Central Florida couple say solar panel did not save money on bill

Company refunds money

A Central Florida couple say they spent thousands on a solar water heater that was supposed to reduce the amount of electricity they use and lower their power bill, but that was not the case.

"It's been pretty frustrating," Ken Countess said.

Ken and Vicky Countess say they were promised they would save $90 a month on their power bill.

Instead, they say they got months of frustration and cold showers.  

In July 2018, the couple bought a solar water heater with a 10-year warranty from Florida Energy Water and Air, according to a purchase agreement provided to News 6.

They paid more than $11,000 for a new panel, new tank and new controller.  

"We had this solar system installed in July, with a promise of 30 percent or more savings per month on our power bill," Ken Countess said.

But as Ken Countess tracked his monthly bills, he found there was very little savings. In fact, in four of the past seven months his bill actually increased.

"We're averaging $1 a month savings," he said. "At that rate, it'll take 900 years for it to break even."

He said the system wasn't working.

"Every single morning the water is not hot enough for us to take a shower," Ken Countess said.

Most doctors agree the best temperature for showering is around 110 degrees, but pictures of the temperature gauge on numerous days show the water never got hot enough until they turned their electric water heater back on.

However, technicians came out on numerous occasions, and said the system was working properly, according to the couple. 

"It's been frustrating and ridiculous that we spent so much money," Vicky Countess said.

"I'm at a loss to understand why we're not getting anywhere close to the savings we were promised," Ken Countess told News 6.

Attorney Steven Kramer said companies should stand behind their sales pitch.

"The idea should be under-promise and over-deliver," Kramer said. "If you set expectations you can't follow through with, then you're going to have a lot of unhappy customers." 

Ken Countess put it this way.

"If your system is not working, just take it out.  Give me our money back," he said.

Ken Countess says he tried for months to get his money back.

When News 6 got involved, the company agreed to refund the couple $11,682.42.

Jason Spinney is the director of operations for Florida Energy Water and Air.  

"We make every effort to resolve all consumer concerns," Spinney wrote in an email to News 6. "We have maintained an A-plus rating with the Better Business Bureau for over a decade with no unresolved complaints. I worked personally with the homeowner to come up with an amicable resolution and at this time the complaint is resolved to the homeowner’s satisfaction." 

If you are considering a solar system, as always, make sure the company is licensed and insured and ask beforehand what the resolution policy is if you were to have a problem.

About the Author:

Emmy Award-winning reporter Louis Bolden joined the News 6 team in September of 2001 and hasn't gotten a moment's rest since. Louis has been a General Assignment Reporter for News 6 and Weekend Morning Anchor. He joined the Special Projects/Investigative Unit in 2014.