Although the interest in renewable energy and microgeneration is growing rapidly, finding an installer to fit your system can sometimes be a bit of a problem. So how can you find a reputable person, what qualifications should you be looking for and where can you go for some advice? Here are a few answers to these and other commonly asked questions.
Do I Really Need an Installer? Can’t I Just do it Myself?
If you’re just looking to install a simple system, have the relevant practical skills and know-how, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the job yourself. Many “Solar Clubs”, for example, provide support and practical advice on such DIY installations.
However, there are some times when you really will need the services of a properly qualified installer – such as if you’ve applied for a grant, if you’re doing anything which requires connection to mains electrical circuits or the installation is a particularly large or complicated one, for example.
Even if you do end up doing all the work yourself, you’ll still need to make sure you comply with any necessary legal requirements including the likes of planning permission or building regulations.
Do I Have to Use a Certified Installer If I Want to Get a Grant?
It largely depends on the source of the grant, but with very few exceptions, the answer is almost certainly going to be yes.
What is the Microgeneration Certification Scheme?
The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is a major attempt to recognise the best in microgeneration installers and technologies. The brain-child of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (the successor government department to the DTI), it has been set up to provide a set of standards for microgeneration installers and products, principally to ensure that consumers get a fair deal and that grant money is spent wisely.
This certification scheme is a vital part of the Low Carbon Buildings Programme; grants awarded under this programme will require both the installers and the systems they install to have been appropriately certified.
What is the Renewable Energy Installer Academy?
The Renewable Energy Installer Academy (REIA) is a joint initiative between Northern Ireland’s Action Renewables and the Irish Republic’s Sustainable Energy Ireland, which was set up to train and certify installers in the province and the bordering counties of Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Louth, Monaghan and Sligo.
How do I Know if an Installer is Properly Qualified?
Inevitably, given the growing interest in renewable energy and microgeneration, there’s the danger of “cowboy” installers clutching impressive-looking eco-credentials and certificates, so knowing whether qualifications are worth the paper they’re written on is going to be important.
Obviously any installer accredited by the MCS and REIA is a safe bet, but there are other worthy qualifications too – such as the likes of courses aimed at electricians and plumbers to enable them to install solar or wind powered systems. If you are presented with unfamiliar looking certificates it’s worthwhile doing your own research to find out how valid they really are; trade bodies, unions and your local council or trading standards should be able to help you get some straight answers.
Although these days we are all much more aware of possible scams and cons – and it always pays to be careful – most installers are as honest as anyone else you’re likely to meet!
I’m Applying for a Grant Under the Low Carbon Buildings Programme; How do I Find an Accredited Installer for My Project?
The simplest way is to check online on the programme’s website, where you’ll find an up-to-date listing of the relevant installers in your area.
Who Can I Ask for Help to Find an Installer?
There are many sources available online, with two of the best being the Low Carbon Buildings Programme and the REIA, if you live in Northern Ireland or in the bordering counties.
Other sources of help include the various clubs, associations and professional bodies, while your local council, the Environment Agency (SEPA if you live in Scotland) and the Department of Energy and Climate Change may also be worth approaching.
However, perhaps the best advice is likely to come via word of mouth; after all, bits of paper are all well and good, but there’s nothing quite like a personal recommendation from someone who really knows what they’re talking about!