Local family feeling the burn after spending $100,000 with solar company promising big savings

Action 9: Homeowners feel burned by home solar systems

ORLANDO, Fla. — A local family feels burned after buying 2 solar systems totaling $100,000.

Dilip Singh blames a solar contractor for a bad installation and for promising big power bill savings it can’t deliver.

Action 9′s Todd Ulrich spoke with Singh.

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“If you know then what you know now, would you buy this system?” Ulrich asked.

“No, not from that company,” Singh replied.

Singh says the salesperson from Empire Solar Group promised he would slash his power bill every month.

“They’re designing the system so I wouldn’t have to pay the electric company, except the taxes,” Singh said he was told.

But according to Singh, his power bill only went down 50%. Not enough to cover his monthly loan payment for the $38,000 solar system.

Singh claims Empire Solar promised a $15,000 federal rebate check. Instead, his tax credit amounted to less than $1,000.

“So, the rebate is non-existent,” Singh said.

And his daughter, Sharon Panday, tells the same story about Empire Solar Group and the promises it made.

“Have you been burned by this solar company?” Ulrich asked.

“I believe so because I have a loan of $64,000,” Panday said.

She says the company’s tax rebate didn’t deliver, and it only dropped her power bill by 50%. Add that to her monthly solar loan payment and Panday says her power expenses more than doubled.

“So, now I’ll pay more for energy,” Panday said.

One of the most common complaints homeowners have about solar systems is the lack of savings. Leaving customers with big loan payments and monthly power bills.

Complaints to the Federal Trade Commission more than tripled since 2012 and many consumers said they were left with higher utility costs.

John Sherwin with the Florida Solar Energy Center, says rooftop systems can deliver real green savings but consumers should be wary of guarantees.

“You want to get multiple quotes. If they’re promising you a zero-energy bill you want to find out where and how they’re getting that information,” Sherwin said.

Empire Solar, based in Utah, is rated B at the Better Business Bureau since it answers complaints.

Action 9 contacted the company about Singh and Panday’s issues with their solar system but so far have not received a response.

“And they don’t want to do anything to rectify it,” Singh said.

Experts at the state’s solar energy center suggest getting at least three estimates before signing any contract. That gives you a far better idea about the system’s size and cost versus what you could really save.

Empire Solar Group response:

Thank you for allowing us to explain our side of the story. Due to privacy concerns I cannot share his entire contract with you, however I can share portions that are part of all of our contracts. In the story he states he was supposed to get a 15K tax rebate, here is that portion of his contract as well as it regards to savings. This is not buried in a 25 page contract this is on page 2 and 3.  We also allow customers 3 days to rescind so they can go over the contract with anyone they choose.  I feel it was an unfair representation when we try to ensure all customers understand and have the time and ability to ask any questions they choose. We also now have an A+ with the BBB. His system size and estimated production: We are reaching out to him again to see how we can help and get him back to being a happy customer.

8. UTILITY RATES ANY UTILITY RATES AND COSTS PROVIDED TO YOU ARE ESTIMATES. UTILITY RATES MAY GO UP OR DOWN AND ACTUAL SAVINGS, IF ANY, MAY VARY. HISTORICAL DATA ARE NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENTATIVE OF FUTURE RESULTS. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION REGARDING RATES, CONTACT YOUR LOCAL UTILITY OR STATE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION

10. INCENTIVES/TAX BENEFITS. TAX AND OTHER FEDERAL, STATE, AND LOCAL INCENTIVES VARY AS TO REFUNDABILITY AND ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE OR TERMINATION BY LEGISLATIVE OR REGULATORY ACTION, WHICH MAY IMPACT SAVINGS ESTIMATES. CONSULT A TAX PROFESSIONAL FOR MORE INFORMATION.

24. LIMITED AUTHORITY OF INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS. NO EMPLOYEE OR REPRESENTATIVE OF EMPIRE SOLAR GROUP IS AUTHORIZED TO MAKE ANY PROMISE TO YOU THAT IS NOT CONTAINED IN THIS DISCLOSURE STATEMENT CONCERNING COST SAVINGS, TAX BENEFITS, OR GOVERNMENT OR UTILITY INCENTIVES. YOU SHOULD NOT RELY UPON ANY PROMISE OR ESTIMATE THAT IS NOT INCLUDED IN THIS DISCLOSURE STATEMENT.