Brad was looking to install solar panels on his house for years. After talking to a professor of Environmental Sciences at Brown University, Brad received the welcome news that his house was situated perfectly for solar production. This conversation invigorated his interest in putting solar panels on his home, but he couldn’t justify the upfront costs of the project.
“Solar was something I wanted to do, not just to save money but to help the environment. But it didn’t make sense at the time because there wasn’t a significant return on investment. This was before Rhode Island came out with their incentives to make solar more affordable.”
He was eager to get started, but had to wait for Rhode Island’s incentives to catch up with front-runners like Massachusetts and California.
“I didn’t know if Rhode Island was going to come around like Massachusetts. I hate to say it, but I was waiting for China to get in the market because that would’ve slashed the prices like crazy. I didn’t have the ability to do it as an out-of-pocket expense.”
Then he heard the long-awaited news about Rhode Island’s new crop of solar incentives.
“As soon as I knew the incentives were there, I was ready to pull the trigger. It was a no-brainer. Our house was situated properly, and it was something we really wanted to do. My wife wanted to go solar so we could be green, and I wanted to do it to save money, so it was a win-win situation for both of us.”
Looking for the right solar company and dealing with unexpected problems
Now that he was committed to going solar, Brad wanted to find the right company to partner with. Due diligence told him to compare different quotes for the project so he could secure a good price.
“We priced out four or five different companies originally. We shopped around because there were a lot of competing businesses in the market. But, to be honest, a lot of them felt insincere. So we ended up choosing a Canadian company because they were better in price and seemed trustworthy.”
Once Brad received a home equity loan to finance the system, he was ready to move forward.
“We started the process, put in the down payment….but the project kept getting hung up. Turned out, it was because the company we chose went under.”
A surprising phone call brings relief
After receiving the bad news, Brad worried that his solar project would never get off the ground. Then he got a phone call from a local solar company who were contracted to install his panels. As it turns out, Rhode Island Solar Solutions [RISS] was that company.
“Little did we know, but Rhode Island Solar Solutions was going to install our panels for this other company. Mike Staab, the owner, gave me a call and let me know what was happening. He told me, ‘If you’re still interested, we can take over this project. You can certainly go with someone else if you want to. But if you want me, I’m your guy. I’ll work for you and make this process seamless.’
Since switching to a new company wasn’t what he’d planned on, Brad needed take some time to consider his options.
“I was a little wary about moving forward. The company we initially chose also said, ‘Hey, we’re a really strong business,” and they just died out. So I was thinking, are we going to get the runaround treatment again?”
After speaking to Mike and hearing out what he had to say, Brad decided to move forward with Rhode Island Solar Solutions to bring his project across the finish line.
“The fact that RISS was there when the other company went belly up….there was a trust factor we established pretty quickly. Mike also came to the house to talk with us. Being the owner of the company, that meant a lot to us. This time, I knew who was in charge and I had phone numbers I could call. And knowing RISS had a strong presence in Massachusetts [Bay State Solar Solutions] gave me the comfort I needed to move forward.”
Brad finally sees the sun beams at the end of the tunnel
Brad decided to continue his project with Rhode Island Solar Solutions and let out a big sigh of relief after hearing some good news.
“I thought it was incredible that RISS honored the down payment we made to the other company. They started from square one and told us not to worry about it. Businesses don’t do that anymore. It was a really nice perk, especially because we already decided to stick with them at that point.”
As RISS got to work on his solar installation, there were a few hold-ups.
“There was permitting paperwork that took longer than expected, but RISS made sure to call the town inspector and get the answers they needed. They went to battle for us. Every step of the way, they took care of everything. I didn’t have to make any phone calls to inspectors and, if there was a bump in the road, it got smoothed out.”
Now, instead of being left in the dark, he felt confident that the project was making steady progress.
“I felt informed. I felt like I knew my project manager. I knew who my installer was. Each step of the way, they tried to keep us up-to-date. I’d get multiple calls or someone would stop by the house and say, “Hey, can you sign this paperwork? We need to get this part done for next steps.’”
Finally, after waiting for so long to go solar, he could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“The install went up way faster than I thought it was going to take. It felt like lightning. It took less than two days to complete. The crew was super professional and everything got cleaned up. I didn’t have to worry about getting rid of boxes or scrap conduit. I felt there was a ton of personal touch.”
Brad felt genuinely surprised by the level of customer service. He sums up his experience by coming back to same idea: personal attention.
“I didn’t expect to be so take care of from a company standpoint. RISS did everything they said they were going to do. They kept me in the loop throughout the process. I felt there was a personal aspect to it. When I made a phone call, I wasn’t talking to robots. As cheesy as it sounds, it felt like a family company and that you were a part of it.”
Now Brad appreciates sunny days more than ever
After a year of producing clean electricity on his roof, Brad finds himself in a situation better than he expected.
“Because last summer was so sunny, we ended up in the positive range for the year (producing more energy than we used). I expected to have an environmental impact, expected that our bills would go down, but I never expected our bills to be zero or that we’d make a profit.”
He found a way to finance the system and take advantage of solar incentives at the same time.
“We had to do a home equity loan to finance the cost of the system because we didn’t have the cash on-hand to do it. But the money we make from the state incentives pays for our home equity loan. And my energy bill is zero. That alone puts about $2,400 in my pocket. And when we produce more energy than we use, it’s even more in our favor. “
Having such a big family, he sees the practical benefits of producing clean energy with everyday things.
“We have six kids, so our electric bills weren’t cheap before we went solar. We paid somewhere in the range of $220 per month. Now our bills are essentially zero, averaged over the year. I don’t have to stress out if someone leaves a light on. I don’t have to worry about leaving the pool pump running. And I don’t feel bad about using the electricity because there is no coal burning or nuclear waste happening. I’m purely harnessing the energy of the sun and using it in a positive way.”
Brad wants to show his kids that solar energy is a smarter alternative for the future.
“Our kids learn by example. From an environmental standpoint, we can teach them to generate electricity in a clean and sustainable way. I think they appreciate the example we’re trying to set for them. When they ride their bikes around the cul-de-sac, they see the panels on our house and our neighbor’s house. They know it’s a step in the right direction.”
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