SANDY RIDGE, N.C. — Alice Cole and her husband were looking for a home away from the city. They wanted a little chunk of land out in the country. In 2017, they found a home in Sandy Ridge that checked all the boxes.
“We absolutely love it up here,” Cole said.
The house sits on about an acre of land, and the closest neighbor would be a tough par 5 for most golfers. You can see the stars at night, and it’s peacefully quiet, besides a few cars driving by.
The house for the most part was perfect. However, Cole and her husband were looking over their power bill one day and wondered if they could find a way to save some money. A short time later, her brother suggested they talk to someone about getting solar panels.
Cole contacted Power Home Solar a few days later.
“Within a day or two the guy shows up and he starts telling me all these wonderful things about going solar,” Cole shared.
The couple decided to sign up with Power Home Solar and purchased several panels to go on their roof. The hope was to reduce the power bills they were receiving. The Coles have a bill for the house and a separate one for their outbuildings.
“The way it was explained to me by the guy we sat down with is that I would basically eliminate the power bill for the house,” Cole explained.
The power bill for the house was running around $200 and the savings would basically offset the cost of the lease to purchase the solar panels.
‘It’s like swapping beans for beans,” Cole added.
The advantage (in theory) being in 20 years, when the lease runs out, they aren’t paying a large power bill. A couple of months later, the panels were installed, and the system was hooked up.
Cole started tracking the power bills and quickly noticed a problem. The power bills with the panels up were running close to what she was originally paying.
“There wasn’t much of a difference,” Cole said.
After talking with Power Home Solar about the issue, but not getting anywhere, she contacted WFMY News 2. We immediately reached out to Power Home Solar to try and get some answers.
Cole sent us several power bills that we sent to representatives at Power Home Solar. After several weeks, the company agreed to put some additional panels on the roof and waive a couple of months of her lease as a gesture of good faith.
“It was definitely not what they promised me,” Cole said.
Cole continued to track the usage and the bills but says the extra panels didn’t make a huge difference. In fact, Cole tells WFMY News 2 that at the end of the first year, she saved $44 on her power bill from the previous year.
“I was really frustrated. It felt like a scam,” Cole said.
She wasn’t alone in feeling that way. Tracey and Trixie Asbury also bought solar panels from Power Home Solar back in 2021. The couple paid close to $40,000 and says they were told their new energy bill when the panels go up, would be around $30 a month.
Much like Cole, the Asbury’s figured the savings would offset the cost of the lease to purchase the panels and in the end would be a great investment.
“I was tickled to death to not owe an outrageous power bill every month,” Tracey Asbury said.
The panels were installed but the Asbury’s said they never really worked. There were hookup issues and service problems from the start. The couple reached out to Power Home Solar but told us they were not quick to respond and didn’t solve the problem.
“It’s disappointing, very disappointing to be honest,” Trixie Asbury said.
Just like Alice Cole the Asbury’s sent WFMY News 2 an email asking for help. We contacted Power Home Solar again and explained the issue, sending several power bills that showed the usage and the monthly cost.
The company again agreed to add some panels to the roof and waive some of the previous lease bills for the panels.
“They (Power Home Solar) gave us a reimbursement check after you got involved,” Trixie Asbury said.
While all this was going on, another Power Home Solar customer reached out to us. Christopher Alexander had Power Home Solar install several panels in his backyard.
“I’m not so much a tree hugger, but I like the idea of getting away from the ever-increasing Duke Energy bills,” Alexander said.
The panels were installed but Alexander said Power Home Solar couldn’t get them running. When the county came out to inspect the system, Alexander says it failed to pass inspection.
“They failed twice on a number of things,” Alexander said. “The biggest scam is you can’t get ahold of anybody.”
By now, it was obvious to us and to the customers that reached out to us this was a much bigger problem than we or they originally thought. Power Home Solar was clearly struggling to get these systems working properly and what we would later learn is that thousands and thousands of other customers were having similar issues.
In the middle of all this mess, Power Home Solar would change its name to Pink Energy and customers tell us it became harder and harder to reach a representative with the company.
While customers in several states around the country were struggling to get a properly working system, Pink Energy while facing a sizeable lease payment every month, they pointed the finger at Generac.
The solar company held a news conference in September of 2022 and blamed the snaps provided by Generac as the reason the solar panels were not working properly. The SnapRS basically connect a bay of panels to another bay. The SnapRS is a safety device designed to shut down power to panels by reducing the voltage output to a safe level.
Pink Energy maintains the SnapRS is not working properly and systems are being shut down unnecessarily. Pink Energy filed a lawsuit against Generac in August of 2022 accusing the company of misleading them when it came to the SnapRS.
“(Generac’s) faulty equipment has created a negative snowball effect on our customers, our employees, and our company,” Pink Energy CEO Jason Waller said. “I’m worried about our customers, they’re the victim here. I want Generac to take responsibility, do a national recall, don’t charge our customers to fix their product failures.”
A month later, Pink Energy filed for bankruptcy and has since shut down leaving thousands and thousands of customers in limbo.
Many customers still don’t have a working system and are now left calling Generac for support.
“I’d rather they just come and take this mess off my home and put it back the way it was,” Tracey Asbury said.
Alice Cole tells WFMY News 2 she hasn’t seen any reduction in her bill in the past year and doesn’t think her system is working properly.
WFMY News 2 reached out to Generac to see what it is doing with these customers and the thousands of others that have systems not working properly. The company sent us a statement that reads in part:
“We are disappointed to hear of any instances where customers are not satisfied with the performance of their system. Proper sizing, system requirements, and installation in accordance with manufacturer guidelines is required for proper system performance and should be performed by qualified independent contractors.
Generac is a leading manufacturer of solar + storage solutions, and we sell our products to a wide range of independent distributors and solar contractors. We understand that consumers are frustrated by their experiences with Pink Energy. However, Generac remains committed to our customers.
We stand by our products and warranty obligations. Pink Energy customers, or any other customers, who need support or have questions about the Generac components of their solar systems can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-396-1281 for assistance. We will help ensure that they are paired with a Generac-authorized warranty service provider who can diagnose their system concerns and will perform covered warranty service, including repairing or replacing such components at no cost.”
In a separate email, a Generac representative told us it had fixed Asbury’s system and it’s working properly.
We contacted Asbury’s, and they confirmed the system is finally up and running after almost two years. It’s unclear if the system is producing at the level expected, but the first bill the couple received since the system was fixed was about $100 less than the previous bill.
“We will see what happens moving forward.” Trixie Asbury said.
As for Alice Cole, Generac told us her system is working as it should for the most part and is prepared to make an on-site visit.
Cole told us a technician was recently out and said he could not do any work on the panels because she has a metal roof. She also told us her power bill has not seen much of a reduction at all.
The other issue in all of this is the leasing bills that customers have been receiving every month for a system that may or may not be working properly. Late last year, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein urged leasing companies to suspend payments for customers who don’t have a working system.
Several other Attorney Generals have made similar pleas to suspend payments.
Several Pink Energy customers who have reached out to us say they have stopped making payments and while they may still get a monthly bill, they have not received any other notification. What is unclear is what these leasing companies will do if thousands of customers refuse to make payments on their 20-to-40-year lease.
We reached out to one of the leasing companies but they declined to answer any of our questions or provide a statement for this story. What the company plans on doing for the hundreds or thousands of customers is unclear. A spokesperson at the Attorney General's Office told us Pink Energy customers dealing with service issues and mounting lease payments may need to contact an attorney to help sort this out.