Home Battery Warranties And Musical Chairs: When The Music Stops

Home battery warranties in Australia

What’s the difference between a home battery warranty and a game of musical chairs?

One is a situation in which people or things are moved, shuffled, or rearranged from one position to another, and the other is a game.

So, that’s a joke I made up (sound of slow clapping in the background). It’s not very funny for a couple of reasons. First, it’s simply not very funny, and second, it’s true.

Solar battery warranties, in fact warranties for many products sold in Australia, have more in common with musical chairs than you might think. What happens when the music stops?

Your warranty may not be so important or even worthless in some instances. SolarQuotes blogger Ronald has spent many a late night writing tragicomedies about this very subject1.

Why Might My Home Battery Warranty Be Worthless?

Well, for one, you don’t need it.

“Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), automatic consumer guarantees apply to many products and services you buy regardless of any other warranties suppliers sell or give to you.” (ACCC)

Isn’t it great to know the government has our backs… or has it?

The ACL is overseen and regulated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), and other consumer regulation authorities in your relevant state or territory. The trouble is they’re all a bunch of toothless tigers when it comes to small claims. If you have a problem, they can only advise you on the best course of action.

The so-called “automatic” consumer guarantees that apply are not, in fact, automatic. You’ve still got to do all the leg work. The ACCC won’t be holding your hand while you waste your time and money in the pursuit of justice.

Why Do Companies Offer Warranties?

So they can sell you stuff. It makes them look good if they appear to stand by their products even though they are required by law to do just that, even without a warranty.

Ok, so that may be a tad cynical (true nonetheless). There are also other reasons. For example, a warranty may give a clearer picture to the consumer of a particular product’s limitations by setting parameters in which the product should be used.

That’s (sometimes) fair enough. You trash their stuff, and you’ll pay the price.

A Game Of Musical Chairs

In the solar industry, there are many links in the chain when it comes to a warranty dispute. The pecking order goes something like this:

Customer > Installer/Retailer > Supplier > Distributor/ Importer > Manufacturer

The lines can be blurred. For example, the supplier may also be the importer. The installer may also be the retailer. Sometimes the manufacturer has an office in Australia, and sometimes not.

If you have a suspected problem with your home battery/system, your first port of call should be the installer or whoever sold you the product.

If the installer can’t resolve the issue, they will handball to the next link in the chain. In most cases, this will be the supplier or whoever they bought it from.

If the supplier has no joy, they will move on to whoever they bought it from. This will most likely be an overseas manufacturer or their Australian office if they have one.

Under Australian law, the importer or manufacturer’s Australian office is ultimately responsible for the product to be fit for purpose and to adhere to any additional warranties given. That’s where the buck stops. Australian jurisdiction starts and finishes at our shores.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple because the installer/ retailer is also responsible, as they usually provide the warranties to their customers. In fact, everyone in the pecking order is liable to a certain degree, but no one wants to admit it because who likes to lose money after a hard day’s work? Not me.

From where I sit, the installer is in a very vulnerable position and is easily left carrying the can. Since they are the ones who provide the warranties, they quite often spend enormous amounts of time trying to resolve a situation if a dispute arises.

They are literally the meat in the sandwich, with potentially unhappy customers on one side and indifferent wholesalers/ distributors/ manufacturers on the other. The installer is often a small business that has a lot to lose.

On top of this, since solar power systems are comprised of a number of components, they are juggling multiple warranties from different manufacturers. If one of those companies isn’t around when shit hits the fan, the installer is liable.

True Battery Warranty Stories

The following are a couple of true stories I’m aware of involving solar battery warranty claims. I’d be interested to hear if you have any others to add to my list.

True Battery Warranty Story #1

A solar installer named Ted contacted SolarQuotes about a recent battery warranty claim he was dealing with. His real name isn’t Ted, but he’d rather stay anonymous, so Ted it is.

Ted had previously installed some batteries in a customer’s off-grid solar system, and they clapped out after only three and a half years. They had deteriorated to the point where they were only around 65% of their rated capacity.

When he talked to the distributor/ importer, they hand-balled it straight to the overseas manufacturer, who came back with: “Your batteries were undersized for the system”.

