Cheap Solar Panels: What You Need To Look Out For

When you see the word ‘cheap’ on something for sale, what other words do you immediately associate with it?

Poor quality? Faulty? Fake? It’s hardly ever a confident feeling that we get from cheap or ‘bargain’ products.

Solar panels advertised as ‘bargains’ can do more harm than good – and it’s critical that you use your gut instinct when hunting for your perfect solar panel solution. The best deal is most likely not the cheapest one. It’s the deal that uses quality components, designers, and 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 circumstance.


Buy Cheap, Get Cheap

While most of us have an instinct for bogus deals, it’s human nature to make a few mistakes along the way. Perhaps you bought a cheap kitchen appliance that failed the second or third time you used it, or you chose the cheaper tradie that did a subpar job or left your home with issues you found only after they’d disappeared. We’ve all been caught out in the past with a deal that was ‘too good to be true’ – and it can happen in the solar industry too.

Cheap solar panels can be just that; cheap substitutes for the real deal. If you’re seeing a really low upfront cost on great quality solar panels, check the terms of sale to see if the company reserves the right to swap out these quality parts for cheaper panels that aren’t of equivalent capacity, quality, or warranty to the ones you signed up for. This option for a company to substitute inferior panels into your system after the point of sale might be a way they can advertise something that looks too good to be true and then cut their costs and put your future energy savings and your property at risk.

In 2017, the Clean Energy Council raised questions about the quality of cheaper solar panels, and how the manufacturer’s descriptions often don’t match the actual panel and aren’t meeting the standards their datasheets are claiming. Their message was clear; don’t just buy the cheapest panels you can find.


Shot Term Gain, Long Term Pain

Consider the long-term gain when you’re looking to invest in solar. Promises of short-term savings are only worthwhile if you won’t be paying thousands in years to come on repairs or replacements. And years of projected savings are just worthless paper talk if the system fails before it’s paid itself back. While upfront costs of cheap solar panels might look attractive, the long-term consequences of buying a cheap system are incredibly expensive in the long run – especially if the panels don’t perform to their promises, you need to replace faulty panels, or your inverter isn’t performing at 100%.

Check how the company is able to support you once the system is installed. It can be difficult to get some companies to help you with a performance issue or a warranty claim, and you might be stuck having to get your solar panels inspected and sent back to the manufacturer at your own cost before they’ll begin investigating the issue. Look for a solar supplier with an Australian-based customer support team for the best after-sales assistance and warranty support.


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. 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.

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.

If you can get hold of the manufacturer’s name, do a bit 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.


Aim For The Top Tier

When choosing your solar panels, consider the quality of the manufacturer and brand carefully. In the solar industry, there are three industry-accepted ‘tiers’ of manufacturer quality. Tier 1 encompasses the top 2% of solar manufacturers, and is the highest quality technology and manufacturing.

Tier 1 solar companies:
  • Invest heavily in research and development of new technology;
  • Have been manufacturing for longer than 5 years;
  • Are in control of every step of the manufacturing process; and
  • Use only the best quality silicon to produce solar cells.

Simply put, would you rather have the best quality solar panels that will last you a lifetime, or risk your property and your energy future on a cheaper, poorer quality product that could cost thousands in replacements and repairs? For us, it’s an easy decision; quality always wins over cost.