FactFinder: Do your research when choosing a solar company for your home

Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 11:05 AM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - With electric bills on the rise, a lot of people are considering solar panels as a cheaper, greener option to heat and cool their homes. But that can come with some headaches. And, as FactFinder investigator Alex Flippin finds, it’s all starts with the company you choose to work with.

When the Andsager family bought their first home in Hutchinson, they started to make it their own. That included, among other things, going solar.

“Well, trying to go a little more green, be a little more self-efficient,” Shawn Andsanger said. “If something were to happen, you know, the grid goes down for whatever reason, we can still maintain our home. Just mainly the green side, saving money, you know. Trying to help the world out.”

Andsanger found a company that was more than happy to come out and do the work, Design 1 Solar Group out of Bristol, Tenn. He got the details and financed the project.

“I wasn’t supposed to be paying for anything out of pocket for two years,” Andsanger said. “And this government funding check that they use to help pay that for two years. But they didn’t install until January of 2022. And I was already paying for it in December of ‘21.”

An Inspection to make sure everything is installed correctly by the company is required before the solar panels can go live. But Andsanger said he was still paying for the panels that were installed in January, even though no inspection had been done by June.

FactFinder stepped in, made contact with the company, and got Andsanger his inspection.

It failed.

Design 1 Solar tells us they had to replace one piece of equipment and all would be well. But now, nearly nine months after the panels were installed, Andsanger said the company has done no more work.

“I call and call and call,” Andsander said. “I’ve called 10 times a day to finally get one answer, and then they say, ‘Oh, well, that person is not available.’ We’ll leave a message, they’ll get back to you.”

Design 1 has a fairly decent rating with the Better Business Bureau. But when you look at the 93 complaints about the business, they sound a lot like Andsinger’s.

Calls and messages not returned. Paying for equipment that doesn’t work. Issues with the cancellation policy.

“Come to find out, after two weeks you can no longer cancel without paying up to 25 percent of the overall bill,” Andsinger said.

The BBB says business, residential -- it doesn’t matter. If you or some contractors are going to go up on your roof to fix an air conditioner, relay shingles or install solar panels, you have to read that contract so you understand exactly what you’re getting into.

“That’s what they’re going to be abiding by and you’re going to be abiding by for this particular contract,” BBB representative Denise Groene said.

Groene also advises customers to do their research and get at least three estimates. Make sure each is bidding the same job using the same equipment. Then, read the reviews.

“So a quick Google search at bbbo.org asking for references,” Groene said. “As much due diligence as you can to make sure that you’re hiring a good one is going to work out for you in the long run.”

We’ve been in contact with Design 1 on several occasions. We helped get Andsinger get his inspection, but that’s about it.

The company did not agree to an interview to explain the issues, but they have said they want to make Andsinger happy.