Alert: Energy Savings Product Scams
INTER-COUNTY ENERGY ISSUES ALERT ABOUT ENERGY-SAVING PRODUCT CLAIMS
Inter-County Energy, a not-for-profit, member-owned electric cooperative, today issued an alert for it's members to beware of companies selling products or services that promise huge energy savings, but fail to deliver anticipated results.
“People need to be cautious because they are being sold devices that can raise their bills, that may not work or that could take decades to recoup their money,” said Dan Hitchcock, Manager of Member Services. “As the old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
One common claim involves heaters that advertise drastic reductions in power bills, but in reality these devices are 1,500-watt electric space heaters that can increase monthly bills.
“It breaks our hearts at Inter-County Energy when we hear about someone who paid more than $300 for a space heater. A comparable space heater can easily be purchased at a local discount store for around $30 to $50,” said Hitchcock.
Many people don’t understand that an electric space heater uses a great deal of energy, which can drive up monthly electric bills. “The longer you run your electric space heater, the higher your electric bill is going to be,” said Hitchcock.
Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on such devices, Inter-County Energy suggests improving energy efficiency by adding insulation, repairing leaking ducts and adding weather-stripping.
“We urge people to focus on energy-saving projects that are proven to work,” said Hitchcock. “We offer efficiency programs, provide energy audits, and people can get free information bulletins from us at www.simplesavings.coop on inexpensive ways to save.”
One product that looks like a gray box is being sold for hundreds of dollars under different names. The box goes on the outside of a home. The company selling it typically claims it will “condition the power quality of your home.”
The marketing spiel usually claims that the device will control alternating current power factor, make appliances last longer and reduce electric bills.
A major industry or commercial member might benefit from the technology, but the payback for a typical residential memebr is negligible, according to national researchers.
“It does save a homeowner energy—it just takes you about 70, 80 or 100 years to get the payback,” said Brian Sloboda, a program manager at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Research Network. Prices range from $200 to $600.
One tactic marketers often use is to send direct-mail advertising to homeowners, promising them free meals to hear a sales pitch.
“These ads typically tell people they have been selected to receive two free dinners at a local restaurant where the resident will hear an energy-saving presentation,” said Hitchcock. “The promotional piece often says the homeowner is guaranteed to reduce their monthly utility bill. Again, people need to know what they are getting into before they buy a product or service.”
Consumers can check out a business or file a complaint by contacting the Better Business Bureau (BBB). You can contact the BBB of Central and Eastern Kentucky at http://bluegrass.bbb.org or by calling 1-800-866-6668. The number for the BBB’s Somerset branch office is 606-678-2014.
In addition to filing a complaint with the BBB, Heather Clary, director of Communications with the BBB of Central and Eastern Kentucky, said consumers can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC Consumer Response Center can be reached at 1-877-382-4357.
Finally, consumers can file a complaint with the Kentucky Attorney General’s office by calling 1-888-432-9257. Choose Option 3 for information on how to file a complaint with the AG’s office.