The truth and nothing but the truth

The few spoil it for the many, and the same is true for the solar industry. commission-hungry salespeople are putting many people off taking the plunge. It’s revealed on our user’s forum that some salespeople are deceiving their prospective customers about expectations of performance.



There are hundreds and hundreds of companies from Lands End to John O’Groats that offer great products, great installation and high prices, so nobody should be put off by this.

The problem with bad salespeople or companies that employ them is they confuse people pondering installing solar panels in good faith. Many people unnecessarily abandon the idea because of conflicting and confusing information.

When a solar pioneer requests a quote, the expected performance of the panels alongside the homeowner’s geographical coordinates is worked out using the very sophisticated software. However, no matter how high the software, if the input data is falsely input, then the output data could be considered wrong at best or fraudulent at worst.

An example of this is manufacturers give certain companies that install 250-watt photovoltaic panels but give customer’s projections based on 260 watts because of tolerance rates. Pages 55 through to 66 of ‘The MCS guide to the installation of a PV system 2013‘, clearly lay out how an installer should calculate the performance of a PV system.

The manual states: “The KWp value used will be the sum of the data plate value of all modules installed. (The value printed on the module label)”

In layman’s terms, this means “Solar companies should only use the wattage on the nameplate of the panels and ignore the +/-10 tolerance that manufactures a state technically.” Or, if you are using 250-watt panels you cannot add on 5% tolerance to give a higher annual estimate.

This recently exposed practice allows the offending company/salesperson an unfair advantage over installers giving correct performance projections, but more importantly, it provides false expectations of financial reward over the period of the feed-in tariff.

The feed-in tariff scheme already gives adopters generous financial rewards, and so, this practice of fudging projections.

We always recommend getting three quotes from various companies and possibly multiple technologies. During the quotation process, always ask and keep the performance data sheets that companies give you. As an example, 250 watts ‘peak performance’ per photovoltaic panel is the most commonly installed, but some sell it as a 260 watts using the tolerance factor. Anyone who uses this method should have their chocolate biscuit revoked and shown the door immediately.

Up-to-date, we have heard no complaints of companies doing similar things within the solar heating panel side of the industry. Our forum is a consumer soapbox that is regularly used to expose poor practise and bad companies by solar pioneers. If you’ve come across this type of miss-selling, then tell us, so you can ‘name and shame’ and thus prevent others from being exposed to bad salespeople in our otherwise great industry.

Seeing the light

Having spent a couple of years working within a solar company’s sales office, through my own experience I can say, it usually comes down to a culture of high-pressure sales targets and the type of people that commission-based sales jobs attract.

Although the business owner that I worked for was trying to be ethical, the people that his sales jobs attracted were very positively at the other end of the moral scale. So, the lessons learnt here is that companies need to police their salespeople alongside homeowners asking for comparable quotes from alternative enterprises.

The good news is that the compliance teams from both RECC and MCS continually monitor sites like this for evidence of non-compliance, so if you feel the information or price given to you is excessive, then query it through secondary sources.

The energy world is changing fast, and the planet needs a swift transition away from fossil fuels, so any person or solar company that attempts to dupe people into purchasing solar panels are in reality only causing confusion and are, therefore getting in the way of progress.

It was shortsighted ‘get rich quick’ attitudes that caused a bad public perception of the young embryonic solar industry before the regulation, and the creation of the RECC began in 2009. The solar industry today is a much safer area for consumers, but there’s still a few in the system that spoils it for the many.

There is no excuse for overpricing, overstating or overselling. During my own experience selling solar panels, I found myself in a den of wolves, but more importantly, I proved that you could sell successfully and ethically as the numbers on the board at that time showed.

Delousing your sales team can only be a positive long-term strategy for sales managers, installation businesses and the industry as a whole.

There is an army of people with the right intentions towards climate change and national energy security to tap into, so no solar company needs to employ the wrong kind of people with the wrong type of morals and motives anymore.

Millions of people around the world will be marching for climate change, thus proving that there are plenty of enthusiastic people with the right attitude that can make a difference, especially to your sales board.

Real enthusiasm is contagious in a sales environment, so if your business is driven by a den of wolves too, then longevity is not for you.

Solar panels are a significant investment when installed by a company who knows what they are doing, the price is competitive, and the kit quality is excellent. By visiting sites such as this, potential customer’s can educate themselves on what to expect should they decide to invite a solar company into their homes.

"Light is life."

Stuart Lovatt 2014-09-25
Founder of Power My Home.