Fitting double glazing in your home can help to save you money on energy bills. But it's a pricey purchase and making sure you get the best from your supplier is essential, particularly given their reputation for the hard sell.
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First off, make sure you are aware of any planning restrictions that may affect changing the windows in your home. In listed buildings and conservation areas, planning permission may be required so it's worth checking out.
Secondly, it's obviously important to get the best quote... and by best, we don't necessarily mean cheapest! Ideally, you'll want to get at least three quotes from different companies to give you a good idea of what you should be paying.
Friends or relatives may be able to recommend companies that have provided them with a good quality product and service but it's also worth checking out recommended installers at Which? Local.
Though you'll need to register to view their recommendations, it's free to sign up and may help you to avoid dodgy dealers. If possible, visit the company's showroom and ask how long they have been in business.
Sadly, all too many home improvement companies offer lifetime warranties on their products, only to go out of business a couple of years later and begin the whole process again under a new name.
When talking to a sales rep, remember that the bells and whistles that make the product sound 'oh so fabulous' may not be what they seem. Every rep should be able to provide you with a rating for the product they are presenting. If they can't, or won't, it's not a good sign.
For a full list of windows and their energy ratings, visit www.bfrc.org.
Similarly, the Solar Gain value (again, the lower the better) measures how well the windows will keep the heat from the sun out.
Beware the hard sell
Always get at least three quotes, and don't be persuaded by sales people who say their 'offer' is only available for one day - it's a ploy to make you sign something you'll often regret later. Think about it - if you do decide to go with the company's quote, would they really turn down your money a week later? Remember the golden rule - never sign a supplier's contract on the spot.
A Which? investigation found that salespeople often, and unsurprisingly, quote a high price to start off with. In some cases, the quote dropped by up to 75 per cent during the course of the sales pitch. Sometimes a sales person will suggest a very high price, then once you have refused it, call their manager and come up with a 'special deal.' This is also likely to be over-inflated.
Also beware of sales people who offer some kind of special scheme - for example, we'll knock something off the price if you have a board advertising us outside your house. It's another way to make you believe you're getting a deal - when in reality you're not.
Some of the bigger companies train their sales people to ask lots of questions in order to stay in your home for hours - the psychology being that the longer they've been in your house, the more obliged you will feel to sign on the dotted line.
Also beware of companies who suggest their competitors have faulty products (they may even bring a supposed competitor product into your home to compare), or say that local fitters are unreliable. If you do decide to invite one of the bigger companies to quote, make sure to approach smaller local firms too - the difference in final price can be staggering, and the work of equal, if not better, quality.
Once you've accepted a quote
Once you've made your choice, the company may ask for a deposit. In most cases, 10 per cent is the amount required though if you require a bespoke product it may be more. If possible, it's a good idea to pay with a credit card - you are more likely to be covered should the worst happen and the work is not satisfactorily completed.
And if there is a guarantee on offer, be sure to check what it covers - while some companies may seem to be offering a fabulous price, their guarantee may not be up to scratch so request the full details in writing and you'll be able to ask for clarification if necessary.
When it comes to signing the contract, make sure all the details are correct - get a full description of the work due to be carried out, check the date when the product will be installed, how long installation is expected to take and be very clear on the payment details.
Ensure that the full price (including VAT) is included as well as fees for any additional work and any extras that may be included.
If you are paying via the company's finance deal, thoroughly check the terms, including interest rate and late payment fees and so on.
Remember you will have seven days to cancel the contract once it has been signed, but if you do have to cancel, put your request in writing, use a guaranteed delivery service, and be sure to keep copies.
Should things go wrong, the Double Glazing and Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme is now available to handle disputes between customers and double glazing firms.