Benji Jones Nov 9, 2020, 8:46 AM

powerhome solar investigation 2x1

For years Jim and Beth Rickenbaugh had resisted putting solar panels on top of their brick home in Charlotte, North Carolina. They wanted to wipe out their utility bill, but the price seemed too steep.

Then, in late 2016, the couple came across a deal they felt they couldn’t refuse.

A salesman from Powerhome Solar visited their home and offered them a solar-energy system for no upfront cost that he said would nearly erase their utility bill, according to the Rickenbaughs. They’d just have to make monthly payments for the panels that would be no more than the savings on their electricity bill from Duke Energy, they said.

In 2017, the Rickenbaughs signed up, agreeing to pay more than $15,000 for their system. Then they waited for their bill to plummet. It didn’t.

In the months after the panels were installed, the energy savings were “a fraction” of those promised by the sales rep, according to a complaint in a class-action lawsuit the Rickenbaughs filed against Powerhome last year.

Now the couple say they’re stuck with two pricey bills — one for the panels, and one for electricity from Duke Energy.

“Power Home’s executives designed its sales process to intentionally mislead customers into believing they would experience a guaranteed drop in their energy bills,” the complaint says.

The Rickenbaughs are not the only ones complaining. 

A review of additional legal records, interviews with 12 current and former employees, and internal company documents we obtained reveal additional accusations of misleading sales practices at Powerhome Solar. We also found suits alleging misleading sales practices that were filed against ISI Alarms NC, an alarm company that was run by Powerhome’s founding CEO, William Jayson Waller.

“Powerhome Solar’s sales and marketing teams are provided comprehensive training (and continuing training and education) as to proper execution of their responsibilities, and POWERHOME SOLAR has robust compliance protocols and policies to ensure that all their efforts comply with applicable requirements,” the spokesperson said.

Our full story on Powerhome Solar is available here exclusively to Business Insider subscribers. 

Conor Cummins
Richard Nollman

Richard Nollman is the Chief Technology and Information Officer of Energy Mitigation Associates. He is an innovative leader driving technical vision to achieve EMAs mission, to provide our clients with the best possible outcomes resulting from environmental consumer litigation.

As CTO/CIO, his role is to develop strategies for using technological resources to evaluate and implement new systems and infrastructure to ensure that technologies are used efficiently, profitably, and securely.

A graduate of Boston University School of Public Communications, Richard has spent over 30 years working with complex technologies for Fortune 500 companies and multiple start-ups creating business value and growth through technology and information management.

Steven Giacalone

Steven Giacalone is a career business management and finance professional who has decades of experience in the commercial, mortgage, and investment banking sectors. He also has extensive experience in various investment analysis and management roles within the commercial real estate development industry.

For the past 20 years he had provided effective consultative vision and independent management guidance to dozens of start-up companies who have collectively sought out his exceptional organizational management skills and keen business acumen. In the wake of the 2008-09 financial crisis he successfully helped to assemble and originate 15 FINRA fraud and misrepresentation arbitration cases against Auction Rate Securities (ARS) Wall Street broker dealers.

A former USAF officer, his natural leadership talent has and continues to produce enormous incremental enterprise value for such clients. He holds a BA with majors in both Mathematics and Social Sciences from Dowling College as well as an MBA from Harvard University. He also recently completed an Advanced Studies Program (ASP) Fellowship from MIT, with a concentration in Financial Engineering.