up and running with solar!