If you are thinking of investing in solar power, this comprehensive guide is for you.
By the time you finish reading this guide, you will learn more about solar energy than 99.9% of Australians, be confident to go toe-to- toe with a solar salesman, be equipped to check if you are paying just the right amount of money for an appropriately-sized solar system installation for your house, become a solar expert in no time, and avoid winding up buying a crap solar panel.
Take heed, potential solar buyers, take serious heed!
When considering buying and installing a solar PV array, it is possible that you will deal with the:
- sales company (or a retailer)
- system designer (someone who puts the panels, inverters, and battery design together)
- installer (in charge to get on the roof and puts the panel in place)
- qualified electrician, responsible to sign off on the system and own a Certificate of Compliance for Electrical Work (CCEW)
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Is the company accredited?
Here is the good news! In order to protect consumers and uphold standards, the solar industry has more accreditation than ever. However, the secret trick here is merely understanding what accreditation to look for and where you can check it.
Important: Take the time to ask a couple of questions before you sign on the dotted line. You won’t regret it.
The Clean Energy Council (CEC) sets requirements that must be met by designers and installers to obtain accreditation. Being accredited by the CEC would mean that the installer shows expertise in the design and installation of solar PV systems and will be able to help you claim government incentives and rebates, which reduce the overall upfront cost of your solar power system.
A list of approved modules and inverters compliant that meet Australian standards is also maintained by the CEC. Be sure that the components are clearly defined by make, size and model for the system quoted, and are approved by the Clean Energy Council.
Learn more about the types of accreditation on the CEC Solar Accreditation website.
No accreditation, no rebate
Important: Some state government incentives require you to install with a company that is a CEC Accredited Retailer & Installer, but most only require the CEC Installer accreditation.
How to choose the right retailer?
To help you find a quality supplier, the CEC runs the voluntary Certified Solar Retailer program. Endorsed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), it seeks to set high standards in the solar industry.
To verify whether a supplier is licensed and approved, look for the logo and check the list of CEC Approved Solar Retailers.
Approved Solar Retailers have been approved by the CEC, showing their dedication to its voluntary code of conduct, including:
- responsible sales and marketing activities
- a five-year whole of system warranty
- ensuring a CEC accredited designer plans your system
- ensuring a CEC accredited installer sets up your system
What else to look for in a solar company?
Currently, there are about 400 solar panel companies and 4800 certified installers on the market beyond the CEC Licensed Retailers. As with any major investment, make sure to look for a range of quotes and vet the company before signing anything.
Solar Panels Quality Checklist:
- Has the company been operating for more than five years and has an established track record?
- Does the company have a registered office and a local phone number?
- Check if the company is a signatory to the CEC’s code of conduct.
- Recommendations – the best solar purchase tips always come from friends, family neighbours or colleagues who have had solar PV systems installed.
- Product review sites, like SolarQuotes should also be checked.
- Ask if the company will be able to visit your home and check what your site needs.
- Take note of what warranties (see below) the manufacturer offers.
Avoid companies that:
- Quote with a method of one-size-fits-all.
- Sell panels that are far below the normal market cost – you will end up with a poor quality system.
- Make exaggerated claims such as ‘no more electricity bills’
- Use pushy and high pressure sales tactics, such as telling you to sign on the spot, use door-to-door sales, or say ‘act now before the government rebates end’.
- If companies are comfortable doing bad work, avoid them like the plague.
- Offer cheap solar and television / newspaper advertising.
SolarQuotes founder Finn Peacock reveals that “not all the companies that advertise on the TV and in the newspaper are bad, but there’s a high percentage of them that are – so be super-wary of going for a TV or newspaper deal.”
SunPower is an American company that manufactures tier one solar panels that are among the best available. With an Australian office in Melbourne, SunPower panels are corrosion resistant, have the highest efficiency currently on the market, and have a 25-year replacement product warranty.
Trina Solar is a Chinese company that produces quality tier 1 panels that are installed around the world and have a 10-year product warranty that is standard for tier 1 panels With 21 offices worldwide, including one in Sydney, Trina Solar has been named as the most ‘bankable’ PV module manufacturer globally by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) for five consecutive years.
SolarEdge is a global leader in smart energy. In 2019, launched its “Smart Modules”, with integrated SolarEdge power optimisers that help to harvest more energy from each panel. The 300-watt SolarEdge Smart Module has a conversion efficiency of 18% and a 12-year warranty, which is amazing as the industry standard is 10 years.
Tesla, Inc., originally as Tesla Motors, is headquartered in the USA’s San Francisco Bay Area, with office locations around the world, including Australia. Tesla arrived on the home energy storage scene accompanied by great fanfare with the Tesla Powerwall battery back in 2015 and then followed by the Powerwall 2 in 2016.
Fronius is a European company that makes some of the best inverters in the world. Fronius opened its Melbourne-based Australian office in late 2010, offering not only customer support and technical assistance but also product demonstrations and training courses.
Delta Energy Systems is a subsidiary of Delta Electronics Group, a multi-billion dollar global company that makes all kinds of commercial, medical and consumer electronics, as well as solar inverters. A 5-year warranty is offered on Delta Home Series solar inverters (and its Hybrid E5). Its Australian office is located in Notting Hill, Victoria.
Solar panel warranties: What you need to know
Generally, a solar panel performance warranty can last up to 25 years. This ensures the panel production capability will not drop below a specified degradation percentage (during the warranty period).
A solar panel product warranty covers defective materials or workmanship and protects buyers against faulty equipment. The product warranty, which is provided by the manufacturer of the panel and not the solar installation company, typically last for 10 to 12 years.
Important: Ensure you understand the difference between a solar panel performance warranty and a solar panel product warranty.