- Thermal Audit
The Earth4Energy Scam Review
Internet Saturation Marketing
Update July 2009: A new response from an Earth4Energy promoter arrives. See end of post for details -- it speaks volumes about the kind of people we are dealing with here.
Update Feb. 2009: I now have a copy of this e-book and have posted a specific Earth4Energy review at the bottom of this page.
Earth4Energy is a scam. Even the sites earth4energySCAM.com and earth4energySCAM.org promote the product. A Google search turns up 220,000 hits which is most unfortunate because the tidal wave of propaganda totally drowns out legitimate sites and devalues search engine results. There are even ads like "earth for energy sucks" and "don't buy earth4energy" that lead you to sales sites. If is very difficult to find anything negative because of this clever interference.
The Earth4Energy link at the bottom of the image above sends you to clickbank and then you get redirected to earth4energy. The referring sites hope to make a commission.
Aside from how Google keyword ads bring up sponsored listings that lead you to fraudulent landing pages, which then lead you to other scam pages with each parasite earning a commission along the way - there is a more fundamental problem. The average consumer has no way to know that the claims are false. Therefore, let's dissect them.
"Let’s get something straight here. I have 3 computers that stay on 24/7, a big screen TV, a hot tub, and all the usual appliances that everyone enjoys. I don’t pay for electricity, but I can still run all the power sucking gadgets I want! The great news is, you can too!"
This implies he can generate lots of power. The energy available per square meter on your roof is limited by the output of the sun and not that large. On cloudy days you get very little power. In order to go off-grid (not connected to the telephone poles) you have to limit using electricity to the bare-bones. This means that cooking, heating, drying and other large energy users cannot be electric. You can probably generate the rest yourself but the equipment will cost many tens of thousands of dollars and will cover most of your roof.
"Many people believe that solar power systems are too expensive, and they’re right. Sort of. What they don’t realize, is that you can build your own solar panels and save a fortune! If you go buy a solar power system, it will cost you thousands of dollars, but if you do it yourself, you can build your solar generator for about $150!"
This is very misleading. You cannot build your own solar cells anymore than you can make your own plasma TV. You can however, purchase the parts, but in this case, the silicon solar cells are most of the cost of the panel. You can wire up your own cells and mount them in a frame, but there is no way you are going to get anything for $150 that will be of much use. You would be lucky to put together a 10W system that could power a compact florescent bulb for about 6 hours a day and this is hardly a power sucking gadget.
"Think windmills are too big to have one in your yard? Think again! can build a rooftop windmill that can reduce your energy costs immediately! Combine it with a solar power system and you can kiss your high electricity bills goodbye. In many areas, you can even tie your renewable energy generator into your power meter and sell your excess electricity back to the power company! When I started tinkering with my solar and wind electricity generator, I had to figure a lot of it out on my own. Now there is a resource available that breaks it down into a simple step by step program that makes it so easy that anyone can build their own renewable energy system in just a few days!"
In order to get decent wind speed and non turbulent flows, the wind generator needs to be mounted on a tower so that it is well above the house and tallest trees. This tower will probably cost more than the generator. Check out the wind generation links on our links page if you want some honest discussions on wind generation. There is little chance that "anyone can build their own renewable energy system in just a few days".
It is true that you can sell the excess power back to the power company, but you will not likely have much excess to sell. Furthermore, the electronics that connect your system with the power company are VERY expensive. They also have to be certified to rigorous standards (e.g. UL 1741) so no home brew system will ever be acceptable to power companies. Consider for example, what would happen if the power company disconnected the line on the pole to do some work, and you powered it up from the other end and electrocuted the utility technician.
There are valuable resources available -- but this scam is not a place to get it. Go to the links section on this web site and read a few of the archived ESSN newsletters.
Now let's move on to the Earth4Energy site.
Now we have "generating your own electricity for less than $200" and the possibility of eliminating it completely and reducing it by 80%. Is this possible ? Yes -- if you switch to natural gas, and cut your electric needs down to a single light bulb.
"All test subjects were able to generate enough electricity to power household appliances" - is highly unlikely. On a small scale, sure -- you can turn a bicycle upside down, turn the cranks by hand and use the generator set to make a flashlight. But, to generate household power you need a propeller, generator, mounting hardware (it has to swivel into the wind automatically), a charge controller, a deep cycle battery, and an inverter unit that converts battery power to 110 Volts AC.
