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Solar PV Scams on the increase

We have had a recent upward trend in the number of enquiries from customers regarding direct mail or phone calls that they have received from a handful of national companies.

The usual spiel refers to expired inverter warranties or installers that have ceased trading (even if they haven’t), then they offer a “free health check” for your solar PV system. Many people see through this and don’t go any further, but I have spoken to a lot of people who have let them send round their “engineer”.

The “engineer” usually wears a suit and arrives in a car. He or she then (without any test equipment) tells the unsuspecting householder that their system needs an expensive upgrade. The reasons for this upgrade are always either to significantly increase the system yield, or that the system is no longer working properly.

The most effective sales strategies rely on the most powerful human instincts, in this case greed and fear. If they can’t appeal to one of these instincts they will try the other, and all too often people fall into their sales trap and place an order with the villains.

The “upgrades” tend to be either solar panel optimisers (usually manufactured by SolarEdge) or a voltage optimiser.

It’s important to note here that solar panels will produce what they produce regardless of what they are connected to. You inverter is already about 97% efficient therefore there’s little improvement to be had by “upgrading” it.

Solar panel optimisers

In a standard system all the solar panels are connected together in a chain. When connected in this way their voltages add together and the inverter usually gets between 200 volts and 500 volts. It then converts this so that it can be connected to your household mains supply. An issue with the solar panels being connected in this way is that, if any panel is shaded by surrounding objects or excessively soiled, it reduces the overall current in the array, and thus reduces the yield.

Optimisers are devices which are fitted to the rear side of solar panels in order to modify their output. If a solar panel is producing less than the others in the chain, it will lower its voltage which then increases the current to match the others. In this way optimisers are an effective way to combat the mismatch due to shading or soiling.

However, optimisers are not without their drawbacks:

  1. The upgrade is expensive – each optimiser costs around £40 and the inverter usually needs to be replaced at a cost of around £800. A system of sixteen panels therefore costs around £1500 plus labour and VAT to upgrade. Many of these villains are selling such upgrades for £5000 plus. No one will ever recoup that money from increased yields.
  2. The yield increases are usually overstated – SolarEdge themselves claim “up to” 25% increase in yields with an optimised system. Most system owners will see a rise so small it’s not noticeable. Unless there is severe shading or something wrong with the way the existing system is set up, a rise of 2% to 5% is more likely.
  3. Optimisers do go faulty – we know this because we go round replacing faulty ones. They do have a 25 year warranty but can you really expect the installation company to be trading for that length of time? You’ll end up paying someone else to replace your faulty optimisers.

One of the benefits of staying with your standard solar PV system is its simplicity. When your inverter fails you simply need another (cost circa £800 for a typical 4kW system).

PV Plus voltage optimiser

The purpose of this product is to lower the mains voltage to the inverter as if it does go over 253V for a period of time it will shut down. There are two reasons that this may happen:

Firstly the inverter supply cable may be sized too small which is allowing a voltage rise to occur between the inverter and the household mains. This is easily and cheaply solved by replacing the cable with a larger one.

Secondly, it could be that the incoming mains electricity is too high. Your local Distribution Network Operator (DNO) has a legal duty to keep the supply voltage between 220V and 253V. If the voltage rises above 253V then they are obliged to make alterations to bring it back within the statutory limits. This costs the consumer nothing.

This device wholesales for £200 or so but these companies charge £1000 for it. rather overpriced for an unnecessary product.

External links

There are various sites on the web with similar tales:

SCAM alert – be wary of scammers miss-selling solar products & services

Beware of solar scams – Solarsense

Solar Scams in the UK

Solar scam warning in Fife as “nefarious” tactics emerge

Beware of scam callers about your solar panels

ESE Solar Panel Free Health Check

“New Age Innovation” – my latest cold call

You can probably imagine my surprise when I received a call from Kylie at New Age today informing me that the company that installed my solar panels is no longer trading.

Listen to Kylie’s surprise when I told her I AM that company!

Unfortunately there are a few national companies making cold calls to owners of solar PV systems to tell them lies like this. Kylie was the first step in a ploy to set me up with a home visit whereupon they would tell me that there are all sorts of things wrong with my solar panels. Funnily enough, they work just fine.

Update 1 August 2018

I was called out to an installation this morning by a concerned PV system owner. He had received a similar call from New Age Innovation, and had also been told that his original installer had ceased trading. They haven’t, although they don’t do solar PV any more and now refer all enquiries to us.

They arranged to send a representative of their company who, after a quick look at the customer’s inverter (and with no test equipment), declared that several of the solar panels are faulty and that he needs to have the system upgraded to include SolarEdge optimisers and inverter. Their quoted price for this was £5100 but due to a ‘special offer’ they could do it for £3600.

The worried customer contacted the original installer who referred him to us. I told him he was probably being conned but he wanted me to attend to test his system for his peace of mind.

