Current mainstream media is plagued with advertisements of cheap solar systems, “derailing” the market and misleading customers. With 1 in 5 Australian homes now owning rooftop solar and counting, there has never been a better time to invest in solar. Unfortunately, dishonest companies know this, sending out waves of social media and television ads offering unrealistic prices for ‘quality’ systems. This makes it difficult for customers to find a legitimate, high quality system for their homes, often leaving them with sub-par products and useless warranty.
It’s truly alarming that most customers are unaware of the dangers of buying cheap solar, and it is no exaggeration how important it is to avoid the ‘too good to be true’ offers. The Clean Energy Regulator found that 22.5% of solar installations in 2018 were sub-standard or unsafe.
It is no coincidence that Australia’s largest solar installer in 2017, who was renowned for extremely cheap installations, fell into liquidation. This company is one of thousands who have disappeared from the industry in recent years, leaving the warranties of the systems sold not worth the paper they were written on. A recent CHOICE survey found that 30% of solar owners struggled to get their warranties honoured when their systems failed.
Illegal “phoenixing” is yet another major issue that plagues the solar industry. The Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC) describes this practise as a company who has purposefully liquidated then reopened under a new name to void any liabilities and debts. This “boom-and-bust” approach to the industry leaves buyers without a leg to stand on, often being tricked into sub-standard systems that do not work to their full capacity, if at all. It is estimated that there are over 600,000 “orphaned” solar systems in Australia, (more than 30% of the systems nationwide), stuck with no warranty to cover them.
What do I need to know before buying solar?
Clean Energy Council Member
Firstly, confirm that the company is a Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited member as it ensures a high level of industry practise. Bear in mind that in 2018 alone, the CEC cancelled the accreditation of 12 installers and suspended more than 160. For this reason, your research should extend far beyond just this point.
Reviews & Customer Accounts
The next point of call is researching customer accounts through the company’s Google Reviews. It is important to note that fake reviews are a “big issue”, and that you must look past the initial star review. Read the reviews – how many are there? What do customers have to say?
Avoid cheap advertisements
You don’t have to look far to find a 6.6KW system advertised for less than $4000. There are many solar retailers offering prices that no quality provider can match, and there is a reason – cheap products and installations. Solar is a major investment for your property, so why cut corners?
You wouldn’t buy a $400 50” TV expect it to run at the same quality as a $4000 50”. Ask what products the retailer is planning to use for your solar system. Ensure the branding of the panels and inverter/s and confirm the product warranty. Also, consider the wiring, isolators and racking that a company utilises to connect your system together. With 2 solar related fires each week in Australia, cheap wiring should always be a red flag.
Fronius and Sungrow currently lead the market in solar inverters, though with the use of low-quality wiring and poor workmanship, they can easily melt or malfunction.
Why take the risk?
Consider the quality of the racking used for your installation as it could make all the difference when your home is hit with Australia’s extreme weather conditions.