The picture above makes solar panel building look like a furniture project. Finding the parts at your local hardware store is totally ridiculous. Solar cells are not found for sale at hardware stores, unless you want to sacrifice a 100 odd solar landscape lights and use their low performance cells. The picture and caption above might have been a little more believable if they were promoting hot water. You could make a flat plate hot water generator out of parts from the hardware store -- but hot water is not going to be powering your computer.
Now we get into "secret methods that very few people know about!". Powering household appliances for less than $100? Even the Inverter that takes the battery voltage and makes 100 volts AC (like you have in your wall sockets) will cost more than this. The storage battery will cost more than this too. But wait, there's more!
Aside from some heavy shoplifting in more ways than one, how are you going to get quality deep cycle batteries for free? I am sure some Nigerian scam artist would be happy to promise delivery of a load in return for the temporary use of your bank account. Anything of value is never free, and even dead batteries are sold for their scrap value. And finally, what do you think keeps these scams going? Greed. Lots of Greed.
People set up bait web sites with bogus testimonials, that link to earth4energy, hoping to get their 75% commission. The operators than use their own cash to pay Google to bid on search words. In the image below, they are telling their "affiliates" what key words to use in Google. PPC means pay per click, which is how Google makes its Billions.
You can go to Google Adwords, and enter these phrases, they tell you how much people (legitimate advertisers and scammers) are paying to get their links to show when you search Google. I used to wonder why people were willing to pay so much for these clicks -- sometimes the key words are over a dollar a click.
The scammers even registered the domain Earth4EnergySCAM so that when you try to investigate it, their site is listed first because registered domain names get priority over other key words.
Finally, all we can do is hope that the following is a lie. It would be unfortunate if the only truth from these scammers was how much money they make from ripping off the unsuspecting public.
Now for some fun. Googlebot, eat this! Scam4Energy Earth4Spam Earth4Scam Energy4Fraud Fraud4Earth Earth4EnergyFraud Scam4Energy WTF4Energy.
Here is some of the feedback I have been getting. Unless I get permission to repost names, for privacy reasons and the possibility of good people getting harassed, I have removed names, e-mail addresses and IP addresses.
name = B. Z.
email = removed
comments = Thank you Thank you Thank you.
I must have spent 20 minutes to find your "hall of shame" REAL review of EARTH4ENERGY. I am no stranger to direct marketing and I am also a network engineer and very educated citizen (aka consumer). When I did the obligatory "ratings and reviews" for EARTH4ENERGY I was appalled at how transparent the sites were that hosted the "alleged ratings" for this product. It took me twenty minutes to find your review and debunk this fraud. Has anyone contacted the authorities regarding these people? Or are they in that infamous gray area of legality where they walk the line of fraud just enough to keep them out of court?
I have to tell you that my Crap-O-Meter is pretty good but I almost got caught in this fraud. I want something done about this. But I do not know where to begin. The sad truth is that most of us have so little free time making ends meet that we can not dedicate enough of our time to fighting fraud like this. What can we do?
B. Z., San Diego
Subject: Well said on Earth4Energy!
Message: Thanks for putting up your page dissecting the Earth4Energy scam.
As someone who's put up his own photovoltaic system, I'm infuriated by their outrageous claims. May I post a link to your page if the topic comes up in the future?Thanks very much, Rod
(NLCPR's position on linking: anyone may link to these pages, but thanks for asking.)
name = Denzil B
comments = Thanks for putting together the info on earth4energy. They seem to have done a very effective job of saturating the Internet with their links - but I did eventually find your website. I've put together a number of PV and windpower systems for Himalayan medical expeditions so know the true cost of power in remote areas and am also an Electronic Design Engineer, so am aware of panel efficiencies. I knew they had to be a rip-off, but they cover their tracks well!
name = Daryl
email = xxx
comments = thanks,Do you reccomend a real green (solar & wind)how to guide. I'm Interested. Thank you Daryl
name = Victor S.:).
I don’t get it, are people really buying this???
I read their page for one minute, then searched for earth4energy scam :)).
Like you said, I only found good reviews although the titles suggested bad things. Then I had no doubt, it is a scam.
I was not looking to buy it, but someone posted a link to the site on a forum I read, a forum where people try to find solutions for generating their own energy…
I am wondering how much until the other readers will dismiss it.
name = Bob N.
comments = Thank You!!!! I just spent 6 months creating a full college-level course on PV installation. I recently went out to check my competition only to find - possibly the Internet's largest scam empire. Harvey should really be selling an instructional called "Internet marketing for Sociopaths". His cancerous monstrosity is a perfect example of what an immoral person can create on-line. It is very damaging to the integrity of the net and to the reputation of solar energy. Google itself has been exploited with their own tools. Thanks again for exposing this sad and perverse person.
