Home Depot - When the sun dont shine on solar power
We live and operate a small farm in rural, NJ in July 2005 we spoke with Home Depot about their advertised BP solar system. Brady Anderson from First Light Energy, the authorized dealer/installer, came to our home to assess our needs and inform us of the system specifics. We were told that based on our heating and cooling system and general electrical uses the system would "wipe out our electric bill" as well as generate additional electric to sell back to the utility company and achieve a good return on our solar system investment. We were assured that our roof orientation was good (90 degree east and 300 degree west) and that 58 panels would be recommended. After much thought and research that was available in 2005, we called First Light and explained we wanted to meet again to discuss the system. Justin Krum, owner of First Light Energy, came to our home and assured us the system would eliminate our electric bill, generate additional electric and that our roof orientation was ideal. Based on this information we proceeded to purchase the BP 58 panel solar system through Home Depot in July 2005. Our contact states the system is estimated to generate at about 1050 kwh per month and generate 12,600 srecs The installation schedule was to start on September 1, 2005 and conclude on September 5, 2005. The cost of system after rebates was $27,500.00.
After several months of installation delay (we were told they were busy with other installations) finally on November 2, 2005 First Light Energy installed the 58 panel solar system. Upon installation I noticed the panels were being installed on a different roof location than indicated in the contract. When I expressed my concerns to the installers and asked they stop to verify their install location, I was told they had the work orders and they were proceeding as outlined. As I was uncomfortable, I called First Light and spoke with Justin Krum and explained the situation. Two days later Justin Krum came to our home and agreed the system was installed on the wrong roof. We have written acknowledgement from First Light Energy dated November 16, 2005 to this effect. We were presented with two options to correct the error one was to leave the system where it was and see what the production was OR move the panels to the correct roof. At this time we were very concerned and had asked if we could cancel the project and get a refund. That we were told was not an option and to give them the chance to rectify the situation. We of course chose having the panels moved to the correct roof since we could not cancel the project
It was not until February 2006 that First Light Energy returned to move the panels to the correct roof. Upon completion we noticed wires hanging from under the solar panels and the panels themselves were hanging as much as six inches over the roofline. The inverters are stacked one on top of the other with 8" between them in a laundry closet, which also concerns us. Justin came out again and assured us everything was fine and the install was correct. We were told the wires and overhang was all normal.
We felt very uncomfortable with the finished product and made several phone calls to First Light Energy and home depot customer care. On windy days we heard strange noises from the roof and expressed this concern as well.(the panels were not correctly bolted down so the fluttered in the wind) We also started calling BP in September 2006 to share our concerns and were directed back to First Light Energy.
In June 2006 we noticed water stains on our ceilings. We later learned First Light Energy cut 2 vent pipes on the roof which caused the roof to leak, damage our sheetrock and our ceilings. We learned this after a call to our plumber to investigate what we thought was a pluming issue. On August 8, 2006 it took two hours of our plumber's time to investigate and identify the problem. Our plumber spoke with First Light Energy from our home phone to explain his discovery. We have written acknowledgement from First Light Energy dated October 3, 2006 to this effect. It was at this time that we again tried to address our ongoing concerns about the finished install and the noises we heard on windy days, all to no avail.
In November 2006 BP finally responded to our numerous calls and sent James Windsor and Brian Smith to our home. I expressed my concerns and dissatisfaction with the installation and performance as I had not yet started to realize the return as outlined. We again requested that the system be removed and we get a refund. James and Brian reviewed the overall installation and agreed the installation was not up to their standards. I was assured they would make things right but a refund was not an option On December 19, 2006 I received a letter from Home Depot acknowledging any inconvenience and outlined the corrective steps and actions to resolve this matter. We were also presented with a Settlement and Release Agreement if we did not sign they would not make any repairs..
In April 2007 BP sent their new authorized installer, Absolutely Energized Solar (AES) to assess and address the situation. On April 6, 2007 I received a letter from AES detailing the corrective work to be done. However BP reps did not want to authorize payment to relocate the inverters from the laundry closet. The work was completed in May 2007.They installed a "sunny web box" but never made the proper connections to monitor and record the system output. We monitored our utility bill and saw very little savings no less wiping the bill out.
