OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A family decided to steer away from the traditional electricity route and took a big financial leap in turning to solar panels, but they say they’ve been waiting months for everything to be turned on and feel like they’ve been left in the dark.
Vicki Smith said her family wanted to make the switch to solar energy because they wanted their electric rates to stay the same.
“We’re going to be on fixed income, Social Security. If we keep our bills the same, that we can manage,” said Smith.
Smith added solar panels were a big investment for her family, though. For her to finance it, it could put her in the hole at least $28,000.
The panels were installed in May, according to Vyvue LLC Founder and CEO, Ben Hortman.
Smith said she hasn’t heard much from Vyvue since then.
“I’ve had terrible luck trying to get a hold of them. I call and they don’t answer,” stated Smith. “I called last week and I talked to a receptionist and she left a message for them to call me back. I asked 100 questions when I do get to talk to someone. They told me the electrician’s name and number. I called the electrician. He said that he would be here Monday at 7:30 a.m. to schedule an inspection with the city. Well, he doesn’t show up and he doesn’t call and he doesn’t tell us he’s not coming.”
As August is right around the corner, Smith is now worried about the lack of communication.
“At this rate, we’re going to have the electric bill payment as well as the solar panel payment because we don’t have them hooked up,” explained Smith.
News 4 called Hortman for answers Friday morning.
Hortman explained the hold up isn’t on Vyvue’s part, but both OG&E’s and the City of Oklahoma City’s. He claims the fault mainly lies with the city.
The City of Oklahoma City must be called in order to schedule a rough inspection of the solar panels.
“It’s first come, first serve. I count seven times that I have had one of my electricians or employees on site waiting for Oklahoma City to call for inspection, sometimes for five, six hours, sitting there waiting, never received a call,” said Hortman. “Oklahoma City personnel is very, well, let me just say they don’t have the amount of personnel needed to fulfill the requirements that they are requiring and what they should be doing. Because when you have one phone number that I mean, our customers call, we call numerous times, the voicemail is full. We can’t leave a voicemail and it’s a first come, first serve thing. It’s just a constant merry go round and we cannot do anything to actually activate the system to turn it on until we get the permission to operate.”
He claims because he is unable to get through to the city for a rough inspection it’s hurting business and essentially costing Vyvue money.
“I have customers, you know, leaving negative reviews, complaining to us constantly about how everything was so good up to this point. It’s really frustrating because it’s completely out of our control. I’ve had numerous people speak with the city inspectors. They make claims that, you know, they’re two weeks out on an inspection and okay, sure, two weeks on a final inspection, but we can’t get a final inspection until we go through the pre-video inspection, which, to be honest, is completely pointless,” said Hortman.
However, the City of Oklahoma City Director of Public Information and Marketing, Kristy Yager told KFOR on Friday they have “no record of a call on record for a permit to inspect [Vicki Smith’s] address.”
Yager said Vyvue’s new contractor’s information has now been updated in the city’s system, so everything should be good to go.
An OG&E spokesperson also said the hold up on their end is that they’re waiting for Smith to provide more information.
News 4 asked about the supposed lack of communication between Vyvue and Smith, but he said it’s too high of an expectation for Smith to think she should get a call with every update that happens.
“We have close to a thousand, you know, projects in the pipeline right now. And we’re already losing so much money with the amount of personnel that we have hired just to be able to contact customers and let you know that, ‘Sorry, nothing has happened and nothing’s moving forward yet. We’re waiting on the same thing that we’ve been waiting on for the last month.’ I feel like that’s not fair to make that assumption because what are we supposed to do? I mean, you tell me what I’m supposed to do. Am I supposed to hire more employees just to make a phone call to the customer to tell them the same thing over and over and over for, you know, every week?” said Hortman.
He claims he has hired two more employees in Oklahoma City to tackle more inspections.
According to Hortman, solar companies have 90 days after installation is complete to finalize inspections. He added it’s been almost 60 days since Smith’s panels were installed, so they’re still within the appropriate time frame.
Hortman said despite having numerous other projects before Smith’s, he has moved her to the front of the line now.
“We’re going to do the best that we can to get their system inspected and turned on and operating. I think within the next week I should be able to have it completed,” stated Hortman.
“I see all the time that when you get involved that people get results and get answers and that’s the reason I [reached out]. My husband told me, ‘You just need to call Channel 4,'” said Smith. “I’m so grateful.”
If things don’t work out with Vyvue, Smith said she is looking at other options, including Solar Power of Oklahoma who has offered to take over the contract and finish the job.
“We actually received a phone call from Vickie and her family about the fact that they had received a system. It was dragging on. They hadn’t been able to get a hold of their original contractor. I wanted to know if there’s anything that we could do to help. And so we actually got online. We look to see that there hadn’t actually never been any inspections called for at all. We actually have an affidavit that we can send to the homeowner to have them fill it out, and then we can essentially take over their permit with the City of Oklahoma City,” stated Solar Power of Oklahoma Co-Founder and Oklahoma Solar Association President, J.W. Peters.
Peters said Smith’s situation is nothing he’s never seen before. As the President of the Solar Association, he says they get calls all the time about this.
“You need to make sure that you’re going into it eyes wide open. We tell all of our customers, be sure and get multiple quotes, get multiple quotes, read reviews, make sure that you’re dealing with a reputable company. And sometimes it’s hard to be able to tell that. But if you do enough research, if you’ll get on the web and do some research or go to solarreviews.com,” said Peters.
Peters also recommends not signing a contract with an out-of-state vendor.
“Most of the time they don’t really care about the customer. They don’t care about the Oklahoman. We’ve been in business about seven years. We’ve installed 2,500 systems all over the state of Oklahoma. We are very familiar with how this process works. We have a very good relationship with OG&E and with Oklahoma City, with all the utility companies,” stated Peters.
Peters added if anyone came into a situation they were unsure of he would help because he wants to protect Oklahomans.
We’ll check back in with Smith next week to see if her solar panels are turned on or if an inspection is set up.