Solar installer ‘untrustworthy’ perception has doubled. How can you change that?

untrust worthy solar installer

When I cleared out my NABCEP notebook last week, I relayed some anecdotes of “questionable sales and design methods” that came up throughout the week. Well, the 2024 “Solar Industry Snapshot” from Aurora Solar, also published last week, shows homeowners are growing leerier of such tactics.

The Solar Industry Snapshot report examines early 2024 U.S. residential solar trends through three unique data sources: Aurora’s solar projects database of more than nine million projects over the past two years; a survey of 1,000 U.S. homeowners (that either installed solar or are interested in installing solar) and, a survey of 500 U.S. solar professionals on the state of the industry.

In 2023, 22% of homeowners said they were unable to find a trustworthy solar company. In 2024, the numbers doubled: 44% of respondents said it is hard to determine which solar companies are trustworthy.

“This is a negative mark for the industry and there needs to be a focus on improving solar’s collective reputation, both via homeowner education and by upholding best practices for sales,” the authors stated in the report.

Now, that is a subjective stat, and does not indicate actual bad faith actions by anyone — just that respondents aren’t sure who or what to trust in this category. But the stat does indicate something about 1) the vibes of the industry, and 2) the general low level of understanding about solar energy and an investment in solar panels.

This is the second annual Solar Industry Snapshot, and despite that troubling feedback from homeowners, there were encouraging trends to note too. We keep noting that this is a challenging year for solar professionals, and yet 85% reported having trouble meeting solar demand, compared to 90% in last year’s study. So, business is coming in; people are interested.

And homeowners, despite their stated level of mistrust, know that they need to pursue electrification:

  • More than half (51%) of homeowners said they believe solar is a good investment.
  • 10% of homeowners indicated they wanted to electrify their home before considering solar.
  • 37% of homeowners felt solar panels are more valuable when paired with whole home electrification.
  • 38% of respondents felt it was important to work with a professional who can help with whole-home efficiency.

“Unsurprisingly, the most affordable energy efficiency upgrades were the most commonly adopted among homeowners. This presents a real opportunity for professionals to educate homeowners on the most cost-effective upgrades to make, and to extend their offerings to other home-electrification services,” the authors write.

I concur, and definitely see the push for more education going hand-in-hand with battling the “untrustworthy” vibes. I’d highlight these other data points from the Snapshot as areas of opportunity to demonstrate trustworthiness and educate:

  • Just 16% of homeowners are familiar with net energy metering.
  • Nearly 30% of homeowners are hesitant to adopt solar panels because they don’t know if their home gets enough sun — an easy question to address.
  • Fewer homeowners were worried that their utility bills will continue to rise (62% in 2023, 58% this year), despite energy inflation outpacing overall inflation. )They will be in for a big surprise. According to the U.S. Energy Administration, the average residential retail price of electricity rose 5.3% in 2023 alone — higher than the rate of inflation — and over 30% since 2013.)

“Homeowners hold many misconceptions about solar panels, incentives, and energy in general that are potential barriers to adoption,” the report states. “This means it’s up to the solar community to help educate homeowners and meet them where they are.”

Be sure to check out the full Snapshot for yourself.

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