My tests confirmed that his system was working absolutely fine and that there was no reason for concern.

His system suffers no shading and therefore an upgrade to include optimisers would not provide any significant increase to his yields. (Note: If he did want to have SolarEdge added then a reasonable price for his ten-panel system would have been closer to £2500).

My advice to this customer was to leave his system as it is, and to simply replace the inverter when it eventually fails, which will probably be several years from now. I also advised him to be wary of any company that gets their business from cold calls. Their website mentions “family business ethics” but these people clearly know nothing of such things.

Please note that I am not decrying SolarEdge’s products but I am aware that the benefits are being massively overstated by the salespeople representing some unscrupulous national companies. I and others have made SolarEdge aware that their products are being mis-sold in this way but unfortunately this is still going on.

You can read more about SolarEdge mis-selling in my blog page here: Beware the villians mis-selling SolarEdge upgrades!

Power One E031 fault – here is our DIY guide

Got a Power One PVI3.0 or PVI 3.6 with the dreaded E031 fault?

If you’re handy with a screwdriver then you could replace it yourself. See our new video guide below:

Click here for instructions on how a competent DIYer can change a Power One inverter for our Solis type.

We offer excellent replacement inverters in our online shop:

A great replacement for the PVI-3.0OUTD is a Solis 3.0. To replace a PVI-3.6OUTD we recommend a Solis 3.6. Both of these are available in our online shop.

Call us if you’re unsure which inverter you require and we’ll cheerfully guide you through. If you purchase an inverter from us to install yourself we’ll happily talk you through the installation.

“Energy Watchdog” – yet another cold calling company

smarmy salesmanI answered a cold call this afternoon from a company calling themselves “Energy Watchdog”. Their number is 01244 470970. The caller asked if my solar panels were still generating and if I was receiving Feed in Tariff.

She went on to say that many installers have ceased trading and offered a “free no cost appointment for a health and voltage check” on my system.

I was interested to find out what they were trying to sell to me, so I accepted the offer of the appointment.

She then said that because the appointment was free, their company policy was that they had to see both myself and my wife. This is a common sales tactic to avoid the possibility of someone telling their salesman that they need to discuss things with the other half. When I queried this policy she appeared to get a bit flustered and didn’t know what to say. She wouldn’t set up an appointment without my wife involved so I didn’t get my “health and voltage check”.

I’m not sure where “Energy Watchdog” got my details from. They have chosen an official sounding name in order to gain credibility with their targets. They’re phoning people out of the blue trying to scaremonger them into accepting their appointment with the suggestion that their installer has ceased trading, as if that has anything to do with anything.

Had I managed to get the appointment, their sales representative would have tested the mains voltage in my home. It is a little high here so he would then more than likely have offered me a voltage optimisation device that on their website is called “PV35 PV Protect and Boost”. Their website claims up to 25% more yields can be had using that gadget. It is supposed to prevent solar inverters shutting down due to high a.c. voltages.

However, if the mains voltage to my house was too high I would simply call my local Distribution Network Operator (in my case Electricity Northwest) who would send a real engineer out to confirm the high voltage, then would arrange for the voltage to be altered at the substation. No overpriced gadget needed.

The moral of this tale is don’t trust cold callers… honest businesses don’t need to get their customers that way.

You can listen to the phone call below. Apologies for the sound quality, I was using the hands-free system in my van while I was doing an honest day’s work!

 

 

 

Special offer – Top quality 4.72kW all black PV system with Samsung battery storage system just £9495

Q-Cells G1 ESS system with Samsung battery

Q-Cells 295W all black mono panel

This special offer is for a full 4.72kWp solar PV system using excellent Q-cells modules, combined with a Q-Cells G1 Energy Storage Solution (ESS) unit with a 3.6kW Samsung lithium ion battery.

These are premium quality products installed with a Schletter mounting system.

Fully fitted for just £9495.

Download the Q-Cells solar panel brochure here

Download the Q-Cells ESS brochure here

Price includes basic scaffolding and is for an on-roof type mounting system for a typical concrete tiled roof.

3.85kWp solar PV system £4500 fitted, includes full monitoring and 10 year warranty

Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday! We offer a 3.85kWp solar PV system including online monitoring and a ten year warranty for just £4500 fitted. Valid for all orders placed before 31 January, regardless of the installation date.

  • 14 x Canadian Solar polycrystalline solar panels
  • GoodWe 3600S WiFi inverter with online monitoring
  • Excellent quality Schletter mounting system
  • Full 10 year warranty on all the above
  • Our 10 year insurance-backed workmanship warranty

We never subcontract the installation work, every installation we have ever completed was designed and installed by the company’s owner.

All our installations are registered with MCS and we even complete the FIT paperwork for you.

If you want an honest survey with no hard sell then give us a call on 01772 311016 or email us at info@redelectrical.co.uk

N.B.: This quote is for installation onto a pitched tiled roof and includes basic scaffolding. This will account for the majority of installations. If there are complex access requirements or the roof material is not tile or you require a roof-integrated system then the price will be higher.

