Solar panels the roof of a blue house.

Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly. Where we take on huge problems, like the future of our planet, and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall. 

Recently, I’ve had a lot of people knocking on my door trying to sell me solar panels. It happened just last week! 

Salespeople: “We’re part of field marketing outreach, we actually go seek out homeowners and try to see if we can get them qualified for the no cost program that’s going on in this state right now”

Megan Hall: When I meet these door-to-door salespeople,  I always wonder- are these solar panel programs legit? So I asked Juliana Merullo and Cameron Leo to look into this question. 

Juliana Merullo: Hiya Megan! 

Cameron Leo: Hi there! 

Megan Hall: So can I trust these salespeople that keep knocking on my door? 

Juliana Merullo: There’s nothing inherently fishy about these door-to-door salespeople. A lot of companies do this to spread the word about incentives for homeowners.

Cameron Leo: But, there’s the possibility these salespeople might exaggerate some parts of those incentives.. 

Megan Hall: What do you mean? 

Juliana Merullo: Well, the federal government currently offers a tax credit for 30% of the purchase price of a solar panel system. 

Megan Hall: And that’s legit, right?

Cameron Leo: Yes! But, not everyone qualifies for this tax credit. 

Juliana Merullo:  Door to door salespeople might say you’re guaranteed to receive the credit, or even call it a down payment, but that’s not really how it works. 

Cameron Leo: To get the tax credit, there are a few conditions. You have to owe federal income tax for that year, and you have to be buying, not leasing, the solar panels. 

Juliana Merullo:  Plus, if the panels are going on your home, and you use part of your house as an office, that can also reduce the tax credit.  

Cameron Leo: And it doesn’t mean the solar panels are “no cost”. A tax credit just means that you don’t have to pay the full amount of your income tax at the end of the year. 

Megan Hall: Got it! So what are some things I should ask these salespeople if I’m thinking about  buying solar panels for my house?  

Juliana Merullo: It’s really important to get a full breakdown of the cost of the project and the financing they might be offering. You can also ask for references, and talk to your friends and family to see if any of them have experience with that company. 

Cameron Leo: And you shouldn’t feel rushed in the process. Even if you sign a contract with one of these companies, you have up to three days to cancel if you change your mind. 

Juliana Merullo: For more advice, we spoke to someone who is working to help consumers make informed decisions about buying solar panels. 

Peter Neronha: I’m Peter Neronha. I’m the attorney general for the state of Rhode Island.

Cameron Leo: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit last summer against Smart Green Solar, a company that they say was deceiving customers through door to door sale tactics. 

Megan Hall: What did Smart Green Solar do? 

Cameron Leo: Well, the case is still working its way through the system, but some customers said the company promised them the 30% tax credit, and didn’t tell them about the option to cancel within three days. 

Megan Hall: That makes me think I shouldn’t talk to those people knocking on my door…

Juliana Merullo: A lot of people have that reaction. And the Attorney General says that’s a problem.

Peter Neronha: When solar companies engage in these kinds of practices, they taint all of the legitimate solar companies that are trying to sell solar to a Rhode Islander. 

Cameron Leo: The truth is, transitioning to running our homes on renewable energy is a key part of how we can lower carbon emissions. And the attorney general says we can’t give up on that effort. 

Peter Neronha: The office is heavily focused on this area because we believe it is something that Rhode Islanders need to consider to be part of our climate crisis solution.

Juliana Merullo: If you’re looking to buy solar panels, there are lots of legit companies, including ones that knock on your door, that can help you start the process. 

Megan Hall: But if I want to get solar power for my home, how do I do it without getting scammed? 

Juliana Merullo: The Attorney General says you should treat buying solar panels like you would treat any other big purchase. 

Peter Neronha: I think it’s the rare Rhode Islander who walks into a car dealership without thinking about what kind of car they want, how much they’re prepared to pay…What make or model they’re looking for.

Megan Hall: But how do I get reliable information about solar panels? 

Cameron Leo: To help with that, the Rhode Island attorney general’s office created a whole website for their Solar Panel Initiative with answers to consumers’ questions about who they should trust when they’re buying solar panels. 

Juliana Merullo: The site also has a list of questions you can ask the salesperson to make sure they’re legit. So the next time someone knocks on your door, you’ll be prepared. 

Megan Hall: Got it! Thanks, Juliana and Cameron. 

That’s it for today. For more information, or to ask a question about the way your choices affect our planet, go to Or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts. 

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Possibly is a co-production of The Public’s Radio and Brown University’s Institute for Environment and Society, and the Brown Climate Solutions Initiative.

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