An Apology To Australian Premium Solar

Sorry can be the hardest word.

I am writing this article to apologize to Australian Premium Solar, also known as APS.

On the 20th of January this year I wrote an article entitled, “Australian Premium Solar Turn A 30 Year Warranty Into A One Year Warranty.”

In the article I did the following:

  • I described the APS warranty as “horrible”.
  • I said that unnecessary and expensive inspections are required to maintain the APS warranty.
  • I advised people not to use APS panels.

I of course apologize for none of that, as I still believe it all to be true.

The APS warranty is horrible, it would cost a small fortune in unnecessary inspections to maintain, and I sure as hell advise people not to buy them.  If you read my article and have enough brain cells to rub against each other you’ll see why it’s a bad idea.

But, what I did do in my article, and which I fully and unreservedly apologize for, is for saying that APS is the worst solar panel warranty in Australia that I’ve ever seen.

I obviously did not look hard enough, because a reader has since tipped me off about an even worse warranty.1

The ‘worst warranty’ gong should actually go to the very closely related company, Universal Solar Group or USG.

universal solar group solar panels

Screenshot of universalsolargroup.com.au: 1 Feb 2017

Yes folks, the people at USG have really gone the extra distance and managed to make their warranty even worse than that of Australian Premium Solar.  While APS can declare their warranty void if their panels don’t receive maintenance every year, USG can declare their 30 year performance warranty and potentially their 12 year product warranty void if their panels aren’t serviced every 3 months.

USG Does Not Seem Confident About Their Product

USG’s warranty makes it look as though they have no faith in their product at all.  They appear to believe their panels are so fragile there is no point in covering them with a warranty unless they receive quarterly servicing.

I find the very idea they need to be serviced every three months bizarre.  After all, they have no moving parts.  I can’t think of anything that can go wrong with them in that period of time which maintenance will prevent.

After all, my car is powered by a series of controlled explosions, has thousands of moving parts, and my life depends on it working properly, but even it only needs to be serviced around once a year.

But maybe USG is fully aware that quarterly servicing makes no sense and they just don’t want to pay for panels that stop working.  That hypothesis also fits the facts.

The USG Maintenance Schedule

Here is the start of the USG maintenance schedule:

USG Maintenance Schedule

As you can see, they start off by saying:

“Regular maintenance of your installed solar panels is an essential term of you product warranties.”

And it goes on to say:

“…maintenance of solar panels must be done by a Clean Energy Council Accredited Installer.”

How often does this maintenance need to be done?  Well, according to the rest of the maintenance schedule it needs to be done every three months with extra maintenance annually and every 5 years:

USG Maintenance Schedule

The Quarterly Maintenance Is Bullshit

According to the schedule, the quarterly maintenance that is, “…an essential term of you product warranties,” consists of cleaning the panels because apparently not being cleaned for more than three months damages USG panels.  It is also necessary to remove anything shading the panels because it seems that shade can also harm them2.

I also have to wonder what is meant by, “…remove anything that could cause shading or loss of sunlight falling onto the panels.”  Is the, “Clean Energy Council Accredited Installer” who is required to do the work expected to cut down trees or possibly demolish your neighbor’s house?

But what I find most interesting about the quarterly maintenance is that it requires paying an accredited solar installer to clean your panels.  Panels are not normally cleaned by accredited solar installers.  They usually have better things to do with their time.  So according to the maintenance schedule, you will have to pay a person with qualifications that a professional solar panel cleaner does not require to clean your panels.

The Cost Of Unnecessary Maintenance

Solar panels do not need yearly maintenance.  Maintenance every 5 years can be a good idea just to make sure everything is working fine and the system hasn’t developed a hazardous fault.  So if we allow for one inspection every five years, then if you want to keep your USG performance warranty for its full 30 years you will have to pay for 114 superfluous acts of maintenance.

The going rate to have an accredited installer inspect your system, without cleaning, is around $200 to $300.  If you can find an accredited installer who is happy to inspect and clean your panels for $250 a visit, then after just 5 years you will have wasted $4,750 which is probably a lot more than the panels are worth.  By the end of their 30 year performance warranty you will have wasted a total of $28,500 in today’s money on unnecessary maintenance.

With that money you could afford to buy multiple new rooftop solar systems.

Or alternatively, you could get just one rooftop solar system with a warranty that isn’t shit.

Which Warranties Are Quarterly Maintenance Required For?

At the top the USG maintenance schedule it clearly says:

“Regular maintenance of your installed solar panels is an essential term of you product warranties.”

This clearly makes it sound as though four times a year maintenance is required for both the product and the performance warranties.  And the first thing the warranty states under “Exclusions and Limitations” is:

” The warranties provided herein shall apply strictly to the normal use and servicing of the Panel. It does not apply to Panels that have been tampered with, maintained or worked on by an unaccredited installer or outside the guidelines of the USP User Manual.”

