Help please!!

20 Nov 2019
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United Kingdom
Please can someone help. First some background. We have recently had new solar pv and replacement night storage installed by a company, we have a contract with the solar/night storage company. They have used an external electrical sub contractor to complete the electrical and installation, which we found out consisted of 1 fully qualified electrician and 3 trainees which completed various works unsupervised and sometimes solely at the premises.

The solar install is fine except the pv meter does not cycle to export and if the inverter is set to export meter it errors out and shuts down with meter error detected. We have a bidirectional pv meter, which correctly shows generation readings but not export readings, we currently have an import only supply meter, which we're due to change, could that be the reason, or is something else wrong?

We have another issue, we have been without lights and hot water for nearly a month as a result of their works. And also a few cables have been left loose in the cabinet (presumably immersion tank and something else are left unconnected) as a new smaller consumer unit was specified to replace the old night storage consumer unit, but the main consumer unit remains old, so the night storage heaters were connected up, but everything else that was connected remains unconnected to power with loose cables in the cabinet.

A trainee electrician installed a fan on his own and put all the covers on and did not get his work checked. When turned on to test it blew a fuse in our old consumer unit with fuse wire type consumer unit and also blew the fan with loud bang/pop, smoke and the old fan and consumer unit are blackened, they didn't have any fuse wire in the van. The trainee replaced the fan. I've asked for the consumer unit to be replaced with modern rcd type due to the retrospective works and because theres no individual rcd protection on the circuit and the extractor fans are in wet areas steamy bathroom and within arms distance from the shower but not directly in the shower and i dont feel the old consumer unit meets modern electrical regs with the retrospective works. There is a single mains rcd and then the old wire fuse consumer comes off this. The problem is if a problem with the fans develop i need a resettable rcd type fuse to be able to reset myself and not have my whole lighting circuit be taken out again. I also need the loose cables (immersion etc) re-connecting as these have been left. We recieved an electrical cert from the electrician to sign it all off, but he has not been back to check the trainees work or properly signed off the work, neither has the operation of the fans been tested and checked as the fuse hasn't been replaced and they're still without power. Also when the new night storage was put in he used the original 50 year old dirty off colour flex without testing, despite the storage heater manufacturer recommending using new flex due to obvious reasons unknown history, breaking down, safety improvements, potential continuity issues etc.

The companys are now both not wanting anything to do with the installation and have left me like this. Presumably now they've had their money they're not interested. Both companies have stopped responding to me. The solar installer said I could pay for my own electrician to resolve the issues (which i dont feel is right!) and said I could go to an electrician inspectorate to check whether the installation is safe. But my contract isnt with the electrician it is with the solar company and I did not choose the electrician as an installer, so I dont think its on me to snitch on their quality of work, I dont see why I as the customer and not paying the electrician directly should have to be doing that. Besides I don't want to get anyone into trouble all I want is the job to be completed and put right, new rcd consumer unit and have lights/hot water reinstated, what do you all think, is that too much to ask?

Please can someone give their advice on the situation, whether they feel it's fair and safe etc and what I should do to get it put right? Thanks
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I’m sorry to hear of your troubles, I am sure you will get some sound advice on here - there are some highly experienced electricians on this forum - although not sure if any deal with solar.

It would help if you mentioned which town you live near in case somebody is nearby.

If you have an electrical certificate, then you must have the electricians registration number for the governing body - have you contacted them for advice?
Thanks, I haven't contacted a formal organisation yet no, just the installer company to give them the opportunity to get the electrician to come back and put it right. To be honest I'm really not looking to get anyone into trouble, it's this electricians livelihood at the end of the day, so I don't want to name and shame. I just think it's unfair to have been left how I have, I don't feel like correct procedures have been followed and I'd just like the job to be made safe with new rcd consumer unit.

