News 4 Investigates: Solar power companies overpromising & under-delivering

Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 10:37 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Throughout the hot summer months, many people started thinking about going solar to save money.

News 4 Investigates brings you a consumer warning as local consumers said they got burned by solar power companies overpromising and under-delivering.

Fredericktown resident Curtis Jarvis said, “‘Own your own power,’ that’s what they said. I own very little power.”

He told News 4 that a company now called Pink Energy promised the panels would generate more power than his home could ever use. But, he told us it’s “the biggest waste of money I have ever spent in my entire life.”

Jarvis signed an agreement to pay more than $46,000 in monthly installments for the next 25 years for the panels. He said his contract with Pink Energy stated it would significantly reduce his energy usage by 61%.

“They don’t produce enough to cover everything,” he said.

Instead, he said they put out about 10% of power.

“I was duped, swindled, bamboozled”, Jarvis said.

“I trusted the whole company, it was on TV all the time,” said Lisa Goeke, of Bloomsdale.

There are similar frustrations from Goeke, who also hired Pink Energy when they were known as PowerHome Solar.

“It’s been 55 times that I have called them,” she said.

Goeke claims they haven’t provided what was promised, particularly, on her battery backup power.

“They are really good at making you feel like it’s all your fault, you did something wrong, your electric company, your electric isn’t right,” she said.

They’re far from alone. Customers around the country have complained about Pink Energy, there’s even a dedicated Facebook page. The company and its CEO blame a parts vendor for the issues. That vendor is disputing that.

In a video posted to Facebook, Pink Energy CEO Jayson Waller said, “We have recently learned of Generac’s excuse, blaming our installation, it’s appalling.”

He goes on to state, “We have won several awards, A+ with the BBB.”

News 4 Investigates checked, and they do have an A+ with the BBB. On the BBB website, though, there is a current alert for the company because of a pattern of complaints saying that people “allege that the sales representatives claim the solar power will provide the majority of the energy needed/used by the consumer’s home and sometimes overproduce resulting in credits from the power companies.”

Pink Solar has a less than three-star review, with close to 1,200 closed complaints in the last few years, though their response rate is 100% with the BBB.

Sarah Wetzel with the BBB said, “For them to have this experience, it is heartbreaking.”

Wetzel says they have received complaints about other companies as well.

In fact, last year they logged 2,300 complaints locally about solar power companies. They include everything from aggressive sales tactics to equipment that just doesn’t work.

“Check out multiple companies and if they are having lots of complaints and not answering it, use caution or use another,” said Wetzel.

She also suggests you carefully read the fine print, particularly about who is responsible for repairs.

And said to be aware that you might be locked into very long-term loans.

“It’s up to you as the consumer to empower yourself to do your research and choose a trustworthy business,” said Wetzel.

Toni Towers in St. Louis City says she wishes now she had done more research before signing on with Sunpro, now ADT solar.

Towers said, “I probably should have told the salesman, let me think about this for a few days and I’ll get back to you.”

Her panels didn’t work right away, leaving her with two payments, the loan and her electric bill.

“The panels were on the house for months and no power,” Tower said.

Even while News 4 was at her home, she said there was a problem. Though eventually, the panels started working correctly.

“It just shouldn’t have taken this long or they should have told me it will take a while,” Tower said.

She still wants to spread the word, warning “do your homework.”

She said, “There are days it makes me sick to my stomach just to look at them.”

Jarvis says he’s still paying for what he said is a useless eyesore, “They are still out there hurting families every day.”

A News 4 producer and a local homeowner curious about solar set up a bid from Pink Energy to see their promises first-hand.

The Pink Energy representative who arrived said, “Zillow says homes with solar sell faster and for more,”

But after walking around the property, the representative actually didn’t overpromise us. In fact, she said solar wouldn’t be the best bet for this house, as is. They suggested trimming back some trees.

Later, another rep told us they could install a ground mount for $65,000, and that would offset 60% of the home’s power.

Jarvis warned, “Just stay away from them, just stay away from them.”

Jarvis told News 4 he just wants to warn others to make sure they know what you’re getting into if you want to get off the grid. His attempts to resolve problems with Pink Energy, he said, only came with an offer if he did not speak out.

Jarvis said, “They are not going to buy my silence, that’s for sure.”

Pink Energy is urging their vendor, Generac, to do a recall, and has even entered into a lawsuit against them.

Generac sent us a statement saying they believe Pink Energy has been installing their products incorrectly.

“It is unfortunate that Pink Energy appears to not want to take any accountability for their actions. By their inflammatory public statements and the lawsuit, we believe Pink Energy may be hoping to distract customers from the many complaints and allegations that reportedly have been leveled against them…”

Many customers are still skeptical. Pink Energy signed them up, and they want more answers.

ADT Solar sent News 4 a statement that said, “The ADT Solar customer experience is of utmost importance to us. We work directly with our customers to help ensure they have the highest levels of service. We have confirmed that the customer’s solar panels are functioning properly and are backed by our 25-year power production guarantee.”

The Missouri Attorney General is seeing an uptick in complaints, as well. They had 36 consumer complaints about solar companies in 2021 and 55 in 2022.

Also, it’s clear that more people are turning to solar. Ameren told us that 7,500 customers in the Missouri region have signed up for solar.

For more information click here.

Click here for the Missouri Solar Energy Industries Association.