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SOLAR SHOCK: LaBelle family's green dream gets dark

After paying for solar panels they say don't work, the Wilsons face the fallout of a company now closed and a system that cost more than it saved
Posted at 8:12 PM, Feb 12, 2024

LABELLE, Fla. — If you get a solar power setup installed on your house, you’d expect it to work as advertised. But, in LaBelle, a family’s dream of reducing their energy bills through solar power has turned into a financial nightmare.

In 2022, Polly Wilson said she and her husband decided to invest in solar panels, opting for a system installed by Daybreak Solar Power, a Texas-based company. She says they were told the system would cover almost their entire monthly electric bill. "When they wrote it up, they're like 'Oh, you may have $10 to $17 dollars you'd have to pay the electric company,' and we're like 'Okay, that's worth it,'" Wilson recounted.

However, the reality was very different. Wilson said the panels generated less than half of the quoted power and completely stopped working about a year later. "I feel it's the worst thing we did - so far all we've seen is 'Hey, let me put this up, now you have a debt now you have another bill,'" Wilson said.

Wilson said Daybreak would tell her they’d send someone out to fix it and they wouldn’t show up, then stopped answering the phone entirely. In a bid for recourse, Wilson said she reached out to attorneys and the Better Business Bureau (BBB), only to find that Daybreak Solar Power had gone out of business. The Texas BBB confirmed that the company had 65 complaints filed against it in the last 12 months, mainly about malfunctioning units and poor customer service.

Jason Meza, the Texas BBB's Senior Director of Media Relations, noted that the solar industry is filled with companies making grand promises that fall through. "A lot of sweeping claims and advertisements seem to promote and promise a lot of great deals - and unfortunately, those don't pan out," Meza stated. He advised caution, especially with companies offering door-to-door sales and steep discounts, and stressed the importance of obtaining multiple quotes.

“You really have to research what your energy needs are to begin with. It always boils down to the money - the incentives available for your area, the tax credits involved. You need to make sure you know all of those options and present them to your installer,” Meza added.

For customers like Wilson, Meza said the next step likely involves legal action. Fortunately, Wilson managed to have her system repaired by another company but remains dissatisfied. "Honestly, if they can't get me to where we don't have a power bill, then I want them to do away with the system. I don't think I should have to pay for it," she asserted.