Action 9 investigates phony energy audits in hidden camera test

by: Todd Ulrich Updated:

MARION COUNTY, Fla. - Solar panels cover the roof of a home in Marion County, suggesting the homeowner is cashing in on the sun.  

Don't believe it, says Pamela Ramieh

“They made me feel like an idiot," she said of the company that sold her on the panels.

Homewise Improvement Solutions, of Longwood, gave Ramieh a free energy audit and  recommended a solar system for huge energy savings.

Watch: 9 Facts: Orlando's solar potential

“It was going to pay off the entire power bill every month," Ramieh said.

She signed contracts for $30,000 solar panels and a $12,000 solar battery.  

But now, every new electric bill leaves her feeling duped.

According to the family, the $42,000 solar system is saving them $40 a month on their power bill but they're paying $600 a month on solar financing. 

“He made it sound like he was here to help. Instead he was here to take our money,” Ramieh said.

Homewise Improvement Solutions is rated F at the Better Business Bureau with several complaints involving sales. 

At a home near Orlando, an Action 9 volunteer responded to a Homewise telemarketing offer for a free energy audit.    

On hidden camera, a company employee reviewed her power bill, then started selling an expensive solar system.  

The Action 9 volunteer said all his questions were lead-ins to selling her something.

Action 9 had lots of questions, too.

Action 9 consumer investigator Todd Ulrich asked if he was really here to do an energy audit. 

“Yes, I did. I checked the A/C,” the Homewise employee said.

During the visit, the employee spent five minutes asking audit questions about power use, and then 40 minutes selling solar energy systems. 

When confronted, he denied that.

"I was not here to sell anything," the employee said before declining to answer further questions on camera.

Later, a Homewise manager told Action 9  it offers energy-saving advice, there's no sales pressure, and it did nothing wrong.

Florida's  Attorney General has nine complaints, plus Rameih's, and it's now investigating the company. 

“I'm not going to be an idiot anymore,” Rameih said.

The Homewise manager told Ulrich that Rameih's solar system should be saving her more each month and that the company would work with her to improve her results.

Watch: 9 Facts about Project Sunroof: