Mistakes to avoid when buying residential solar

The best deal is most likely not the cheapest one.

It’s the deal that uses quality components, good system design, reputable installers, is built to last, helps you save money on your electricity bill over the long term, and gives you the best quality solar solution for your unique circumstances.

  • Cost vs Value

Don’t just choose your solar panels based on how much they cost. The best solution for you will depend not just on the price of your system, but also on the value that is added by your supplier’s knowledge, experience, and expertise. Have they considered your personal energy use and when and how you use that energy? Have they considered how big your roof is and which direction it faces, and how they can match that with your energy needs? And have they considered any rebates you could be eligible for? The cheap solar panels you’ve found might not actually be the best fit for you if they’re not backed by an expert design and a quality installation.

The cost of your solar panels will depend on a number of factors, including capacity (watts), size, brand, quality of materials and parts, durability and warranty period, and certifications the brand or product has received by the CEC Clean Energy Council. The price you’ll pay will also depend on the number of panels you have within the package you choose, the quality of the inverter they are connected to, and the quality and expertise of the people that are designing the system and installing the solar panels for you.

Some quotes you receive will usually include a string inverter (like Fronius) and others may include microinverters (like Enphase) or even optimisers (like SolarEdge) either way, remember that microinverters and optimisers cost up to 20 – 25% more than standard string inverters.

Solar power costs should always be thought of as an investment into your energy future. What you should be looking at carefully is the long-term value of your system. There are a variety of factors that will influence your decision and they will all help you to make the best decision to get the fastest payback, lowest electricity bill and most independence from the grid.

  • Do Your Research

If you’ve received a few quotes and one of them looks incredibly cheap for seemingly the same solar solution, give them a call. Ask them what kind of solar panels and inverter they use, especially their brand or manufacturer. Also ask whether the panels and inverters are Clean Energy Council approved, what the warranties are, and how the company will support you after the sale. If they’re not willing to divulge this information freely, or cannot answer the questions quickly and confidently, hang up the phone and look elsewhere.

Don’t risk making the wrong decision that could cost you dearly in the long run.

If you can get hold of the manufacturer’s name, do lots of research by reading through online forums or review sites for further information. If you’ve never heard of them, or other reputable companies aren’t using them, and there aren’t any reliable reviews out there with promising results, the deal is probably too good to be true.

  • Be aware of scams

Some solar salespeople have been hired to complete a sale only and are usually paid via commission only. So not all salespeople are dedicated to better customer service. We recommend seeking out a solar installer, rather than going with someone that seeks you out.

How long has the company been in business? Asking this question will help you choose a service provider with experience.

How many solar systems have you installed to date? At times, years of experience doesn’t necessarily translate into expertise. A business that has installed merely 10 or 20 systems in 5 years denotes that they aren’t trusted by solar buyers.

Is the firm certified by the Clean Energy Council? Companies with CEC certification are experienced in quality solar installation for the customers.

Do you subcontract the work? If so, how do you manage to ensure quality work?

In general, solar companies that subcontract the installation might be unable to provide quality work due to an indirect approach, however there are reputable companies that do ensure that all quality-check protocols are in place. You just need to find them.

  • Misunderstanding shade

In Australia, we live in the southern hemisphere and most people understand that north facing panels will collect the most sunlight during the peak hours of the day and will end up generating the most energy. As a result, we take a look at our roof, and unfortunately, we see a tree from our neighbour’s property that casts a shadow across our north facing roof. Bummer. Well, it’s actually not as simple as that. Tree shading is extremely important and can prevent solar power systems from working, but you should also consider when your power usage is highest to see if there is an unshaded portion of your roof that can be utilised.

For example, if most of your energy usage is during the early hours of the morning, there is a good point to be made for putting panels on the eastern facing roofs. If space permits.

Similarly, if you use a lot of energy in the afternoon, it may be worthwhile to consider panels to be installed on the western side of your roof.

One final solution is to consider micro inverters or optimisers. Micro inverters are small individual inverters placed under every solar panel instead of a standard string inverter next to your switchboard. That way, if a tree casts a shadow across some panels, all other panels will continue to generate power as per normal. Micro inverters and Optimisers are more expensive than string inverters, but worth considering.

  • Not Understanding or Reading the Warranty Conditions

Warranties are something that most solar buyers get confused with. They expect that the warranty period for the solar would cover the installation and service as well. But you need to be a wise buyer. Before you sign up for the purchase, read through the warranty conditions. This will help you seek benefits the right way when needed.

In general, there are 4 warranties that cover your solar system. These include

Performance warranty: Most solar panels come with a standard 25-year performance warranty, which is fairly standard in the solar industry. If your panel comes with anything less, reject it right away.

Product Warranty: This warranty covers the workmanship and materials used to manufacture the product. It is provided directly by the panel manufacturers. In general, the workmanship warranty is about 5 to 10 years.

Inverter Warranty: An inverter is an important part of your entire solar setup. It converts the solar energy produced by the panels from DC to AC for usable electrical energy. It works on a daily basis handling high voltage. This is why inverters have a lower warranty period which is generally 5 years. If you invest in a premium inverter, the warranty can go as high as 10 years.

Installation Warranty: This warranty covers the installation process of the unit in the property you own. This is offered directly by your solar energy service provider. The warranty period can vary depending on the service provider. However, the minimum is 2 years, with the highest going up to 5 years. A longer warranty period assures you that skilled & certified professionals do the installation.

In summary, solar power systems can be complicated and require research and professional guidance.

If you are ever in doubt, always seek professional independent advice.


October 2022