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Consumer Alert: The Energy Box Controversy

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MIAMI (CBS4) – Fran Lixie told CBS4’s Chief Consumer Investigator Al Sunshine, that it all started with a knock on the door about two years ago.  A salesman from “State Energy Conservation” asked what the Cooper City family was paying for their monthly electric bill.

The retired Marine said it ran about $150 to $200 over the summer. That’s when the salesman told Lixie, “He said it could bring our electric bills down below that $150…ah, to  about $100 he told us…it could bring our bills down to about $100 a month.”

How’d the company say it would cut his electric bills? For $1,500, they’d install a Kvar power optimizer. The Kvar unit is promoted as a “power factor optimizer” that makes electric motors run more efficiently, using less electricity.

To make the deal even better, Fran was told he could finance the bill with no payments for a full year. Shortly after signing the contract, the family says a local electrician arrived to wire up their Kvar energy-saving box.

Fran says it didn’t cut his bill. “It hasn’t done anything, all it does it stay up there and leave the little light on,” said Lixie.

Fran even found his electric bills are even higher now than before the Kvar was installed.

What about that “Year of no payments?” He told Sunshine that shortly after the box arrived, so too did the bills. After several harassing phone calls from the finance company, he finally told them the energy saver didn’t work and he wasn’t paying for it.

Fran remembered the call. “They said you signed, you got a bill and we don’t, we already gave the money to the company, State Energy.”

State Energy Conservation bases its’ local offices in a  Ft. Lauderdale business plaza.  Lou Banos, a salesman for the company, told Sunshine when he showed up at the office of the company, that a Kvar box saves him money every month and he insisted its a money saver for his customer too.

“I’ve cut people’s bills in half, reducing their bills,” explained Banos.

He said the company never promoted savings of 50%… only up to 25%. And Kvar’s own website advertises savings of just 6 to 10% for regular residential customers.

What about cutting Fran’s electric bill way down to just $100 a month? Banos explained, “I don’t know who that gentleman was, but we have never told anybody to say such a thing. I it’s stated right here..up to 25%. To tell someone it might, it might save them 10% on their bill, kind of under-promising with what the manufacturer is suggesting. We don’t make this up.” Kvar’s boss says the Lixie’s were  “absolutely duped” because the energy savers retail for about $400 and cost about another $100 to install. He’s now in contact with the family to figure out why the Kvar box didn’t save them any money.

The head of State Energy Conservation said he’ll  give the family a refund and remove the Kvar box, a product he told Sunshine, they don’t sell any more.

The family did finally get its’ money back. Both State Energy Conservation and Kvars’ manufacturer said they have plenty of satisfied customers.

While Kvar insisted it’s energy saver can cut monthly residential electric bills by about 6 to 10%, FP&L says those kind of power modifiers don’t work. It says the best way of saving money on electric bills is turning down your hot water heater so it works less and turning up your a-c thermostat so it doesn’t use as much electricity.

For Energy Saving Tips Check Out These Links

http://www.energysavers.gov/tips/

http://www.fpl.com/residential/energy_saving/programs/index.shtml

http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/tips_redirect.html

http://energystar.supportportal.com/link/portal/23002/23018/Article/14738/Can-Power-Factor-Correction-Devices-sometimes-called-Amp-Reduction-Units-or-kVAR-earn-the-ENERGY-STAR-label-Do-they-really-save-as-much-money-as-they-claim

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