Renewable energy at home - the 6 key steps to getting it right you need to know
As energy demand rises and consumer electricity bills increase, more and more attention is turning to renewables.
Sometimes this is for the wrong reasons: Support for renewable energy is often unjustly blamed for energy price hikes – however analysis from the UK-based Renewable Energy Association published this week shows renewable energy accounts for just 2% (£4) of energy bill increases over the past two years.
The remaining 98% of the average £205 rise in duel-fuel energy bills in the last two years reported by the UK market regulator Ofgem is due to other factors, with increases in wholesale gas prices being the primary driver. As REA Chief Executive Gaynor Hartnell says:
“The figures show it's our reliance on fossil fuels that is costing us dear. Not only is it more affordable than people think to go renewable, but the public understands that our future national security and prosperity depend on it.”
She also points out “renewables make it possible for people and communities to supply themselves with heat or power”.
And indeed, more people are going renewable. And in turn, it seems that, just as every guy with a van, some tools, and a lawnmower can suddenly become a gardener in these tough economic times, every plumber and electrician in the land is somehow suddenly also touting for work installing solar heating or PV systems.
Who to use and what to check for
As with anything else in the home – boilers, electrics, plumbing, building work – it is ALWAYS advisable to use an officially accredited installer for renewable energy systems, be it a solar hot water system, biomass boiler, small-scale wind, or photovoltaics on your roof for electricity generation.
Not only will this give you certain guarantees of workmanship, but it will mean you can actually get some money back from your installation thanks to government incentive programmes.
So I know what you’re thinking … how do you find a reputable company if you’re interested in installing renewables in the home? Funny you should ask – here, courtesy of Puragen, are …
6 key pieces of advice to ensure you don’t end up raging with anger when it comes to renewables
Check the installer is genuine and qualified - Check for Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) accreditation; if your installer is not MSC accredited you will not be eligible to claim Feed-In Tariff or Renewable Heat Incentive payments. Also anyone carrying out electrical work should be registered with a government-approved scheme such as NICEIC.
Get references - Be sure to check their background. If possible source the service locally so you can check local installations. Alternatively, ask for a list of references for you to speak to.
Watch out for pressure selling - All MCS accredited installers have signed a code of conduct against this.
Think beyond the installation - Choosing a company with experience and stability is vital to safeguard your guarantee and aftercare. The company should be able to provide explanations of how they have calculated the costs and benefits of the equipment.
Devil’s in the detail - Be sure to thoroughly check exactly what the guarantee and aftercare entails and whether service is included. Some companies include the removal and disposal of your current equipment. A Total Generation Meter is needed to claim incentive payments, so ask if this is included in the price.
Think best value - Be sure to compare installers by getting quotes from at least three different companies. But remember that...
...the cheapest option isn’t always the most appropriate and if the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
It’s excellent advice and I would urge anyone contemplating renewables at home in the UK to heed it. For readers in other parts of the world there will be equivalents to the MCS accreditation system or there should be soon, so contact your local renewable energy associations to find out more.
With the UK’s mainstream energy providers having announced another round of price hikes recently, adding a further £80-100 a year to customer fuel bills, there’s no time like now to make the switch to renewable energy and produce your own electricity or hot water. As Puragen warns: “These energy price rises will be common place as government figures show that energy prices will double by 2015.”
You've been warned!
Many thanks to Puragen (which ensures all its installers are MCS accredited of course) for its contribution to this blog. Part of the Ascertiva Group, the company is owned by the Electrical Safety Council, a charity dedicated to the safe installation of electrical systems. Find out more by visiting www.puragen.co.uk.
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