How good a deal are solar panels from Ikea?
Posted by Cathy Debenham on 7 October 2013 at 10:46 am
Famous for flat-pack furniture and its clean, Scandinavian design, Ikea is a surprise entrant into the solar PV market. With 18 massive stores in the UK it's known for value for money household goods (some would say cheap) and jokes about Allen keys. So would you trust it to sell you solar panels?
Well the good news is that Allen keys are not supplied with the solar panels. The systems are designed and installed by MCS accredited installers in line with the regulations, and will be eligible for the feed-in tariff.
It's not new for major retailers to sell solar panels. Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury and others have been offering them for a while. The business model has generally been be to outsource the whole process while generating leads in their stores and on their websites.
Ikea too is doing this in partnership. However, its partner is with Hanergy, a large Chinese manufacturer of solar panels. Hanergy recently took over Engensa, one of the larger domestic solar installation companies in the UK. By keeping everything from manufacturing through to sales in house, it can keep its costs lower than the competition.
What does it cost?
A standard 3.36kW solar PV system will cost £5,700 (including VAT) if you are a member of Ikea's loyalty scheme (which is free to join).
How does that compare with the market?
For this size of installation you can pay anything between £4,500 and £10,000. At the lower end of the scale you will get unbranded Chinese panels and inverter of dubious quality. The warranties on these will probably leave you footing the bill to have them removed and sent back to China if anything goes wrong. At the top end of the price range, you're probably being ripped off.
As Chris Jardine explains in his series which solar panels are best, there's a lot more to choosing solar panels than just price. Firstly, do you trust the installer to do a good job? Secondly, what kind of equipment to you want. Is cheap, cheerful and unreliable like the a Fiat Panda, slick and fast like a Porsche or a nice safe Volvo? As with everything, you get what you pay for.
The exception to this is the £10,000 system which you've probably bought because some smooth, persistant salesman tricked (or bullied) you into it. These tend to be the kind of people who don't bother your pretty head with kilowatts, but sell by number of panels - and often don't bother to tell you what brand of panels they are offering. Avoiding this is a selling point for the Ikea model. As Toby Ferenczi, co-CEO of Hanergy Solar UK says "It takes the sale out of living rooms. There are no pushy sales".
How can they give me a quote without seeing my home?
Since the advent of Google Earth, it's easy to have a look at the outside of a property online, and many companies do use it in their quoting. Hanergy's advisors will design your system in the store, but the quote will be subject to survey.
Are solar panels available in all Ikea stores?
Not yet. Advisors are currently working in the Southampton and Lakeside stores, and they will be rolled out to all the stores over the next 10 months. Alternatively you can register interest or get a free estimate by visiting www.hanergy.co.uk/go-solar
Does Hanergy employ the installers?
It employs some and contracts out to others. It says that it keeps a strict eye on quality of service, with a "vigorous tender process and strict service level agreemements which [Hanergy] check and monitor". They also do regular site visits to check quality and ask customers for their feedback.
Is IKEA's entry into the market a good thing?
One of the biggest barriers to investment in solar PV recently has been awareness. People who were interested at the height of the solar boom at the end of 2011 have given up, thinking (wrongly) that it's no longer a good investment. Ikea's entry into the market has been covered in most newspapers and on the radio, which has brought a welcome bit of attention to domestic solar. Solar advisors in stores will also help to get the message across that solar PV is for everyone. However, as always, we still recommend that you get three quotes and consider more than just the price when you make your decision.
More information about solar PV on YouGenslimmer_jimmer via Compfight cc By Cathy Debenham
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