Faced with rising electricity prices, climate change and rolling blackouts and brownouts, many Australians are motivated to make the switch to solar energy.
With different brands and options ranging from grid connect to stand-alone, choosing the perfect residential solar power solution for your home is no easy feat. While a reputable solar energy provider can make this process easier, a less than stellar solar provider can leave you with higher costs, poor quality workmanship and a system that doesn’t suit your needs and goals.
While there are plenty of tips and articles about what questions to ask prospective solar companies before you buy, you should really be listening out for what questions your potential solar provider asks YOU. Their attention to detail and the types of questions they ask can tell you a lot about their experience, knowledge, and quality of service (and help you avoid any nasty surprises throughout the process).
To save you time and money, we’ve put together a guide to the nine essential questions your solar provider should be asking you.
Question #1: Do you already have solar?
If you do, your provider should then ask follow up questions about the size of your system, the make and model of your inverter, and what feed-in tariff you’re already on.
Why is this important? If you’re on a high feed-in tariff that is locked in place, any changes or additions to your existing system could put your tariff at risk and leave you worse off financially. A good solar provider will take your tariff and circumstances into account, and advise you when it may actually be better for you to do nothing.
Question #2: What are you looking to achieve from a solar energy system?
It’s crucial that your potential solar system provider understands what you’re trying to achieve with your solar energy system. Everyone has different needs and goals, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution – what works for the family down the street, may not work for you.
A good solar energy provider will find out whether you’re looking for best payback, the most grid independence, blackout power, a pathway for being completely off the grid, reduced environmental impact, power price security, or increased home value. By providing this information your solar provider will be a able to tailor a battery storage, solar panel or combination solution to what works for you rather than someone else.
Question #3: When do you need to have the system installed by?
It might seem an obvious question, but it’s also an important one. From the very beginning, your potential solar provider needs to know when you want the system to be installed so they can confirm product availability and make sure they are able to deliver on your expectations. An honest provider will let you know if your expectations on installation dates cannot be met, and will talk you through why this might be so and what timeframes you can reasonably expect.
Question #4: Do you have a specific budget in mind or to keep within?
A straightforward answer about your budget early on in the process will save you and your solar provider time and money further down the road. Knowing your budget limits from the get go will allow the solar company to provide a solution and quote that is within your expectations and without any nasty surprises.
Once our consultants know your budget, they will make sure that you get the best and most efficient solution for the money you’re willing to spend. This process also helps you understand the costs involved in the different solar energy system options and what you can expect.
Question #5: Can you provide a copy of your most recent electricity bill?
Your electricity bill contains a wealth of information that will help any solar energy consultant deliver an accurate quote for your home solar solution.
Knowing how much energy you use per day, how that usage changes over time, and how much you are paying for your electricity, allows ZEN Energy to size your home solar system accordingly and determine what financial benefits the system will provide you.
Knowing who your electricity distributor is, and the National Meter Identifier (NMI) and meter number for your property, will let your consultants understand whether there are any restrictions that could affect any proposed solutions.
Question #6: Are you a day-time or night-time user of energy? Are there people home or large appliances that typically operate during the daytime?
Although it may seem a bit intrusive, the answer to this question is about when people are home and when you use energy. It will actually go a long way to helping a solar energy consultant properly size a solution to suit your needs and expectations.
Your answer will help determine how much solar energy you will consume, how much of your existing electricity bill will be covered by the solution, and the overall financial benefits of the proposed solution.
Question #7: Can we have a photo of your switchboard and electricity meter? And where are they located?
Your electricity bill isn’t the only valuable source of information for a reputable solar energy company. A photo of your switchboard or electricity meter will help a consultant better understand how much space is available for the proposed solar solution, and whether there will be any additional costs (for example: if the switchboard is cramped or full, in an unusual location, or far away from where the panels or inverter will be installed).
Having this upfront because it gives consultants the opportunity to discuss any additional charges with you as soon as possible, rather than getting an unwelcome surprise on the installation day.
Question #8: Do you have wifi at the property?
Because most solar energy systems connect to an internet-based monitoring platform, it’s important that you have wifi available so that your solar provider can remotely monitor your system’s performance and benefits.
Having this online monitoring set up allows your provider’s technicians to log in to your system remotely and diagnose any issues that could be hampering performance. In some circumstances, having your system connected to stable and continuous wifi is actually a condition of the system’s warranty – if you don’t have it, you may void your warranty.
Question #9: Do you have any requirements or expectations around the installation?
If you’re planning on going away on holiday or need your new system installed by a certain date, you should tell your solar energy provider so that they can schedule an installation date that works for you.
Also consider whether you have any special requests or restrictions about where you want the inverter to be installed or on which roof areas you want the solar panels to go.
No reputable solar energy provider wants you to come home to solar panels that have been installed in an area you weren’t expecting or an inverter on a wall that ruins the design of your outdoor entertaining area.
Investing in a solar energy system is a big decision, and you want to be confident that you’re choosing an experienced, solar provider who not only provides honest and sound advice, but has the skills and knowledge to design a solution that specifically suits your needs.
The types of questions your potential solar energy solution asks YOU can reveal a lot about their experience, knowledge and quality of service. At ZEN Energy we take the time to discuss the best options for your unique situation, and ask for your requirements, budget and goals upfront. Using this process we’re confident that we will save you precious time, money and stress in the long run.
Are you ready to start a conversation about your solar energy requirements?