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Customers say solar panel company took their money but failed to deliver panels, promised energy savings

Design 1 Solar Group
Posted at 3:52 PM, Aug 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 19:27:26-04

COTTONTOWN, Tenn. (WTVF)  — With the unusually high temperatures Tennessee's had this summer, you probably haven't been too happy with your monthly power bill.

But there's a company promising homeowners it can significantly lower their bills with solar energy.

But there's a catch.

Now people who have paid tens of thousands of dollars to Design 1 Solar say the company is not doing what it promised.

Elizabeth Ragsdale just wanted to pay less to heat and cool her home in Cottontown.

"This time of year, it’s about $450 a month," she told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

But the Design 1 Solar Group claimed they could lower her costs by installing solar panels on her roof.

"That was supposed to drive down our electric bills to $20-$30 a month. That is what they promised us," Ragsdale explained.

Ragsdale heard that and was sold. Now though, the registered nurse feels she's been taken.

"How’s the experience been?" we asked her.

"Terrible. Absolutely." she quickly replied.

In addition to the solar panels, Ragsdale was supposed to get a hundred LED lightbulbs, two Nest thermostats, a hybrid water heater, plus a new roof and the company said it would also encapsulate or fully seal her attic.

"So how much did this all cost?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Ragsdale.

"It was $72,000."

Yet now more than seven months later, Ragsdale only has the water heater, thermostats and lightbulbs.

She doesn't have any solar panels.

And while the company dropped off roofing materials several months ago, no one has been back since, or she said, would tell her when it all would be installed.

"And the whole point of this was to drive down the electric bills so we would save money and none of that has happened," Ragsdale said.

Nicholas Ross and his wife, Kacie, are in the same boat.

"So you should’ve had your solar panels up July 19?" we asked.

"Yes, ma’am," Nicholas Ross replied.

"And where are they?" we wondered, not seeing anything on his roof.

"No idea. Can’t even get them (Design 1 Solar) on the phone," Ross said.

After seeing the company's sign in their neighbor Ragsdale's front yard, the Rosses too bought solar panels from Design 1 Solar.

"They are supposed to go on the south side of the house," he explained.

"So how much money was that supposed to save you?" we asked.

"$200 and some odd dollars a month," Ross said.

But the retired Army veteran and his wife said they've gotten nothing but the runaround.

"Be aware that this company is out there, and they are probably saying all sorts of great things, but once they have your name on that dotted line, they are not holding up their end of the bargain," Kacie Ross cautioned.

It turns out, state regulators have fined the Bristol-based company twice in the last two years for working in Tennessee without a state contractor's license. Design 1 Solar has since gotten a license.

But it has also, we found, gotten an F rating from the Better Business Bureau. Dozens of consumers have filed complaints about Design 1 Solar with the BBB, many sharing that the equipment did not work or reduce their energy costs, while others, like Elizabeth Ragsdale are furious that they've paid tens of thousands of dollars to Design 1 Solar and have little to show for it.

"I just want to be done with it," she said.

"What would you say to the company?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked her.

"Give me my money back. That is exactly what I would say," she said.

The Better Business Bureau says with those 75 complaints they've received in the last three years, there is a pattern.

And not only has Design 1 Solar failed to resolve some of them, but the BBB says they've also failed to address the underlying cause of many of them.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates reached out repeatedly and left several messages over the last week for Design 1 Solar, but the company has chosen not to respond.