By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Have you considered going green and adding solar panels to your home?

They’re supposed to help you save money on your energy bills while helping the environment. Well 3 On Your Side’s Jim Donovan has a warning about solar scams that you need to hear before you make the switch to solar energy.

Charles Bohmfalk spent more than $7,000 to have solar panels installed on his roof. A contractor promised him the system “would pay for itself,” saving Charles more than $1,000 a year on his electric bills.

Charles says the system hasn’t generated one single kilowatt of electricity.

“We have not saved one penny,” said Bohmfalk.

And the contractor won’t respond to his e-mails or calls. Charles isn’t alone. He’s one of several hundred people who contacted the Better Business Bureau in 2010 saying they were victims of solar scams.

“I think it’s horrible that contractors take advantage of people that are trying to do good by their environment by going green,” said Paula Fleming with the Better Business Bureau.

BBB complaints show homeowners paid between $6,000 and $60,000 to go green and were ripped off.

“It has a devastating effect on the family who works hard for their money and they think they’re doing something good,” said Fleming.

The Solar Energy Industries Association says there are good installers out there, but they say you should choose carefully recommending you pick a contractor that belongs to a national solar energy professional association.

Also, check references and complaints.

The BBB says you should watch out for any high pressure sales pitches. It’s important to weigh the initial cost with long lasting cost to determine if solar panels are right for your home, lifestyle and finances.

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3

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