Independent Advice Since 2009

Before You Buy Solar:

Avoid these 7 mistakes to secure low power bills for decades

Avoid these 7 mistakes and find the best solar installer for you

  • Avoid getting ripped off
  • Know what questions to ask
  • Find the right installer
By Finn Peacock – Chartered Electrical Engineer,
Ex-CSIRO, Founder of SolarQuotes

How do you know if a solar company is any good?

For 15 years, we’ve helped over 748,000 Australians find the best solar installers. Whether you’re researching or choosing an installer, make sure you avoid these top 7 mistakes.

Informed buyers always have the upper hand

For 15 years, we’ve helped over 748,000 Australians to find the right solar installer.

17,500+ 5-star reviews combined

Get tiny bills for decades by avoiding these 7 mistakes


1

Waiting for batteries to drop in price

Typical payback time (years)

  • 10 +
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0

Typical payback time (years)

  • 10+
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0

Unfortunately, all the hype in the mainstream media about batteries has made people question the viability of solar without batteries – to the extent that people are waiting for ‘affordable batteries’ before they invest in solar.

Don’t get me wrong – with the right installer, using certain brands, it is possible to get a great deal on a solar and battery system when you buy them in one hit.

If you can get such a deal – go for it. But if you can’t – or if they’re still outside your budget – my advice remains ‘don’t wait to put on solar’.

Every day you don’t have solar is another day you do have to pay high electricity bills. A well designed solar system without batteries can give you tiny bills.

Waiting 2, 3 or 4 years for batteries to become affordable means another 2, 3 or 4 years of high bills. One day, batteries will make lots of sense – and when that day comes they can easily be added to any existing solar system using a method called AC coupling.

So don’t lose years of savings waiting for cheap batteries to arrive.

Consider going solar now – with the knowledge that you can easily retrofit batteries later when they will pay for themselves – not before.

2

Not getting multiple quotes

I swear this isn’t a shameless plug for the free service that my website provides. It’s absolutely critical to get multiple quotes wherever possible (and not just when it comes to solar!).

By having multiple companies give you a breakdown on how much solar will cost you, you can gain a real understanding of whether solar is right for your budget, and whether or not you’re being ripped off (in either price or quality).

3

Not understanding the difference between the solar rebate and solar feed-in tariffs

People get these mixed up all the time. To keep it simple:

The “solar rebate” acts like a point-of-sale discount off the cost of a solar system, and is claimed on your behalf by your solar installer.

The “feed in tariff” is what your electricity retailer pays you, per kWh, for feeding excess solar into the grid. It pays to shop around, as retailers can pay anywhere from 0-12c per kWh.

If you see prices quoted online, on the telly, or in the paper, there’s a 99.99% chance that the quote price already has the ‘discount’ from the solar rebate applied.

It’s worth about $350 per kW of solar panels installed, but this will vary depending on where you live.

As an example, a 6.6kW system attracts around $2,300 in rebates.

Anyone can claim the rebate, even if you’ve already bought solar power systems in the past and want to buy a new system.

4

Not knowing what protections you’re entitled to under Australian consumer law

This may come as a shock to some people, but you shouldn’t believe everything a salesperson says!

Almost every week someone will tell me that they’ve had a solar installer tell them that they need to have their systems serviced once every two years (or more) in order for the system to stay in warranty.

This is bollocks. Speaking as a chartered electrical engineer, good-quality solar systems will only need to be serviced once every 5 years, and cleaned once per year.

If you have a slimy salesman telling you that you’ll need to pay some kind of ‘maintenance fee’ to keep your panels in warranty, show them the door.

Another tactic that dishonest salesmen use is to assure you that your solar systems will have a 25 year ‘performance warranty’, to make it seem like any problems that befall your system will be covered under this apparent 25-year warranty.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. It’s very easy for solar manufacturers to wriggle out of this ‘performance warranty’, by claiming that any defects in the panels fall under the ‘panel warranty’, which can only be 5 years in some cases.

In reality, there are actually four separate warranties that you get with your solar system – the ‘performance warranty’ being one of them. The other three are for your inverter, the panels themselves, and the workmanship. In terms of warranty, what you really want to look for is:

  • 10 Year
    warranty

    for your inverter

  • 12 Year
    warranty

    for your solar
    panels

  • 5 Year
    warranty

    for the
    workmanship

Check that the warranty is backed by an Australian Entity. I’ve seen cheapo deals where the Chinese manufacturer’s warranty states that the owner has to post the panels back to China at the customer’s cost to get them tested!

If you’re looking to get quotes for solar from installers within our trusted network, that are looking out for your needs (and not just their own wallet) then simply

Click here to start the process

5

Not asking the hard-hitting questions to separate the solar installer wheat from the chaff

The only thing shonky installers hate more than an investigation from a fair trading/consumer affairs body is a customer who knows their stuff! With knowledge comes power, and if a shonky installer realises that you know solar, their ability to rip you off just took a nose dive and they know it.

Always, always, always independently verify information, whenever possible. There are numerous resources available to help you verify what solar salesmen tell you (the Whirlpool forums are one of my favourite sources of such information), but if Google can’t help you, I will. Just shoot me an email here.

6

Not installing enough solar

‘How many panels should I buy?’

I get asked this question daily. My answer is invariably: Put on as much solar as you can reasonably fit and afford.

The max you can install depends on a few things, like available roof space and limits set by your local electricity network. A smart installer is a godsend here, as they will leverage the rules to get as much solar as possible on.

I’ve never heard a homeowner regret buying a large solar system. But I hear all the time from homeowners who wish they had installed more panels when they had the chance. Adding panels to an existing system is expensive and complicated.

Even if you “don’t need” a bigger solar system right now, you probably will in the future when you add a battery and an electric car to your home. If you buy a smaller system, you’ll likely be disappointed, especially when winter comes.

7

Thinking that because your roof isn’t north-facing, solar isn’t worth it

This couldn’t be further from the truth! East or west facing panels only lose 15% output compared to north-facing.

In fact, depending on the time of day you use your electricity, it may make more sense for your solar panels to face east or west (for morning or evening heavy electricity usage habits, respectively). I go into greater detail about this topic here.

There you have it! The top 7 mistakes people make when purchasing solar systems.

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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.

Since 2009, SolarQuotes has published 76,545 uncensored reviews of 2,756 solar installation companies and provided solar quotes to over 748,000 Australians, helping them find the right installer.

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