MONROE COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — A couple in Monroe County wants to know why their expensive solar system doesn’t work. They’ve tried to get answers from their solar contractor, but they get no response.

Their messages sent to the Bristol, Tennessee business go unanswered. The lack of communication has been frustrating for the couple.

There are several types of solar power systems. Grid-tied systems, the least expensive, are for homeowners who live in close proximity to the power grid. Off-grid systems have the added cost of batteries, so these systems are most popular for remote locations.

For Mike and Tiffany Heaton, who live in a remote area, the whole point of going solar was to drive down their electric bills and have a backup in case their power goes out. None of that has happened. Right now, their system doesn’t even work.

“So this is our Solar Edge inverter system. That carries it from the solars that are on top of the roof, it runs through the inverter which then runs to our meter,” said Mike. “None of it works. There are no savings.”

There have been Solar panels on Mike and Tiffany Heaton’s home in Tellico Plains for three and a half years.

“We bought the most expensive, highest solar package that Design 1 had to offer,” said Tiffany.

The couple paid nearly $40,000 for the system from the Design 1 Solar Group out of Bristol, Tennessee.

“I trusted this company, I trusted that they were who they said they were. I trusted that they were a solar expert,” said Tiffany.

“At this point in time, I want to be out of it. It’s been a three-year headache,” said Mike.

The headache has been an erratic system that has given the couple trouble almost from the very beginning.

“This is what was going to save me the most money. This is what they promised would save me the most money,” said Mike.

This solar hybrid energy water heater never worked. Mike said Design 1 Solar never returned to get it working. He recently had it switched to electric power.

“Basically phone calls, texts that I’ve sent. You can see the list,” said Mike.

Messages to Design 1 go unanswered, he said. And, there’s another issue. They have no written contract.

“We do not have [the contract] still,” said “They say they mailed it to me, but I don’t have it.”

A letter from Enerbank USA, their loan company, states the home improvement project with the Design 1 Group is complete. The couple said their salesman claimed they could lower costs by installing solar panels and because they live in a rural area their system would kick in if their power went out. But Mike learned later, that’s not the case.

“We don’t have a battery,” said Mike. He would go on to say he was never informed that they would not have a battery.

“When they first came out they told me the solar would at least save me 50% in savings on my electric bill,” said Tiffany.

However, bills from Ft. Loudoun Electric show no savings since the panels were installed.

In Madisonville, solar panels were installed on Ernie and Sharon Villalobos’s home a year ago. On May 27 of 2022, the meter at Ernie’s home read zero solar power being generated.

“The solar panels are still not turned on, I’m paying two bills,” said Sharon.

The installer was Design 1 Solar, the same business that the Heatons’ hired. WATE sent a detailed message to Design 1 Solar on May 27. Within days the company’s CEO sent the following directives: “call the couple, set up a site visit, send that rebate check, confirm the inspections, check the power company interconnect,” and turn on the system. After months of waiting their solar system finally started generating clean energy.

Back in Tellico Plains, the Heatons’ hope a technician from Design 1 Solar eventually gets their system operating.

“I would like to get what I paid for,” said Tiffany.

Better Business Bureau records show Design 1 Solar has an “F” rating with 134 complaints received in the last three years, and 30 of them remain unanswered, which shows a pattern.

Regarding Heaton’s situation, WATE reached out to Design 1 Solar, left several messages, and talked to a receptionist, but so far the company has chosen not to respond. We did, however, leave a phone number for the company to reach out to the Heatons.