I wanted to share a personal experience this month in order to bring awareness to homeownership reality and how any knowledgeable consumer can make a mistake. My husband and I recently hired a company, with a high-rating at Better Business Bureau and four to five star online reviews, to install energy efficient products in our home. The experience has been disappointing and has caused my family an incredible amount of unnecessary stress.
As homeowners, my family’s dream home is a green home. We are very interested in reducing our footprint, using energy efficient products and implementing solutions to make our home “green.” Based on our research through the Department of Energy and the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) ratings, a green home is gentler on the environment and on your wallet, delivering lower utility bills and requiring less maintenance.
We scheduled an energy evaluation with a private company through Home Depot, which of course is known to all as a leading nation-wide company in home improvement solutions. When I called our local Utilities Commission of New Smyrna Beach about how to reduce our bills, they confirmed an energy evaluation would give us the answers we were looking for.
The company we used sent a representative to our home to survey its current efficient state. My husband and I were really impressed with some of the tips provided, such as adjusting your refrigerator temperature, programming your thermostat, sealing light switches, windows and doors, using a surge suppressor to keep electronics off when not in use, etc. At the end of the visit, we purchased some home appliances that would help our home’s efficiency including a solar attic fan, a water filter and a tankless hot water heater.
As soon as the order was received by the company, the dominoes began to fall. Our install for the products began October 12, 2019 and much to our dismay, the company began the job without permits. My husband and I had to walk the company through getting required permits through the city of New Smyrna Beach, make materials lists for items missing after install, accommodate dates and times they sent representatives and consistently followed up on calls with no call-backs.
By November 9, 2019, it was considered complete by the company. For one month, my family and I did not have hot water. In addition to not having the convenience of hot water, we are worried that our home’s safety has been compromised as we have access to natural gas. We are also nervous the products were not done to code and will fail city inspections.
The company’s resolution to our complaints and distress was to send different representatives each time to our home. We have a list of 10 people we are dealing with for one company. To my husband and I, this did not make any sense. The original installer never showed back up. When the company finally sent someone to complete the install, he did not have the full materials list, so we were forced to wait an additional two days.
My family has been reliving the whole experience trying to figure out where we made the mistake. As a local realtor, I have an outstanding professional network that could have helped me with the installation of these products. The truth is, this is an experience many homeowners face. Many can recall bad decisions and bad experiences with contractors.
A neighbor brought to my attention that the Department of Energy did provide loan guarantees through the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to support innovative clean energy technologies that are typically unable to obtain conventional private financing due to high technology risks. The Department of Energy has reported loan defaults and some of the approved companies have gone bankrupt since. Taxpayers are now responsible for that debt.
This was enlightening information because it gave a clearer picture as to what we could be dealing with. In our experience, we felt the company lacked professionalism, accountability and merit. If the company has received funding from the federal government, what is the motivation to do reliable work and create happy customers? Perhaps, profits go right back to the treasury versus back into funding the business, office, employee salaries and new projects.
Our final inspection from the city was scheduled for November 20th. Hopefully by the time readers have read this, our lives will be back to normal in a safe, happy home. Below is a summary of what we have learned from all of this:
- Go with your gut. In hindsight, my husband was uneasy during our decision making process to move forward with the purchase. We had already budgeted for the items since moving in 2016 so we were financially sound, but something held him back from “pulling the trigger” right away. We signed a contract, had a three-day window to cancel and we decided to move forward.
- Always use a local contractor. They are familiar with the variety of homes that make up our communities and know the municipal building codes. Plus, using a local contractor supports their families and the city’s economy.
- Trust your network. Ask family, friends, neighbors and most importantly, your realtor that you worked with. All of these outlets are part of your sphere of influence and can connect you to reputable contractors to help get the job done.
My family always practices vetting a contractor before hiring. We make sure the license is in good standing with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, check ratings and complaints on the Better Business Bureau and research reviews across all online platforms. We took these same steps and still had a horrible experience.