How to avoid the solar cowboys

With home energy bills showing no sign of coming down from their very high levels, homeowners wanting to cut energy consumption are bound to be tempted by low cost solar heating panels made in the far east but the Heating Helpline warns homeowners about rogue installers.

28 June 2010 – With DIY Superstores now stocking low cost solar heating panel installation kits, homeowners trying to cope with the prevailing high levels of energy prices are bound to be tempted.

Installing solar heating kits purchased from a DIY outlet or builder’s merchant will be beyond the expertise of all but a minority of highly competent DIYers. So the temptation will be the ‘BIY’ route – buy from the superstore and get in a local tradesman to fit them. But the Heating Helpline, a consumer advice service backed by the HVCA, the government recognized trade association for heating and ventilating engineers, warns homeowners that this can end in disaster – with too many “rip off” rogue solar heating installers operating in the UK.

Bob Towse, technical consultant to the Heating Helpline, comments, “With low cost solar heating kits now available from DIY multiples, coupled with the huge rises in household energy bills over the last two years, more and more homeowners will want to convert what has so far been purely an interest into actual action by getting solar heating installed in the home.

“But we urge homeowners to be cautious about how they go about this – Consumer Direct, the government funded advice service, has received hundreds of complaints from homeowners about their solar heating installations.

“It’s clear that rogue traders are fully exploiting the rising demand for solar heating but homeowners should only use reputable, reliable tradesmen for such installations and steer well clear of the rip-off tactics of the cowboy installers.

“It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are Government grants to help with the costs of installing solar water heating technologies – but to be eligible for a grant a homeowner should use a competent installer and certified products. So visit the Heating Helpline website ( to find a reputable engineer today.”

The Heating Helpline provides consumers with free, impartial advice on every aspect of home heating. On the website homeowners can put in their postcode and it will produce a list of reputable heating engineers in their chosen area.

Established in 1904, the HVCA is the premier organization representing central heating contractors across the UK, and exists to promote fair dealing and the sound installation of heating systems.

HVCA members all undergo third-party inspection and assessment of their technical competence and commercial capability every three years. This process is carried out by an independent certification body with an established industry reputation.

HVCA members who undertake gas installations are registered with Gas Safe – the gas safety watchdog body – and are also members of TrustMark, the Government-endorsed scheme designed to direct customers towards reliable tradespeople.

HVCA operates the Heating Helpline ( to provide consumers with free, impartial advice on every aspect of home heating.

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