Cowboys on the Roof
Author: Amy Catlow
Published: Thursday, 15 September 2011
There’s money to be made from solar panels. That’s true for the manufacturers, installers and homeowners, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it might attract some unsavoury characters.
The industry is in boom-mode, as more homeowners than ever before see the benefits of going solar sooner rather than later, if they want to enjoy the financial incentives being offered by the government to the full. This spurt of growth comes with a growing concern about ‘cowboy’ tradesmen cashing in on the solar industry.
There are already some safety measures in place. The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is a quality assurance scheme which is recognised internationally. Only MCS accredited installers can be used by property owners that want to qualify for FITs. However, the solar PV installers may not have an MCS certificate themselves, they may just use an electrician that’s MCS certified to connect up the system. Technically, this makes it safe and eligible for the FIT scheme but what of the quality of installation and securing the panels to the roof?
For the most part, any company taking part in the scheme shows themselves committed, as they expose themselves to rigorous tests in order to be approved. For an installer to become MCS accredited they have to be a member of the REAL Assurance Scheme or an equivalent Office of Fair Trading (OFT) approved consumer code scheme.
So, to get the proper certification required, companies have to spend money and pass quality tests. Genuine companies will be prepared to pay and undergo the testing required and this will filter out many of the rogue tradesmen. Unfortunately, a way round the red tape can always be found for those determined enough to persevere.
In essence a ‘cowboy’ could pay the fees and pay another company to help them through the process; ensuring documents are filled in properly to show the standard has been met. When it comes to inspection, it’s the installer who decides what installation the MCS will inspect.
This is where a bit of upfront research into installers by the homeowner is important. Using a good online comparison site is not only useful for getting quotes, it can help to check out just what experience, industry certifications and track record installers have, too.