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