Pink Energy (PowerHome Solar) Lawsuits: Tips for Consumers

Bankrupt Pink Energy is facing lawsuits, including two by the Ohio and Missouri Attorney Generals.

Pink Energy logo

In October 2022, Pink Energy (previously known as Power Home Solar) - one of the larger solar installers in the country - filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

According to a Facebook post, the company placed the blame on “rampant consumer discontent resulting from faulty Generac solar equipment” and announced that it would be closing permanently. Unlike a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in which a company reorganizes its debts in an effort to continue operating, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy means that the company will be liquidating its assets to pay off its creditors.

While the Generac equipment that Pink Energy blames is known to be faulty, it’s unlikely to be the sole reason for its troubles.

The company is in major trouble. The attorneys general for Ohio and Missouri are suing, citing violations of consumer protection laws, including false and misleading statements, high pressure sales tactics, and failing to respond to customer service requests.

Pink Energy is also under investigation by the attorneys general for North Carolina and Virginia, and nine attorneys general have called on financing companies to suspend loan payment obligations for Pink Energy customers.

If you are a former customer of Pink Energy, you might either be stuck with a non-functioning solar array, or worried about what to do if your system fails in the future. The situation for affected consumers will change as these states’ lawsuits unfold and class action lawsuits may be filed in the future. For now, this article will summarize the latest news and offer some tips for affected consumers.

History of Pink Energy and Power Home Solar

Power Home Solar (sometimes spelled as PowerHome Solar) was founded in 2006 as Rescomm and based in Mooresville, North Carolina. They rebranded in 2014 as Powerhome Solar & Roofing, and changed their name again to Pink Energy in 2022.

According to the company, they expanded from 15 employees in 2015 to over 2,000 employees working in 15 states. In the last year of their rankings, Solar Power World listed them as the 7th largest residential solar installer in the country.

CEO Jayson Waller stated that Power Home Solar was “growing into a billion dollar company with over 2,000 employees and nearly $800 million in annual sales since it’s launch in 2015”.

Jayson Waller / Hour Detroit Magazine
Pink Energy CEO Jayson Waller (credit: Hour Detroit Magazine)

Warning signs for the company flashed when news media started reporting on customer dissatisfaction with the company.

In September 2022, the company laid off its employees and announced that it was closing, and formally filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy a month later.

Pink Energy blames Generac for its woes

Pink Energy isn’t a public company, so its financial figures aren’t available, making it difficult to know exactly what went wrong.

Publicly, the company blames Generac for its troubles. One part of Generac’s inverter system known as the SnapRS is responsible for meeting rapid shutdown safety requirements. An earlier version of the part known as the SnapRS 801 was known to be plagued by failures, even melting and allegedly causing fires on some occasions.

Generac has discontinued the 801 and replaced it with a newer version (the 802) that supposedly resolves these issues. Pink Energy, in a Facebook post, stated this about the 801:

We never anticipated, nor were we prepared for the flood of Generac SnapRS malfunctions at a rate of over 40 percent, while at the same time handling our own standard customer service inquires. It became an enormous strain on our team and our resources. The influx of equipment problems and complaints literally crippled our ability to handle all customers issues in a timely and effective manner.

Pink Energy has since called upon Generac to issue a recall on SnapRS units and has filed a lawsuit against the company. In a response, Generac acknowledged issues with the 801 series, but also implied that poor installation practices by Pink Energy were also a factor.

States attorneys general weigh in against Pink Energy

While Pink Energy points the finger at Generac, there are other issues that customers have faced. The scale of the problem is so large that the attorneys general for nine states (Kentucky, North Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Tennessee) have signed a letter addressed to five solar financing companies. In the letter, they accuse Pink Energy of false representations and ask the financing companies to stop collecting loan payments from affected customers.

The letter is only a request and carries no legal obligations for the companies. So far, none of the companies named - Cross River Bank, Dividend Solar Finance, GoodLeap, Solar Mosaic, and Sunlight Financial - have publicly responded to the letter.

Lawsuits and investigations

In addition to the letter, the attorneys general for Ohio and Missouri have launched lawsuits against Pink Energy, and the attorneys general for at least two other states - North Carolina and Virginia - have launched investigations.

The Ohio lawsuit claims six violations of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act and one of the Home Solicitation Sales Act. These include:

  • High pressure sales tactics
  • Shoddy and substandard work that caused damage to residential properties
  • False and misleading statements, such as tax benefits or other governmental offsets they could utilize
  • Stalling and evading legal obligations
  • Failing to provide consumers with warranty information or failing to honor the warranty
  • Failure to respond to customer service requests

The lawsuit also alleges that Pink Energy failed to provide customers with a Notice of Cancellation that informs them of their legal right to cancel their contract within three business days without penalty.

Meanwhile, the Missouri lawsuit also lists six counts with similar themes, accusing Pink Energy of violating the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

The Missouri lawsuit mentions the Generac SnapRS defects, noting that the company knew about the issue in the summer of 2021, but “Despite this knowledge, Defendant continued to market and sell its systems, and continued to use Generac components.” This certainly undermines Pink Energy’s contention that they were a helpless victim of Generac.

What went wrong for Pink Energy customers?

From reading the two AG lawsuits and numerous media reports, there are three major things that went wrong for Pink Energy customers.

