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Get the best out of your renewable energy system: make sure your installer tells you how

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 30 January 2012 at 9:18 am

Renewable energy installers are failing to help consumers understand the value of their system or how to get the best out of it (and thus maximise the return on their investment).

Research by Consumer Focus and the Energy Saving Trust found that while value for money is more of an influence on choice of installer than personal recommendation, it is not as important as the knowledge displayed and information provided by the installer.

Consumers need more than just financial figures to give them confidence. The research found that where customers were dissatisfied it was mainly due to lack of information. Of course, in some case it was due to the the sales process. As Consumer Focus points out "if it feels like pressure selling, it is". 

The key areas where installers fell down was on helping consumers to understand the value of their system and on how to get the best out of their invesment:

  • 10% of installers do not discuss energy performance
  • 29% do not discuss planning and building control
  • 40% do not discuss current energy use
  • 64% do not discuss energy efficiency
  • 40% of consumers are not provided with a guide to maintaining the system
  • 66% are not given a guide to getting the best out of their system.

This last is the most distressing, as how the consumer uses the system can make a significant difference to the benefit they get from it.

If you are buying a renewable energy system make sure you ask your installer for a thorough guide to how to get the best out of it. And, installers, please sit down and write some guides right now!

Picture: Mark Chadwick


If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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5 comments - read them below or add one


MikelComment left on: 31 January 2012 at 10:19 pm

The electricity you generate each day is going to be dependent on a number of factors.  For example, your estimated output for a given system will be based on the average insolation figures per month/year.
By a substantial margin the hours of sunshine and time of year will be the major factors for any given system. If you want to get an idea on how your system performs, you will need to get the monthly sunshine figures for each month you collect generation data.
E.g Our nearest Met Office station recorded about 28-29 hours of sunshine for December 2011. The average monthly sunshine hours for December over the last 30 years, for that same Met Office station, was 59 hours, i.e. about half the amount of sunshine. 
Not surprisingly, the December output was less than the predicted December output.

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Richard Adams

Richard AdamsComment left on: 30 January 2012 at 2:21 pm

The answer to this is of course not to rely on your installer who will only be selling you the system. Energy assets like any others, need active management to deliver the best returns.

This is why we offer this service to all of our clients and as an independent advisor, can do so as it is part of our core business. This does not apply for the installers and manufacturers.

Make contact for assistance.

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Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 30 January 2012 at 2:15 pm

@Fred1 There's some really dodgy advertising going on at the moment on the 43.3p issue. Can you send me the name as I'm compiling a list of dodgy claims - which I will be passing on to REAL Assurance.

@Fagashken You  can see what other people's pv panels are generating (and donate your own data) at the Sheffield Solar Farm.

Your installer should have explained that you'll get significantly lower generation in winter than in summer. I've got a 2.1kW system, and in December it's predicted to generate 45 kWh, compared with 240 kWh in June. Read this blog to find out more. I will write a blog on how to get the best out of your solar PV in the next week or so.

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Fred1Comment left on: 30 January 2012 at 12:34 pm

I see there is one installer, advertising in the Daily Telegraph Property section last Sat Jan 28th. They seem to be very informative.

FIT rate 43.3p rather than 21p per unit, I note they are offering systems from £4,995 and the statement that "This will provide an annual return of 24.9% Retail price index linked"

must be a good deal........

Let me see if I can find my chequebook


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FagashkenComment left on: 30 January 2012 at 11:38 am

I reckon it would be a good idea if the people that have had the solar panels installed could share their findings with other consumers also pass on advice to other would be  purchasers of the system.

I myself for instance have had a 4 Kwh system fitted for the past couple of months and monitor its performance regular, at this time with the winter weather I am not impressed on its performance and am hoping that when we come into the spring and summer I may get some better results.

If someone has had a similar system fitted for a longer period they could enlighten others on tips and best ways to use the system. 

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