Common Mistakes When Buying Solar

Global electricity prices are on the rise. How can you protect yourself from energy cost hikes? Installing solar panels on your home or business is a great way to reduce your overhead expenditures for years to come. 
In your search for the perfect solar match for your unique situation, there are a few pitfalls to avoid. Many people fall victim to false promises, companies that cut corners or disappear as fast as they arrive, and ‘cheap’ deals that end up being too good to be true. Luckily, these money traps are easily avoided.

Here are some common mistakes people make when shopping for a solar energy solution, and how you can bypass them.

Falsely believing a cheap system will perform as well as a premium solution

With the proliferation of solar panels across Australia, it’s easy to think that all solar companies are the same and that it’s smart to purchase the cheapest system you can find. Agreeing to a best-bargain quote may lead to high-cost problems later, as it’s typically those very same systems that come with little to no after-sales support. 
Bargain solar systems often have a higher after-sales ‘price tags’ than their premium counterparts. With cut-rate solar panels, you often get what you pay for; low quality or poorly installed panels, faulty inverters, a system that doesn’t deliver on its promises, and terrible or no after-sales customer service or support. While a premium solution might be a larger investment in the beginning, it will pay dividends in great energy savings, long-term performance, and ongoing after-sales support. The health of your solar system is contingent on the support you receive, (we can’t stress this enough): If something happens to your PV system, be it weather-related or otherwise, you don’t want to be left high-and-dry without any support.

Assuming a ‘one size fits all’ approach works

Just like a suit or a pair of shoes, your PV system should fit you and your energy needs perfectly. Your solar energy solution should be sized carefully according to your current energy usage, the days and times that you commonly use energy, your expectations and goals for reducing energy bills or your reliance on the grid, and your plans for the future; A solar energy solution should be tailored to your prospective needs: will your family grow, or perhaps shrink as a child leaves the home, or will you want to add a battery later?
The consultant you speak with should be able to understand your family or business requirements and explain how they have considered your plans in their recommendation. If a salesperson is promising a ‘one size fits all’ approach or cannot explain how their system is matched to your needs, or, even worse, doesn’t ask for that information at all, alarm bells should ring.

Not considering the level of after-sales support you’ll receive

Ongoing customer support is critical to understanding and operating your solar panels at their maximum efficiency. Whilst this is important for many larger purchases, it is critical for solar energy solutions; you are investing in a product that should last decades and has often been selected based on the years of energy savings it can provide.
After-sales service and customer support are the most common areas where cheaper providers cut costs. You might think you’ve found a bargain system with low-cost installation, but in reality, you are losing thousands of dollars in the form of repairs, system maintenance, and inefficient performance.
When choosing your solar energy provider, look for a company that offers ongoing customer support for the duration of your system. Ask the company where their support team is based and what sort of coverage they can provide. An Australian-based customer service centre and a commitment to customer satisfaction will make your renewable energy journey easy. Your system might cost a fraction more than budget providers, but it’s a valuable investment that can save you money, headaches and time as your system ages. 

Failing to read, or misunderstanding the warranty conditions

When you’re about to sign for your new solar energy solution, carefully read any warranty conditions. It’s pertinent that you completely understand your entitlements. You should find at least four warranties within your solution, with varying lengths of coverage:

  • The inverter warranty is by far the most important; The inverter converts solar energy into electricity ready for use in your home. It works non-stop at very high voltages. Inverters commonly have a manufacturer’s warranty of five years for standard inverters and up to 10 years (sometimes more) for premium inverters.
  • A solar panel performance warranty guarantees linear panel efficiency loss, generally over 25 years. This is an industry-standard, provided by the solar panel manufacturer.
  • The solar panel product warranty protects the consumer from manufacturing defects of the panel itself. The product warranty is typically passed directly from the solar panel manufacturer to you as the customer. These warranties are usually for 10 years or more.
  • The installation warranty covers the installation of solar energy on your property. It is normally offered to you directly by the solar energy provider. These warranties fluctuate greatly from provider to provider, but usually cover a minimum of two years, and can extend up to 5 years from quality providers. A longer installation warranty period can assure you of the solar provider’s confidence in their expertise. Of course, this type of warranty is only relevant if the retailer plans to be around for the warranty period provided.

You must completely understand what you’re entitled to and what the company or manufacturer’s responsibilities are. Ensure you know how the company is planning to assist with any warranty claims, and if they will handle disputes with manufacturers on your behalf.

Unfamiliarity with installer accreditations with the Clean Energy Council

The Clean Energy Council is the leading regulatory body for the renewable energy industry in Australia, helping to establish ethical sales and marketing practices by green energy retailers. A Clean Energy Council Accreditation of a company’s designers and installers shows good capability in the design and installation of solar energy systems, and that your solution will be installed with appropriate guidelines and safety standards.
Solar energy systems fitted by electricians who are not Clean Energy Council accredited will not be eligible for government rebates. If you claim a rebate on a system that is then found to not have been installed by a Clean Energy Council accredited electrician, you may find yourself having to pay much more for your system than initially promised, as well as having to reconsider how safe their electrical work is.

Forgetting to future-proof your system

Your solar system should fit your home or business for approximately 25% of your lifespan. As such, you must consider any future needs or wants. Most solar energy systems can be connected to battery storage to expand their capacity, but there are still a few points you need to be mindful of before making a final decision. Prepare to ask the company how your solar system might need to change or be expanded when you are ready for upgrades such as a battery. Might it be more cost-effective to add extra solar panels now, so you are ready for the battery when the time is right?

This post was written by Moe Saadeh