But the USG warranty states:

“The warranties in PART B are subject to proof of regular or periodic maintenance being carried out to achieve the optimum performance of the Panels. The minimum recommended maintenance requirements for USP Panels are detailed in the USP Maintenance Schedule. Failure to conduct regular or periodic maintenance may void the warranties in PART B.”

And “PART B” refers specifically to the 30 year performance warranty.  But, the warranty also states:

“The warranties provided herein ceases to apply or become void if a Panel is damaged or found to be defective as a consequence of inter alia3, any of the following events.”

The “following events” include:

“Failure or a lack of proper maintenance as provided for in the User Manual or the USP Maintenance Schedule.”

So it looks like they can also attempt to void the 12 year product warranty for failing to do quarterly maintenance.  I imagine you could fight them on this, because I can’t think of anything that would realistically result in a panel failing under normal use within 12 years due to a lack of maintenance.  But the best solution is just to avoid using these panels in the first place.

If USG panels are already on your roof then you have my condolences.

“Tested For Hash Conditions” And Apparently Failed

I downloaded all the datasheets for all five USG panels off their website:

  • USG Poly P6-60 Series
  • USP Mono M6-60 Series
  • USP Mono M6-72 Series
  • USP Poly P6-60 Series
  • USP Poly P6-72 Series

Or at least I tried to.  Only three of the links actually worked, so there are two panels for which there are either no links, no datasheets, or no actual panels.  And I really don’t know which of those options is more likely to be correct.

But every one of the three datasheets I was able to download, states:

“Tested for harsh conditions”

Well that makes them sound tough, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately none of them appear to have actually passed this test.  This is because the warranty states that it becomes void if the panels are:

“Installed in a marine environment or in a harsh environment containing high levels of acid, salt or pollutants.”

Just to be clear, “a marine environment” doesn’t mean under the sea, it means near the sea.  In other words you shouldn’t be installing these within a couple hundred meters of the beach or anywhere they might regularly be exposed to salt mist.  But just what USG considers to be a marine environment is not known as they don’t provide a definition.

Avoid Exposing USG Panels to Heat Or Weather

Another thing that will void their warranties is if they are:

“Damaged by heat, fire, explosion, lighting, weather, natural or other disaster or extreme conditions.”

That sentence might seem okay at first, but when you break it down, they are saying the warranty is void if the panels are damaged by heat.  This is a worry because when exposed to the summer sun, solar panels have a definite tendency to become ever so slightly frickin hot.  It’s a rather unavoidable fact of life for solar panels in Australia and if heat alone can void their warranty they are not suitable for use in this country.

But it’s not just heat you have to worry about voiding their warranties.  If you look at the exclusion above you’ll see they consider weather alone to be enough.  This makes me wonder if USG has developed the world’s first indoor solar panel or if they don’t understand that in order to function their panels will have to withstand this phenomena known as “weather” for decades without breaking.  This is because they normally go on roofs and not under beds or in cupboards.  A solar panel warranty that excludes damage caused by weather is pretty goddamn useless.

USG Panels Are Used By Euro Solar

Euro Solar is an installer that uses USG panels.  I don’t recommend getting a Euro Solar installed system for a number of reasons, but for now I’ll just mention two:

I guess the most positive thing I can say about Euro Solar is it’s a “fine” company.

via GIPHY

USG, APS, And Euro Solar Are All Related

It is no real secret that Universal Solar Group (USG), Australian Premium Solar (APS), and Euro Solar are all basically the same mob.  The similarity in their grammatical errors alone is a give away.

I haven’t bothered to go into the details of who owns what and just who is directing which parts of the operation because it is not necessary.  If you don’t use them you won’t have a problem with them.

You Have Protection Under Australian Consumer Law

The good news is, under Australian Consumer Law you have far more protection than what is offered in the USG written warranty.  Because they offer a 30 year warranty I am confident that if their panels fail in that time and USG is taken to a consumer tribunal or small claims court they will be required to provide a repair, replacement, or refund4.  But I am also sure they know very few people will bother to do that.

Some Deficiencies In The USG Website

I’ve told you what’s important – it can cost over $28,000 in unnecessary inspections and cleaning to maintain the warranty on your USG panels for their full 30 years.  My job here is done.  So for the rest of this article I’m just going to be pointing out certain entertaining features of the USG website.

There Is No Link To The Maintenance Schedule

The USG warranty states:

“The minimum recommended maintenance requirements for USP Panels are detailed in the USP Maintenance Schedule.”

So clearly this Maintenance Schedule is an important document.  But despite it being so important, they don’t actually provide any link I can find on their website.  I had to go and poke around on the internet to get one.  You know, it’s almost as if they don’t want people to know they’ll have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on unnecessary inspections and cleaning to keep their warranty in spec.

“International Recognised” Company Appears To Have No Address

The USG website says:

“Universal Solar Group is an international recognised PV manufacturing company with headquarters located in Australia.”

But if you check on the internet you’ll see that basically no one outside of Australia knows of them and not many people in Australia do either, so I don’t see how they can be, “international recognised”.

