UPDATE – 04/09/17
Since posting this article, Solar South West have been contacted by many additional clients who’ve fallen victim to scams. We have also been approached by legitimate solar PV contracting companies, who have explained similar attacks circulating the industry.
Unfortunately, just weeks after posting this article, Green Planet Advisory succeeded in replacing a client’s working inverter at 1000% of the retail price for that unit, before attempting to push a further £3000.00 of unnecessary equipment upon them.
Solar South West are doing all we can to try and stop these scammers, but raising awareness to what is going on, and highlighting the tell tale traits of these scams remains the best defence we can arm consumers with. By clicking on the links below, you can see reports of scams against the accused companies.
How do you know if it’s a scam?
Late last year, Solar South West posted a blog raising caution to scams circulating within the industry. Unfortunately, the start to this year has shown no signs of these rogue traders giving up.
Yesterday, a client of Solar South West came in to our office in Somerset, and presented us with this business card…
The company in question had advised our client that their system needed a new inverter – it did not. Glen Walker from Green Planet Advisory had tried to sell our customer services to fix a problem which didn’t exist. Luckily, our client was wise enough to come to us before agreeing to any works.
As a follow up, Solar South West have decided to post this blog, which you can refer to if you receive some worrying or strange information or advice.
What sort of thing will scammers say?
‘Your inverter needs replacing.’
1. Inverter upgrades are a favourite of PV scammers. The inverters Solar South West predominantly use (SMA & Fronius), both come with 5 year warranties – so if they are within that time frame, do not pay for a new one! If your inverter is older than 5 years, don’t presume that means you need a new one either. It is common for inverters to significantly outlive their warranties. Our advice is, never listen to cold callers or companies you haven’t directly contacted yourself. If you have concerns that your inverter could be playing up, call in a legitimate PV company like Solar South West to come and have a look.
2. Faulty components. Solar South West’s customers have also reported cold-callers, or door-to-door sales people, advising them they need to replace broken or faulty components. Don’t be frightened by scare tactics these dodgy dealers employ, telling you the components could ruin your entire PV system or cause fires. These scammers will have no access to your systems output data and as such cannot know how your system is functioning. If you are concerned that your system may have developed a fault, as above, hire in a legitimate company who have a proven track record to give it a health check and service if necessary. Don’t fall victim to being charged for fault repairs on parts which weren’t broken!
Optimise your system to get 30% more generation.
3. Another common scam is optimisers for your system. Optimisers will enhance PV generation, but only noticeably if your system suffers from significant shading loss. If your system is shaded, contact a PV company yourselves to get a quote – as cold-callers will likely rip you off!
Battery storage requirement.
4. Battery storage is a very exciting industry at the moment. It can, under the right circumstances, allow for the use of stored solar energy at any time of day. However, energy storage systems are still very expensive, and are only feasible on a domestic/small-commercial level if you generate far more energy than you can use in the day – and you have high demand outside of these daylight hours.
Know who you’re dealing with
These 4 points cover the most common scams that customer’s report to Solar South West. However, there may be further things to watch out for. As a general rule of thumb, Solar South West advise you never commission a company which approach you, rather than vice-versa.
If you have concerns about any aspect of your PV system, try contacting the company which installed the system. Failing that, look for legitimate companies on review sites such as Which? Trusted Traders and Yell – that way you can be sure you wont get ripped off! Solar South West are happy to perform works on any system, including ones not installed by ourselves.
Ultimately, and advisedly, the best way to achieve peace of mind surrounding your PV system is through an O&M plan. Annual maintenance will ensure any faults or issues with your system are picked up and rectified before they cause any serious damage. Solar South West’s O&M plans are bespoke to each system, and can be as simple as an annual clean and health check. The increase in yield through cleaning will usually outweigh the cost of the service – and you won’t have to worry about scammers trying to sell you services.
Green Planet Advisory
Green Planet Advisory (GPA) called an elderly gentleman who has since contacted Solar South West, and explained that his system was faulty and that the inverter needed replacing. They took advantage of his lack of knowledge and pushed the sale as quickly as possible, before he had time to research the matter himself.
Within an hour or so, GPA had removed the gentleman’s perfectly functioning inverter and replaced it with a much lower value model. These inverters cost Solar South West £331 to buy, GPA charged him over £3,000.00 for the works. They left no receipt, no information surrounding the new inverter they had installed, no warranty details – no paperwork whatsoever.
After making a swift exit from the site with the client’s inverter and overcharging him by 1000%, they then sent round another ‘solar expert,’ to analyse the system and ‘check it was working properly.’ This ‘solar expert’ proceeded to inform the client that the system which had been installed wouldn’t function properly without a ‘solar limiter,’ for which they quoted him a further £3,000.00. It was at this point that the client began to worry, and called us up.
Off-grid Renewables directly contacted one of Solar South West’s past clients. They informed him that after his system was installed, we (SSW) had gone bust, and as a result had not replaced his inverter – which coincidentally was faulty and needed replacing with optimisers installed. They quoted him £3500 for the work. For a domestic system of his size, the cost should have been no over £1000. Luckily he called us first!
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