Top 9 mistakes when buying solar | Don't fall into these traps

Don't fall into 9 traps when buying solar for your home. Learn about them and get the best deal for your family.

Here are the top 9 mistakes people commonly make before buying solar for their homes. Don’t make these mistakes. 

Delaying solar installation for a price drop

It is true, solar prices have been dropping rapidly year on year. 

Source: https://www.solarchoice.net.au/wp-content/uploads/Solar-Choice-Price-Index-as-at-January-2021.jpg

But the drop cannot continue forever to below 0. The drop in prices will continue for a long time, but not at the rate shown on the graph. 

In the next 5 years, much like moore’s law, we predict that the prices of solar will drop to about half of its current prices - around $0.5/watt. 

If you take a look at our savings calculator, for a standard 6.6kW system, a household will typically save $1,820 every year. 

So a $5000 solar system now will cost $2500 in 5 years time, which is a saving of $500 a year. 

But having a solar system will save $1,820 a year. 

If you’re thinking about solar, but are waiting just because you’ll save more in the future, then perhaps consider getting a solar system today, which will save you more in the long run. 

Failing to Get Multiple Quotes

It is understood that most buyers don't have the time or energy to ask around for quotes. This doesn’t apply just to solar, but to all other services as well. 

There are many ways now to get quotes from online services such as:

  • solarquotes.com.au
  • solarcalculator.com.au
  • energymatters.com.au
  • And many more...

These websites will ask some questions about your current situation and match you to a few local solar installers.

Solar installers get the chance to speak to you, and in turn they pay these websites a fee.

When getting these quotes from installers that you may have never heard about, it is important to consider that price isn’t everything.

Price is actually a great indicator of the value that the installer can offer you.

A price that is far lower than the $0.9/watt that the industry is typically charging should ring some alarm bells. 

Alternatively, a quote that is far greater than $0.9/watt should prompt you to ask the reasons. 

An installer may be quoting higher because they realise that your home is more difficult than the average. Paying for a higher price up front may end up saving you headaches. 

Confusion between "Rebate" or “Feed-in tariff”

The solar rebate comes as a financial incentive offered by either the Australian federal government or your State Government. 

The feed-in tariff is a financial incentive run by the state government on the energy you channel back to the grid.

There are also different types of solar rebates. The first one is an STC.

Small-scale technology certificates (STCs) 

Small-scale technology certificates (STCs) are certificates that the Australian government hands out to installers, who pass on that savings to you, the purchaser. 

The larger the system, the more credits you can claim. 

Australia was divided up into certain zones, here is a table showing how many STCs can be claimed in each state for a 5kW system, and an approx rebate. 

StateSTCsTotal
Western Australia76 STCs$2,812
Queensland76 STCs$2,812
South Australia76 STCs$2,812
New South Wales76 STCs$2,812
Victoria65 STCs$2,045
Tasmania65 STCs$2,045

State rebates

Some states offer rebates in addition to the federal STCs. Some of these rebates are 

Solar Rebate According to State Governments

ACT Government

As per the ACT government, pensioners can claim solar rebates of up to 50 percent. They are also eligible for an interest-free solar loan. However, it must be paid back within 3 years. No deposit is required to avail this loan.

NSW Government

Although there is no rebate in place with the NSW government, the buyers can avail interest-free loans. Under the empowering homes scheme, eligible NSW residents can avail interest-free loan of maximum $9000 for solar batteries. For a complete PV & battery system, the buyers are eligible for maximum $14,000 loan. 

This scheme is only available for buyers with household income of $180,000 or less/year. 

QLD Government

Currently, the QLD government isn’t offering any rebates or interest-free loan on solar PV systems. 

VIC Government

Eligible buyers under the VIC government can avail a rebate of maximum $1,850 for the entire solar PV system, One can also avail $1,850 of interest-free loan. Rental properties in Victorian State are also eligible to receive the same amount of solar rebate. Landlords eligible under this scheme can also avail interest-free loan that equals the rebate amount. 

You might be wondering how I can avail the rebate provided by my state government. However, this isn’t a direct-to-customer scheme. Rather, the rebate is passed down to your solar seller and ultimately you get a discounted price on your purchase. So, you don’t have to worry about this as it is taken care of by your solar service provider. 

Unaware of some scams

Some solar sales people have been hired to complete a sale only. 

Not all salespeople are dedicated to better customer service. So, it is better to do your research than just relying on someone you hardly know.

We recommend seeking out a solar installer, rather than going with someone that seeks you out. 

There are some solar installers who advise that if the panels are not cleaned and maintained every 12 months, the warranty expires.

This is rubbish.

We recommend cleaning to be done every 12 months, but the objective is to maximise efficiency. Neglecting cleaning should not void warranty. 

Not asking the right questions

You will get the best quotes only when you ask the right questions. It is on you to get the best quotes by asking relevant questions. Knowledge is power in this case.

If you know your stuff, no one can overcharge you for solar installation. Plus, this helps if you need to know about the warranties, servicing, or installation charges. The internet is free, so why not invest some time and clarify your doubts before investing.

There are several forums and websites dedicated to solar installation and servicing. Use these resources to power up your knowledge bank and be a pro at getting better quotes.

Here are some questions you must ask your solar service provider:

How long has the company been in business? 

Asking this question will help you choose a service provider with experience. You would get to hire someone who knows the domain in and out. 

How many solar systems have you installed till 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 this 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, contracts that subcontract the work might be unable to provide quality work due to an indirect approach. This is done to save time and money on the contract’s part. However, there are companies that ensure all quality-check protocols are in place. 

Misunderstanding shade

We all live in the southern hemisphere. 

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 massive tree from our neighbour’s property that casts a giant shadow across our north facing roof.

Bummer.

Well, its actually not as simple as that. 

We should actually consider when your power usage is highest. 

Panels on the east face

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.

Panels on the west face

Similarly, if you do a lot of your cooking, cleaning, or power hungry devices in the late afternoon, it may be worthwhile to consider panels to be installed on the western side of your roof. 

Micro-inverters

One final solution is to install micro inverters. These are small individual inverters placed on every panel instead of 1 large one next to your switchboard.

That way, when a tree casts a shadow across some panels, all other panels will continue to generate power as per normal. 

Micro inverters are more expensive than normal, but worth considering. 

Costly isn't always the right choice

Some companies slap in their brand tag and spike the prices for their products. This can happen in the solar world as well. But, if you believe that costly products are always better, it isn't true. Yes, in most cases, cheaper products are substandard. But, the same is also the case with costly panels.

As a buyer, price shouldn't be the only motivating factor for you to purchase a system. Before you make a purchase, here are the features you need to check:

Solar Panel Material:

If you can, consider opting for crystalline silicon material-based panels. They are commonly used in solar cells. This material has a lifespan of 25 years and is perfect for solar power production.

Solar Efficiency:

Another thing to consider with solar purchase is to check its efficiency. If yours gives you efficiency higher than 90 percent, it's worth it.

Warranty:

This comes without saying that a warranty is critical to your unit. A longer warranty period would ensure that they make from a quality manufacturer. Most solar panels, as explained above, come with a standard 10-year warranty.

Failing to Consider the After-Sales Support

After-sales support is very important for solar energy solutions as they last for decades. Any glitch in the system after maybe 8 to 9 years should be addressed immediately. Cheap service providers tend to cut costs by laying off their after-sales support. You might think that you had a bargain deal with the low pricing, but this will affect you in the long run. You might end up paying a hefty amount in repairs, maintenance and receive inefficient performance. The key is to choose a service provider that offers support at least till the system is in warranty. If you can find someone who provides support even beyond the warranty period, grab the opportunity right away.

Most service providers do not heed to the complaints after the warranty period is completed. However, there are some reliable firms in the Australian market that can provide support even after the warranty period is done for. They might ask for some extra charges for this. However, it is worth it for the quality support they provide. Check whether the company you are purchasing from provides lifetime support. If so, the solar seller is a reliable one. 

To choose a reliable seller, one must skim through the online service reviews. Most solar sellers today have an online presence, especially over social media. So, one can surely check Facebook page reviews or Google reviews to ensure that the service provider is a legit one. You can also read the website testimonials to check the quality and authenticity of the solar firm.

Keep in mind that no firm is 100 percent perfect.

Not Understanding or Reading the Warranty Conditions

This is something 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. It is a fair standard in the solar industry. If your panel comes with anything less, reject it right away.

Workmanship and Material 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 to 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. Tesla Powerball is a good example of premium inverters.

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.

Conclusion

Remember, a solar system is a major investment that might cost you a hefty cut from your savings. But, with these considerations, you can avoid making any irreversible mistakes. Do not fall for marketing gimmicks and stay vigilant. Ask the necessary questions and use the internet to help your search for the best solar service providers. 

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