4 Investigates: New Mexico homeowner struggles with solar power company
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — More and more New Mexicans are going solar. It’s good for the environment and maybe even better for your electric bill.
But it is an investment, the systems alone can cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
One local family said it was an investment that made sense for them, until their solar stopped producing, and the company stopped answering calls.
“Our electric bill here when we first moved in was running us between $400 and $550 a month,” said Paul Ortiz y Pino, a homeowner in Rio Rancho.
For Paul Ortiz y Pino and his daughter Jessica, going solar was really about the savings it would have on their electric bill.
“They told us, that’s the way to go, you know, ‘we can drop your bill down to almost nothing.’ Immediately we perked up and said, ‘yeah, that’s what we want to do,’” said Ortiz y Pino.
In 2019, his family jumped at the opportunity and went with Titan Solar Power. They had 34 panels installed on the roof of their Rio Rancho home, a $35,000 investment paid for by a 12-year loan that made sense with the savings they’d get in return.
“We got our electric bill, I said ‘how much?’ she said ‘$8,’ $8? That’s crazy,” said Ortiz y Pino.
With a 30-year warranty, what could go wrong?
“I didn’t know until I got the bill from PNM and called PNM,” said Jessica Ortiz y Pino.
Their panels stopped recording production with PNM in November 2021. After using up all of the energy they banked over the years, they noticed their PNM bill shoot back up nine months later.
Jessica called Titan.
“She said ‘I am going to expedite this and I will have someone get back to you today’ and I said ‘yes, please,’” said Jessica.
Eight weeks after that phone, she still hadn’t heard back from anyone. Eight weeks of what should have been moneymaking sunshine.
All that while her electricity bill was climbing and that loan for the panels requiring prompt payment.
“Brittany, at this point, to be honest, I’m like come get everything. Obviously this is not a company I can trust, obviously it’s not a business, at this point from what I’m starting to unravel, that I can trust,” said Jessica Ortiz y Pino.
She found that out when she started searching the company online.
Jessica discovered a Better Business Bureau profile with a less than two-star rating. The page has an active alert that warns customers of a pattern of complaints, alleging customer service issues.
A BBB spokesperson from the Pacific Southwest said Titan Solar is “cooperating with BBB in efforts to improve and reduce future complaints and has been responsive to all complaints filed.”
Right now, the business is not rated. A spokesperson said there are a couple possible reasons for that rating: “for reasons that include insufficient information about a business or ongoing review/update of business’s file.”
It took us a few calls, and a stop in at the local store to track someone down. We asked Titan Solar Power for an on-camera interview.
A spokesperson agreed to a zoom interview but did not want to be recorded.
After we called Titan representatives, they sent a tech out and they said the system for the Ortiz y Pinos is back online. Titan upgraded the cell kit and said they are looking to compensate for lost production.
A spokesperson blamed the slip up on staffing shortages and said they are working right now to get everything resolved.
But we discovered nine other formal complaints about Titan Solar that’s been submitted to New Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office in 2022, some alleging similar issues. Many of those complaints the AG’s office helped resolve.
A spokesperson for the Office of Attorney General said in part:
“Our office has resolved the majority of the complaints filed against Titan Solar through our Advocacy and Intervention Division informal dispute resolution process, resulting in thousands of dollars of consumer restitution. Resolutions include reimbursement for undelivered products, compensation to consumers for periods of time when solar panels were not operational, loan repayment to consumers, and increased customer service and response time.
We continue to investigate and review the remaining open complaints to attempt to bring final resolution to those consumers.”
The Attorney General’s office also had few tips for any consumer entering into a contract:
“Prior to entering into these contracts, be sure to understand your rights.
Review the terms and conditions of your agreement and what financial obligations you are signing up for. Make sure that the promises your salesperson gave you verbally match what is in the contract.
If you believe your contract is problematic, contact our office. We also encourage you to seek the advice of private attorney. “
KOB 4 asked the Titan Solar Power spokesperson about other complaints and lingering concerns. The spokesperson acknowledged that and told KOB they’ve hired new staff members to address customer service specifically.
That extra help is needed because the demand for solar energy and savings in New Mexico isn’t going anywhere.
“If you look at it from 2018 to now, more than 420,000 solar panels have been installed by our PNM business and residential customers, that is a 64% growth in energy production in customer-owned solar in less than five years,” said Kelly-Renae Huber, a PNM spokesperson.
The Ortiz y Pinos just hope the problem is actually solved, with sunshine waning and winter around the corner.
There are a couple of ways you can track your solar production before getting your bill.
Many companies are now using monitoring apps for your phone, make sure you ask about that.
PNM said another option is to read the meter if those numbers are going up that means it’s logging energy.