Bob - Hot Springs
name = Matt C
comments = Wow I'm so glad I found your site. Now I can let everyone else I know who is interested in Earth4energy to stay away. I was sucked in by their false claims and requested a refund and actually got an email from clickbank saying that they were giving me one. Keep it up. REMOTE_HOST: xxx
name = Robert F
comments = Thank you for your report on the earth4energy scam. I'm an engineer and knew it had to be a fraud, but I appreciate seeing someone document it. I have a 28 year old Reynolds solar hot water heater, it works great.(2 12x4 panels, 80 gallon tank) That leaves me wondering why expensive evacuated tube panels are so heavily favored. I'm in Pennsylvania and have hot water every sunny day, even on days below 20 F. It really impresses me to see these panels exceed 100 F on a 10 F morning less than 2 hours after sunrise.
name = Jim F.
comments = Well done on E4Energy. I am a master electrician and mechanic and 50 year do-it-yourselfer and I just had to purchase and review this typical internet fraud for myself and everything you said about it is right on and worse. I must say that a small part of me hoped for the best but once again "Harvey" proved that way too much of the internet today is full of blood sucking parasites. Right on par with 98% of the make money on the internet crowd which is nothing more than a ponzi scheme teaching people how to sell other suckers info on making money on the internet. It seems that the "information highway" is turning to mud with disappointment around every bend. Sad.
Like others who found their way to your site, I had looked at earth4energy and tried to find out what was truth. Your readers saw the "flaws" in the technology. I saw the flaws in something else - but I had to go behind the homepage!!
I read the website stuff, as I was looking for some of this type of material (as my husband was interested). The picture of Michael Harvey (IF IT IS HIM) - meant to look trustworthy and reliable. For some reason I decided to look at the affiliate FAQ and as the contact email button would not work, I followed up on how to be an affiliate. THIS LED ME TO A VIDEO... on how to sell earthenergy4 using various tactics. The voice on the video DID NOT SOUND LIKE IT MATCHED THE PICTURE OF M. HARVEY. This sounded like a young marketing/webmaster professional. Telling me how to use special systems to get your affiliate website to the top of the msn or google list. I knew then that Michael Harvey(senior) probably did not exist. I also found out that this "webmaster' and his associates were working with many other websites (not necessarily earthenergy 4). Who were using various seo equipment to obtain customers, by high ranking their sales words beyond the normal. (It was not only that but the WAY HE talked about it.) Gone was the interest in "Green energy" etc.!
He also gave himself away by the way he told you how to market the product, and set up the affiliate site. The gist of which was "just put some good sounding articles about windmills etc on it. Basically, the picture of that older man is a 'trust me' I am an ordinary guy sales gimmick.
Thanks for your site to give feedback.
Jacqui - Australia
name = Jeff
comments = Just a FYI...your site came highly recommended from another highly commendable site: The James Randi forum http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=145360 (See the June 18th post) Thanks for all your efforts, it's good work. Now if only there was a way to get your site high on the google search returns.
comments = I have another tip for you: ask readers of your Earth4Energy scam page to click as many times as they can every day on the Google ads for earth4energy ;-)
Update: January 2009
I have been getting questions from people who want to be able to make their own solar cells (also called PV or photovoltaic). The short answer is -- you cannot.
PV cells are usually made from crystalline silicon and have a theoretical efficiency of around 33%.
An alternate and newer technology, called thin film cells use materials like cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide, amorphous silicon and micromorphous silicon that are applied to glass or ceramic to support them.
Silicon and thin film cells can only be manufactured under exacting conditions, using equipment that is far beyond anything a home owner would every have available. If you have Metal Organic Chemical Vapor Deposition production equipment in your well equipped basement laboratory or the keys to your local university's semiconductor laboratory, the by all means, give it a try.
There are however, other methods to make a PV cell that converts sunlight to electrical energy -- but they are more along the lines of an elementary science fair project. It is like comparing paper airplanes to Boeing 737. They both fly, but only one of them is a practical method of transportation. One costs 5 cents and can be made at home. The other costs somewhere between 55 and 85 million and requires a company the size of Airbus or Boeing to design and manufacture.
Now for some links to recipes for the paper airplane variety. They might make a good science experiment for your kids, but don't expect them to power your house (or even a tiny flashlight).
