‘We feel robbed’: Mint Hill couple still waiting for savings after solar panels installed

MINT HILL, N.C. — Olya and Joel Chavez bought solar panels from Accelerate Solar for their house in 2018, expecting savings in their monthly bills. They told Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke that they spent close to $42,000, with payments of $236 every month.

They said the salesperson told them they’d get a federal tax credit for more than $10,000, a Duke Energy rebate for $6,000 and a much lower electric bill every month.

“That didn’t happen,” Olya Chavez says.

[ALSO READ: Duke Energy customers get rebate incentive for solar panel installation]

They said Accelerate miscalculated the amount of shade that the surrounding trees would give. The company acknowledged it, trimmed some of the trees and paid for it, but that it didn’t help.

“We are making our payments, but I don’t know how long we can keep doing this,” Joel Chavez said. “We feel cheated. We feel…we are out of money. We feel robbed, basically.”

Accelerate told Action 9 that they hired another company, Advantage Solar, to sell its products. Accelerate said the two companies worked together for “at least 178 customers” but then the two businesses had a falling out and filed lawsuits against each other.

Advantage Solar said Accelerate owed it more than $450,000 from the sales it made. Accelerate said Advantage’s salespeople misled customers.

Accelerate sent customers a letter saying Advantage “representatives made significant misrepresentations as to the equipment, features, installation, tax rebates, and other financial incentives.”

It said people who bought panels “between 2018 and 2019...should contact a lawyer.”

Both companies recently settled the case.

Below is what Advantage’s lawyer, Josh Smith told Action 9:

“Advantage maintains an excellent reputation for professional and honest sales which put the customers first. The company undertakes extraordinary efforts to ensure that customers are provided with complete and accurate information about the solar products they are considering purchasing. Customer complaints are rare and taken seriously. Advantage understands that the concerns raised regarding Mr. and Mrs. Chavez are being handled directly by Accelerate Solar and the company will provide whatever assistance it can to aid in that process.”

Accelerate’s lawyer, William Terpening emailed the following to Action 9:

“Accelerate enjoys a good reputation for quality work and for putting customers and their needs first. Customer complaints are the exception, not the norm, and they are addressing the concern that you raise in your email directly with Mr. and Mrs. Chavez.”

Action 9 is working to find out what, if anything, the settlement between Advantage and Accelerate means for customers like Olya and Joel.

In the meantime, Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke has some advice for you, no matter which company you use.

  • DO A STUDY: Hire a company to see how much sun your house gets and whether the roof can handle the right kind of solar panels for your home.
  • SHOP AROUND: Ask multiple companies to give you proposals and prices. See how they compare. If they have very different opinions of what would work best, you may want to do more research.
  • CONFIRM CREDITS: Check with your tax preparer to make sure you’ll get the tax credits the company promises and check with your utility to make sure you’ll get the rebates the company promises.
  • CHECK WITH INSURANCE: Run this all by your homeowners insurance company to see if there is any other concern you need to consider.
  • READ THE CONTRACT: Make sure it says when the work will start, when the work will finish, what happens if something goes wrong, and what happens if you don’t get the tax credits, rebates, or savings on your electric bill.