Apparently they didn't want to replace the consumer unit with an rcd consumer unit as it would involve more work and cost, checking every single wire for the eicr. I think what's happened is that someone somewhere probably didn’t quote for the additional unforeseen work and neither wants to accept ownership or be out of pocket. My guess is the sub contractor probably gave a low price to get the contract and tried to do everything on the cheap, using trainees, old flex etc. get it all signed off on the quick to keep costs down and move onto the next job.

I've even offered to pay for a new consumer unit myself and just have them do the labour but they aren't interested. Please can an electrician let me know what they think about all this? Thanks
Also the standard of installation generally is very poor, theres several holes in the roof felt where they put tile retainers through, several screws through missing the beams, the flooring hasn't been cut neatly around the heaters and by not neat I mean they've cut about 1.5ft x 3ft instead of just notching around the feet.

I really dont know what to do. To get the felt replaced and make the roof watertight all the tiles and solar would have to come off. Should I push for a claim for compensation for the flooring and roof from the installers liability insurer? If so how do I do that as I've never had to do before, do I contact the company that did the install (and that has stopped responding!) or go to small claims court? What would you all do?
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I'm no electrician and haven't got a clue about what's been done but the first thing you've got to do is stop being so bloody nice! The electrician has had you over and so has the main company. Being nice is how you are in the mess you are in. You've now got to get tough with whoever needs it. Does your home insurance have legal assistance? Threaten them with that or trading standards or whoever oversee's the electricians certification. Use them all.
Please tell me you haven't fully paid for this shoddy service? I agree with Mottie, this is business and having an incompetent trainee complete work not knowing what he/she was doing is really not on especially with no supervision! I wouldn't hesitate to contact NICEIC or Napit or whoever they are registered with they could do something in the future that puts someone at real risk. Where are you based, sounds like you need another electrician in to finish off the work.
Thanks both, I like to think I'm a nice person, but yes possibly a bit too nice we even provided ice creams and beers in the garden to them all on hot days thinking it's nice to reward them for their work and keep them motivated. So you think even though I have a contract with the solar company, I should forget them for now and I should complain directly to the authority of the electrician? It says niceic on the cert?

Excuse my ignorance but what power do they have, will they be able to put the issue right? Are they likely to make the electrician come out again to fix or do they have other electricians that will be able to finish the work?

Also what about the damage to felt and carpets etc im assuming this is seperate and I would need to put a claim for damages via their liability insurance? And again would this be the solar company whom i have the contract with or the electrician?

Also i would like to know what an electrician thinks about this install. The extractor fan they installed didnt originally have an isolator but I thought regs were that it was supposed to have one and it says so on the fan manual, so the trainee came to rectify this on his own and add an isolator, which I think is something to do with it blowing. Also the electrician was trying to say it was safe having a new fan in a wet area wired in to an old wire type consumer unit that is blackened and slightly melted because there is 1 main 80amp rcd after the supply meter protecting the whole installation. But this means any probs with the fan and it will take out my lights and be non user resettable. Or if there is a problem with the fan then it would take out my whole house supply, when usually just the lighting circuit will trip. Also could the 80amp fuse be too high? I thought 20 or 30amp rcd is more nominal for circuits on wet areas? What is best practice and would the regs allow this kind of retrofit? Ie new fan in wet area on old wire fuse consumer unit?

Thanks again all
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80A is the Current rating of the RCD the fan should be on the lighting circuit which is normally 5 or 6 amp in a domestic property.

NICEIC may come out and look at the work and could well revoke the company access to their online Certification software (among other things) which would put them in an awkward position. A fan doesn't necessarily require an isolator but a manufacturer can recommend one. There needs to be a point to turn the power off to the fan either by removing a fuse or turning the installation off. I personally would always install one - three pole as most have overrun to remove unwanted smell or condensation or a Humidstat these days.

