Choosing your renewable energy solution
The benefits of installing energy saving technologies for consumers, small businesses and communities include lower bills, a more comfortable home/office and the knowledge that you are reducing your carbon footprint.
If you are interested in generating your own energy and reducing your impact on the planet, our website has some great resources to get you started.
As the consumer, it is important that any small-scale generation technology is specified, installed and maintained correctly.
You need to have accurate information and enough time to understand what it is you are buying. You must be clear about what your expectations are, and the extent the technology(ies) are capable of meeting them. In particular you should be clear about the likely performance of the system, and what this is likely to deliver for you in financial terms.
This is why it is so important to use an MCS certified Installer.
MCS is a mark of quality. Using an MCS certified installer ensures that equipment meets good standards of performance and that installers are technically safe and competent.
YOU SHOULD CHOOSE AN MCS CERTIFIED INSTALLER BECAUSE:
They have undergone a rigorous vetting and application process to become certified with us.
They adhere to MCS defined, industry Standards. Working to Standards demonstrates a commitment to quality, improved performance, reduction in risk and compliance assurance.
They are a member of a Consumer Code so they can be trusted. Membership of a Code strengthens consumer protection and improves customer service. It goes above and beyond consumer law obligations and sets a higher standard, showing consumers clearly, that code members can be trusted.
To be eligible for government incentives, you need to be able to prove that your installation has been completed by an MCS certified installer.
Some home insurance providers require MCS certification to validate insurance.
Finance companies can require MCS to enable access to their most competitive lending rates. For these organisations, MCS is seen to reduce their risk under the Consumer Credit Act.
FIVE THINGS TO ASK YOUR INSTALLER
1. Are you MCS certified?
Being MCS certified means that your chosen Installer has made a commitment to both the quality of their workmanship and to customer care.
To become MCS certified involves a rigorous assessment of an Installer’s business practices and an annual audit of one of their installations to assess their adherence to the relevant MCS Standard. It is a requirement under MCS, that the Installer who is delivering your system, has a contract directly with you, and is certified for the specific technology or technologies that they are installing.
For what is likely to be a significant investment, we would always recommend placing your trust in an MCS certified installer.
You can check the credentials of your Installer or find an MCS Installer that is based in your area, by using our Installer search.
2. How have you determined the system that is right for me?
MCS installers are required to assess your energy needs before proposing a new renewable energy system, to ensure that it is right for your home. This assessment should consider the size (and therefore, cost) of the system you will need and for electricity, how your energy needs fluctuate throughout the day and over the year. If you are considering a renewable heating system, it is worth knowing that even the very best heating system can’t compensate for a poorly insulated home. Your home should be well insulated before you consider having a heat pump installed. This will prevent heat loss that leads to energy wastage, that in turn cancel out any cost savings you would have made.
MCS is a prerequisite for certain incentives and for accessing electricity export tariffs under the Smart Export Guarantee. While access to an incentive or tariff is an important consideration, we suggest that these are only part of any decision you make over a renewable energy solution for your home. Whether you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint and/or save money on your heating and electricity bills, making sure your renewable energy system is designed around your needs, is of paramount importance; which leads us on to question 3.
3. What performance can I expect from my new system?
The two most important elements that contribute to the performance of any new renewable energy system, are its design and installation. Unlike other large purchases that you may make for your home, often the equipment deployed is of secondary importance to how well the system has been designed to meet your energy needs and then the professionalism of its installation. You can purchase the very best technology there is on the market but if your system has not been designed to meet your home energy needs and is installed badly, it won’t perform as you would expect it to. Your chosen Installer should detail the performance you can expect from your new energy system before commencing the installation.
Individual technologies require different factors to be considered for their successful installation. These include the direction that your roof faces for solar based technologies and for Heat Pumps and Biomass boilers, the space required both outside and inside your home for these technologies to perform at their best.
4. What maintenance requirements are there for my new system?
You should ask your MCS Installer what maintenance is required for your new renewable energy system. MCS Installers are obliged to provide their customers with comprehensive handover packs, that include any manufacturer’s user guides and your MCS certificate.
Much like fossil fuel based systems, planning for an annual performance inspection that leads to any necessary maintenance, is always a good idea. However, there are parts of an annual ‘maintenance’ that you can do yourself. For Heat Pumps, this should involve a simple visual check and a clean-up of the outside unit. For solar panels that need to absorb energy from the sun, you should aim to keep them clean to optimise their performance. You can usually maintain a solar panel using the same equipment used to wash windows. You should not allow dirt and other environmental elements to settle on your new solar panels for too long.
5. What happens if things go wrong?
By choosing an MCS certified Installer you are benefiting from the peace of mind that comes from employing a contractor whose work is aligned to the government recognised, industry standard for small-scale (home) based renewables.
However, even the very best Installer can sometimes make mistakes or unfortunately cease trading, after which, you might need to contact them. It is mandatory for all our MCS certified Installers to be registered with a Trading Standards Institute (TSI) Consumer Code. These Codes are there to ensure consumer protection and your installer’s membership of a Consumer Code, means that they must go above and beyond minimum consumer law obligations.
