Trinity Solar Power reviews (and complaints)
With a presence in 9 states, Trinity Solar is one of the largest solar installers in the country. If you live in one of those states, they might have come knocking on your door.
According to Solar Power World, Trinity Solar is the second largest residential solar installer in the United States, having installed over 83 megawatts of solar last year.
(Note that this doesn’t include Sunrun, which is the largest but doesn’t participate in Solar Power World’s rankings.) They operate in nine states and are known for doing door-to-door sales and telemarketing, so there’s a good chance that you’ve received one of their pitches to install solar on your home.
Trinity Solar: company basics
Trinity Solar is based in Holyoke, MA and was founded in 1994. They operate in nine states:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
They’re a little unique among installers because they focus exclusively on residential solar. Most solar installers, even small local companies, work in residential and commercial markets.
Trinity Solar is a privately held company, so there isn’t any public information about their revenue or other financials.
Trinity Solar and Sunnova
Trinity Solar has a sales partnership with Sunnova, which is another national solar installer - one of the largest in the country, in fact. How big? Sunnova is a public company and, at the time of writing, has a market capitalization of $1.95 billion. For reference, Sunrun (the largest solar installer in the nation) has a market cap of $4.48 billion.
That makes Sunnova less than half the size by market value of Sunrun, but that still makes them a huge company. Like so many of the big national installers, Sunnova has a track record that should give consumers some pause. For example, the government of Puerto Rico took action against the company:
On December 16, 2020, the business entered into a Resolution and Order with the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau. The Resolution and Order settles allegations that the business violated portions of Law 57-2014, known as the Energy Transformation and Relief Law. Under terms of the Resolution and Order, the business agreed to change its business practices related to disclosures at the point of sale. The Resolution and Order was for settlement purposes only and should not be considered as an admission of guilt or finding of violation of the law. For more details, go to https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MmkXBI6dT46SLWW3AKaGJ4k_h7jvmdgN/view.
For consumers who might be evaluating Trinity Solar, this is relevant because their partnership with Sunnova means that Trinity may only be acting as the sales agent for the project, with Sunnova doing the actual installation work.
This makes it tricky for a consumer. You might have done due diligence on one company but not have realized that the real work is performed by another.
According to Sunnova’s annual report, this relationship with Trinity gave Sunnova a significant portion of their business:
For the years ended December 31, 2021 and 2020, Trinity Solar, Inc. ("Trinity") accounted for approximately 15% and 28% of our net originations, respectively.
This means that you should ask a few extra questions when working with Trinity - particularly who will be doing the installation.
Payment options: Lease or cash purchase
Trinity offers cash purchase as well as financing with a lease or power purchase agreement.
I couldn’t find any specific information about Trinity’s lease agreement, but the general caveats apply. Consumers should be very cautious and become informed about solar leases before signing any contract.
In particular, this means understanding that you won’t receive the 30% federal tax credit. You should also read the fine print in the contract carefully to know:
- What is the term of the agreement?
- What happens if I sell my home? Is the agreement transferable?
- What happens if the system generates less power than planned?
- How much does my lease payment increase over time?
- Is there an option to end the contract early? Is there a termination fee?
… among other many issues. To learn more, read my article on solar leases and power purchase agreements.
Trinity Solar’s contractor licenses
Six of the states that Trinity Solar operates in have state-level licensing for contractors. I checked all six states and found that Trinity’s licenses are up-to-date, and no violations were on record.
Before hiring a solar installer (or any home improvement contractor) it’s a good idea to look up your local licensing requirements. In the majority of cases you can check a license online, which is a good way to find out if a company is operating legally.
Consumer reviews of Trinity Solar
Consumer review sites are an important tool, but you have to be selective about the ones you trust.
For example, Best Company gives the solar installer Sungevity 4.2 stars out of 5 and calls it “highly recommended”, despite its history of bankruptcy, multiple contractor license violations, and a class action lawsuit.
Yikes! I’d hate to see what it takes for Best Company to give a company a negative review. Instead, I like to lean on the Better Business Bureau, which has more rigorous standards for vetting user-submitted contact. Yelp and Google reviews are also helpful.
At the time of writing this article, the BBB gives Trinity Solar 3 out of 5 stars based on 76 customer reviews. That’s not bad - but not great either.
More concerning are the 91 complaints filed with the BBB. Unlike reviews, complaints are a more involved process and usually point to more serious issues. Trinity Solar’s BBB complaints span a variety of issues, but a couple recurring themes come up.
One is related to their door-to-door sales practices. Specifically, there are multiple BBB complaints where a homeowner, after meeting with a Trinity sales rep at their door, was surprised to find that the company had run a credit check on the customer. The allegations are that sales rep will show a prospective customer a document on an electronic tablet and ask them to sign it, but mislead them about what the document actually is.
Another person accused the Trinity sales rep of actually forging their signature:
Unfortunately, there are far too many stories like this about door-to-door sales in the solar industry. In fact, Vivint Solar was sued by the Attorney General for the State of New Mexico for several issues, including door-to-door sales reps that used deceptive practices to get customers to sign contracts.
One other recurring theme with the BBB complaints is product failures, and customers trying to get warranty service. With the large volume of installations that Trinity Solar does, some failures are expected, but the sales relationship with Sunnova seems to add some extra complication, as this one complaint describes:
There are a large number of complaints in this category, but unfortunately it’s hard to tell whether the number of product failures in Trinity Solar installations exceeds the industry average.
Class action lawsuit for telemarketing
Trinity Solar uses telemarketers as part of its sales strategy.
Unfortunately, like other national solar installers including Sunrun - which settled a class action lawsuit for violations of the Do Not Call list - Trinity Solar was named as the plaintiff in a class action lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that the company violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by calling consumers’ cell phones without their permission.
At the moment, the lawsuit is still on the docket at the US District Court for the Southern District of California.
For a consumer who is thinking of using Trinity Solar for their home solar installation, there are certainly some red flags.
Trinity Solar gets a pretty lousy 2 out of 5 stars on Yelp, but different Trinity offices around the country get different review ratings from Google. For example, the Trinity office in Laurel Township in New Jersey gets 2.4 out of 5, while another office in Redding, PA gets a very good 4.8 stars.
If you’re considering a quote from Trinity, I would say that one of the most important things is to know who is doing the actual installation, as it might be Trinity, Sunnova, or maybe even a local contractor.
Another important tip is to be very wary before sigining any solar lease or power purchase agreement. For most consumers who need financing, often the best option is to obtain your own financing with a HELOC or home equity loan.