Talk to APS before choosing a solar contractor

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A Sun City man says he had to abandon his plan to go solar because of an expensive demand he thought came from APS but was really a misunderstanding that can be avoided.

Consumers need to research solar contractors carefully and make an educated choice, but make that second on your to-do list. The first thing you should do is get APS out to your home to find out what they need to approve your system.

"It was a lot of effort, for nothing," Dave Miller said.

Miller stares at his house and can only wonder now how nice it would have been to have solar panels on his roof and energy savings in his pocket. Miller says he spent considerable time choosing and working with a solar contractor, then APS came to his house for a pre-installation inspection. Miller says it took APS a month to notify him that he needed to move his breaker box.

"That's what our policy is," Miller said. 

Miller says APS wants the breaker box moved from the north-facing side of the house to the west-facing side but won't explain why. It's only 75 feet, but Miller says the cost has scuttled his plans to go solar.

"If it's going to cost me $8,000 to move a control panel, it really makes the decision for me cause I just can't afford to do that," Miller said.

CBS 5 News checked several nearly identical houses in Miller's neighborhood that had solar panels. All faced south like his, but none had breaker boxes on the west side.

"They're all over on different sides of the homes. It doesn't seem to have anything to do with where it's located on the home," Miller said.

To avoid wasting time, Miller's learned it's better to research and contact solar contractors second.

"I would probably contact APS first and say, send an engineer out, have him tell me what is necessary," Miller said.

So what was the misunderstanding? APS says the solar system can be installed next to the main electrical breaker, it's called a "split" system. This is apparently what CBS 5 News noticed with the many other solar-powered homes in that neighborhood. Moving the electrical breaker is not a requirement; it is an option.

The contractor wanted to combine the systems into one and current code requires "all in one" systems to be located where there's unrestricted access (outside any fenced-in areas). The only reason the system needed to be moved was that the contractor chose the "all in one" system.

APS helped the contractor figure out how to install the split system next to the electrical box and that eliminated the need to move it to the other side of the house. Miller's solar panel project is back on and he should have his panels installed very soon.

Remember, call APS out first and see what they require. It's a free service and can eliminate this type of confusion because you'll already know your options before you choose a solar contractor.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Dave CherryCBS 5 Advocate Dave Cherry works to resolve your consumer problems and protect your money. If he can't help, he'll do his best to point you in the right direction.

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Dave Cherry
CBS 5 Advocate

Dave was born and raised in Philadelphia and considers himself one of the biggest Philly sports fans. At 6-feet, 5-inches, he's probably right! Dave started on a different career path before fulfilling his lifelong dream of reporting the news and helping consumers. Dave graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting; he later earned an MBA degree in Finance from Temple University in Philadelphia. Dave also spent ten years as Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing for two of America's leading real estate franchise companies. Dave started his 21-year news career at WHP in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as news anchor and reporter, then moved to KOLD in Tucson, as the morning news anchor. From Tucson, he went to KRON in San Francisco as a freelance news reporter before moving east to COMCAST in Philadelphia as a general assignment reporter. In the fall of 2003, Dave moved west and joined KPNX in Phoenix and spent nine years as the station Call for Action Consumer Reporter. Through his on-air advocacy work in 2011, Dave and his team were able to help consumers save more than $1 million. Dave joined CBS 5 News as our CBS 5 Advocate in December 2012. Dave is a vegan and likes to eat the amazing vegan food prepared by his lovely wife, Carmen. Dave's also a big Bruce Springsteen fan (he's seen more than 70 shows!), the man who inspired him to learn the guitar. Besides playing many of the boss' songs, Dave writes and sings his own songs and recorded a CD of original music.

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