You should ask your Installer to explain the steps that should be taken if things do go wrong and how your protection is ensured.
INSURANCE AND WARRANTIES
As with all significant purchases for your home, it is important to make sure that you are protected if things were to go wrong. Before contracting with an Installer for your home’s renewable energy solution, we would recommend:
- Do your research. Our website and others can help your understanding of the various renewable energy solutions available for your home. There is of course no substitute for professional advice but having some understanding of what could work for you, will be invaluable when looking for a reputable installer;
- Secure at least three quotations. Price is only one of the important factors to consider when choosing your new system. Having a few quotations to compare, means you will be able to better assess what it is you will get for your money;
- Choose an MCS certified Installer. You can check whether an installer is MCS certified via our Installer Search. Choosing an MCS Installer means that you are contracting with a reputable, third party assessed business. This in turn minimises the risk of placing work with an installer who is either not qualified or who does not meet minimum workmanship standards;
- Know the performance of your new system. Ensure that you receive a clear performance estimate of the expected output from your new system. Make sure this is in writing and is specific to your property before you sign a contract for its installation.
Once you are ready to sign a contract for the installation of your new renewable energy system, it is worth considering the role of Consumer Codes, Manufacturers’ Guarantees and how best to protect any deposit you may be asked to pay.
Insurance Backed Guarantees
Consumer Codes require that their MCS members offer Insurance Backed Guarantees (IBGs). An IBG is a policy issued by an insurance company to the owner of a new energy system, to underwrite an original guarantee provided by the installer. IBGs come into force if a customer needs to make a claim on the installer’s guarantee but the installer is no longer trading, and therefore not in a position to honour the original guarantee.
Talk to your Installer about the IBG they are required to arrange for your new installation.
By law, the equipment supplied as part of your renewable energy system, should be of a satisfactory quality, including in appearance and finish. It should also be fit for purpose and free from minor defects. Many equipment manufacturers offer a 2 year warranty for parts and sometimes labour, from the date of installation.
If you are asked for a deposit for your new energy system, then using a credit card can provide extra financial protection. You should never pay more than 25% of the total contract price up front as a deposit.
If the amount of deposit requested is over £100 but less £30,000 and your system is not then installed, then your credit card provider should be able to help you get your money back. In addition many credit providers will protect the entire value of your purchase, even if you only pay for the deposit on your credit card.
Installing certain renewable energy technologies, such as solar thermal, photovoltaic and biomass boilers, has been made a lot simpler thanks to Permitted Development Rights. This is because it has lifted the requirements for planning permission for most domestic technologies.
However, depending on where you live, the kind of property and the type of installation, you may need to get planning permission or a building warrant. If your home is a listed building you will almost certainly require consent from your local authority.
Make sure you have the right permissions in place before beginning installation. Your MCS certified installer will be able to provide advice on this. You should always check with your local planning department to find out if planning permission or building warrants are required. The information on this page is for guidance only.
Useful links for Planning Permission:
The UK Planning Portal’s interactive house provides an overview of planning permission and building regulations for householders.
The UK Planning Portal’s Greener Homes section, which is supported by the Energy Saving Trust, can also assist as an informal guide to planning.
Useful links for Planning Permission:
England and Wales
Useful links for Building Regulations:
England and Wales
ENERGY PERFORMANCE CERTIFICATES
All domestic and commercial buildings in the UK available to buy or rent must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). If you own a home, getting an energy performance survey done could help you identify ways to save money on your energy bills and improve the comfort of your home.
EPCs tell you how energy efficient a building is and give it a rating from A (very efficient) to G (inefficient). EPCs outline the linked costs for heating and lighting, and what its carbon dioxide emissions are likely to be.
The EPC will also state what the energy-efficiency rating could be if improvements are made, and highlights cost-effective ways to achieve a better rating.
If you are considering installing a low-carbon technology to heat your home, you may be eligible for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). Before applying for the BUS, you must have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) issued within the last 10 years to qualify. Your EPC needs to accurately reflect information about your house.
EPCs are valid for 10 years from when issued.
Find out more on the Ofgem website
Where to get an EPC
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, only accredited Domestic Energy Assessors can produce valid EPCs.
For a list of approved EPC organisations in England and Wales, visit Landmark to view the energy performance certificate register. For Northern Ireland visit Landmark for Northern Ireland
If you are in Scotland, only organisations approved by the Scottish Government can produce valid EPCs. Visit the Scottish Energy Performance Certificate Register website to find a list of approved EPC organisations.
Consumer Codes are organisations that promote consumer interests by setting out the principles of effective customer service and protection.
It is mandatory for MCS Installers to be registered with one.
Your MCS Installer’s membership of a Consumer Code, means that they need to go above and beyond minimum consumer law obligations, as the Codes set a higher standard of consumer service delivery and protection.
Your Installer will either be a member with RECC, HIES or GGF.