As for their “headquarters located in Australia” they don’t actually give the address of their headquarters anywhere on their website.  That seems a bit remiss of them, as Google Maps doesn’t know where it is either.  But I’m sure Euro Solar could tell you that information if you asked them.

Vision Failure Suggests Blindness

But USG do tell you about their commitment and vision.  They state:

“Our commitment is responsible manufacturing & Our vision is to become the leading solar components supplier in the Oceania and Asia-Pacific by the year 2016.”

Well, it’s now 2017, so epic fail there guys.  I have to say your vision doesn’t seem very clear.  Have you considered getting your eyes tested every three months?

My Recommendation

Surely if Universal Solar Group thought their panels were likely to last the full 30 years of their warranty without a problem, they would not require them to receive tens of thousands of dollars worth of unneeded maintenance in order for them to keep their warranty?  So I do not think they are likely to be reliable panels.

My advice is simple and is the same as for Australian Premium Solar panels.  Don’t use them.  And if an installer attempts a bait and switch by saying the panels you wanted aren’t available so they will install USG or APS panels instead, tell them to go to hell.

Footnotes

  1. Mars7 left a comment in my earlier article that sparked me to look into USG panels.  He or she has gone through a lot of effort online to let people know what they are letting themselves in for when they buy these panels, so thank you Mars7.
  2. Partial shade can damage panels by causing shoddy bypass diodes to burn out.  Do you get the impression USG considers the diodes in their panels to be shoddy?
  3. Inter alia is Latin for “among other things”.
  4. But I am not a lawyer.  What an actual, real lawyer says is much more likely to be correct than what some random guy with a horse says on the internet.
About Ronald Brakels

Many years ago now, Ronald Brakels was born in Toowoomba. He first rose to international prominence when his township took up a collection to send him to Japan, which was the furthest they could manage with the money they raised. He became passionately interested in environmental matters upon his return to Australia when the local Mayor met him at the airport and explained it was far too dangerous for him to return to Toowoomba on account of climate change and mutant attack goats. Ronald then moved to a property in the Adelaide Hills where he now lives with his horse, Tonto 23.

Comments

  1. Stewart Lamond says

    Lovely!

  2. Hahaha, Awesome!!

  3. PETER LEITH-WYBROW says

    Nick has sold another 5000 panels while you have waisted your time on this. So who’s the fool?

  4. Jack Wallace says

    oh I dunno….. where else would one get the benefit of horse-sense other than straight from the horse’s mouth?
    ……..even one with such an unfortunate surname.

  5. Well lets hope that the people who have had these panels installed would realise that after forking out more for servicing than their whole system is worth they would stop paying the required “maintenance”

  6. Erik Christiansen says

    There are people yet to invest in PV, who would have trouble believing how shonky a warranty can be. (It boggles my mind) I’ll be passing the info on.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Natural gas fuel cells are currently in use in Australia but do not have the economic or environmental benefits of rooftop solar, so I think the solar industry is pretty safe from fuel cell competition.

  7. It is interesting to note on their website (https://www.universalsolargroup.com.au/) that the panels are self cleaning… so what’s the need for maintenance. it’s clearly a scare tactic to collect money for no good reason.

    I have a 1.5kW system installed 6 years ago and not once has it failed, maintained or cleaned and it performs beautifully for the position it’s in (22 deg incl, 279 NWW orientation), so can only expect about 75% performance at best.

    I also have a 3.25kW second solar system installed 4 years ago. ditto again.. never been cleaned or maintained and it works well too.

  8. Best not to trust any company with the word “universal” or “premium” in their name. Just saying – they’re compensating for something 🙂

  9. Stephen coles says

    Thanks for the advise, I will never use these products.

    There are always going to be shonky operators but I am surprised they are not shut down. Of course they will re badge themselves as another company and put out glossy ads to suck people in with. ALWAYS do your home work. Use google to check complaints or reviews on the product you are thinking of buying and watch the information churn out. Never buy them until you have done your homework.

  10. Just contacted this company as there solar panels that was installed 2 years ago by euro solar had big rust holes in it. They told me that was from sunburn? Also it voids the 20 year warranty as I didn’t have the maintenance done regurlarly by a accredited technician. They wanted $550 plus gst to replace one panel. What a rip off. I don’t not recommend.

    • Ronald Brakels says

      That is shocking Kyle. Fortunately, you do not have to put up with it thanks to Australian Consumer Law. I recommend contacting the consumer affairs office in your state and they can advise you on how to proceed to get those panels replaced without cost to you. (Personally, I’d investigate if I could get the system removed and my money back.)

    • Ronald Brakels says

      Kyle, if you can send us the correspondence they sent you we can write about it and that should encourage them to do what they are required to under law. If you have pictures that would be great, but if you don’t, don’t go up on your roof to get them. I don’t want you to take the chance of slipping and falling.

      If you’re okay with this you can send the information to my email address:

      [email protected]

Speak Your Mind

*

GET THE SOLARQUOTES WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
%d bloggers like this: