Richard Hucke of Brightwaters was in the market for a new heating and cooling system just as the PSEG WorryFree brochure arrived in the mail offering him "Cool Savings."
But a year later he's worried about even turning on the new system after his inspector found wiring problems. He's filed lawsuits and a complaint with the state attorney general, alleging promised savings and rebates have yet to arrive.
"I love a good fight," said the 78-year-old retiree.
After a year of tangling with the utility and contractors, Hucke wants PSEG Long Island and PSEG WorryFree to cover the cost of his wiring inspections and repairs after one inspector found unsafe wiring.
He also wants the companies to apply all the rebates he believes he's eligible for to cover more of the $11,000 in equipment and installation costs.
He might get his wish.
After Newsday inquired about the installation over the past month, PSEG worked with a new contractor, Green Team LI of Holbrook, to review Hucke's situation and work out a compromise.
Last month, Hucke was offered a new heat pump for an uncovered portion of his house, and rebates and discounts valued at more than $29,000. In the end, according to a contract he signed, Hucke would get a check for $6,700.
But Hucke's battle isn't over. He has an outstanding bill with PSEG WorryFree, a division of HomeServe USA, and has a court date to object to a bill for just over $5,600.
Hucke, a former Suffolk County health inspector, said problems with his old heating system led him last year to call PSEG WorryFree, to explore promised savings on its heat pump program.
He says he wound up with more than $1,000 in repair and inspection bills — but still has no electric heat while he awaits a proper village inspection.
"They've done absolutely everything wrong," Hucke said of the work by WorryFree and its contractor.
Hucke's yearlong effort to replace his old gas-burning, steam heating system with all-electric heat pumps, which also cool, comes as the state ponders whether to require all-electric heating in new construction, and as LIPA ramps up to accommodate more electric heating equipment on the grid.
Incentives such as those Hucke is seeking likely will be key to expansion of electric heating on Long Island, as systems can cost from $10,000 to $30,000 or more. Generous rebate programs are supposed to help offset those costs, and PSEG says it is working to get Hucke the rebates.
PSEG Long Island, which qualifies companies to do the work and approves rebates, is "continuing to work hand-in-hand with this customer under the parameters of the program to provide rebates for the work he has had completed and that qualify under the program," spokeswoman Ashley Chauvin said.
Hucke said he first decided to call PSEG WorryFree, a private company that licenses the PSEG WorryFree name for its warranty-repair service, when the company sent him the unsolicited mailer.
The offer: “Get a NEW air conditioning system for as little as $149 per month, plus rebates of up to $1,200 for ductless heat pump systems available from the PSEG Long Island Home Comfort Program."
Hucke's $5,679 bill from WorryFree for a unit installed in the front room of his home included no rebates, and his inspector found problems with the wiring work to power the unit.
As a result, Hucke has refused to pay the bill, alleging the work was substandard and not properly permitted.
Eric D'Aversa, an inspector for Certified Electrical, which Hucke hired to inspect the work, said the problem was that the wiring "was exposed outside the wall."
"There's a lot of ways it's not safe," D'Aversa said, noting placement of the 220-volt line.
"It could cause a fire; it's a live wire, with coating, but it's not meant to be exposed like that," D'Aversa said.
In February, Hucke paid $572 to Allways Electric Corp. to remove all the electrical wiring installed by PSEG WorryFree’s contractor and replace it. The work passed inspection on March 1.
Myles Meehan, a spokesman for PSEG WorryFree, said the company has attempted unsuccessfully to reach and visit Hucke on several occasions to remedy the problems. Hucke said the company didn't call to arrange appointments.
Meehan said PSEG WorryFree had its work inspected and received an approved inspection certificate dated Aug. 4. But Hucke said the final inspection needs to be done by the Village of Brightwaters. An official from the Brightwaters building department didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Meehan said the company helps customers secure rebates “as a matter of course for our customers where applicable to ensure they receive all the benefits.”
But he said, “we have not been able to complete Mr. Hucke’s application because we need certain information from his electric bill that we have been unable to get from him.”
Hucke said the company never called to make an appointment to visit, and he only recently heard from a representative from PSEG WorryFree's contractor, who came to his door at 7:30 p.m. He also said PSEG never asked for an electric bill.
In October, Hucke sued HomeServe USA and its third-party contractor Margin Electric in Small Claims Court in Suffolk County for $5,000.
Hucke alleged the defendants “installed a defective split air conditioning and heating unit … . The installation failed the fire underwriter’s electrical inspection," according to the lawsuit.
Meehan of WorryFree said the company in early April, "again tried to reach him" to address the problems "by phone to no avail."
On March 30, "our supervisor visited his property in the evening — again in an attempt to investigate," Meehan said. "Mr. Hucke would not let him in and only spoke to him at the door."
Citing Hucke's lawsuit, Meehan said the company wouldn't comment further on his claims. A woman who answered the phone recently at Margin Electric declined to comment.
PSEG initially said rebates were limited because the two heat pumps that Hucke had installed "do not cover the heating loss needed for the first floor to qualify for a greater rebate."
PSEG has received a rebate application for one of two heat pumps installed in his home. If it's completed, Hucke would qualify for a partial home rebate of $335, PSEG said.
"PSEG Long Island has made ongoing attempts via phone, email and mail to keep lines of communication with this customer open since December of 2021," Chauvin said.
In the end, Green Team LI was able to visit his home and resolve most of the problems, Hucke said on May 20.
Hucke in a complaint to the state attorney general’s office in April noted he has not been able to use the PSEG WorryFree heat pump that was installed “for fear of a fire,” because the “interior wiring failed the fire underwriter’s inspection."
He wants the attorney general's office to conduct a deeper probe of heat pump installation companies to make sure proper building permits and inspections are conducted. A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office declined to comment.
Hucke said he doesn't plan to give up his fight until the inspection and electrical work he's paid for is covered by the installation companies, and he gets the rebates he's entitled to, which PSEG has said could cover 80% to 100% of the costs.
A hearing in his lawsuit against HomeServe is set for June 15.