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After competent installation of two systems, nightmare scenario with Tesla Energy in FL – Other customers with similar experiences? Class action?

dfwatt

Active Member
Sep 24, 2018
3,122
5,129
FL
Our relationship with Tesla energy has gone badly sour. After an initial high quality install witnessed by our contractor – who himself does solar and who stated that the team that installed the panels and powerwalls was "a real A-team" – we had a second smaller 8 kW system installed in our rental property (Right next door to our new house) with again 2 powerwalls. Both systems worked flawlessly one installed in January of 2020 (12 kW) and the other in June of 2020 (8 kW) – until they didn't.

Everything seemed to be going again smoothly with that second system, until both systems went down on the same day, August 13, 2020. Somehow – and don't ask me how this works – a lightning strike on the back Powerline that feeds both houses took out the Gateway computers in both systems. But affected nothing else in either house. Nothing. How this might work from the standpoint of a lightning strike into a main power line – either pre-or post-house transformer – is not clear to me, And Tesla of course has no explanation either. Whether this reflects some unusual vulnerability of the Gateway system is also unclear. Tesla would not discuss whether or not this had happened To other systems (fried Gateway wiring status post lightning strike), claiming to not know . . . . or not have those statistics . . . . or it's above my pay grade, 1000 similar excuses. Not impressive performance for a technology company.

It took three months to get these two Gateway computers repaired, with Tesla changing, and canceling appointments several times, and giving me a different story every other week about parts and availability. I was initially sent the bill for this charging me for taking the solar panels off the roof, Reflecting the distracted service technicians erroneous cut and paste! I still have not gotten an accurate or intelligible bill with parts or labor itemized in a proper fashion.

I was able to inspect the wiring in the two Gateway computer systems and sure enough the lines in the computer that monitor the 240 grid voltage were fried and fused. I'm frankly still not clear how a single lightning strike took out both Gateway computers and did nothing else to damage electronics or wiring in either house but be that as it may, it was after the Gateway computer repairs that the real circus started. I thought getting the Gateway computers repaired would be the hard part – I was naïve.

The smaller system showed an error message that the powerwall circuit breaker needed to be reset. Of course that was not a problem, and one of the powerwalls simply became unresponsive sometime after the Gateway repair. I'm still not clear whether the powerwall worked briefly for a time or whether it never worked status post lightning strike. The person who did the Gateway computer repair who struck me as a competent technician came out and looked at the powerwall but couldn't figure out what was wrong, and admitted that they did not know. Somehow he communicated to Tesla that the Powerwall issue was "force majeure" and secondary to the lightning strike - as a proven fact and not as a hunch which is all it was.

I've spent literally an hour explaining to Tesla (and to the new rotating service technician du jour which changes week to week) that no one in fact has proven what is wrong with the powerwall and that there is no unambiguous evidence that it was damaged from lightning. From that point forward, Tesla did not want to repair the powerwall, or even send anybody out to diagnose it, but they were more than happy to sell me a new one for full price plus installation, and take the old one off my hands giving me nothing for the damaged or dysfunctional one. I said no thanks, and that I wanted an actual diagnosis of the powerwall and proof that it was damaged from lightning. They pretty much declined to do that and essentially are now refusing any assessment of the powerwall other than simply my anteing up $11,000.

Obviously, it's in Tesla's best interest to pawn off a warranty repair as force majeure if that indeed is what this is. I still don't know. Neither does Tesla. I've made approximately 30 phone calls, had two or three appointments made that were canceled for no reason. Customer service technicians routinely echo the non-proven assertion that the powerwall was damaged by lightning, and that Tesla is not responsible in any way for this – even to the point of denying diagnostic work to confirm whether or not in fact there is anything that looks lightning fried in the one powerwall that is off-line. I've communicated to them that we are very close to adversarial process. They seem used to hearing this and are not impressed.

I'm at the end of my rope and I really regret buying this second system from Tesla. Who else in the Florida area has had experiences like this with the Tampa crew in terms of powerwall issues? I'd like to join the class action if there are enough people who have had this kind of experience Florida Tesla energy.

Another option would be if there is a third party in Florida that actually repairs powerwalls. Tesla claims that they don't repair them they just replace them. I'm not even sure how that could be true. Like I said I don't trust anything Tesla says at this point.
 