On August 18, 2008 we noticed a red light on the inverter which read "Ground Fault Error." I called Absolutely Energized Solar and was told they would get back to me. I made numerous (56) follow up calls over a three month period to both AES and BP, home depot credit services as I was not getting any resolution just a run around of who to call next. On October 21, 2008 I called again and was told that they were finally authorized to come out and look at the system and made an appointment for October 29, 2008. When AES technicians arrived there was a power outage from a bad snow storm and there was nothing they could do to inspect the problem so they returned the next week. After inspection I was told there was a faulty inverter and that they would get a new inverter and again they would get back to me. I called two weeks later and was told the inverter was in they needed to come replace it so again an appointment was made for November 17, 2008. I was not available to be home so I left access to the home for the technician. Upon my arrival home I called AES to learn what the technician did and was told the communication board was not working and that would need to be replaced. Please note over 56 calls were made in an attempt of constant pursuit to resolve this issue. It was not until January 2009 that AES returned to install the communication board. On January 13, 2009 Brian from AES came to do repairs. Brian confirmed there was a problem with the communication board and stated it is finally repaired. It was a minor repair and he assured us everything is again working. If AES had received timely approval it would have never taken so long to diagnose and repair, but with the relationship they have with BP they cannot work without an agreement/approval from BP. He told us that many other consumers were told the same lies and have had major complaints so we are not alone.
During the 5 month down time we did not see any major spike in our utility bill which would indicate the loss of solar generated power. We asked Home depot credit services to intervene and somehow force BP to make repairs and we would not make payments until the system was inspected and repaired and were told that if the system worked or not we were responsible for the 264.00 payments and home depot was not responsible for making any warranty repair. Our credit score has been hurt we are now faced with higher interest rates and negative marks on our credit score. Fica was at 800 prior to this and is now at 640. So not only did I not get the system repaired was hurt by having a bad credit score.
During the three years of us having this solar system we have been faced with repeated lack of response to our complaints and concerns. The system does not generate the power we were promised or estimates compared to low inverter readings the total power generated since installation according to the inverter readings today 02/03/09 is 22860 and we believe that is due to the east facing panels overzealous sales and broken promises of home depot and BP solar. On every website the proper orientation is south facing even though our system faces east 90 degrees and 300 degree south west.
We are not alone in this there are many others that have had the same dishonesty and poor service realized in the installation of a solar system I believe they also have the same misfortune in any warranty work through home depot and BP solar.
If the past is any indication of the future, we are very concerned and fearful that we and many other Americans will continue to experience the same lack attention to warranty concerns and complaints. There are slated to be many billions of dollars invested in solar energy in the coming years and with that many problems like we have realized for many more home owners.
With our warranty almost over it is likely the system will breakdown and cost us more to repair
Attached is a letter from Dr Howard Hayden, Emeritus Professor of Physics University of Connecticut who reviewed our plant and production here are his findings and opinion.
Looking at pictures of your house It looks to me as if the picture window below the satellite dish in picture 00002 faces east. The PV array in 00003 might be facing SW, but I really can't tell.
Yes, I've looked at the performance specs, and a clearer picture is emerging. At no time do you generate more than 6 kW. Part of that, I presume, is that your two sets of panels face different directions 90 degrees east and 300 degree south west. When one gets maximum power, the other has oblique sunlight.
Let me do some arithmetic. If the 10.15 kW system generated that amount of power 24 hours a day for 31 days in January, you'd have generated 7,552 kWh. meaning you got 5.15% of that hypothetical energy. Usually, solar installations get something like 16% on a year-round average. Of course, January would be a low month, but the 5% still looks pretty low.
I don't know what you're paying for one kWh, but let's presume it's 12 cents. The solar installation then generated about $47 worth of electricity.
Directions: If the panel faces the sun, you generate full power. If you're off by 45 degrees, you generate 70% at best --- but because of the reflective properties of the covering glass (or plastic), you can expect less. Get 60 degrees of direct facing, and you're down to half at best. By 70 degrees, you're down to 34% at best. So in picture 00002, that panel is producing next to nothing.
I welcome someone to come to our home to evaluate what we now have and determine a solution to our nightmare. Is there anything your organization can do? We Can't afford legal cost so we are left with a system we have to pay for if it works or NOT.
I can and will send copies of all correspondence if you are interested please get back to me.
J W Gorda
Monetary Loss: $85000.