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'Absolutely not correct': Billings solar companies unite to stop the spread of misinformation

Solar panels in a Billings yard
Posted at 8:46 AM, Mar 25, 2024

BILLINGS - When someone comes to your doorstep soliciting a product, how likely are you to give them the time of day?

In recent weeks, Billings residents have reported sales representatives from a new-to-town solar company going door-to-door attempting to recruit new customers.

Solar panels
Solar panels

Local solar companies are now warning residents about possible misinformation being spread by those sales representatives.

"Their objective is sales," said Justice Graham, the owner of YellowBall Roofing and Solar, on Saturday.

Homeowners know just how expensive utility bills can get.

"Usually in most households, a power bill is between $150 and $200 a month," Graham said. "Over the course of 25 years, you can literally spend over $100,000 on your power bill. A lot of people don't sit down and add that number up, but it's substantial."

Justice Graham
Justice Graham

This is one reason why solar panels have been marketed as a smart long-term investment.

"Solar gives you the option to own your power,” Graham said.

"It's something that you get to own as opposed to rent," said Shaun Sideris, a co-owner of Wegner Roofing and Solar, on Saturday.

Shaun Sideris
Shaun Sideris

According to the US Department of Energy, residential solar is more affordable than ever—especially with the extension of the federal residential solar tax credit.

"It's going to lower your taxable liabilities. So whether you’re a person that's getting money back, or you're paying less in taxes over the course of the year. That's a benefit for the push there,” said Sideris. "It's important to talk to your CPA or accountant because everybody's tax is different."

Taxpayers can claim a 30% tax credit on the cost of solar systems on their income taxes until 2032, according to the Department of Energy.

"The electric costs have gone up substantially over the last year. All of the power plant companies have increased their rates," Sideris said. "When the summer comes, they're going to really see (their utility bills go up)."

Graham and Sideris typically consider one another competition. But now they are uniting to spread awareness in the community after they each received multiple inquiries from concerned customers about a new solar company in town soliciting door-to-door.

Solar panels in a Billings yard
Solar panels in a Billings yard

"The type of clientele that can really become victimized by this high-pressure, door-to-door are people that just aren't educated...They don't even know what hit them. Some fast-talking kid comes in there, promises them the world, and then *bam*. Their lives are changed. A $50,000 solar system on a 25-year contract, that can affect your life," said Graham. "The last thing we want is for solar to get a (bad) rap and for these posts to continue to show up on (social media)."

Concerns were taken to Facebook—gathering dozens of comments from residents sharing similar experiences.

Post from Billings Customer Service Watchdog
Post from Billings Customer Service Watchdog

According to Graham, Sideris, and social media posts, the company, Solar Pros, had sales reps allegedly tell Billings residents that if they added solar, they wouldn’t have to pay taxes for ten years.

"Essentially what they're saying is, you don't have to pay property taxes for ten years," said Graham. "I mean, they are making it that bold, which is absolutely not correct."

MTN News did some digging and found that the company is an independent, authorized dealer of Freedom Forever.

Ty Trippany, the director of customer operations for Freedom Forever, told MTN the company was disheartened by the online comments and believes the claims are unsubstantiated.

Freedom Forever statistics from Trippany
Freedom Forever statistics from Trippany

Trippany went on to state that Freedom Forever “...highly encourages all consumers to obtain multiple solar quotes, have a comprehensive understanding of any contract, and speak with a licensed tax professional before making any purchase."

But Graham and Sideris worry this new company is giving solar companies like their own a bad name and want consumers to be aware.

"I think the biggest thing is educating people on how the tax credit works, the purpose of solar, and just be aware," Graham said. "I think most of the residents are going to be wise enough to look at the information."

"I'm not mad at competition at all. There can be as many people selling roofs and solar as they want. I don't care about that," Sideris said. "It's just making sure that people know that you've got two great local options. Then most importantly, just get educated. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

YellowBall work truck
YellowBall work truck

To learn more about YellowBall, click here.

To learn more about Wegner, click here.