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wjgjr

Active Member
May 11, 2020
1,237
965
Silver Spring, MD
I am sure this post will get a lot of strong opinions many ways (see the pinned thread about solar roof price increases.) I guess, as far as legal options, my question would be what does your contract say? If solar panel install contracts are like solar roof, it has an arbitration clause which both forecloses any sort of class action (though I don't claim to be a lawyer or know when one might be able to get around it) and also provides you an avenue to initiate a dispute which will lead to arbitration if Tesla does not resolve it. This seems like the path forward if you have reached an impasse dealing with Tesla.
 

Laketime

Member
Dec 13, 2020
149
97
LI NY
When we were hit by lightning 2 years ago the insurance company replaced everything that was damaged- no questions asked. They even paid for landscaping work where the bolt hit (the bolt hit the gas line to our pool heater, without setting off the gas thankfully), it was approx 100' from the house but went underground and wiped out a lot of electronics and LED lighting (it even traveled 50' to a shed and lit a tiki torch, what a crazy day). Even where we had expensive surge protectors they did nothing. I was impressed- a total of $15k in damage. Sounds like you decided to not go the insurance route and instead would like warranty coverage (lightning is not normally covered by warranty). Dealing with a strike is a pain in the butt but you can make it easier, or harder depending on how you react...
 
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dfwatt

Active Member
Sep 24, 2018
3,122
5,129
FL
I am sure this post will get a lot of strong opinions many ways (see the pinned thread about solar roof price increases.) I guess, as far as legal options, my question would be what does your contract say? If solar panel install contracts are like solar roof, it has an arbitration clause which both forecloses any sort of class action (though I don't claim to be a lawyer or know when one might be able to get around it) and also provides you an avenue to initiate a dispute which will lead to arbitration if Tesla does not resolve it. This seems like the path forward if you have reached an impasse dealing with Tesla.
Good question and I honestly don't know. I'd have to check. Obviously there is now a class action against Tesla in relationship to their bait and switch game around solar roof tiles and powerwall prices so if the contract forbids that obviously it's not binding. I'd like to just get the god damn thing fixed but I'm not convinced at this point that there's any way to do that with Tesla other than paying them to put in a new powerwall, with the risk that this whole circus could be repeated again if there is another lightning strike.

Do you know of any third party that does powerwall repairs? That's obviously another option. Thanks for your input and time.
 

dfwatt

Active Member
Sep 24, 2018
3,122
5,129
FL
When we were hit by lightning 2 years ago the insurance company replaced everything that was damaged- no questions asked. They even paid for landscaping work where the bolt hit (the bolt hit the gas line to our pool heater, without setting off the gas thankfully), it was approx 100' from the house but went underground and wiped out a lot of electronics and LED lighting (it even traveled 50' to a shed and lit a tiki torch, what a crazy day). Even where we had expensive surge protectors they did nothing. I was impressed- a total of $15k in damage. Sounds like you decided to not go the insurance route and instead would like warranty coverage (lightning is not normally covered by warranty). Dealing with a strike is a pain in the butt but you can make it easier, or harder depending on how you react...
I'm going to have to check to see whether or not the house insurance actually covers lightning strikes. I don't know!
 

jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Nov 28, 2018
9,500
10,683
Riverside Co. CA
I was reading your OP post, OP, and wondering why this would be a warranty issue and not a homeowners insurance issue. Having never dealt with a lightning strike personally, I still dont see how that would be a warranty issue myself.

If lightning hits your home and shorts out a TV or Microwave, would that be a warranty issue for the TV or Microwave? Perhaps, if one has separate insurance for that through the place they purchased it from? I dont know, but even if the powerwall is fried due to lightning or whatever, it seems like the cost of that should be under your homeowners insurance, providing it does not have some sort of lightning strike exclusion.
 
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holeydonut

Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
1,821
1,200
East Bay NorCal
Yeah, reading this post... I feel like the first recourse would be with your Insurance company to see if they will cover the damaged ESS equipment (and possibly damaged solar equipment).

Your home policy should cover any fixtures you add. For example, it's fairly common for rooftop solar to be covered even if you do not tell your insurance agent about the change. Lightning should be a normal peril that is covered. Earthquakes unfortunately are usually excluded perils. Of course all policies are different, so you should speak with your particular agent.

