HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — If you’re considering a switch to solar power for your home, you’re not alone.

More Hampton Roads residents — and across the country — are tapping into solar energy. Solar panel installation increased by 33% in the United States in 2021, but some solar customers we spoke with say they wish they had made different decisions along the way.

Al Desiderio is proud of what he calls his “forever home.” He made the decision to go solar last summer.

“Our family and friends come, enjoy it, and they all ask, ‘That’s cool, you got solar. How does it work?’ and embarrassingly, I have to tell them, ‘I got bamboozled. I got robbed.'”

He had 49 solar panels installed on the back of his house, and it cost him around $90 thousand.

He said the national company he hired to install the solar panel system misled him about how much money he would end up saving after his investment.

“I was told that I would save a minimum of 85% of my average monthly bill,” he said.

“I have had no cost savings my electric bill is on average $500-$600 a month, on top of the $350 payment that I pay. So, I haven’t saved money. It’s costing me 850 bucks a month,” he said.

10 On Your Side went to local experts to learn what consumers should know before investing in an expensive system.

“We’re hearing more and more concerns from the Hampton Roads region,” said Ben Hoyne of Solar United Neighbors, which is a Richmond-based 501 c3 that works to educate people who are interested in switching to solar. He offered a warning.

“There are entities around that maybe aren’t exactly acting in the best advocate for consumers, and for a sustainable solar industry,” he said.

Solar United Neighbors encourages people to go solar – but to do it smartly. Hoyne says the best way to do that is to educate yourself. Learn the basics of solar power, get multiple bids for installation, and research different companies.

Desiderio tells 10 On Your Side tells us the company he was working with told him they would reimburse him more than $13 thousand for his solar panel system – but the company shut down before he got his money.

“You want to make sure that you enter into that commitment with a company that’s committed to Hampton Roads for the next 25 years, just like you are in your home,” Hoyne said.

Hoyne says the average system might cost between $15,000 and $18,000. One of the benefits for going solar includes a federal tax credit, but Hoyne says it’s something that can be misunderstood by potential solar consumers.

“That’s not applicable when you buy your system, it’s when you’re paying your tax. Certainly, you’d want to talk to a tax professional. It’s important to know it’s a tax credit. Not a tax refund,” he said.

As for the potential savings, Hoyne says it can be a great economic decision to go solar — but you want to have someone read over any contract before you sign it. Solar United Neighbors and similar organizations will read over your contract for free to help you do the research. It’s something Al Desiderio says he wishes he had done more of, before installing his system.

“Due diligence is the number one thing,” he said.