The Listen Books by Joe Gwerder

Inspire Feeling, Promote Thought, Encourage Responsibility

Considering Solar?

At first glance you might think that the reasons you may or may not acquire solar for your home or business should be obvious and easy to determine. In my experiences within this industry I have found that a great number of you make your choice(s) based on first impressions. After all, it is said that these are the lasting impressions. Once an initial impression has been made and has also been absorbed, anything that follows becomes a comparable. The secondary information will have an impact in which the content will show one or more of these categories: agreement, disagreement and/or additional.

In the current trends of how solar is presented to a potential client there can be great diversity from one approach to the next. On many occasions the information and opinions that I provide to potential clients is received as additional awareness they had not heard before and also my approach is frequently in disagreement with their previous exposures from others. At this point I would like to make a short list of my personal opinions of what constitutes a positive and also what I consider to be a negative in association with today’s methods of obtaining solar


  1. Choice. The vast majority of us do not have a choice when it comes to utility power. We only have available one set of wires from our local utility company. Solar provides a choice to produce some or all of your electricity.
  2. Financial Gain. Many times the local utility power shows routine cost increases reflecting your inability to control your future energy costs. Solar can show a very good return on investment when applied to certain utility rate structures.
  3. Environmental benefit. The enormous demands placed on most utility companies requires them to burn fossil fuels to operate their generation facilities. Also, the highest demands are in the afternoon part of the day in most of the U.S. Private solar usage lessens the overall demand on the utility company and shows the largest benefit during the peak demand afternoons in which the solar equipment is functioning at its highest capacity. A lot of individual small solar locations can add up to an incredible reduction in the utilities need to generate peak power.
  4. Doing your part. Many people feel a strong sense of satisfaction when they acquire solar. The positive emotional aspect that is felt by many who feel as though they are now part of the solution instead of remaining as part of the problem has a very good impact on these people.
  5. Joining in with something popular. The human being is a “herd” creature. We all want to belong and fit in. Providing your reasons and method of acquisition are sincere and personally well thought out, the “sense of belonging” can produce an additional personal contentment.


  1. Following the crowd without a very good understanding of your reasons. In number 5 on our list of pros, I expressed the “belonging” aspect as a benefit. This is only true if you are sincere and aware of the why, how and what you are doing. Unfortunately, many people simply follow the crowd. The mentality in this approach is very lazy and risky. In my strong opinion, the most popular method of solar acquisition in California and likely the entire country, is headed for trouble. Do your homework. Start by reading my book Solar Integrity.
  2. Making decisions based on a salesperson’s routine delivery. Remember the first impression issue? This is where many people get in trouble and prematurely sign a long-term contract. If the person in front of you is lost without their laptop, or they have very limited or no personal experience in the installation procedures, or they cannot produce a long list of satisfied clients from multiple years of history, you should absolutely talk to other companies also.
  3. No choices in equipment. Examine the different aspects of all the components. Module companies, inverter types and brands, mounting procedures etc. Do not blindly accept a set of components simply because the salesperson is promoting them. Directly ask for choices and comparisons. I encourage you to look for a long history in a company that has a standard of providing a good product on a large scale well beyond the past 6-8 years. This is especially important with inverters. Many clients and installers get hung up on warrantees. When it comes to the inverter, look for a very established history; do not believe some of the 25 year warranty claims within the newer inverter companies.
  4. Signing a contract with an abstract entity. It is very common in today’s solar industry to see many people sign a contract (20 years in many cases) with an entity that basically does not provide a direct access. It is this detachment that will reveal significant problems in the near future, in my opinion. When engaging a contract, know who you are legally attached to. That salesperson is likely sitting in your house or office as you sign this agreement. If they are simply a portable representative, you are visible but the ownership body on your contract may not be. Who are they? Where are they? Can you actually go to an office with their name on it? Really think about this one.
  5. Not knowing who is actually performing the work on your property. In a typical situation that has someone hiring a contractor to do the work for them, the client actually interviews the contractor themselves. In many of the large solar companies you are sent a group of workers without your consent or participation. Whether they are actual employees of the solar provider or a sub-contractor, in many cases the client has no input as to who is working on their property. This has a potential of bad things happening after you have a signed contract.

So now we have learned what I consider to be the most common things you should be aware of as you consider obtaining solar. There are many details involved with each of these 5 pros and 5 cons that have been revealed here. The overall point that I wish to make is that it is not always obvious when considering all the options pertaining to solar. The U.S. solar industry was basically created in haste. The opportunists have created an immense irony. The simple fact that the private usage of solar is now very popular can have a great overall benefit. On the other hand, we have many people involved in this industry that have a priority structure of greed and short term attitudes. Many of today’s solar clients will become tomorrow’s victims of deceptive salesmanship. The equipment works very well and will be a terrific asset to those who obtain it via a quality company with a long term attitude based on integrity. As I have said many times: “With solar providers, bigger is definitely not better.”


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