State agencies investigate Energy Upgrade Program


As a result of our investigation, two state regulatory agencies have opened their own investigations into this issue. One Oakland grandmother we talked to is wondering just when the central heating she paid for will work the way she wants.

"You get too hot here in the bathroom. It's like a sauna. It's right there," said Arma Knight of Oakland.

Knight is talking about the central heating system installed in her Oakland home 11 months ago. Most of her house is too warm, while she says she has the opposite problem in the living room.

"In the living room there was no air, no warm air," said Knight.

Knight had agreed to pay for the installation of central heating and the removal the old fashion wall unit after receiving a call from a telemarketer.

"They identified themselves as calling from PG&E and wanted to know if you'd be interested in some of their energy upgrade saving program," said Knight.

A representative of the Energy Upgrade Program wrote out an estimate for $7,650 during a home visit. The estimate was written on a form with a PG&E logo displayed on the top. Syntrol did the work, but charged $9,200.

She figures after paying off her $9,200 loan, the project will end up costing her $19,000 after interest. We contacted PG&E to find out more about the Energy Upgrade Program and its relationship to the contractor - Syntrol.

"Syntrol is one of our contractors here to provide services for Energy Upgrade California program," said Monica Tell from PG&E.

Tell says Energy Upgrade California is a joint program of the California Energy Commission and California Public Utilities Commission. It's designed to encourage energy savings through rebates.

That's completely different from the Energy Upgrade Program that solicited the work for Knight's heating system. The Energy Upgrade Program is a private entity. A check of public records filed with the Secretary of State Office shows that Geoff Sandoval is listed as the public contact for the Energy Upgrade Program.

We reached Sandoval by phone. He said he was only with the company for less than two months and knew nothing about this situation. No one currently with the Energy Upgrade Program returned our calls for comment. PG&E tells us they are looking more closely into Syntrol.

"We are currently investigating complaint that Syntrol has misused our logo and have been promoting the Energy Upgrade Program which is not affiliated with any PG&E program," said Tell.

Syntrol is based in Roseville near Sacramento. Its owner declined to comment on camera, but by phone, owner Paul Bianchi told us that the Energy Upgrade Program provided leads on jobs in exchange for a fee. Syntrol denies representing themselves as part of a government sponsored program.

"We talk to customer about any or all rebate programs in their market. Whether they choose an upgrade that qualifies or not is up to them," said Bianchi.

Meanwhile, Syntrol did agree to do additional work for Knight. It installed an additional vent in her living room, but it remains a work in progress.

"It blows heat out and sideways. It doesn't blow down on you," said Knight.

Both the California Public Utilities Commission and Contractors State License Board have launched their own investigations. We'll keep you posted on this story as it develops.

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