What can customers do if their solar company goes out of business?

Rooftop solar energy and the tax credits that came with it created a huge boom for businesses.

But the demand has tapered off and many solar energy companies have closed.

So where does that leave the consumer?

One customer called Action Line because he was concerned about his warranty.

Thomas Yagi of Kailua said he noticed one of his panels was not working, but the company he used is no longer in business. He told us he’s been getting the runaround with the manufacturer and supplier.

We wanted to help him and others who might find themselves in the same situation, so we checked with the Better Business Bureau of Hawaii to find out what happens to consumers if the solar company they used closed. We also got a hold of the manufacturer that made the photovoltaic panels, and it’s now going to help.

“I have 12 solar panels. One of them is not working. I guess the micro-generator is not working, so it’s completely out,” said Yagi.

Yagi has had rooftop solar energy for six years, but it wasn’t until last month that something went wrong. He couldn’t turn to the company that installed it, because that business is no longer around.

“I know there are other companies willing to fix it, but will they honor the warranty?” he asked.

Yagi is concerned that if he fixed his broken panel, will his 15-year warranty be honored? We took that questions to experts in the solar industry to find out.

“A number of our customers who own rooftop solar reached out to me saying, ‘Our contractor has gone out of business. Where do we go?’ and so we have a list of companies that are glad to help out those customers that don’t have anywhere to go to,” said Hajime Alabanza, Hawaii Solar Energy Association. “The warranty issue, I’m not too sure I can explain too much about that.”

Greg Dunn, president and CEO of Hawaii’s Better Business Bureau, says there are a lot of folks in the same situation.

“You’ll need the proof of purchase as well as the language in the warranty itself to make sure that you can hold the manufacturer accountable to the warranty,” Dunn advised.

“I did contact Enphase, the company that made the system, but I called them and I couldn’t get a hold of them, so I sent an email,” Yagi said. “They did respond to the email. They assigned a ticket and they were going to get back to me right away, but they didn’t get back to me.”

We called the same manufacturer and got an answer right away. Customer service told us it has a list of companies on its website who can help Yagi under his warranty.

Why it was easy for us to get an answer and not easy for him to get an answer? The operator says Yagi probably reached out when there was a high volume of calls.

“If the company fails to respond after three or four weeks, then certainly it’s time to look at other options, and then our staff will help guide the consumer to find the appropriate agency with which to file the complaint,” Dunn said.

The state’s consumer affairs department says it has not received any formal complaints against any companies in terms of upholding warranties.

For those who want photovoltaic or any solar-powered systems, make sure you know if the warranty is on the installation or the product itself. Check if there is a deductible you need to pay out of pocket. Find out if the cost of labor is covered, and find out if the warranty requires any maintenance on your part.

And if it appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.

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