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Five ways to recognise a solar shark ... and make sure they don't eat you

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 19 December 2008 at 10:51 am

It used to be double glazing that was renowned for dodgy salesman. Now some of the techniques they used are being kept alive by companies selling solar thermal panels, heat pumps and wind turbines. The BBC and the Mail on Sunday are just two of the media who have been watching out for fins.

There are plenty of totally trustworthy companies out there, but here are a few of the techniques that might warn you that you’re dealing with a dodgy one.

1. They drop unaddressed marketing material through your door, saying that they are looking for houses in your area to install cut price systems in return for their using pictures of it in their marketing material or putting an advertising sign by your gate.

2. They won’t make an appointment to survey your house unless your husband / wife / partner / co-decision-maker is also present and you have three hours to spare.

3. They refuse to give you a price until they’ve worn you down with plenty of impressive-sounding statistics about performance. And when they do give you a price it’s about twice the market rate.

4. They offer you a discount (on their outrageously high price), but only if you sign up now and / or display their signboard at your gate.

5. It feels as if they won’t leave your house until they’ve got you to sign.

The best ways to make sure that you’re getting a reputable company are to:

1. Calculate the cost of your hot water (you can do this from the amount of fuel you use in summer when the heating is turned off), so that you can check any cost saving estimates the sales person gives you.

2. Get three quotes.

3. Never sign up on the day the salesman visits.

4. Ask for contact details of previous customers (ideally ones who live near you) who will give a reference – and follow them up.

5. Check whether they are members of their local Buy with Confidence scheme, or accredited with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme or the REAL Assurance Scheme.

Photo: Angela Cockayne


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

Cathy Debenham

Cathy DebenhamComment left on: 28 April 2010 at 9:25 am

I'd like to add a few extra things to think about when talking to a sales person:

Do you have an electric shower? If so, and you use it for more than your bath, your solar panels won't contribute to heating that water.

Are your washing machine and/or dishwasher cold fill (most are now)? If so, your solar panels won't contribute to heating the water for them.

These will both impact on how much of your gas/oil bill goes on hot water.

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