Energy prices are rising, and installing solar panels on your home or business is a great way to reduce your bills for the long term.
In your search for your perfect solar match, there will be 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 pitfalls are easily avoided.
Here are the seven most common mistakes people make when shopping for a solar energy solution, and how you can avoid them.
1. Thinking a cheap system will perform just 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 smartest to just go with the cheapest system you can get. Agreeing to the cheapest quote you can get may lead you to big problems later on, and it’s typically those very same systems that come with little to no after-sales support.
Often, cheap solar systems are more expensive in the long run than paying more in the first place for a premium system from a premium provider. With cheap 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 bigger investment at the start, it will pay dividends in great energy savings, long-term performance and ongoing after-sales support.
2. Thinking ‘one size fits all’
Just like a suit or a pair of shoes, a solar 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 most commonly use energy, your expectations and goals for reducing your energy bills or your reliance on the grid, and your plans for the future; will your family be getting bigger or smaller, or will you want to add a battery later?
The consultant you are speaking to should be able to not only listen to your answers to these questions, but also quickly and easily explain how they have taken your future plans into consideration in their recommendation. If a salesperson is promising a ‘one size fits all’ approach, cannot explain how their system is matched to your needs, or, even worse, doesn’t ask for that sort of information at all, hang up the phone immediately and try another company.
3. Not considering the level of after-sales support you’ll receive
Ongoing customer support is critical when it comes 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 have a lifespan in the decades and has often been selected on the basis of the years of energy savings it can provide.
After-sales service and customer support is actually one of the most common areas where cheaper providers cut costs. You might think you’ve found a bargain system with low-cost installation, but you could end up losing thousands of dollars more in the long-term in repairs, system maintenance and inefficient performance.
When choosing your solar energy provider, make sure you look for a company that offers ongoing customer support for the life of your system. Ask them where their support team is based and what sort of support they can provide. An Australian-based customer service centre and a commitment to customer success will make your renewable energy journey easy. Your system might cost a little more than overseas, budget providers, but it’s a valuable investment that can actually save you money down the track.
4. Not reading or understanding the warranty conditions
When you’re about to sign up for your new solar energy solution, carefully read any warranty conditions and make sure you completely understand your entitlements. You should find at least four warranties within your solution, with varying lengths of coverage:
- A solar panel performance warranty is to protect the panel’s performance, generally over 25 years. This kind of warranty is provided by the solar panel manufacturer is fairly standard across the industry.
- The solar panel materials and workmanship warranty is to cover poor materials or workmanship in the manufacture of the panel itself, and is also typically passed through direct from the solar panel manufacturer to you as the customer. Generally these warranties are between five and ten years.
- The inverter warranty is the most important warranty; this is the piece of equipment that converts your solar energy into electricity ready for use, and it works all day every day at very high voltage. Inverters generally have a manufacturer’s warranty of five years for standard inverters and up to 10 years or more for premium inverters.
- The installation warranty covers the workmanship of how your solar energy system is installed on your property, and is generally offered to you direct by the solar energy provider. These warranties vary greatly from provider to provider, but generally are a minimum of two years, and up to 5 years from quality providers. A longer installation warranty period can assure you of the solar provider’s confidence in their installers.
It’s important that you understand completely what you’re entitled to and what the company or manufacturer’s responsibilities are. Check how the company is planning to assist with any warranty claims, and if they will handle disputes with manufacturers on your behalf.
5. Not asking if the installers are Clean Energy Council accredited
The Clean Energy Council is the leading regulatory body for the clean energy industry in Australia, helping to ensure ethical sales and marketing practices by clean energy retailers in Australia. 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 designed and installed to appropriate guidelines and safety standards.
Solar energy systems installed 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 you first expected, as well as having to reconsider just how safe that electrical work really is.
6. Not researching the brand(s) the seller is promoting
Solar energy is a huge investment in your home for the long term, so you should do everything you can to learn about the products and brands that your chosen provider is selling. Do some research online by reading through forums and reviews; are other customers having a good experience with these products? Call each company directly and ask them what kind of solar panels and inverters they use in their solutions, especially the brand and manufacturer, and why they have chosen those brands for their solutions. If the company isn’t able to answer your questions, or simply refuses to divulge this information, hang up the phone immediately and cross them off your list.
7. Failing to future-proof your system
With a big investment like solar, you want to make sure you’ve considered any future needs or wants. Most solar energy systems can be connected to battery storage systems, but there are still a few extra things you need to consider before making that final decision. If you are planning on adding a battery now or later, you may need to add some more solar panels to make sure you can generate energy for the evenings as well as your daytime needs. If that is the case, can the company you are talking to explain how your solar system might need to change or be expanded when you are ready for that battery? Might it be more cost-effective to actually add the extra solar panels now so you are ready for the battery when the time is right? Ask your supplier if your system has been designed or laid out on your roof in a way that considers how it might need to be modified should the need arise.
Shopping for your new solar energy system shouldn’t be frustrating, time-consuming or confusing.
There are many companies out there that offer systems for incredibly cheap prices, misleading consumers into signing up for a deal that will fail too soon and cost them huge amounts in the long term. By staying vigilant, asking the right questions and keeping your future goals in mind, you can navigate through the search and find your perfect solar match.
Are you ready to invest in a quality solar energy system and reduce your power bills for good?