The first is failures of Generac SnapRS rapid shutdown devices. Each SnapRS is connected to one solar panel, which are then organized into strings that are connected to another device called PV Link. The failure of a single SnapRS can disable an entire string, causing a major loss of power in the array.

The other is that Pink Energy allegedly sold customers solar arrays that underperformed. There are currently 923 complaints on the Better Business Bureau website for Pink Energy under the “Problems with Product/Service” category. While Generac may have been the cause of some of these, Pink Energy is also known to have installed other equipment including SolarEdge, so all the blame can’t be placed on one supplier.

Instead, it seems that likely that Pink Energy either did shoddy installations as the attorneys general and Generac allege, or the systems were poorly designed. There are numerous ways that this could happen: the systems could be undersized, panels could have been placed under shaded areas, the system could have been oriented poorly (such as facing north), or the inverters could have been severely undersized and caused clipping.

The last common complaint (which you can read in reviews on sites like BBB, Reddit, and Yelp) is that Pink Energy systems can be very expensive: reportedly as high as $10 per watt. For comparison, the national median price for home solar is approximately $3.80 per watt according to Berkeley Lab. This means that not only were many Pink Energy customers experiencing underperforming or defective systems, but they paid a very high price for them as well.

Advice for Pink Energy customers

If Pink Energy installed your home solar system, the first thing you should do is to stay informed about the lawsuits, especially if you live in one of the states where your attorney general’s office is taking action.

For those who have a loan from a solar lender, you’ll most likely be notified if any major decisions are made, such as suspending loan obligations. Nonetheless, you’ll want to follow any news that happens, especially if your lender is one of the five companies named in the letter signed by 9 attorneys general.

Finally, you can watch for any class action lawsuits that may be filed against the company in the future. Unfortunately, because other creditors will have priority for any payments that Pink Energy is able to make after liquidating their assets, there might not be much left over to pay former customers. Still, this is something worth keeping an eye out for.

What to do if you have a Generac inverter

If Pink Energy installed a Generac inverter, you can reach out to Generac for any support as the company has pledged to honor their manufacturer’s warranty.

As for the defective SnapRS 801 and 801A rapid shutdown components, your system may or may not have them. They’re a requirement in jurisdictions where the NEC 2017 electrical code applies, so they aren’t always installed.

If you don’t have the SnapRS units installed, that’s one less thing you have to worry about. The most common Generac failures are caused by the SnapRS units and not other components in the inverter system.

How to diagnose your Generac SnapRS units

If you’re not sure if your Generac inverter uses SnapRS components or if you’re wondering if your SnapRS units are working, you can check this yourself by using the interface on the front of your Generac inverter.

The installation manual for the PV LINK optimizer will give you complete instructions, but the basic steps to check your SnapRS status is the following:

  1. First, you might have an error message already displayed. The installation manual gives an explanation of the possible error messages, but if you see PVRSS count mismatch or PVRSS Lockout, that indicates that one or more of the SnapRS units may have failed.
  2. Use the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the pages until you get to the PV Link page. Note that you have have more than one PV Link in your system.
  3. Press the round button in the center of the controls.
  4. Scroll to Mod. Settings then click the center button.
  5. Check the SnapRSInstalld and SnapRSDetected counts. The numbers should match. If fewer units are detected than installed, this indicates that you have a failure on that string.

Make sure your Generac PWRCell inverter has the latest software

Supposedly, Generac has an interim software fix for the SnapRS 801 units. To make sure that you have the latest software, make sure that your PWRCell inverter is connected to the internet and is able to receive firmware updates. Generac’s installation guide provides more information, including a toll-free number you can call to make sure that your unit is receiving the latest updates.

Tips for owners of non-Generac equipment

As mentioned before, while Pink Energy points the blame at Generac for their problems, they’re only one supplier that they’ve used. Generac doesn’t manufacture solar panels, so your panels will be made by another manufacturer. They’ve been known to install equipment from SolarEdge, Enphase, ABB, Mission Solar, and others.

If you have a problem with any of your equipment, reach out to the company for advice and warranty service. Some of these companies, such as Enphase, provide 25 year warranties for their products. Unfortunately, you will probably have to pay for the labor costs of any warranty work.

Is there any maintenance or repair work you can do yourself? Unless you’re a skilled electrician, this isn’t recommended. However, you can do some basic troubleshooting on your own, and maintenance in some cases.

For example, SolarEdge recommends opening the fan screen on the inverter and cleaning out any accumulated dust at least once a year.

You may also encounter error codes displayed by your inverter or monitoring system.

You can start to diagnose issues by going to the manufacturer’s website and looking up the installation guide or owner’s manual for your inverter. Minor repairs may be possible on your own, such as replacing a broken fan.

Pink Energy and lessons learned

If there’s one takeaway from the unfortunate collapse of Pink Energy, it’s that consumers should be very careful about the solar installer they hire - especially when that company is a national installer that has grown rapidly.

Sungevity, Petersen-Dean and Vivint Solar (now owned by Sunrun) are other examples of fast-growing national solar installers that have gone bankrupt or been sued for their business practices.

If you’re a current Pink Energy customer, hopefully your system is working well for you. If not, keep an eye out on the lawsuits involving the company. As major developments happen, I’ll be sure to keep this article updated.

Got questions or stories about being a Pink Energy customer? Let me know.

#Consumer Protection #Installers

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