Protecting consumers and
REAL has produced this guide to help you get what you want from small-scale renewable generation in your home. If you follow this guide carefully you will have the comfort of knowing that you have done the necessary preparation and asked the right questions before signing a contract. A company you’re dealing with should draw your attention to the existence of this guide.
Please note that REAL is not an insurance company. We are the administrator of the REAL Consumer Code. You will not be covered by insurance unless your installer has registered your installation with an insurance company or other provider. If you are in any doubt about this you should check with your installer.
It is important that small-scale generation equipment is specified, installed and maintained correctly, not only for you as an individual consumer, of course, but also for the development of the renewable energy sector at large. Bad experiences will damage the reputation and credibility of the sector.
To ensure you have a good experience, you must know what to look out for. Of course most consumers are not technical experts, and nor do you need to be. But you do need accurate information and enough time to understand what it is you are buying. You must be clear about what your expectations are, and you should know the extent to which the generator(s) you are considering are capable of meeting them. In particular you should be clear about the typical price range and likely performance of the generator, and what this is likely to deliver for you in financial terms.
We recommend that you obtain at least three separate quotations before signing a contact. You should feel free to discuss any quotations you have received with your family and friends, and compare them with information available from third party sources. (The Government funds the Energy Saving Trust to provide objective, accurate information to consumers. You can find it here.
You may want to save the planet, save yourself money, enjoy the idea of generating your own electricity or heat or just show your neighbours how green you are. More likely it will be a combination of some or all of these. The bullet points below give you some things to consider. Broadly speaking, you will save more CO² emissions the higher up the list you plan to be.
Whatever your motives for wanting to generate your own energy, you should think about energy efficiency first. You should make sure you are as energy efficient as possible, or you will end up wasting the precious renewable energy you go on to generate.
It helps if you have an idea of the amount of energy you use in your home. There are some useful on-line tools that help you calculate your usage taking into account your house-type and occupancy. You should make sure that you feed in the information about your actual consumption from your fuel bills (gas, electricity, oil &c.). Both gas and electricity usage are measured in kWh (kilowatt hours). It is important that you have an accurate idea of your total expenditure on energy before you install your own generator.
The company you are dealing with must provide you with written estimates of the anticipated performance of the generation system it recommends for you. They should make it clear whether it is based on data specific to your property, or whether it is based on a similar or ‘typical’ property. You should expect the company to be interested in your actual energy usage, and so lack of interest on their part should give you cause for concern.
You should compare this to your current total expenditure to calculate whether the generator will save you money and, if so, how much. Based on information about the Government’s incentive schemes, and some assumptions about interest rates and future energy prices, you can calculate the likely period it will take you to ‘pay back’ your up-front investment.
On 1 April 2010 the Government introduced the Feed-in Tariff for small-scale renewable electricity generators. For every unit of electricity you generate your supplier will pay you a certain ‘tariff’. For every unit of this you export back to the grid, they will pay you an additional ‘premium’. You can find information about the Feed-in Tariff here.
The Energy Saving Trust Cashback Calculator allows you calculate the likely return on your investment for installing a small-scale renewable electricity generator. You can find it here.
During 2011 the Government will introduce the Renewable Heat Incentive for small-scale renewable heat generators. It will work in much the same way as the Feed-in Tariff, although the output will be ‘deemed’ since most consumers do not have heat meters and so will not be able to produce accurate meter readings on which payments can be based.
Here are some important points to bear in mind before you sign a contract:
If you’re considering installing a ground- or an air-source heat pump you should consider the following:
You should ensure that the company you are dealing with is a member of the REAL Consumer Code. You can check that here.
You should also ensure that the company is certified by the MCS, the Government’s product and installer certification scheme. You can check that here.
You should read the REAL Consumer Code before you sign a contract and make sure that the company has complied fully with the Code in its dealings with you. If they have not you should ask them why not. One of the most important sections of the Consumer Code concerns high-pressure selling techniques. The company’s advertising material should not be ambiguous, misleading or untruthful. It should not attack or discredit other products. When you do sign a contract make sure you are not required to pay more than 25% of the final contract price as a deposit.
Companies’ representatives should deal with you in a courteous, constructive and prompt manner, and they should show you evidence of their identification before they enter your home, including their name and their job title. Do not sign a contract with a company whose representative:
Once you have installed your energy generator why not tell us how you found the experience? You can give us feedback either on-line on using hard copy here:
If you wish to log a complaint about one of our members you can do that here: