Homesun - Free Solar

But only if you have the almost mythical ‘ideal roof’

It took three months from registering my interest with Homesun to get to the survey stage, however there was a preliminary visit from a salesman. He looked at my roof and made a few measurements, then said that solar panels didn’t work efficiently on 30º pitch roofs and that would rule out a free installation. Homesun favoured 40º roofs; however he could authorise installation in return for a £500 fee and a monthly maintenance charge. I’m fairly certain that if I had a 40º roof he would have required a 30º roof and that this was one of several ruses designed to raise extra cash for Homesun. When pressed on this point he said that I would need to live on the south coast with a 40º roof to qualify for a free installation.

The salesman used a calculator to estimate that 14 panels could be fitted to my roof and that the output would be in the region of 3kW and on that basis I let him proceed to the next stage; a full survey. For this he required a £100 deposit which I was assured was refundable in all circumstances except that if the installation was approved it would be deducted from the £500 installation cost. If it was fully refundable, however illogical the requirement might be, it appeared to be risk-free and I allowed him to debit by credit card.

Afterwards the monthly maintenance charge began to worry me. What maintenance? And as it was inflation linked and subject to VAT it could potentially wipe out most of any savings in electricity charges. I decided there was no way I was ever going to enter into such a deal.

When the surveyor eventually turned up I’m afraid I took an instant dislike to him; he made it absolutely clear that he was working for Homesun and any requirements I might wish for were secondary or worse. For example he said the control gear would go in the roof space when I would have preferred it to go in the more accessible attached garage which provided a simpler and less visible cable route to the incoming power supply. My request for some sort of monitoring gear beyond a generation meter in the roof was dismissed out of hand. The last straw for me was that he asked to see my electricity bill and when I said I would have to go to the bedroom to switch on the computer (my fuel supply account is internet based) he accompanied me there without being invited. The only useful thing that came out of the meeting was that the surveyor confirmed the salesman’s 30º/40º pitch debate was nonsense as both were as good as each other and that the 14 panels he proposed would generate a little bit in excess of 3kW. He also said that the roof and its orientation (due south) were ideal as was the total lack of shading. Not surprising because my roof meets or exceeds all the requirements listed on Homesun’s website.

Exactly four weeks later I received an email to say that my roof was unsuitable for any solar installation even if I paid Homesun’s £500 upfront fee and the not less than £5 a month so called maintenance charge; apparently they only do installations of 16 panels and more. It would have been nice to be told that four months earlier but the news came as something of a relief. I had formed the impression that Homesun was not an honest company and it would be crazy to get involved with them and that if I wanted solar panels then the only sensible option is to pay for them to be installed by a company that is wholly focused on the customer, not their own get rich quick scheme. After some research I chose a local company, Solstice Energy. Needless to say, Homesun never did refund the £100 deposit. (Update; see March 2011 blog.)

It may be worthy of note that on the optimistic assumption that I use all the electricity generated by the 3·29 kW system I now own, then the experience to date is that in the winter months Homesun’s monthly £5+VAT charge exceeds the savings in fuel costs by about 25%. i.e. Homesun’s scheme is money down the drain except in the summer. It should also be noted that since my fortunate escape from Homesun’s clutches their website has been amended to indicate they require 16 panels, a south coast location, due south orientation and no shading. I doubt many people qualify and it’s no wonder that when I asked them for an address within 50 miles where I could look at one of their installations, they couldn’t give me one.