Yesterday a double glazing salesman arrive at my door at the very moment the phone rang with a call from a solar panel saleswoman. Such annoyances are rarely quite so simultaneous but they are regular. This is one of the reasons I’m pleased to hear that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has written to over 50 of the leading installers of double glazing, insulation and solar panels, asking them to ensure they are providing consistently good standards to consumers.
The initiative follows an OFT review that found instances of poor practice towards consumers such as the use of high pressure sales techniques, unclear information about paperwork and cancellation rights, and poor quality installations.
Consumers have to be properly informed about energy efficiency measures otherwise we risk undermining confidence in the sector and, worse still, causing immense damage to our built heritage.
Owners need to remember that they can devalue their home through ‘improvements’ such as installing plastic windows. In a survey by English Heritage 82% of estate agents felt that original features such as sash windows tend to add financial value to properties and 78% believed they helped to sell a property more quickly.
Where windows do need replacing it’s worth bearing in mind that high performance, double-glazed timber windows need cost no more than their PVCu equivalents. Research for the Wood Window Alliance reveals that wood windows work out between 2-7% cheaper than PVCu over their lifetime.
The OFT found instances where consumers have been given potentially misleading or inaccurate information about the energy they could save. I find it interesting to look at payback times. Some of the figures, based on a three-bedroom semi-detached house, that are listed in the Communities and Local Government Review of Sustainability of Existing Buildings are surprising. For example, loft insulation has an estimated 2.7-year payback while the potential carbon savings are 190kg per year. If installing windows with double glazing, in theory it will take 97.6 years to get your money back and will result in a carbon saving of just 26 kg per year.
With the coming of the Green Deal and the need for households to cut their energy bills the need for education and an understanding of the issues is essential. It’s worth noting the OFT guidance for consumers buying energy efficiency products:
- Take your time in making a decision
- Double check the facts
- Know what you’re signing
- Know your cancellation rights
- Know your rights if things go wrong