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Solar Panels On Watchdog

Sat, 25 Sep 2011 08:31:00 GMT

BBC's Watchdog recently ran a story about solar panels as a result of complaints about a company, Energy Savings Group. The complaints came after people had paid £500 for the promise of having solar photovoltaic panels fitted. From the Watchdog story it seemed that people were paying the money but not getting the systems installed.

We've had dozens of complaints about one 'middle-man' company - Energy Saving Group based in Redditch, Worcestershire (not to be confused with any other company of a similar name), including Anne Wells who paid them £500 hoping to lower her fuel bills. Anne told us, 'I was given no cause to think that there were going to be any problems at all with it and that it was just a straightforward process... in 3 months time the solar panels would be fitted and I would be getting my free electricity during the day.'

Six months later, Anne still hasn't received her panels. Although a surveyor had said Anne's roof was suitable, Energy Saving Group later wrote to her saying the criteria had changed and it wasn't any longer.

The Worcestershire based Energy Saving Group says it's been responsible for thousands of solar PV installations. But, it's been pocketing fees from householders all over the country, many of them still waiting for their panels.


There is some important information Watchdog did leave out which I think doesn't really help to educate the public about solar. They didn't really make it clear as to why they were paying £500 for solar panels. A solar panel system including installation can vary in cost from under £ for a small system and up to about £15,000 for the largest sized domestic system.

So where does the £500 system come into it? We get a better clue later on in the program during an interview where the company in question later states that they are no longer charging this fee. The conclusion that we can come to are that the company were either charging that fee for matching up customers with companies that offer free solar panels or they were being offered one of the solar share offers. The solar share schemes are offered by some free installers where the house doesn't quite meet the company's criteria for a house that is optimally suited for solar.

solar panels on BBC WatchdogFree solar panels are as the name suggests free, you should not be paying anything. If your home is suitable for free solar a surveyor will visit to confirm that your roof is suitable. Your surveyor should be able to answer any of your questions or put your mind at rest about any doubts that you might have. If you are asked to sign the contract straight away and it is too long to read properly straight away then ask if you can have time to read it and that you will post it to them. It is better however to read it there and then so you can ask any questions that you may have about the contract.

Watchdog also made a point about how much you can save on your electricity bills with solar panels and stated a figure of up to £3,000 over a 25 year period. According to recent studies the figure is actually closer to £5,200 over the same period.

They also do make some good points about buying your own solar panels which is buy far the best option if you can afford them due to the high rate of return under the feed-in tariff scheme. They did quote a figure a figure for earnings from the FIT's scheme of up to £28,000. Again the figure is not accurate, you can in fact earn £38,970 over a 25 year period. This does not take into account any index linked increases in the rate or any revenue earned from selling back you surplus electricity so it could be higher. The figure is based on 3,600kWh being generated from a 3.96kWh system at a FIT rate of 43.3 pence per kilowatt.

To reiterate some of the point made on the programme; if you are buying solar get at least 3 quotes. Make sure that you get their terms and conditions in writing along with a estimation of how your system will perform over a 25 year period. Not on the show but also very important is to check what the performance warranty of the panels is for, 20 to 25 years is a standard warranty length. Check the warranty on the inverter which is also an expensive part of the system. Also check the length of the workmanship guarantee on installation of the system and if it is insured by a third party should your installer stop trading.

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