Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Free Dinner For Two - Not Necessarily A Good Deal

Alternative Power Systems Claims To Reduce Utility Bills 55%

LABELLE, FL. -- Homeowners around the country are receiving colorful postcards inviting them to a free dinner for two at a local restaurant with an "exciting and fun presentation on reducing your utility bills up to 55%."

But the invitation is really to a sales pitch to buy energy saving radient barrier installations and devices. Hendry county, Florida residents this week were offered free dinners at the Log Cabin Bar B Que Restaurant in LaBelle.

The card invitation says "Call Now!" for "Energy Awareness Month." Alternate Power Systems of Spring Harbor, Michigan is the company advertising the presentation, according to the address on the postcard.

After receiving the free dinner invitation to hear about how to reduce electric bills we suspect many will be enticed to call the toll-free number (877) 635-3733 to "confirm reservations" for your and your spouse as required by the card.

The clue to what's going on in this offer is the statement "Home Owners Only!" Make no doubt about it, this is a sales presentation. 

We've seen several of these companies pass through our area, and a warning is advised to research the company and the service they want to sell before handing over any down payment or signing up for thousands of dollars in services.

Similar free dinners have been held almost yearly by other "power saving" companies including Light Power Solutions LLC a company allegedly controlled by Gary Light of Beldin, Mississippi whose held a presentation at Don's Restaurant in March. An earlier dinner was hosted by Utility Management Association also associated with the Mississippi company.

Both companies have received many complaints over the years about their sales tactics and products. Alternate Power Systems coincidentally has the same Florida corporate agent as Utility Management and Light Power did.

What's The Catch?

These companies are typically selling electric "power saver" boxes, likely an item similar or identical to "Powerworx" an overpriced 6-pound unit that falsely claims to possibly eliminate electric bills. They also will pitch a grossly overpriced aluminum foil attic barrier installation claimed to reduce AC and heating costs.

We checked out the previous company providing the last "free dinner" offer in LaBelle, and checked with a Better Business Bureau. It's revealing. 

Light Power Solutions (LPS) operated with the same sales pitches and energy "saving" products as Utility Management Association UMA), a limited liability corporation that visited our area once before. It's Florida corporate charter was revoked in September 2011. It was based in Tupelo, Mississippi where it started in 1978, and later changed to Beldin, MS. 

Utility Management Association came through town March 25, 2007 with the similar "energy saving" offers to local homeowners coming to their free dinners back then. Their main target audience seemed to be elderly homeowners in small towns.

UMA sold a product called "Utility Shield" which customers have described as a thin aluminum-type reflective sheeting that is installed over attic insulation which the company claims will result in energy savings. The material can be purchased at home stores for a few hundred dollars and installed by homeowners themselves or local contractors for very little.

The company also sold water heater insulation and water saving shower heads.

Dubious History Of A "Power Saving" Company

The BBB opened a file on UMA owned by Gary Light in October of 2003 after numerous consumer complaints. On November 17, 2006 the company's membership in the BBB was revoked by the BBB's Board of Directors due to unauthorized use of the BBB name and/or logo.

Gary Light owns Light Commercial Power LLC, with a home office at 3289 McCullough Ave., Beldin, MS. This outfit operated what appears to be a multi-level sales scheme convincing individuals to become sales "affiliates" for the "Powerworx" electrical power saver box. This is the same gadget the company will offer at it's "free dinner" presentations.

Agents become affiliates after paying a $135 fee, and sell the unit at $1,395 and get a $300 commission. Buyers of the units can also become affiliates and a bonus for each unit he sells then goes to the original seller under a "1-UP" commission setup.

Light Power Solutions LLC, one sponsor of free dinners, was reportedly "hiding" it's real owners, which allegedly was Gary Light, but has been reported by a former sales representative as owned in name only by Mark Beckworth, with an office out of Orange Park, Fl. just outside Jacksonville. 

Published reports also indicate another name connected with the company, Greg Rogers. Reports say company management had to go to Gary Light for decision making. Roger's number has been published as 662-213-9127. Another published Mississippi number connected with this sales scheme seems to be 662-844-5532.

The Florida Secretary of State office showed Light Power Solutions LLC at 1677 Wells Road, Suite A,
Orange Park, Fl. 32073 but the only public information available is the registered agent Corporation Service Company in Tallahassee, Fl. It shows no information at all about the officers or owners, showing only the "member/manager" as "None."

UMA reportedly closed down because of all the complaints about the company's product claims, and customer service problems. And some complaints over allegedly using independent un-licensed workers to install the products. Reportedly the finance company they were selling their contracts to balked as well.

Consumers have reported that their utility bills have risen or remained the same since the Utility Shield product was installed. Notwithstanding a "guarantee" offered by the company, customers say they did not receive a copy of the guarantee when purchasing the product. The BBB received complaints about the company's selling practices, advertising, service, repairs, and warranty issues. The company says the number of complaints is small compared to the number of units sold, but has refused to provide the total number of units sold.

The BBB says UMA company representatives had given "unqualified claims that the product will decrease energy consumption in a home by 25% or more." The BBB was unable to substantiate any energy savings. At the time, the company was advertising on its postcards to prospects "We can reduce your monthly energy bills by 20-50% Guaranteed!" The BBB challenged the usage of promises of "guaranteed" energy savings. The company then changed the advertising to "up to 55% guaranteed." Now LPS say "lower and possibly eliminate...utility bills."

Ironically, UMA told the BBB in response to the complaints against them that "it does not guarantee specific results, and that any incidents involving promises of specific savings occurred as a result of errors, or independent action by sales representatives." 

In December 2006 Utility Management Association signed an agreement with the BBB to cease use of the BBB name and other unauthorized statements in sales representations.

Energy experts say that any energy savings are highly dependent on many variables because all homes are unique, for instance most older homes have openings where heat or cold air can pass through regardless of what insulation or reflective materials might be installed in attics. Newer homes are generally constructed as energy efficient as possible already.

Can You Really Save Energy With Devices?

The Florida Solar Energy Center has an extensive article on attic radiant heat barrier reflection systems for Florida homes and says any savings on energy bills will depend on the energy efficiency of your home now, bearing in mind that any possible savings on electric cooling costs may amount to about 10% as a roof is not the only location heat enters the home. 

The Center also points out that the cost of the reflective barrier including installation costs should be around $2 per foot to make it economically feasible to install a system like this. The aluminum reflecting type must be installed under the roof rafters and not on top of the attic insulation, as some installers incorrectly do. The shiny side is installed facing down. If you pay too much, your payback time may be very long, stretching over many, many years.

The bottom line: enjoy your "free" dinner but be very cautious about any savings claims made by this company's representatives, especially for a "power saver" box. And be on the look out for possible use of un-licensed contractors.

And calculate the cost of attic radiant barrier installation over actual electric bill savings of what the Florida Solar Energy Center says may only be 8 to 12%, not enough to make it worth while unless the installation costs are very low.

And check the history of the company in your state. Past checks show many of these type of companies go out of business fairly quickly once complaints start coming in.

Information Sources To Check Out Before Purchasing Anything:

Florida Solar Energy Center Report - Attic Radiant Barrier Facts
Comments About "Alternate Power Systems" of Michigan
"Power Saver Device" Scams - Reviews of all known power saving device scams
KVAR "Electric Power Saver" - Unit on eBay for under $100 compared to one company's reported $1,395 price for a "Powerworx" unit.
WattzDog Power Saver 1200 - On Amazon with customer reviews - pretty much worthless they say


  1. Simple and to the point enhancing my knowledge level a lot....

  2. Some of the guys involved in this operation seem to be a part of a company called Global Efficient Energy.