But I'm also aware that certain PV+ESS applications require a rider to expressly cover the more complicated system. For example, I'm with State Farm. The agent added an express rider on my system that calls out the addition of both the PV and ESS and names those items as covered up to the purchase price (before the ITC). This added like $20 to my annual premium. Am I wasting $20 per year? Probably since California will be in a drought until the end of time with no lightning to be seen. But I was adding PG&E as a named insured anyway so I did the special ESS rider too.
 

h2ofun

Active Member
Aug 11, 2020
2,658
490
auburn, ca
Yeah, reading this post... I feel like the first recourse would be with your Insurance company to see if they will cover the damaged ESS equipment (and possibly damaged solar equipment).

Your home policy should cover any fixtures you add. For example, it's fairly common for rooftop solar to be covered even if you do not tell your insurance agent about the change. Lightning should be a normal peril that is covered. Earthquakes unfortunately are usually excluded perils. Of course all policies are different, so you should speak with your particular agent.

But I'm also aware that certain PV+ESS applications require a rider to expressly cover the more complicated system. For example, I'm with State Farm. The agent added an express rider on my system that calls out the addition of both the PV and ESS and names those items as covered up to the purchase price (before the ITC). This added like $20 to my annual premium. Am I wasting $20 per year? Probably since California will be in a drought until the end of time with no lightning to be seen. But I was adding PG&E as a named insured anyway so I did the special ESS rider too.
Trust me, one can never have too much insurance. When I had my truck accident into my house, I used most of it, even though the hazmat costs, covered by the truck insurance, was like a million bucks. When I am done with all the changes I need to have my insurance agent come over and see what things we need to update to my policy to make sure everything is covered! And extra.
 

dfwatt

Active Member
Sep 24, 2018
3,122
5,129
FL
I was reading your OP post, OP, and wondering why this would be a warranty issue and not a homeowners insurance issue. Having never dealt with a lightning strike personally, I still dont see how that would be a warranty issue myself.

If lightning hits your home and shorts out a TV or Microwave, would that be a warranty issue for the TV or Microwave? Perhaps, if one has separate insurance for that through the place they purchased it from? I dont know, but even if the powerwall is fried due to lightning or whatever, it seems like the cost of that should be under your homeowners insurance, providing it does not have some sort of lightning strike exclusion.
I guess this is proof I didn't make the point very clearly. Nobody has diagnosed what's wrong with the power wall. If somebody pulls out a fried circuit board with fused components obviously that becomes suggestive of a lightning strike. If on the other hand there is no evidence that anything was fried or for that matter a circuit board is down without any evidence that any circuits are burnt out that becomes evidence for a warranty issue. Additionally I just pulled up the data record that shows that the power wall was actually operating and supplying data after the lightning strike. Do you follow this now? The issue is the Tesla has refused to do a proper diagnosis. Do you regard that as competent service? Because I don't.
 

h2ofun

Active Member
Aug 11, 2020
2,658
490
auburn, ca
I guess this is proof I didn't make the point very clearly. Nobody has diagnosed what's wrong with the power wall. If somebody pulls out a fried circuit board with fused components obviously that becomes suggestive of a lightning strike. If on the other hand there is no evidence that anything was fried or for that matter a circuit board is down without any evidence that any circuits are burnt out that becomes evidence for a warranty issue. Do you follow this now?
I do not understand. You had a lightening strike. It causes damage. Seems you were very lucky Tesla fixed the GW's. Seems clearly first call is to make a claim on your insurance. What is the reason you do not seem to be willing to do this?
 

jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Nov 28, 2018
9,500
10,683
Riverside Co. CA
I guess this is proof I didn't make the point very clearly. Nobody has diagnosed what's wrong with the power wall. If somebody pulls out a fried circuit board with fused components obviously that becomes suggestive of a lightning strike. If on the other hand there is no evidence that anything was fried or for that matter a circuit board is down without any evidence that any circuits are burnt out that becomes evidence for a warranty issue. Do you follow this now?

No, not really. You started off by saying:

Somehow – and don't ask me how this works – a lightning strike on the back Powerline that feeds both houses took out the Gateway computers in both systems.

