This long and sad saga has to do with the pre-purchase inspection of a home where Valverde Energy had (two years prior) installed a solar hot water supplement to the hydronic in-floor heating system of the house. At our house showing all the plumbing associated with the solar add-ons appeared neat, tidy, and well constructed. The heating bills we were shown tended to support the quality of the installation and the efficiency of the design. With nothing else to go on, I would have rated them "A". However, after the house was under contract we paid for a pre-purchase inspection to attempt to uncover any hidden issues. Boy, are we glad we did! | |Our inspector found that the collector loop expansion tank on the roof had no air in the pre-charge air bladder. When he came down to check the floor loop expansion tank he found not only no air in the bladder, but water coming out of the pre-charge air valve. On top of that, the act of checking for air, plus the water weight of being full, caused the expansion tank to come loose from the wall bracket and hang from the plastic pipe connecting it to the floor loop system. Understandably, this concerned the sellers and they contacted Valverde Energy to come repair the system. | |This is where my view of Valverde Energy began to change. The sellers were clearly non-technical - having purchased the solar system for tax credits and utility savings - and they relied completely on the pronouncements of Valverde. And the owner of Valverde told them that our inspector had depressurized the collector loop while checking for a tank pre-charge and that that had led to the floor loop tank filling up, increasing in weight and breaking loose from its moorings on the wall. He then did some work, declared all to be working perfectly, and left them with a bill for $159.35. He also called our house inspector and dressed him down for 30 or 40 minutes - alternating between his own qualifications as a solar installer and our inspector's deficiencies in his field. | |Needless to say, we did not purchase that house! There were far too many questions about what was really going on with the solar system. The sellers were angry about not selling the house and getting a repair bill. While they did agree to return our earnest money they were insistent that we, or our inspector, reimburse them for the "repair bill" from Valverde. | |Over the course of a month I corresponded back and forth with them about why I did not believe that the inspection caused any damage, but only uncovered a pre-existing condition. They would always forward my email to Valverde and then pass on the response to me. The responses never contained technical details of how the inspection caused the damage, but they did include denials of tone and content of the phone call described to me by our home inspector. | |The bottom line for us was: 1) This was a closed loop system with no liquid connection between the collector and floor loops (confirmed by Valverde), and so no pressure drop in the collector loop should have affected the fluid in the floor loop, 2) codes and inspection standards require that tank brackets be strong enough to hold even a completely full expansion tank (also confirmed by Valverde), 3) water escaping from the air valve on the floor loop expansion tank indicates a cracked air bladder that should be replaced (Valverde never replaced the tank, but declared all well after rehanging the tank). | |There are always two side to any dispute, but the lack of specificity regarding how the inspection caused the problems Valverde felt compelled to repair makes me leery of ever using them for any work. In fairness, the soldering and pipe routing that I saw looked to be good quality, and so I did not give the lowest rating I could have.