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Schemes & Rip Offs: Energy Savings Scam - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Schemes & Rip Offs: Energy Savings Scam

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BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota -

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) has noted a spike in complaints against Power4Home Pro, a solar and wind energy manufacturing company which claims on their website they can teach people how to "slash their power bill or eliminate it completely." The company which purports to be a Minnesota firm sells DVDs and books that allegedly provide instructions on how to build and install energy-saving solar panels and windmills at home. Power4Home Pro has been the subject of 21 customer complaints just this month and has been awarded a BBB rating of "F."

 "The company's money-saving claims sound intriguing, but consumers are reporting these savings prove to be non-existent and that the company's training materials, if they arrive at all, offer little in the way of illuminating information," said Dana Badgerow, President and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "What's most concerning is that people seem to be seeing the company's ads on reputable websites and ordering the training materials based on the reputation and reliability of these sites, rather than on the basis of the company's own merits."

Earlier this year, the BBB secret-shopped Power4Home Pro, and purchased their "system" for what was advertised at the time as a  limited time offer of $57.96 information Power4Home Pro claimed was worth over $700.00. The company sent the BBB secret shopper a DVD with step-by-step instructions and all other information was delivered in the form of PDF files. Despite the claims made on the company's website, particularly the claim that anyone with basic technical knowledge could construct the panels and windmills, the video instructions contained multiple caveats and warnings that only "professionals" and "qualified personnel" should work with electricity, and "children should not be allowed near this equipment."

The BBB's review of the company's training materials earlier this year also revealed the same information is available on the Internet for free.

In the last three years, the BBB has processed 61 complaints against Power4Home Pro, with customers generally reporting non-receipt of or problems accessing ordered materials. Recent complaints have stated customers are only receiving their DVD's, and not the promised books and manuals. Though the company promises a "100% money back customer satisfaction guarantee," many consumers have reported difficulty obtaining refunds from Power4Home Pro. The company has responded to a majority of their complaints, generally by promising to ship materials or by providing refunds. As of September 25, 19 complaints are currently pending against the company. 11 complaints have been closed as unanswered.

The BBB offers consumers the following guidelines for investing in energy-saving options:

Determine if solar energy is right for you.

Due to the high costs associated with the initial investment of solar power, it is important to conduct a self energy audit to determine if solar energy is right for you. Usually, if your monthly bill is less than $100, consider other ways to save energy that cost less.

Consider all the costs associated with solar energy.

Ask about all the costs associated with the maintenance and upkeep of the system. Determine if the benefits and savings outweigh the costs over the long run.

Stay informed about state and federal incentive programs.

Be sure to understand the terms and conditions of the incentive programs and conduct your own research prior to signing a contract with an installer. For the latest information on federal programs, visit www.energystar.gov.  At the state level, contact the Commerce Department.

Be cautious of installers that promise no out-of-pocket costs prior to reviewing your specific situation.

Be leery if an installer suggests obtaining credit for the full amount of the system even though they are promising very low or no costs due to rebates.

Make sure the roof of your home is equipped to sustain a solar panel system.

Even though a properly installed solar system will not damage your roof, you should make sure your roof is in good condition before you begin the installation to avoid any future problems.

Understand how your solar energy works.

You can take full advantage of the benefits in solar energy once you know how it works. For instance, panels facing south with no shade obstructions receive maximum exposure during the middle part of the day (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and therefore provide the greatest percent of energy. Significant savings occur when you have excess energy that is not consumed by your household. This excess energy can then be credited to your utility bill saving you money.

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