So it sounds like you are aware lightning hit the electrical system. Just because something isnt melted doesnt mean there was not capacitor / circuit damage. Thats why I dont understand why its supposed to be a warranty issue, and not a homeowners insurance issue, but its not my property. You need to handle it however you see fit.
 

dfwatt

Active Member
Sep 24, 2018
3,122
5,129
FL
No, not really. You started off by saying:



So it sounds like you are aware lightning hit the electrical system. Just because something isnt melted doesnt mean there was not capacitor / circuit damage. Thats why I dont understand why its supposed to be a warranty issue, and not a homeowners insurance issue, but its not my property. You need to handle it however you see fit.
You're suggesting I go to my insurance company and claim lightning strike without evidence or even a shred of documentation from Tesla supporting my 'claim'? Do you think that's really going to work? Or do you think that that puts me in a position where someone might think I'm potentially committing insurance fraud? Curious feedback. The italicized portion of your comments are grounded in reality. The rest . . . perhaps not so much.
 
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holeydonut

Supporting Member
Jun 27, 2020
1,821
1,200
East Bay NorCal
You're suggesting I go to my insurance company and claim lightning strike without evidence or any documentation thereof? Do you think that's really going to work? Or do you think that that puts me in a position where someone might think I'm potentially committing insurance fraud? Curious feedback.

You're saying you had a lightning strike that hit your power lines; and there wasn't even a service truck from the PoCo dispatched to your street? Like, no other neighbors were affected by this strike?

I think maybe this forum is a bit biased with Californians whose predominant natural disasters are drought/earthquakes/fires and Floridians that deal more with water-related disasters (and Florida Man doing wacky things as an on-going disaster).

Anyway, to us, if lightning strikes near a house and wipes stuff out... there's usually a pretty big hubub and lots of documentation. If power is interrupted, our PoCo even sends us texts to tell us the obvious that our power is out. So if someone's PWs go down after a lightning strike here, there will be lots of people saying that was a one-off act of God to be covered by insurance. But maybe to you, a lightning strike is just another boring event. So you don't have any proof of the strike nor do you expect the damage from the strike to be insurable.

I can see your frustration if you contacted your insurance company; and they demanded that you produce proof that Tesla and your local power company are not willing to help you find evidence of. Like yeah, if your power company was like "what lightning" I can see why you're feeling like you need to see some fried circuit boards.
 

SageBrush

REJECT Fascism
May 7, 2015
12,385
15,312
New Mexico
You're suggesting I go to my insurance company and claim lightning strike without evidence or even a shred of documentation from Tesla supporting my 'claim'? Do you think that's really going to work? Or do you think that that puts me in a position where someone might think I'm potentially committing insurance fraud? Curious feedback. The italicized portion of your comments are grounded in reality. The rest perhaps not.

I'm reading this as you demanding that Tesla prove to your insurance that the damage was from lightning. If there was lightning and it clearly fried your gateways and the ESS stopped working shortly thereafter, I would be calling the insurance company.
 

jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Nov 28, 2018
9,500
10,683
Riverside Co. CA
For your other question:

Do you know of any third party that does powerwall repairs? That's obviously another option. Thanks for your input and time.

I havent heard of anything like that. Any powerwall issues I have read about, go back to tesla, and the powerwall is replaced. I dont know what they do with them when they get them back, but I havent heard of anyone opening them up to perform any repairs third party at all.

If you find something like that, it would be interesting to hear about it.
 

h2ofun

Active Member
Aug 11, 2020
2,658
490
auburn, ca
You're suggesting I go to my insurance company and claim lightning strike without evidence or even a shred of documentation from Tesla supporting my 'claim'? Do you think that's really going to work? Or do you think that that puts me in a position where someone might think I'm potentially committing insurance fraud? Curious feedback. The italicized portion of your comments are grounded in reality. The rest . . . perhaps not so much.
Yep!!
 
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Laketime

Member
Dec 13, 2020
149
97
LI NY
Boy this thread got weird. If a car hits your car and runs are you screwed without proof another car did it? You said lightning hit, you have damage, first step is to call the insurance company. If they need proof that the walls were damaged by the strike then you go from there. How you went to fraud is puzzling...
 

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