ALBUQUERQUE, NM – More and more New Mexicans are heading for the sun. It’s good for the environment and maybe even better for your electric bill.
But it’s an investment, systems alone can cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
One local family said it was a meaningful investment for them until the solar power plant shut down and the company stopped returning calls.
“When we first moved in, our electric bill here was running between $400 and $550 a month,” said Paul Ortiz y Pino, a homeowner in Rio Rancho.
For Paul Ortiz y Pino and his daughter Jessica, going solar was really about saving on their electric bill.
“They told us this is the way to go, you know, ‘we can get your bill down to next to nothing.’ We immediately stood up and said yes, we want to do this,” Ortiz y Pino said.
In 2019, his family took the opportunity to go with Titan Solar Power. Their Rio Rancho home had 34 panels installed on the roof, a $35,000 investment paid off with a 12-year loan that made sense with the savings they would receive in return.
“We got our electricity bill, I said how much is it?” ‘$8’ he said, $8? This is crazy,” said Ortiz y Pino.
What could possibly go wrong with a 30 year warranty?
“I didn’t know until I got the bill from PNM and called PNM,” Jessica Ortiz y Pino said.
Their panels stopped recording production with PNM in November 2021. After using up all the energy they had built up over the years, they saw their PNM bill increase again nine months later.
Jessica called Titan.
“He said, ‘I’m going to speed it up and have someone contact you today,’ and I said, ‘Yes, please,'” Jessica said.
Eight weeks have passed since that phone call and she still hasn’t heard from anyone. It should have been eight weeks of money-making sunshine.
All this due to the rise in his electricity bill and the loan for the panels which require urgent payment.
“Brittany, to be honest, I’m the one who comes to buy everything. Obviously, this is not a company that I can trust, obviously not a business that I just started opening and that I can trust,” said Jessica Ortiz y Pino.
He found this out when he started looking for the company on the Internet.
Jessica discovered a Better Business Bureau profile with a rating of less than two stars. The page contains an active alert alerting customers to a sample of complaints about service issues.
A Pacific Southwest BBB spokeswoman said Titan Solar “is cooperating with the BBB to improve and mitigate future complaints and is responding to all complaints made.”
Currently, the business does not have a rating. According to a spokesperson, there are several possible reasons for this rating: “for reasons including insufficient information about a business or ongoing review/updating of a business file.”
It took us a few calls and a stop at a local store to track someone down. We asked Titan Solar Power for an on-camera interview.
A spokeswoman agreed to a zoom interview but did not want to be identified.
After calling Titan reps, they sent a tech out and said the system was back online for Ortiz y Pinos. Titan has improved its cell kit and said they are trying to make up for lost production.
A spokesperson blamed the slide on staffing shortages and said they were currently working to resolve the issue.
But we found nine other formal complaints against Titan Solar filed with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office in 2022, some involving similar issues. Many of these complaints were helped to resolve by the AG’s office.
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office said in part:
“Our office has resolved the majority of complaints filed against Titan Solar through advocacy and our Intervention Division’s informal dispute resolution process, resulting in thousands of dollars in consumer refunds. Resolutions include paying for undelivered products, compensating consumers for downtime of solar panels, repaying consumer loans, and improving customer service and response time.
We continue to investigate and review the remaining open complaints in an attempt to provide a final resolution to those consumers.”
The Attorney General’s Office also has some advice for every consumer entering into a contract:
“Make sure you understand your rights before entering into these contracts.
Review the terms of the contract and what financial obligations you are signing. Make sure your seller’s verbal promises to you match what’s in the contract.
If you believe there is a problem with your contract, please contact our office. We also recommend that you seek the advice of a personal attorney. “
KOB 4 asked a Titan Solar Power spokesperson about other complaints and ongoing concerns. A spokesperson acknowledged this and said they are hiring new staff to specifically address customer service to SMEs.
This extra help is needed because the demand for solar power and conservation in New Mexico is not going anywhere.
“From 2018 to now, more than 420,000 solar panels have been installed by our PNM business and residential customers, representing a 64% increase in customer-owned solar power generation in less than five years,” said Kelly-Renae Huber, PNM spokesperson.
Ortiz y Pinos hopes that with the decrease in sunlight and the approach of winter, the problem has indeed been solved.
There are several ways to track your solar production before you receive your bill.
Many companies now use monitoring software for your phone, be sure to ask about it.
PNM said another option is to read the meter, if those numbers go up, it means energy is coming on.
For Related Stories: Brittany Costello