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3 On Your Side: A Warning About Solar Scams

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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  • Raymond

    The best thing other than contacting the BBB is to have Charles Bohmfalk contact the State Attorney General & have them start condicting an Investigation of the Contractor. I myself am a supporter of “Green Energy’ & there’s no reason for this type of Fraud to be happening. I think that if Charles Bohmfalk starts the “Ball Rolling” with the State Attorney General, it might have some effect!

  • Steve Masapollo

    Mr. Donovan: There are so many solar scammers proliferating within the marketplace it’s unbelievable. Glad you did the story. Yes, there are many consumers that I’m sure have had a very bad experience. Solar rules and regulations change a lot and equipment advances. Primarily there is so much misinformation and deception that you could do a 2 hour special on this. I will tell you that SolarWorks NJ is an award winning energy company that has been in business for over 8 years with a large amount of completed projects for homeowners and businesses. These vary in size from 4.08 kW’s to the start of 2 projects that will be in excess of 7 MW when completed.

    I have a very long list of very happy clients who tell me this is the best investment of money that they ever made. Many of my clients paid or will pay their systems off in 5 or less years with an ROI of 15+ and an immediate cash flow.

    I will tell you this…Some people get what they ask for–a cheap product with a substandard company because they want a “great deal”. In Solar you most definitively get what you pay for when going for that “great deal”.

    I agree with you in seeking out references and checking the BBB. I disagree with you regarding trade associations. All you need to do is pay to belong–not necessarily the best way to check method. In NJ they have a QUALIFIED VENDORS list and a QA program. I believe they have that in PA as well.

    I enjoy your reports. We have worked with CBS 3 two times on NJ solar stories in the last 3 years and have really enjoyed it.

    Steve Masapollo

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