The most popular types low efficiency cells that can be made at home are:
Here is a page called "Make a Solar Cell in your Kitchen".
Here is a link to an old book called "How to build a solar cell that really works" by Walter Noon.
Here is another one called "Make a Working Solar Cell" by Randall Carl Dunkin Ohio Valley Career and Technical Center, West Union, OH.
Here are some Grätzel cell links:
If you want to find more recipes, Google the terms "Cuprous Oxide" and "solar cell" or "Grätzel cell" and you should find dozens of them. They all have one thing in common - while great as science experiments, they are useless for generating practical amounts of power.
Another option is to buy junk/used , commercial cells on e-bay and try to assemble them yourself into a panel. See this forum for a discussion. If you read the comments you will see the problems they are running into.
If you are going to power your house with self generated power, you have to do the following:
a) Absolutely minimize power consumption. No electric heaters. No electric stove or oven. No electric hot water heater. Switch everything to oil or gas. If you don't, you will need a solar collector array larger than you house, and a budget of $100,000 or more. If the sunlight landing on your roof had enough energy to run major appliances like this, it would be bright enough to fry you alive. This isn't the case on this planet, so monsters like the 60 gallon electric hot water heater and electric baseboard heaters have to go. I have an e-book called Slashing Home Energy Costs which covers this in a great amount of detail.
b) Purchase a commercial PV system (panels, batteries, inverter, charge controller). Expect to pay $20,000 or more. Here is a link to someone that has done this. It is ironic, but the Google ads on the site above are sometimes links to the Earth4Energy scam! This is one of the dangers of the Google Ad network -- Google does nothing to police their ads.
The same author also made a great documentary about their project, which you can download for free.
c) If you have the room to erect a tower on your property, well above the homes and trees, then you can build a wind generator. This is something you can do yourself if you are good at building mechanical things. The designs in the book below are substantial, powerful machines that are much larger than the tiny one pictured below in the medical expedition.
Homebrew Wind Power
A HANDS-ON GUIDE TO HARNESSING THE WIND
Dan Bartmann & Dan Fink
Foreword by Mick Sagrillo
Published by Buckville Publications LLC
d) You can build a flat plate collector for heating hot water yourself, using parts available from commercial HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) suppliers and your local building supply store. However, if you live in the Northern USA or Canada, you likely need to use evacuated tube collectors, and this again, while possible, is beyond the ability of all but the most avid home brewers.
If enough people ask, I will build an optimized flat plate thermo-syphon collector entirely from materials available at a typical home improvement warehouse and produce a detailed e-book covering the design features, construction techniques and graph its performance.
Here are some pictures supplied by Denzil Broadhurst, from the 2008 Medex Expedition for their medical research in the Himalayas. These photos are great because they show a complete system in two photos. The first photo shows a small wind charger, and two sets of solar cells to the left of the geodesic tent, laying on the snow.
The 2nd picture is inside the tent. You will see deep cycle batteries to store power during the day or windy periods, two inverters on the left and right sides of the cabinet to make 110 volts AC from the battery bank, and two charge controllers on the top of the cabinets that interface to the two solar cell banks.
Denzil's comments are as follows:
"5x 50AHr sealed lead acids, two solar charge controller, two mains inverters. The system can be easily re-wired should any part fail. The batteries were then wrapped in insulation to keep them a little warmer in the -15 to -20C overnight temperatures, and the additional input from the windcharger added - didn't bother with a charge limiter for this given the peak output from it compared to the overall capacity of the batteries. I was never able to fully charge the batteries! I did have to move most of the solar panels off the snow - they were slowly melting themselves into the snow!"
So that's it. There is no cheap way to generate enough solar electrical power for your house, although space heating, domestic hot water and wind generation is possible as a DIY from scratch project for ambitious and resourceful homeowners.
A dollar spent on reducing your energy use (insulation is a prime example) will likely equal three dollars on self generation. Start with reducing your needs to the bare bone before considering generating your own power.
I know that is not what a lot of you want to hear, but it is the unfortunate reality. That is also why there have been so many governmental incentive programs attempting to make the economics work. Without substantial rebates (often $10,000 or more) the investment will never pay off. With the rebates, you could still be looking at a 10 to 20 year payoff.
