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Local couple upset with return on investment in solar panels

Daniel Gutierrez

Local couple upset with return on investment in solar panels

By Daniel Gutierrez. CREATED Feb 15, 2013
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Solar energy is often called the way of the future, but it can come with a major price tag. One Valley couple recently paid thousands for solar panels and say they aren't seeing the financial benefits.
 
"We've done a number of things to increase the efficiency of the home," said Darren Temple.
 
He and his wife Jennifer Temple moved into their new five-bedroom home back in 2009. And coming from Idaho, they learned pretty quickly just how hot is gets here. 
 
"The first summer, we were shocked at the electricity bill," said Darren.
 
With power bills topping $300 and $400, the couple decided to make some major improvements by adding new insulation, installing energy-efficient windows and eventually turning to solar energy.
 
"We had somebody come out and give us a proposal and talk to us about it," said Jennifer.
 
It was last April when the Temples bought their solar panels from Solar Universe for about $28,000. Darren says he only agreed to the deal because the company was offering some big savings.
 
"They roughly estimated it was $200 a month off our bill," said Darren.
 
With savings like that, the system was expected to pay for itself in about six years. But the Temples said that since having the panels installed last June, they're still getting monthly power bills topping $300 and $400.
 
"And at this point, if you see absolutely nothing of a difference on your bill, what else are you suppose to think," says Jennifer. "I don't know what's wrong, but something's wrong," says Darren.
 
The Temples say they've emailed and called Solar Universe.
 
"They've been out and they threw a meter on it, did a quick check and said oh, it's producing and left," said Darren.
 
But their power bills, still didn't go down, so they emailed Contact 13. And we reached out to Solar Universe, who agrees, there is a problem.
 
"Unfortunately that was a mistake on the part of our salesperson," said Gregg Lawson, one of the company's owners.
 
Lawson said the Temples were given a bad estimate on just how much they would actually save.
 
"We sold him on a $200 savings. And that's what we're going to honor for him and that was a mistake," says Gregg.
 
So to fix the problem, Solar Universe plans to add extra panels on the Temple's roof in the coming weeks at no extra cost. But Gregg says there's another issue.
 
"They're on Residential Service and not Time of Use," said Gregg.
 
That means NV Energy charges a cheaper rate to customers who reduce their consumption during peak hours, such as those using solar energy. Gregg said he told the Temples to call NV Energy and switch to a Time of Use rate program.
 
"So for time of use A for example, for the Temples, right now instead of paying 11 cents and change kilowatt hours. You'll be paying about 4 cents kilowatt hours," said Gregg.
 
But the Temples say they had no idea about needing to make that change until Contact 13 got involved. Now, they're just happy to know things are moving forward, and they'll soon be getting new panels on their roof.
 
"I think it's starting to go in the right direction and it's feeling pretty good. We're pretty happy with what's going on," said Jennifer.
 
So here's the Contact 13 bottom line: Solar Universe says it's installed a new monitor to the solar panel system in order to verify that it's working properly.
 
The Temples also share some of the blame for seeing no difference in their electric bill. After our interview, they found some issues with their pool, that may have been sucking up more power than expected.
 
Contact 13 will keep in touch with the Temples and let you know if those extra panels on their roof help.