Going green with solar panels costing some NC residents more money, due to multitude of problems

Diane Wilson Image
Friday, September 23, 2022
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"Instead of saving money, I'm paying extra money...They say it works but I have not seen anything."

LILLINGTON, N.C. (WTVD) -- "Instead of saving money, I'm paying extra money."

Michael Houle is a Harnett County homeowner whose quest to go solar and save money on power bills, instead wound up costing him more money.

"They say it works but I have not seen anything off my electric (bill) at all to this day," Houle said.

Houle decided to go solar in January of 2021. He said a salesman from the North Carolina solar-based company PowerHome Solar, which later renamed the company to Pink Energy, came to his Harnett County house and made big promises.

"They said it would work good the way our house was facing and everything; putting them on the back roof that we could probably get up to 100% power with it," Houle recalled.

Besides energy savings, he was told there would also be incentives on his taxes.

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"They said that once we got them installed that we could get a 12% tax credit." Houle electronically signed a 37-page contract, for a total price of more than $47,000 for the 13 solar panels, along with a Generac battery cabinet in his garage.

He said the salesmen said that would give him extra protection.

"They say that I could run a couple of rooms upstairs if the power goes out but I have not been able to do that yet," he said.

Plus, not long after his brand new system was installed, it stopped working.

"They tell me they're going to have someone out here to fix it, and they send people out here and then it still has not worked."

Month after month, he said he saw no savings in his power bill, but he still had to make his monthly payments of $171 on the system. Houle said the company did reimburse him for some of his monthly payments for the solar panels, but his biggest frustration is the lack of savings he's seen since going solar.

"I've done nothing but have to come out of pocket since I got it, and I got it to try and save money," Houle said to Troubleshooter Diane Wilson.

Houle is not alone, Wilson has heard from more than a dozen PowerHome Solar/Pink Energy customers in North Carolina and beyond who all say they have systems that don't work, or they have not seen any difference in their power bills since going solar.

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The North Carolina Attorney General's Office has more than 110 complaints filed against the company. There are more than 1,100 complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau in the last three years, and the BBB issued an alert on the company for a pattern of complaints.

The NC State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors took action against PowerHome Solar in 2019 and put the company on year probation for failing to respond to complaints in a timely manner, failing to complete projects, multiple expired permits, and engaging in malpractice or unethical conduct in the use of its license. The executive director of the board said it received other complaints which are part of open and ongoing investigations.

As for Pink Energy's owner Jayson Waller, he is very vocal on his Facebook page about the complaints and issues customers are facing. He blames it on a vendor his company worked with: Generac.

A company spokesperson for Pink Energy states, "Pink Energy is in the midst of a massive spike in customer service issues due to a faulty product provided by one of our former suppliers named Generac. The Generac part in question, called SnapRS, fails at such a high rate that the vast majority of Pink Energy service calls are related to this issue and this is negatively impacting our customer service capabilities. We strongly urge Generac to conduct a national product recall and encourage our customers to contact Generac."

In August, Pink Energy filed a federal lawsuit against Generac alleging defective products which impacted Pink Energy's business and reputation. However Pink Energy did not start working with Generac until two years ago, and many of the customer complaints against the company were filed before that partnership. Pink Energy did not address that.

A Generac spokesperson says in part, "In certain situations, especially when product installation guidelines have not been followed, as appears to be the case with some Pink Energy installations, customers may have experienced certain issues with a particular Generac component of their solar energy system - the SnapRS 801 or 801A. We have introduced a new next-generation rapid shutdown device, which has been designed and engineered to the highest reliability standards. We are committed to getting those upgrades and warranty replacements taken care of as quickly as possible and those steps are well underway. It is unfortunate that Pink Energy, as the installer and service provider of such products, has made the unilateral decision to quit offering Generac warranty support despite the availability of parts. Instead of helping expedite the resolution of their customer complaints, they have asked Generac to solely assume this responsibility. Although Pink Energy does not appear to put the needs of these customers first, Generac has - and always will - stand behind our products and honor our customer commitments."

As the two companies battle it out in court, customers like Houle are stuck in the middle. Pink energy states Houle's issues are due to Generac equipment failures. For the troubles, Pink Energy has reimbursed 11 payments and claims it's expediting three additional payments now due to service delays. Pink Energy also claims Houle's system is up and running properly, and just waiting on solar panel replacement, but he says that is not the case.

"I'd be happy if they come and get it off my roof. That'd be nice; then I don't have to worry about it at all," Houle said.

Besides frustrations from Pink Energy customers, employees of the company shared with ABC11 a letter they received from Pink Energy leadership. The letter informs the employees that they've been terminated and the company is closing permanently.

Both the NC Attorney General's office and BBB said they're working with Pink Energy to resolve customer complaints.

In order to protect your money if you want to go solar, do your research on a company, look at the complaints, and what others are saying. You can't go with what a salesperson says, you need to read all of that fine print before signing anything, especially if you're signing electronically.