Solar panel removal

There are all sorts of reasons you may want your solar panels moved or removed:

  • Building an extension which involves changes to the roof
  • Loft conversions with dormers or roof windows
  • Poorly fitted ‘free’ systems (although we can repair or tidy these up instead)

In cases of having building work done, we can move your solar photovoltaic panels to a different roof, or even (if space allows) put them in your garden for you.

Alternatively, we can decommission and remove your solar panels (both thermal and photovoltaic) and make any necessary repairs to the roof. Contact us for a quote.

 

Beware the villians mis-selling SolarEdge upgrades!

Solaredge power optimiser mounted behind solar panel

Solaredge power optimiser
mounted behind solar panel

Every industry has its villains and the solar PV industry is no different. Many have been pushing voltage optimisers and all sorts of other nonsense products for years, and now their salesmen are overstating the benefits of SolarEdge in order to grab a bit more of your hard-earned cash.

As a SolarEdge Advanced Installer we install many SolarEdge systems, both for new installations and for upgrades to existing systems. The benefits of improved yields, high reliability, unsurpassed monitoring, safety and long warranties are clear.

However, in the case of upgrades to existing systems it can be quite an additional investment over and above the initial cost of the solar PV system. Scaffolding will usually be required and as it’s not a new installation the full 20% VAT rate is applicable. It is important therefore to ensure that you understand what you are getting for your money.

SolarEdge themselves state that the additional yield from a SolarEdge system compared to a standard inverter is between 2% and 25%. Only if your solar panels are badly shaded can an additional 25% yield be had by retro-fitting SolarEdge optimisers and inverter.

However, on unshaded systems the increase in yield is likely to be under 5%. If your motivation for upgrading to SolarEdge is for the monitoring or long warranty then fair enough, but if you’ve been told that your unshaded panels will generate much more electricity then the salesman is lying to you and does not deserve your business.

We’re regularly hearing from people who have been approached by unscrupulous companies offering SolarEdge upgrades who are massively overstating the benefits and also charging ridiculous money. A recent caller told us that a certain Southport-based company had quoted £4500 to upgrade their unshaded solar PV system to SolarEdge and that it would boost their yields by 25%. Total bull and a complete rip-off. If you’re sure you would like an upgrade to SolarEdge, contact us for a competitive quotation and an honest appraisal of its effect on your system yields.

You should also be aware that SolarEdge optimisers are generally robust but no product is 100% reliable. It is not uncommon for an optimiser to fail, which results in a loss of yield until it is replaced. If the company that fitted your SolarEdge kit won’t help, or isn’t trading any more, you’ll need to pay someone else to replace that optimiser for you.

The golden rule here is that companies that buy your contact details and then phone you up out of the blue are all villains, regardless of what particular products they are peddling. Next time, tell them where to go!

 

New! The Sonnen energy storage system

Sonnen energy storage system

The sonnenBatterie is a high-tech storage system that has proven itself in thousands of households – every day. The combination of a PV system and a sonnenBatterie will allow you to cover about 75% of your yearly energy requirement with self-produced and clean energy. Since your energy is being generated on your roof and not by some anonymous energy provider you are more independent than before.

So take your energy future into your own hands and reduce your energy costs to a minimum. The decision for a sonnenBatterie is also a decision for the highest standards in safety and quality that “Made in Germany” stands for.

Sonnen comes with class-leading monitoring using a web portal or smartphone app. This also allows you to control devices in the home to respond to surplus generated electricity, or you can switch devices on or off remotely.

The device shown on the left is the Sonnen main unit which contains one 2kWh lithium battery. Further 2kWh batteries can be added either at the time of purchase, or at any time thereafter. The system is therefore very flexible and can be adapted to any environment.

Contact us for pricing.

 

Special Offer! 4kW solar PV system fitted, just £4850!

This listing is an example price for a 4kW solar PV system fully fitted with online monitoring and a ten year warranty.

We use solar panels and inverters from various leading manufacturers and each installation is designed according to the requirements of the customer. We don’t just bulk buy one model of solar panel unlike other companies. We also use top quality mounting systems from Schletter and GSE that will not corrode or fall apart.

We never subcontract the installation work, every installation we have ever completed was designed and installed by the company’s owner.

All our installations are registered with MCS and we even complete the FIT paperwork for you.

If you want an honest survey with no hard sell then give us a call on 01772 311016 or email us at info@redelectrical.co.uk

The price quoted here is for a straightforward installation on a two storey house where we are able to use our own scaffolding. If we require a more complex scaffold then the cost will be higher. Upgrades to SolarEdge and/or battery storage are available.

Why buy from us? Our advice is second to none (give us a call). We will cheerfully give our advice on your requirements before you buy.
All our products and services include full and free technical support from day one for the lifetime of the goods. Dismiss