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Buyer beware: don't believe everything a cold caller tells you about solar PV!

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 18 May 2012 at 10:10 am

Do you know what the difference is between daylight and sunlight? Is there one? I was under the impression that we only have daylight thanks to the sun. Not according to a solar PV salesman who rang me recently.

I'm on the telephone preference service, so I don't get many unsolicited phone calls. However, recently I've been getting considerably more, and sadly the majority of them are from people trying to sell me solar panels or insulation.

He was flogging what he called "the new" solar panels. He kept referring to the "the new" panels. I thought I had my ear quite close to the ground for news of technological developments, and hadn't heard of any ground breaking breakthroughs resulting in significantly increased performance so I was all ears.

Richard from Becoming Green, made it sound as if his company was working very closely with government on achieving the national renewable energy targets. He spoke slowly, in that slightly patronising tone some people use with old people, and people that they think might be a bit thick. I could save 2/3 off my electricity bill every month, he said. "The new" solar panels would eliminate all my day time electricity bills.

Even in winter? I asked incredulously. Oh, yes, he said. Apparently "the new" solar panels are 11 times stronger than the old ones. They will generate three times as much electricity as I use (he didn't ask how much electricity I use) and because they only need daylight to generate they work just as well in winter.

Not only that, he told me that as a result they didn't have to face south (like the old ones) - I could put them anywhere I wanted - even on a wall, although "most people have them on the roof as they are out of the way".

If you're thinking where can I get some of these fabulous "new" solar panels, you're going to be disappointed. Richard was stringing me along with a pack of lies, and I've reported the company to REAL Assurance. I'd also be nominating them for slimy, deceiving toe rag of the year, if there were such an award.

Here's the truth:

  • The closer to south the panels face, the better they perform.
  • They perform significantly better in summer, when there is more light, and longer days, than they do in winter.
  • Most domestic electricity use is not during the daytime, so you are unlikely to reduce your electricity bill by two thirds. Commercial organisations with heavy day time electricity use may well be able to benefit from all their generated solar power.
  • There are no "new" wonder-panels. However, solar panels are becoming incrementally more efficient as technology develops.
  • If you sign up to the telephone preference service it will prevent most cold callers from getting through. If they do ring there's a good chance they are dodgy, because it is a legal requirement for telemarketers to not call TPS subscribed numbers.

Here are the lessons I take from this experience:

1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2. Don't believe everything a sales person tells you. Do a bit of research so you know when they stray from the truth. You can read about solar PV here.

3. If a company cold calls you, be cautious. Read the REAL Assurance top tips so you know what your rights are. Ask for references before you even invite their surveyor into your home or workplace - then you'll find out whether they are likely to outstay their welcome.

4. Always get more than one quote; ideally get three (you can find local, recommended installers on YouGen).


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

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1 comments - read them below or add one

David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 18 May 2012 at 10:44 am

Well done again Cathy, we need these shysters out of our industry and the more that get reported the better.

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