They initially refused to honour the warranty and stated it was “highly likely the capacity loss is a result of exceeding the maximum charge/discharge rate outlined in the documentation, resulting in irreparable cell damage”.

The thing is… the manufacturer (and so distributor/ importer) had changed the documentation and warranty conditions since these solar batteries were installed. Maybe they had learned a thing or two about real-world conditions since they launched their product. Who knows.

According to Ted, he had sized the batteries correctly according to the system design and manufacturer’s recommendations at the time. I haven’t seen the original warranty or installation documents, so I can’t verify either way.

Ted is an experienced installer of both off-grid and grid-tied systems. I’m hopefully optimistic he knew what he was doing. Anyway, being an all-round nice guy, Ted decided to loan some batteries to his customer to keep them afloat while he sorted out the mess.

In his own words, Ted was like a dog with a bone with this claim. After investing way too much of his precious time, he refused to let go. Eventually, the company in question decided that the potential fall-out was too great, so they came up with replacement batteries for his customer.

Ted is no longer installing solar batteries from this particular company. I suspect that regardless of who was in the wrong in this game of musical chairs, Ted will be designing his systems more conservatively with regard to battery sizing from now on.

True Battery Warranty Story #2

I’ve already written about this next warranty claim earlier this year, so here’s a quick recap. You can find all the juicy details here if you’re interested.

Judy (her real name) is an Australian wholesaler that sells products for solar PV, hot water systems and batteries. In 2017 she purchased and had installed an Alpha Storion OF5 Battery Backup system for her own use from the Chinese company AlphaESS, which has an office in Australia.

In December 2021, she reported a fault and the breakdown of the system to AlphaESS tech support. To cut a long story short – after four months of being given the runaround, including 24 emails and never being able to speak to a human on the tech support line, Judy finally decided to write to the ACCC and the Office of Fair Trading and see if they could help.

She received a reply from the Office of Fair Trading who stated they:

“Cannot force a trader to participate in conciliation and, unfortunately cannot help any further. If you wish to wish to pursue your complaint further, you can take action in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and/or get independent legal advice”.

That’s Australian Consumer Law to the rescue.

On the surface, this looks to me like a tactic employed by some companies of stalling in the hope that the customer will give up. Judy didn’t give up, and the faulty part in question finally landed on her doorstep. She also got an apology from Alpha ESS (in an attempt at PR damage control after we published the article?).

It’s Not All Bad News

It might all sound like doom and gloom, but these stories are almost certainly the exception rather than the rule. For every bad warranty story, there are probably many good ones that no one hears about. As they say – “good news doesn’t sell newspapers”.

In fact, for every solar installation that goes ahead, the chances of a warranty claim arising in its lifetime are very low. How low, I couldn’t tell you. As far as I know, there are no statistics on this. Correct me if I’m wrong. When it comes to home batteries, however, it’s too early to tell. As Ronald says – it could be a ticking time-bomb.

So how about sharing your solar and battery warranty stories? – the good and the bad. Maybe you know an installer who has gone above and beyond his/ her call of duty. On the other hand, you could be in the middle of a giant shit fight, and you’d like to blow off some steam. I’m all ears.

About Kim Wainwright

A solar installer and electrician in a previous life, Kim has been blogging for SolarQuotes since 2022. He enjoys translating complex aspects of the solar industry into content that the layperson can understand and digest. He spends his time reading about renewable energy and sustainability, while simultaneously juggling teaching and performing guitar music around various parts of Australia. Read Kim's full bio.

Comments

  1. Colin Martin says

    We have 3 Powerwall 2 ‘s and one is being monitored with Tesla because it is approaching 70,.because it had rapid degeneration. Here are their current life cycles

    Installed. Life
    March’20 . 79%
    March’21..100.5%
    Nov’21. ….101%

    We are on ToU with AGL, no VPP, in Melbourne and a 13.3kW Enphase system.

