Should you buy the cheapest solar system on the market?

(This post was written in 2012 – but the principles still hold true!)

Everyone loves a bargain. Especially me! But are those solar systems advertised at jaw droppingly low prices a great deal or a future headache?

I feel quite strongly about this – so I decided to make a video. Here it is.

And here’s the transcript if you prefer to read rather than watch:

 

Over the last 4 years I’ve been asked thousands of questions about solar power.

But the most common question I get asked is this;

“Hey Finn, thanks for the free quotes really appreciate it, they were great guys, looked like really good quality systems and  they knew what they’re talking about but I found a cheaper quote elsewhere, should I go with those guys”?

Well, maybe, but just be aware that if it’s much cheaper than the guys I have referred you to, or much cheaper than anyone else on the market, what is that telling you about the potential quality of the components and the install?

I give lots of advice about how to rate a solar installer, you can look the solar company’s reviews up on my website. We’ve got 8,000 almost 10,000 close to 17,000 reviews of almost every solar installer in Australia.

You can also Google: “[company name ]  Whirlpool”

Which will give you the Whirlpool results. This is a kind of no holds barred solar forum. And the people who have been offered stupid cheap systems and do their research often find some really, really bad experiences with that company. But often they still go with them because they’re the cheapest!

The reason they go with them is that they ring up the company  to give them a chance and they say:

“hey you know, what kind of solar panels do you use”?

And these guys say,

“we use mono crystalline solar panels”.

Well that means nothing! That’s just the type of technology. You need to find out what solar panel brand they use. And if you do find out what brand they use, and if you can’t find any third party validation on the web that those panels are any good, they’re probably crap, same with the inverter.

cheap install

This photo of a cheap install by a big, cheap company that advertises on TV was sent to me by a reader. This bare live conductor is potentially lethal.

Now, the other place that could cause problems is the installation. I’ve seen very cheap solar installation companies that are charging half of what I think it would take to do a proper quality solar installation, trust me, you don’t want those guys installing your solar system. This is an electrical system that carries lots of current, lots of voltage and if it goes wrong it can be nasty. Now a well installed solar system is highly unlikely to go wrong, it’s probably safer than the rest of the electrics in your house, if your house is more than about 5 years old.

But a badly installed solar system is bad news, I would not be comfortable having a badly installed system on my house.

So if you’re considering a really cheap solar system, do your research, read this blog and the main site. You’ll find all sorts of advice and tips about how to work out if the solar system is a really good deal or if it’s just a really cheap system that won’t do the job. So do your research and please think really long and hard before going for the absolute cheapest system on the market.

Because at the end of the day, when was the last time you ever bought the absolute cheapest option and had a good experience in the medium to long term? Probably never.

About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and founder of SolarQuotes.com.au. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division.

Comments

  1. This whole process is very confusing for the lay person. we have been visited by a salesman from what we are sure is a reputable company and they are giving good guarantees – in writing. I have also seen the ads on TV for True value solar and the cost they are giving are a quarter of the cost provided by our first contact. I am not too sure what to do or where to go. we don’t mind paying for something as long as we get value for money. HELP

  2. John O'Neill says

    Finn
    Do the metres on the home power box ever get checked to see if they are calibrated right as do the fuel bowsers at the service stations

    • Good question. I’m fairly sure they only get calibrated at the factory, then never again. But if you are worried – you should be able to insist on a calibration.

  3. Finn,

    What are your thoughts on some of these ‘Don’t pay anything now’ mobs that will put a 5 or 6Kw system on your roof and you repay $40 odd bucks a week for 7 years?

    I won’t mention any names but one of their ‘offers’ hit my email inbox today.

  4. Finn Any comments on a company called Green Engineering solar corp.We are not sure if they are reputable to use? Thanks for your comments.

  5. Hi,
    I have been approached by very high pressure door to door salesmen from naturalenergyengineers based in Orange NSW. I wouldnt touch them with a ten foot pole. They tried to charge a 10% deposit and in my opinion were as dodgy as they come.
    Finn do you know anything about green4lifeOz based in Young NSW ?

  6. Have you ever heard of accompany called e solar in WA if so any comments would be welcome many thanks Bill PSi received a call from one of your recommended installers very promptly today thanks

  7. Finn have you heard of Solar Naturally in WA.?

  8. Hi Finn,

    Do you have any comments on Solar Harness in WA? We have a quote from them, but there is a 10 day cooling off period. One quote was for Conergy? panels, which seemed rather high and we were offered Hanover solar panels as a cheaper alternative. Do you have any experience with those panels?

    • Hi John,

      If the quote seems high- get other quotes for Tier 1 panels + a good inverter. There is plenty of competition in WA!

      Conergy panels are OK. I would not recommend Hanover panels to anyone.

      Hope That Helps,

      Finn

  9. Hi Finn,
    You referred 3 companies to me and I’m awaiting their quotes. Meanwhile I have had a quote from Goodhew Solar in Cleveland using Csun panels and Trannergy inverters. Any comments?
    Kind regards and Thanks

    • I class CSUN as one of the better Tier 2 panels. But I would class it as a budget option, compared to the big Tier 1 brands. I’m not very familiar with Tranergy, but from their website they don’t appear to have a Australian office, which may be an issue if you have to claim on the warranty.

      A good budget inverter to consider, with good Aussie support is the Zeversolar range.

      Hope That Helps,

      Finn

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