Your board/installation is very old and does sound like it could do with modernising but the circuits would need a thorough check which is time consuming and can be costly. Even at minimum you could change the Fuse carriers for Wylex MCBs as they're still sold but it isn't ideal having a whole installation on one RCD but at least it's better then nothing especially if you use power outside in your garden for a lawn mower or hedge trimmer or to hoover your car..
The work seems clearly sub-standard, I also had problems with my mothers house, and so first question has to be if there is a scheme membership shown on the paperwork?

If there is then contact the scheme provider, if not then you need to carefully consider next move. I will relate what happened to me.

I thinking all above board I would contact the LABC and take over the job, seems the firm were not scheme members and had not informed the LABC who were quick to point out it was up to the owner to either ensure a scheme member is used or otherwise ensure the LABC is informed BEFORE work starts.

The LABC is seems did chase the firm, and forced them to stop trading which resulted in me not being able to claim any money back from the now non existence firm. Maybe had I known in time I could have claimed, but by time I had done the important bit and made the home inhabitable the firm was gone.

English and Welsh laws are not the same, so need to say what country you live in, and if the firm was a member of a scheme, and if so what have the scheme providers said.
Thanks chivers, yes theres only 1 rcd protecting the whole electrics, the 80amp.

And you certainly know your stuff yes the lighting circuit is indeed a 5amp old wire type fuse.

The electrician even measured the beams to locate a suitable space for the extractor fans, then proceeded to drill a massive hole through the plasterboard ceiling and somehow managed to find the middle of the joist!! So he had then to bodge a repair and drill somewhere else, I think he was seriously considering going straight through the beam and if I didn’t happen to be in the room he probably would have!! He then tried to say we must have joists going diagonally lol (we dont, I checked after!!). It was literally one problem after another on our job.

So hows best to deal with all this in terms of being compensated for the substandard work damage to carpets, felt? Being compensated for being without lights and hot water for around a month? And getting a new rcd consumer unit to get these loose cables connected and make the rest of the retrospective works suitably protected?

Also does the current installation sound like it would even meet regs?

And thanks ericmark, I am in England :)
To be honest, it does sound as though you've 'been had'.

I'd suggest a recorded delivery letter to who-ever you paid (that's who your contract is with, any use of subbies etc is their choice, and their problem to sort out if it goes wrong).

Outline the problems and give them a reasonable period of time to correct them.

If not, bring in another contractor to sort it out, and then take the company to the small claims court to recover the cost.

Easy advice to give, I know, but you do need to be clear that things need to be sorted out, at the original companies cost.
Thanks Colin this was my original thought that our issue is with the company that we have the contract with and it's their responsibility to ensure they use sub contractors of suitable ability and quality etc.

As I say unfortunately they've stopped responding, I could as you say pay for the work myself and then try to claim back through the courts, but then I'd be out of pocket with court costs etc and it could get messy and expensive, especially if they argue the case and I have to have legal representation etc...

Would no one else be able to help to get them to do the work? Like trading standards or a governing body/membership scheme for the solar company?
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Small claims all day long- as above, if they've stopped responding then send them (with proof of posting) a Notice before Action (basically gives them 14 days to respond). If they ignore that then gather up all your evidence (what they quoted for, photos of what they did) and register your claim (solicitor not required, costs £40 or so). Tricky bit for you is finding a real electrician to price up the remediation (that's what you are claiming for)
We have another issue, we have been without lights and hot water for nearly a month as a result of their works.

This is totally unacceptable, no professional electrician would do this ever.

You dont leave customers without light and hot water.

Sadly the renewable industry is full of chancers.
Thanks all for your help. Are there any solar installers or electricians with experience of solar on here please? I've also noticed that my inverter manual states that there should be spd protection for both the ac (in supply cu) and dc (in a cu between pv and inverter). I pointed this out to the installer as there are no din rail spds and over voltage from lightning either to solar panels or overhead powerlines can cause damage to the household electrics and the expensive inverter and probably void the warranty, but again they aren't interested. Does anyone know if spds are a requirement of solar installation and if so is there any legislation I can quote from the regs? Thanks again!!
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