Momentum Solar: The complete review and consumer guide
Momentum Solar is one of the largest solar installers in the United States, but it's a company that's been dogged by controversy. Should you trust them with your solar installation?
The residential solar industry in the US is dominated by a few very large companies, and one of the biggest is Momentum Solar.
According to Solar Power World, Momentum installed almost 90 megawatts of solar panels last year. For perspective, the average home solar system is 6.4 kW in size. If Momentum installed only average sized systems, their installations in 2019 would be equivalent to 14,000 home systems.
That’s a lot! This means that if you’re looking for a solar installer in one of the seven states that Momentum operates in, there’s a good chance you’ve come across their name.
But if you’ve done any Google searches for Momentum Solar, you’ve probably also seen that there are some controversies surrounding this company. Is this a company that you should trust with a home improvement project that will cost thousands of dollars and last for decades?
This article won’t make a specific recommendation, but instead try to present the facts around this big player in the solar industry.
Momentum Solar: company basics
According to their website, Momentum Solar was started in 2009 and now employs 2,000 people. They’re based in New Jersey and operate in seven states: California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Like other large national solar installers, Momentum offers “no-money-down” solar installations through financing deals such as leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs). As described in a previous article, my opinion is that these deals are a bad choice for most consumers, and that you would be probably better off getting a conventional loan, or even putting off a solar installation until you can afford it.
While Momentum will offer a straight purchase, it seems like they heavily steer customers toward leases/PPAs, as described in this complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau:
Momentum solar tells you you’re going to save money by going solar. I have had solar for over three years and am paying MORE that I would without solar. And I’m locked into a lease for 25 years! They did not explain that all the rebates I heard about would not be available to me if I leased vs. purchased the system. I have to pay a company, *******, $150.23 every month plus the money I pay *****. I calculated that the first two years I paid approximately $500 more a year than if I had just paid *****. When they present this offer to you it’s not clear that they basically only install the system. ******* owns the system and they get the benefits. When they first present the offer to you they make it sound like Momentum Solar would be my contact which was misleading. I have to deal with ******* as Momentum has washed their hands of my account. I’ve been fighting to try to lower the monthly amount because I am not seeing any of the SAVINGS Momentum sold me in the presentation, and having no success. I contacted ******* and also had no success. Now I’m stuck paying $150.23 a month for 25 years in addition to my regular ***** bill. I am approaching retirement and thought I was reducing my bills but I am in a worse situation now. This has created an unnecessary financial hardship on me due to their lies and deceit.
Lawsuits against Momentum Solar
There have been two significant lawsuits against Momentum Solar.
Class action lawsuit for telemarketing practices
One is a class action lawsuit by consumers in Pennsylvania for alleged telemarketing violations. The lawsuit claims that Momentum Solar violated the Do Not Call Act and accuses Momentum of a “proliferation of intrusive, nuisance telemarketing practices”. You can read a summary of the lawsuit and follow its progress, which is still working its way through a New Jersey district court.
This class action lawsuit is about the marketing practices of the company, and not about its operations such as the quality of its solar installation work. Does this mean that you should ignore it if you’re thinking of hiring Momentum Solar?
I would say definitely not. In my ongoing research that I do to help connect consumers with better quality solar installers, one consistent trend I’ve found is that companies that pursue high growth have difficultly maintaining high quality.
On the surface, this makes sense: if you add people and offices around the country really quickly, it’s difficult to quickly scale training, quality control, and good hiring practices. More often than not, quality is sacrified to improve growth. A great example of this is now-bankrupt Sungevity, which used debt and private equity to try to grow really quickly. They did grow quickly, but imploded in the process.
High quality companies either grow at a sustainable pace, or are happy to limit their operations to a small geographic area. The best companies in The Solar Nerd network need to do little advertising, and instead get the majority of their business through referrals and word-of-mouth. They certainly don’t do door-to-door sales or telemarketing. In my opinion, if you have a company that uses these tactics, you should exclude them from consideration.
Multiple discrimination lawsuits against Momentum Solar
Momentum Solar has faced two discrimination lawsuits by employees.
The first is a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by six Black former employees of the company. According to this New York Times article:
The managers made frequent use of racist slurs, routinely called black men “boy” and paid them less than white workers, a lawsuit filed on Monday alleged.
The other lawsuit was filed by a female employees who alleged that she was fired after the company learned about her pregnancy.
The latter lawsuit has been dismissed, but the racial discrimination lawsuit is still proceeding through the discovery phase.
To legally install solar panels in most states in the US, a company must have the correct contractor license. Most often, this will be either a general contractor license, an electrician license, or a solar PV license. Every state has its own rules, and some even don’t require any license at all. The rules get a little confusing, but you can look up the requirements for your state at the IREC website.
Many states allow you to look up a company’s contractor license online. Some only give you basic information, such as whether the license is valid, but some states give you more details, including whether the company has been been formally cited for license violations.
What can cause a company to be cited for a violation? Sometimes it’s mundane issues, such as driving a company vehicle without the company name and license displayed (a violation in California) or more serious issues, such as safety violations or working on a project without a permit.
Momentum helpfully lists their contractor license information on their website, but you can usually look up a company by their name as well. (Just remember that the legal name of this company is Pro Custom Solar.)
Here are some things I found out after looking up the licenses for Momentum:
Florida: roofer violation
In Florida, a roofing contractor for Momentum Solar was cited for a license violation in 2009. There are two citations listed with the record, but unfortunately no further details are provided.
Massachusetts: expired license?
The contractor license that Momentum lists for the state of Massachusetts - #192204 - is apparently expired.
Illinois: no license?
I wasn’t able to find a current license for Momentum in Illinois. I searched the license number they list on their website, and both their legal name (Pro Custom Solar) and Momentum Solar, but couldn’t find a current license.
This might simply be an issue with the illinois.gov website, or it could mean that they are not actually licensed to install solar in Illinois.
Three complaints in Nassau County
In New York, contractor licensing is at the local level. In Nassau County, Momentum has three violations on record over the past several years. Unfortunately, there are no details listed about the nature of the violations.
Consumer reviews of Momentum Solar
Online reviews can be useful, but in our guide on how to pick a solar company, a piece of advice I give is to be really selectivce about the review sites you choose to use.
For example, Best Company gives Sungevity a hilariously high 4.2 stars out of 5, and their review completely fails to mention that the company went bankrupt. Seems like a glaring omission.
Because of that, I would completely ignore Best Company and their 3.9 star rating of Momentum.
Instead, check out BBB.org, which gives them slightly more than 2 stars and currently lists 92 complaints on issues such as sales practices and poor product quality.
Because of these numerous issues, Momentum Solar isn’t a company that’s included in The Solar Nerd network of installers. If you’re doing your own research on solar installers, you should know that there are probably a lot of satisified customers of this company. However, as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, consistent quality is a hard to achieve in very large companies like this. Keep that in mind before you decide to hire them, or any of the large national solar installers.