HOUSTON – You are probably seeing them on more homes around town. Solar panel systems are exploding in popularity here. The idea is to convert sunlight into electrical energy to use in your home. But some customers are running into issues after they get the panels put on.
Solar panels are a big investment. But instead of saving money on electricity bills, one family said they are paying a lot more and they found if you have a problem, getting help is not easy.
Two years ago Jennifer Gulch and her husband had Sunrun solar panels put on their Kingwood home.
“We got the solar panels just to become greener and be more energy efficient but that has been a nightmare,” explains Gulch.
Going green - is costing them serious green.
“The monthly lease payment on those 92 panels was $222 a month and our electricity bill has always been anywhere from two to three hundred,” she explains.
Gulch said they never really saw lower electricity bills. Then - in September, part of a palm tree crashed down on the roof damaging 12 panels.
“This is where it fell, then we had an actual roof leak here,” Gulch showed us. “You have to pay them to come out and remove them and then pay them to put it back.”
Gulch said getting ahold of anyone from Sunrun was not easy.
“This company, (I made) hundreds of calls to them. Every time we call we get sent to someone that couldn’t help us or hung up. Finally, after weeks and weeks, we just had to go ahead and take the panels off ourselves and hire a third-party contractor to get that done.”
Then, she found the reason she wasn’t getting lower electricity bills as promised.
“It’s only working at 47% for the last 12 months. So we’ve been paying in excess utility bills,” she said.
Customer complaints about solar panel systems
Gulch is not the only one who has had trouble with Sunrun. The Better Business Bureau in San Francisco where the company is based - shows more than three thousand complaints. The main issues are confusing contracts and poor customer service.
“One of the other things that we do see with complaint history, is we’re not sure what warranty or what policies we have once we install them,” said Alma Galvan with the BBB.
The BBB has a few things you should think about before going solar.
- Consider the condition of your roof. Since that’s where the panels are usually put, your roof will need to be in good condition.
- Ask about warranties. A reputable company will offer you some sort of equipment warranty.
- Make sure the contract addresses what will happen if something breaks or the manufacturer goes out of business.
- You should also call your tax professional to see if you qualify for any tax breaks related to solar panels.
RELATED: Texas laws about solar panels
“So it’s very very, very important to do your research,” said Gulch.
Gulch said if she had to do it over, she would buy the panels instead of leasing them and she would get solar panels that were compatible with battery packs. Hers are not - which she also didn’t know.
“It’s, it’s very disheartening, there are hundreds of people that are locked into these contracts and have problems,” she said.
Customer reviews of Sunrun solar panel company
We asked the California BBB why, with all the negative reviews, Sunrun still has an “A” rating. Galvan explains that the score is all about reach and the number of complaints.
“It’s a computer-generated algorithm that plays into effect how big a company is as opposed to the number of complaints you are receiving,” she said.
Gulch did get an appeasement check from Sunrun - she says for solar under-production costs and partial roof repair. They also lowered her monthly payments by taking off those 12 panels that were damaged.
As of the time this story aired, we have not heard back from Sunrun. We did get an initial response from an email we sent last week with specific questions about Gulch’s issues. A representative said they would send back answers but so far, we have not heard back. We will put an update here if/when we hear back from the company.