The same goes for anyone that claims to be able to make high performance solar cells at home using techniques that are available to a determined homeowner. I have no doubt that a determined amateur scientist with a substantial budget (e.g. $10,000 purchases are no problem), equipment from e-bay (high temperature kilns, vacuum pumps, clean room equipment, etc.), some blank silicon wafers and a lot of time for trial and error might manage to make something that worked, but the cost per cell in time and materials would be astronomical and would be highly unlikely to match the efficiency of commercial products.
February 2009 Update - The actual Earth4Energy book review:
I now have a copy of this e-book. It, earth4energy.pdf , is about 12 chapters and 85 pages of very large font and generic drawings that you can see on any solar oriented site. By generic, I mean half inch pictures of things like panel or house with arrows between them. The first few and last few chapters talk about generalities, like "Oil prices are skyrocketing" and "Avoid baths". The gist of their claims is this:
- Get cheap broken or used solar cells on e-bay. They show screen prints of auctions starting at 99 cents but all you e-bayers know that the prices gets bid up considerably. Solder it all together and make your panels.
- Ask forklift operators for free, used batteries (assuming they are going to throw out batteries that still function)
- Get a DC motor from e-bay and make a wind mill from it.
Now for some specific quotes.
"This solar generator can literally pay for itself within the first few weeks that you put it into use." They follow this with a picture that shows generically (e.g. pictures with arrows between them) of a panel, charge controller, battery, inverter and house, and state again "This is a really simple solar power setup that you can create for less than $200".
This is not true. In order to pay for itself within the first few weeks (let's be generous and let that be a month), it would have to generate about $200 of electricity, which is approximately 2000kWh at 10 cents per kWh. If you purchased a high quality 200W commercial panel (for about $1000 and of far better quality than you could make from broken cells at home) and were in a sunny desert with 6 "sun hours" per day, you would be generating 30 days * 6hr * .2kW * $0.10/kWh = $3.6 per month. That is not even remotely close to paying for itself in a few weeks.
Can you make a plasma TV for $200? Of course you can. e-bay auctions for broken ones, take them apart, and make a good one out of it. Is such a statement a fraud? Technically no -- it is just terribly misleading. The same is true of making your own solar panels.
They then go through a list of tiny pictures (like a generator) and placed a paragraph under each. The picture of an electrical panel is followed by "This is the point where all of the homes electrical wiring meets with the provider of the electricity".
About a quarter of the way into the book, they get into building solar panels. They start with e-bay auctions of chipped and broken solar cells. The first suggestion is to use 50 cells. I just checked e-bay and found that the buy-it-now price for a 100 cells is about $270.
They tell you to solder the cells, but the illustrations are just block drawings. Read this quality thread on "home brew solar panels" for some of the problems you are likely to encounter when trying to use cells from e-bay. Hand-wired solar cells are notoriously unreliable due to corrosion of connections and humidity buildup under the glass cover, plus fogging of the glass. PV panels have reduced performance as cell temperatures increase; commercial panels are designed to dissipate heat which is difficult with panels attached to plywood, which is a good insulator.
The instructions themselves are not good. Cut plywood to shape, join the wires, drill a hole etc. If this was a home building manual, they would be telling to erect the walls and than attach a roof.
Then it moves onto wind power. They suggest you go to eBay and bid on a DC motor called the "Ametek 38VDC". These usually sell for $100. Motors like these do not have bearings that can withstand the thrust generated by the turbine blades and will not survive long. You would be doing well if it lasted a year. These DC motors are designed for tape drives, whereas the bearings you need are more akin to what you would use for the wheel bearing of a trailer. Read the book "Home brew Wind Power" for real advice.
The Amtek motor (label pictured above) would have to be spinning at 600 rpm to output 6.3 amps and 100 Watts. In any case, its peak current of 12 amps is not very large and requires speeds far in excess of what the wind turbine can deliver.
Earth4Energy suggests a TV antennae tower, 8-12 feet high (which is way too low for decent wind speeds). The instructions for cutting a propeller from plastic pipe are suspect. The power outputs claimed are not possible. There is no mechanism to shut down the blades in high winds, so the unit will self-destruct.
The blades are 3 feet long, for a diameter of six feet. At a height of 12 feet, you would be lucky to have an averge wind speed of 6 m/s (13 mph). The power output would likely be P = 0.5 x rho x A x Cp x V3 x Ng x Nb = 154 Watts, not 400 Watts as claimed.
They go through the rest of the components with very little detail. For example, the tail section "a tail length of between 3' and 4' works the
best. Simply cut out a tail shape from the metal and attach it
to the back of the assembly."
Wind generators are complex machines. Read the wind power book above and you will understand why this is not going to work well.