  2. Roger Reitze says

    Looks like we need legislative provision like in the insurance act. Claim on one link and they must handle the claim. If they believe somebody else should pay, they are responsible for getting it from the other party, not the customer.
    This prevents a lot of duck shoving and general passing the buck

  3. Bruce Hutton says

    LG had a post on Facebook saying some of their Chem batteries may be faulty (I think you had an article on it), I put the info in including serial number and it told me my battery was problematical (with the potential to cause fires) and they would contact me, yet I never heard back so about 6 months ago I contacted my installer and he followed up with them and they comfirmed there was a problem and said they would let him know and he is still waiting to hear back.

  4. In NSW, amending the categories of residential building work in the Home Building Regulations to include solar would go part way to giving consumers some support. This would allow easier entry into NCAT and the enforcement of warranties under the Australian Consumer Law.

  5. Joe Wolfson says

    Well I have 2 LG Chem batteries one installed pretty early and the next under the SA home scheme. The first one was a pilot between Fronius and Lg and all parties got together with Reposit and I was some form of “Beta” site. It really never worked well as with a lot of upgraded software suddenly one of the components wouldn’t work as expected. I don’t know who caved first but suspect that Fronius decided it was all too hard.

    So when we wanted to install the next battery it had to be controlled by a Solar edge inverter. That was fine however after having paid for one Reposit system I now had to purchase the ultimate system. During this period Reposit had by now wondered off to supply their new systems which are as a provider , retailer and operator within ACT and NSW – I think. So my independent system really wasn’t what they still wanted to do.

    Then the LG problems started emerging and the first battery would have to be replaced by LG. In fact as it was linked to a Fronius inverter and it seems LG doesn’t link to that anymore it became a lot of drama. In the end my installer decided, at his own cost, to put an additional Solar edge inverter in and link them to control both batteries.

    Well the new LG battery failed after about a week and has been recently replaced.

    Personally I am extremely happy with all the hours given up by my installer at no charge.

    Reposit on the other hand has not agreed to refund either of the systems we purchased even though they never really worked as we were informed they would. On one evening they directed my system to discharge to the grid and when I pointed out to them that my system isn’t part of their VPN they offered to send $5.00 to my bank account.

    Really this industry is very new and if I had my time over I actually don’t think I would have ended up with this configuration of installation at all.

    I only trust my installer. LG did nothing until I started following up. Reposit monitoring never seemed aware of problems .

  6. I’m happy with the Tesla PW2 I had installed nearly 5 years ago. They pro-actively contacted me to advise of an issue with the battery about a year after install and arranged for a replacement unit at no cost to me. No user intervention required 🙂

  7. Paul Osborn says

    My Tesla Powerwall 2 started playing up on June 29th this year, after 4 years of faultless operation. I contacted the supplier (Evergen) on July 1st. They said they would get onto Tesla about it. They keep saying they have asked Tesla to investigate but I still haven’t heard from Tesla. The battery just seemed to turn itself off for several days and then turn back on again. The last time it did this (3rd time) after turning back on for 2 days it suddenly decided to not communicate with the rest of the system, and although it’s LED lights were on and it was showing as having 45% charge, no power was going in to it and none was coming out. Yesterday it decided to start working properly again. Evergen gave me a phone number for Tesla but whenever I ring it I get left on hold interminably. The one time I did get to speak to ssomeone, I was told that they would “elevate my ticket to tier 2” but it would take 25 business days before anything was done. I still haven’t heard from them, and it’s now October 12th. I’ve been waiting for over 3 months. The battery is supposed to have a ten year warranty.

  8. Colin Martin says

    This isn’t good enough. In the Tesla forums we have many complaining of the same thing. Hanging on the phone, being escalated, emails not being answered, Tesla telling some they have to go through their installer ands installers not responding

    I eventually received the response I wanted on my degrading battery that Tesla would honor the warranty if the failing PW2 got passed 70%. It’s now 79.33% after 2.5 years. The degradation has slowed in the last 6 months.

    How can we improve these responses from Tesla.?

    We do all the right things when we order, we evaluate the Installers and the Batteries… One of my Tesla delays, and they were honest about it, my tier 2 escalation was passed onto a support person who was on annual leave. Soon Covid won’t be an excuse.

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