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How to choose a green deal advisor

Posted by Tasha Kosviner on 23 August 2013 at 9:41 am

Choosing a green deal advisor is the first step on your journey to participating in the green deal scheme. It is important to choose an advisor in whom you have confidence as it is their findings that will inform the energy saving measures your provider is able to install in your home.

There are a number of factors you’ll need to consider when choosing your advisor.

Is your green deal advisor properly trained and accredited?

A green deal advisor is always a member of a green deal assessor organisation, sometimes confusingly known as a green deal assessor. You can find a list of accredited and qualified assessor organisations at the green deal oversight and registration body. Use their search tool to enter your postcode, and turn up a list of assessors who arrange assessments in your area. The assessors listed on the site have all gone through a rigorous system of assessment and are not allowed to call themselves green deal assessors unless they have passed. If an organisation claiming to be an assessor is not listed on this site it means they have not completed the necessary training and accreditation and you should give them a wide berth. Green deal advisors will also have undergone the necessary training and assessment to ensure they are up to the job. Choosing a registered assessor means that if their service doesn’t live up to your expectations, you should have recourse to the green deal ombudsman.  

What is their background?

The only criteria to becoming a green deal advisor is that you have completed the necessary training and accreditation. Therefore, you will find that among your potential advisors there will be a vast range of backgrounds and experiences. Some will have a long history of working in the energy saving sector. Others may be traditional tradespeople who have done the training as a bolt-on to their existing building or plumbing business. Others may have little prior experience in any relevant area. The training is designed to equip your advisor with the necessary knowledge to produce a green deal advice report. This is fine if your home has no unusual features and your assessment is likely to be straightforward. However, if for example your home is an unusual design, is particularly old or already has already had some atypical energy efficiency features installed, it may be harder for an inexperienced advisor to assess energy use levels in your house. In this case, you may like to ask about the background of the advisor and whether the assessor organisation can send someone with experience that exceeds that which is required by the green deal.  An adivsor with an expertise relevant to your particular home may be better qualified to make an informed assessment. In any case, since the green deal is still such a new scheme, it may be reassuring to choose an advisor whose experience in energy efficiency predates it.

Is your advisor linked to a green deal provider?

Green deal providers are the organisations and businesses who arrange the installation of your chosen energy saving measures based on the outcome of your advice report. They are also able to organise finance if you’d like to take out a green deal loan. Many providers operate their own stable of advisors who work exclusively with or for that provider. This is a great solution for those who want a one stop shop for their entire green deal plan.

Whether they are linked to a provider or not, your advisor is required to be impartial in their advice. This means they are allowed to suggest that you have external wall insulation, for example, but not that you have a particular brand of insulation installed through a particular provider.

Nonetheless, once the report has been produced, an advisor linked to a particular provider is then allowed to ‘switch hats’ and become a salesperson for that provider.

It is important to be aware that your advisor is not allowed to commence selling until after their impartial assessment has been carried out and that they must make it clear before the assessment commences that this is what they intend to do.

You should also be aware that if you don’t wish to be sold to in this way, you may decline. Even if you accept the sales pitch, you are still free to take your report to different providers for a quote. We recommend that you do this, just because it is sensible to shop around. In this way, your advice report has been compared to an optician’s prescription where you are free to take it to a different ‘optician’ to actually have your work done.

If you prefer to shop around for a provider, you may wish to consider having an independent advisor produce your report. Organisations such as the green deal advisor association provide an umbrella assessor group for individual advisors guaranteeing you a truly independent service.

Be careful though: we have heard reports of providers requiring that customers have a further report produced by their own advisor before agreeing to offer you a plan. While this is not allowed under the rules of the green deal, it may be something you come up against when you try to take your report elsewhere. If you do come up against this, make sure you know your rights. Complain in the first instance to the provider themselves. If, after eight weeks, you do not get a satisfactory response, you can take your complaint to the green deal ombudsman.

One final thing to be aware of is that an assessor who appears to be independent may still have links to a particular provider, and be receiving fees or commission for recommending you use their services. Again, the assessor must make this clear, must ask your permission, and MUST NOT do the selling until the impartial report has been produced. Nonetheless, it’s always worth asking your assessor about their links with providers, just so you are aware of any potential conflicts of interest that may occur.

Is your advisor local?

YouGen prefers local because we believe you can expect a better standard of service when your advisor lives locally, relies on local business, and can rely on you recommending them if they do a good job. The search criteria at the green deal oversight and registration body does require that you enter a postcode to find an assessor, but it doesn’t differentiate between businesses that are truly local and national organisations who will send a contractor to your postcode. One way to get a hint of an assessor’s locality is to look for a local dialling code. However, don’t rule out those with 0845, 0330 or 0800 numbers – they may still be local, just with a business phone number. A local recommendation is always a good indicator that you are likely to get a good service but since the green deal is such a young industry, you may find it hard to identify local homeowners who have already had an assessment done. 

What do they charge?

Costs for a green deal advice report currently range from £99 to £200+ even though the end result will be pretty much the same. The cheaper reports tend to come from big providers such as British Gas or InstaGroup who are looking to convert the report into sales for their products. The more expensive reports tend to come from independent assessors and you may consider this a price worth paying for a truly independent piece of work. Remember though, that under the rules of the green deal, even if you take British Gas’s report, currently priced at £129, you are free to take that report and search for a provider elsewhere.

Finally, it is important to remember that the green deal is only one of the options available to you when considering energy saving measures in your home. You may, or course, commission an energy survey of your home with an already established energy assessor, outside of the green deal. If you do this, you may find, as YouGen's Cathy Debenham did, that you get a pricier but more detailed and property-specific view of how to improve the efficiency of your home.

More information

The YouGen guide to the green deal

How to read your green deal report: a case study

Green deal advice explained

Photo Credit: laughlin via Compfight cc

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

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Comments

5 comments - read them below or add one

timpossession

timpossessionComment left on: 31 January 2014 at 3:01 pm

can you advise on how to challenge a survey report. I am unhappy with the floor area measurement in my report from British Gas and have asked for a room by room summary but they are refusing to give me this. There are also factual errors in the report, for example they initially stated that the walls are constructed of cob but have now accepted that they are solid stone.They also stated that the loft was "not insulated-assumed" even though the surveyor inspected it,took photos and confirmed verbally that it met cuurent specifications i.e.250mm minimum. The reccommendations do not include the need to insulate the loft but  on the heat load section a negative figure is shown under "loft insulation.Will this effect my RHI payment.

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qmsire

qmsireComment left on: 13 October 2013 at 6:47 am

Hi Tasha,

You write a most informative blog in a very practical way.  Thank you, from a GDAO (Sole Trader).  I believe, and not only because I am wholly Independent, that if the underlying main trust of the Green Deal is impartiality, that Independent Advisors are the most reliable to use within the Green Deal Process.

Up until now, what Green Deal Providers are out there and there are pitifully few, in my view are not playing according to the CoP, by not quoting on Independent GDARs.  The tide I feel may be slowly turning, more are coming live (not bad after nearly 10 months of the Green Deal Launch!!!).  So long as these Green Deal Providers play by the rules, then those seeking to use the Green Deal as their own funding levels are priorotised elsewhere will gain the best experience in Green Deal Provider Service/Quotes as Competitivity will rule.

Those who have the funds, then the Green Deal may well be not for them, as when it comes to sell the Home, the attached Green Deal Loan is untried/untested to a potential Buyers attitude.  The seller can of course pay it off on Exchange/Completion but the Provider will quite rightly want their full amount including interest.  However those with Funds may still benefit from the Green Deal principle  by taking out an Energy Audit (by an Independent GDAO/GDA) for advice on many related matters and still Gain the EPC and the option to convert to a GDAR should they still wish to

There are many many ways of using the Green Deal principle, Lower Bills/Greater Comfort, Lower Fossil Fuel Usage/Foriegn Dependency and Lower Carbon Emissiions, but, in my view, only so long as commercial pressure does not take over.

Tony

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JSHD

JSHDComment left on: 6 September 2013 at 9:48 am

Yes; I saw your post on my group on Linkedin.    My group has got nearly 1500 members now most of whom are DEA's and subsequently GDA's but also GDAO's, Green Deal Providers, installers, trainers and manufacturers and not forgeting you.    I prefer to work with installers directly so, for example, a homeowner will find an installer to put in a Biomass boiler, the installer will then ring me or email me or give my details to the customer to ring me direct.   I then advise on my prices etc down the phone usually and then send an email to confirm and start the Green Deal ball rolling (lots of boxes to tick).   We are finding those of us that are used to EPC work that the GDAR are very much more time consuming and although our turnover has increased our profit margins have decreased because we are having to pay more for lodgement and paying 'middlemen' organisations like GDAO through whom we have to lodge.  So for example the actual cost of lodging (registering and getting a number) a GDAR is approximately £10.00 but then the GDAO will add £20-£40 handling charge on top of that which will ultimately come out of our fee (e.g. the £100.00 not the £150.00) so we get charged twice once by the GDAO and once by Landmark via our certification body who will often add a £5.00 administration charge on top.   Then we have training fees including a minimum of 10 hours CPD per year which can cost over £1K if they require a full upgrade certificate at level three as happened last year first for EPC lodgement and then if you wanted to go on to do Green Deal Advisor training.   I spent in excess of £1800.00 on training last year!   We also have monthly audits which are time consuming and for which we are going to have to pay GDAO upto £300.00 per year because they must include one site visit per year.

 

 

 

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Tasha Kosviner

Tasha KosvinerComment left on: 5 September 2013 at 10:50 am

Thanks for your comment JSHD. I assume you are an advisor? What's your background? Do you think the low pay is making advisors less willing to spend the necessary time doing a thorough assessment? Where might homeowners lose out if an advisor rushes a report? 

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JSHD

JSHDComment left on: 5 September 2013 at 10:19 am

None the less as a qualified Advisor your primary objective under the NOS is impartiality.

Great article; GDAR's are going for around the £150 mark on average.    The GDAO's take about £50.00 of that leaving the Advisor £100.00.   Approximately £40.00 of that hundred goes on Landmark lodgement and Certification Body administration costs.   five to fifteen goes on fuel and insurance leaving the Advisor approx. £50.00 for what on average is four hours work.    

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