E-bay to the rescue again. The charge controller should be $25 according on e-bay according to the e-book. Click on the link above for a better discussion of charge controllers and realistic prices at the Northern Arizona Wind and Sun forum.
There are lots of embedded links. One goes to a battery reconditioning franchise that states "start your own e-business".
Here is another winner: After stating "These are some of my favorite books. I have read the below
guides and personally recommend them to you." they have a link to a site that states: "Did you know that you can convert your car to a water-burning car? You can run your car on water, supplemental to gasoline, to increase your car's fuel efficiency and reduce your fuel costs significantly."
Apparently, they they think you are fool.
Bottom line: Total Garbage, marketed by a hype machine.
Stuff for Google: Book name is earth4energy.pdf, internally identified as Microsoft Word - earth4energyebook. Author is Drew. Variations on name earth4energy-alt1.pdf earth4energy-alt2.pdf . May also be available as earth4energy.zip or earth4energy.rar or earth4energy.doc . Published by Swerd Publishing Pty. Ltd, aka Michael Harvey and Earth4Energy.com. This is an Earth4Energy Review. This is Earth4Energy exposed. Unofficial Earth4Energy review.
Comments from Promoters of Earth4Energy
Note from NLCPR: With a vast affiliate program like this, you cannot lump the promotors together. I have had apologies from people that just wanted a way to make money on the web and had no idea what they are really selling. I have had others that appear to believe they are providing value, and others that plainly treat this as a criminal exercise. I have yet to hear from the actual creators of this product, and imagine they don't care.
name = George Duncan
email = duncan.george@***.com
comments = I just read your scathing review for Earth4Energy and I wanted to point something out to you. Maybe you were unaware or maybe you purposely omitted this, but Earth4Energy now includes a short series of step-by-step video instructions to get you through the more difficult parts of putting together the solar panels. I think the plan is to expand the product to include more video content.
I'm not expecting you'll add anything positive to your page, but now you know.
name = Heith
email = anom
comments = Is your site going to be one sided?
Im assuming you wouldnt embed this video on your site: www.earth4energy.com/affiliates/videos/earth4energy-emailsvideo dot mp4
I do promote this product on my website as I feel its got value (Not just to make some sales)
NLCPR response: Testimonials can easily be fabricated, or may be from confused individuals and are generally worthless as an indicator of quality unless collected by a 3rd party (e.g. Amazon book reviews) where you can see general statistical trends. See our writeup on the Fitch fuel catalyst for an example of a genuine but retracted customer testimonial.
Received July 2009
name = Gonna fuck you up
email = GonnaFuckYouUp@GonnaFuckYouUp.com comments = You will need to immediately remove any negative reference to www.earth4energy.comreviewed.com or our attorneys will fuck you up real good for slander!
PS-your website is a piece of shit.
name = Sam
comments = Hi - Thanks for the info in Earth4Energy. I have recently just started some affiliate marketing and thought Earth4Energy seemed ok. After reading this (and other negative reviews) I immediately removed the product and contacted the only buyer with refund information. It seems like there is a massave amount of rubbish available and I will be very much more careful in future.
Note: Several promoters claim Earth4Energy isn't a scam because you can get your money back. They use clickbank to process payments, and a money-back guarantee is mandatory - earth4energy affliliates have no choice. I will leave you to determine the ethics of "its not a fraud if you can get your money back". I do know of people that received refunds but that doesn't change the fact that they are using false claims to generate business banking on the fact that most people will just write it off and not demand their money back.
Normally for a finding of fraud, you need the following:
1) A false statement of material fact. There are many false statements in these sites, mostly relating to being to able to supply large amounts of power using their methods.
2) Knowledge on the part of the defendant that the statements are untrue. Web sites like this should make that difficult.
3) Intent to deceive the victim. The advertising materials are intended to deceive victims into believing that for a few hundred dollars they can generate sufficient power to run their house.
4) Reliance by the victim on the false statement. People purchase this product because of the marketing statements.
5) Injury to the victim. Clearly, they lose money (arguably refundable), but they also lose time especially if they try to build products based on the guide. The money spent trying to build their devices (and inducing them to purchase e-bay auctioned solar cells) is injurious.
Fortunately, the FTC is starting to crack down on energy scams. See FTC Sues Promoters of Bogus Fuel Efficiency Device. This suit is definitely applicable as a legal precedence for the "agua luna" and Fitch Fuel Catalyst scams.
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.