DON’T GET BURNED BY QUESTIONABLE PITCHES FOR ENERGY-SAVING DEVICES
Know the Company You’re Dealing with, DO Your Research, Ask the Experts
With our economy still on the mend, and energy prices on the rise, so is questionable advertising for a host of energy-saving products and services - including some that are just plain bogus. Although good maintenance can reduce air leaks in older homes, consumers should be wary of groups that promise their products will perform like insulation or will significantly reduce utility bills. Sellers offering other devices, gadgets, and energy-saving products also promise drastic reductions in home heating costs or extreme energy savings. These energy-saving devices can run anywhere from $40 up to $6,000.
It usually begins with a random postcard sent offering energy-saving options for your home. The postcards invite you to a free introduction dinner at an area restaurant in exchange for listening to a pitch about products and/or services. Sometimes the postcard will specifically state the company that is sending the card. Other times, the card only states an 800# to call to RSVP—which is usually only a call center, in which case, you should ask basic questions about the company such as name, address, phone and begin your research before agreeing to anything.
Based on BBB experience, many people who attend these seminars are senior citizens looking for viable and easy solutions to higher energy bills, and are a population that doesn’t always conduct research nor do their homework on the topic and product before attending these gatherings.
Once people hear the pitch, those in attendance can be persuaded to allow the company to come visit their home for an inspection of their energy equipment and an assessment of what can be done to help alleviate high bills. Consumers report to BBB that many times these reps are from out of the area, many times, from another state. They are also hard to contact once the customer has done business with them or they have been through the area. Others report shoddy workmanship installing the product. Other reports reflect that customers have difficulty gaining contact with the company for resolve.
BBB urges consumers to do their homework before they agree to any energy saving sales pitches:
*KNOW the difference between reasonable savings, and exaggerated savings claims. Know how much you currently consume before assuming the pitch is real. For instance, before you purchase an entire window replacement job that will "guarantee" you such and such percentage of savings, do your homework and KNOW whether the percentage you will save is actually real and attainable. For more info on this type of research go to:
*Get tips on energy saving you can do at home from your own local experts. Contact your current utilities company to set a conservation target for your household. You’ll get access to free tools and resources to help you reduce your energy consumption.
*Have an energy audit done on your house or dwelling unit. You can either do this yourself or ask for expert help. If you are seeking new ways to improve your energy efficiency, this is the first best place to start. For tips and guidance go to the Department of Energy's web site at: http://www.energysavers.gov/your_home/energy_audits/index.cfm/mytopic=11160
*Read any energy-saving claims carefully and, if possible, get independent information about product performance PRIOR to saying yes.
*Before knowing whether you can or will actually save energy using an alternative device or product, you have to know what and how much you are currently using. Be wary of inflated promises of savings. If you don't know what are acceptable and reasonable savings to begin with, then you won't know whether you will actually save what they say you will. Do your homework. Use this link to begin assessing your energy use: http://www.energysavers.gov/tips/home_energy.cfm
*Avoid unsolicited door-to-door sales calls and high pressure sales pitches from contractors offering furnaces, windows, roofing, and other home improvement projects.
*Make sure that a contractor is licensed and reputable: Ask friends and neighbors for referrals; ask the contractor for customer references; and check out potential contractors with the Better Business Bureau, state and local consumer protection officials, and your state licensing agency.
*Make certain that if you are required to have an electrician hook up any devices that the electrician is properly licensed, registered and/or bonded, and that they are current and up to date. DO not just go by a verbal statement, check on these things yourself with the appropriate agencies.
*The FTC's Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel a contract if you sign it in your home or at a location other than the contractor's permanent place of business, such as a restaurant or hotel/motel room.
*If you are a business, use this great tip sheet for finding basic ways to reduce your energy consumption at the workplace:
*If you have an unresolved issue, be pro-active and file a formal complaint on any questionable sales pitches regarding energy-saving devices to the BBB at: www.bbb.org the Federal Trade Commission at: www.ftc.gov as well as your state Attorney General’s Office for resolve.