An Aberdeen businessman has highlighted the perils of dodgy solar panel installers after a costly experience at his home near Ellon.
Michael Mahoney and other family members forked out £45,000 “only to receive abusive emails and months of hassle” in return.
Mr Mahoney, owner of Bridge of Don-based Yardbury Engineering and Oilfield Products, had a faulty solar system installed at his home in Ythanbank last summer.
The company behind the project was from the central belt and it used a third-party installer.
‘Unsafe’ work carried out
A later inspection carried out by another, more reputable firm, Kintore-based i-Protech, uncovered a wide range of issues with the installation, including unsafe work.
Mr Mahoney, 45, said: “My father found the first company online. It looked amazing and ticked all the right boxes.
“The salesman arrived to assess and advise us on the best set-up for my father, my brother and myself. We all have similar sized houses and energy usage.
“But while they offered my dad and brother the same systems, I was given a different one.
“My dad’s system was installed in just eight hours. He got a phone call afterwards to get his payment but zero instructions on how to use the system.
“Two weeks later my brother got the same and a week after that my system was installed. Less than 24 hours later it went off due to a battery fault, so I called them and was told to turn it off and back on again. This went one for four weeks but it never worked.”
He added: “I called the company many times, as well as the third-party installer, who said it wasn’t their problem.
“I started to do some research and it turned out they didn’t have the proper certification to install systems.
‘They blocked me and stopped replying to my emails’
“I was fobbed off so many times that around six months after installation I took legal advice.
“When I spoke to the company again, they offered to change my system but again it wasn’t right. After more calls they blocked me and stopped replying to my emails.
“I’ve been left with a system that is half one brand and half another, with no usage instructions.”
String of faults uncovered
I-Protech inspected the installation and reported a string of faults.
Mr Mahoney said: “We have discovered we need a G99 certificate, which none of us received. We also didn’t get IWA (independent Warranty Association) policy numbers or MCS certifications, which meant we couldn’t claim anything back from the grid.”
MCS, which stands for Microgeneration Certification Scheme, is an industry-led quality assurance scheme.
Highlighting his family’s total financial outlay, Mr Mahoney said: “We paid the best part of £45,000 to this company, only to receive abusive emails and months of hassle.”
He complained to MCS but was told there was nothing that could be done as the solar system supplier was not registered. It was all very frustrating,” the businessman added.
I-Protech is a green energy specialist and accredited installer of solar panels.
Owner Stuart Munro said his firm had seen an “unprecedented” surge in calls from people with faulty systems purchased from “rogue” traders claiming to be legitimate.
High energy bills and incentives including grants and interest-free loans from organisations such as Home Energy Scotland and Energy Saving Trust are driving some people towards unscrupulous solar panel suppliers and installers, Mr Munro explained.
Some have paid deposits of thousands of pounds for solar energy systems, only to find they do not work properly, he added. Many have either not received the proper insurance certificates, or been given forged documents, he said.
And he urged north-east home and business owners looking to install solar panels or other green energy systems to be aware of unregulated sellers operating in the region.
Mr Munro added: “We are getting calls weekly from customers who tell us that they have subjected to a hard sell approach by some companies and individuals. The work is often sub-standard, and we are being asked to fix it.
“These salespeople are operating in much the same way as the windows and doors salesmen of old – they offer to do the job at an inflated price and then say they will get their managers to call. Someone phones claiming to be the manager and the customer is offered money off.”
Home and business owners urged to make sure they ‘do their research’
Installing solar panels or other energy systems is a big investment and not a decision to be taken in a rush,” he said, adding: “It is important home and business owners do their research.
“Legitimate companies will be MCS accredited, and they will issue an insurance warranty on completion of the work. They are also obliged to notify the grid either prior to a solar install or after an install.”