Solar Shopping Checklist: What to Ask Before Buying

When investing in solar panels, whether for your business or home, there are a few key things to be aware of before taking the plunge and some key questions to ask of your solar panel company. 

Before you buy a solar panel system, you’ll need to do some digging around online to find a reputable solar installation company. While many decent tradespeople perform excellent work with solar installations in Sydney and other local areas, others will install your system cheaply but cut corners here and there to save you money while costing you potential energy savings. 

So, to save you some time, money and stress, we’ve come up with a list of questions to ask the solar panel companies in your area when you go to them for a solar quote for either a residential solar panel setup or a commercial solar setup.

Ask Yourself These Questions Before Exploring Solar Installation Companies 

Before you approach a solar installation company, you should have a clear picture of what you want from this investment in solar energy. Ask yourself the following questions.

Do I Have the Budget to Install a Solar System? 

It’s great that you want to explore alternative energy as options for heating or electrifying your home, but are solar panels the right energy alternative for you? Or would another, less costly system make sense?

Solar energy is a fantastic option for many Australian homes as we have a lot of sun year-round, regardless of where you are in the country. But, it is a huge upfront expense. Even lower-kilowattage systems, like 5Kw systems, run for $800 per kilowatt, with installation.

Luckily, the Australian federal and many state governments have implemented Small-Scale Technology Certificates, or STCs, designed to offer reimbursement or upfront payments to homeowners installing residential solar panels.

Key Things to Research About Your Solar Installation Company

Does The Company Have Good Reviews? 

If a solar installation company has ever exploited individuals, has price-gouged a customer, or has made a costly mistake during their installation process, the internet will hear about it! Check the company’s Google and Facebook reviews for more details on how their services were rendered and whether there were any problems post-installation.

How Does the Company’s Price Point Compare to the Rest of the Market? 

It’s all good for a company to advertise that they have the “best prices in the industry,” but are you getting an inferior product for your hard-earned dollars? However, be aware of the old adage of “too good to be true.” Thoroughly research the average cost for an installation of the size and type you desire and see if this average price matches up with the quotes received by other people for a similar job.

Is The Company Accredited to Perform Solar Panel Installations? 

To perform solar panel installations in Australia, the company and their solar panel installers must be accredited by the Clean Energy Council of Australia. This regulatory body oversees renewable energy technology and its installations throughout the country. If the CEC accreditation documentation isn’t readily available from the company, you should not hire them to perform any work. Also, you might report them to the CEC and the relevant business authorities.

Once you have determined that the companies you are considering are reasonably priced, do good work and are properly accredited, you can begin initial communications about your solar panel installation. 

This process should begin by arranging an initial consultation, where a company’s assessor will visit your home, inspect your roof and discuss your options. For residential solar panels, this process is slightly different than for commercial solar systems simply because of the scale involved. Most residential solar panel options range from a 6kw solar system to a 13kw solar system.

Here are a few questions to ask the company during the site visit.

Has Your Company Ever Been Reprimanded For Advertising Practices? 

This is one way to separate the wheat from the chaff regarding best-price guarantees. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission tightly regulates the advertising practices of businesses big and small to ensure that they provide accurate and fair advertising of their products to consumers. 

If the ACCC has reprimanded a company for their advertising practices, it may not be the most trustworthy to handle a significant investment like your residential solar panel installation. This risk is even greater for commercial solar installation, as there are significantly greater amounts of money. Generally, if the ACCC has been involved with a company, you shouldn’t be.

Have Any of Your Installations Ever Failed a Government Inspection? 

This question will test the honesty and integrity of the solar installation company. Sometimes, mistakes are made, and honest companies who have installed thousands of panels will fail a government inspection over something simple. However, these companies who just make a mistake every once in a blue moon are usually upfront and honest about it and will take time to explain what went wrong. 

However, if you find that the company is avoiding the question or produces a litany of inspection failures, you may have found a solar installer to be wary of. Your best practice may be to find a different solar installation company in Sydney, or your local area.

Will There Be a CEC-Accredited Electrician On-Site Throughout the Installation? 

Electrical systems are complicated and require specialised training, and good sparkies generally have years of experience. These complications are magnified with a solar panel installation and, as such, carry a greater level of risk to you if things are done incorrectly. 

Some companies will hire general electricians to perform the solar panel installation and then get a CEC-certified electrician to sign off. This is not how things are done with a professional solar installation company. Corner-cutting is not a business practice that’s allowed when electrical systems are involved. A Clean Energy Council-approved electrician should be on-site for the entire installation process. If they aren’t on-site, demand that the company hire one before any work begins.

How Are Calculations Made Concerning System Size for My Specific Needs?

We covered this a little above, but this should be reiterated during your initial consultation. Some salespeople will try to upsell you on the types and sizing of the solar panels you require for your space and the electrical needs you are trying to address. Be wary of this. 

Your consultation should include a thorough conversation about what your needs are for your solar panel system and what types of things you want your solar panels to run for you rather than drawing power from the grid. The key questions will be *when* you use your electricity, and precisely *how* their product will save you money.

Calculating system sizing for a solar panel installation isn’t a simple formula. It’s complicated and depends on the size of your roof. Or whether you are a residential solar user or need commercial solar panels. If, when they run through the numbers with you, something doesn’t add up or the calculations seem too easy, they’re likely not being genuine about their product. Numbers don’t lie, but people can.

What Type of Warranty Comes With My Installation?

Questions about warranty are common. For example “is my warranty for 10 years, or 1+9 years?” “What does my warranty cover? Does it cover labour, or just parts?” “Is there a callout fee for warranty repairs?”

You need to understand the type of warranty your panels come with and how long your warranty period is. Most panels have a 10 year product warranty, which generally covers PARTS only. Others will have a 25 year performance warranty, which protects against degrading panels. 

This can vary by company, but usually, panels are inspected by a qualified technician once a year. Read the fine print on your contract with any solar panel installation company and be prepared if they try to upsell you on a more regular servicing regimen than necessary. Importantly, always ask the manufacturer or installer – and make sure you have it all in writing.

What 3rd Party Evidence Exists That The Panels and Inverter You’ve Quoted Are Good Products? 

This question exists to weed out shoddy panels or inverter products that a good salesman is upselling you. You’re looking for independent evidence of the quality and longevity of the panels and inverter you’ve been quoted for. 

The salesperson should be able to produce verifiable evidence of the quality of the materials they’re selling. The last thing you want is to spend money on shoddy products by a good salesperson but a terrible solar panel installer.

Final Thoughts 

If you want a quality product, you will likely pay big bucks for it. Solar panels are a large investment in your home’s energy efficiency to produce energy savings using the power of solar panels and the infinite energy of the sun. Many Australians are looking to buy solar panels to decrease their electricity bills and capitalise on the ever-present energy of the sun. 

The key to a great solar deal is a great solar panel installation salesperson and team. When it comes to the world of renewable energy, plenty of salespeople are willing to sell you shoddy products at a price that only a fool would turn down, which is precisely the point. Save yourself time, money and an outrageous headache by asking the right questions to separate the good from the bad of solar panel installation companies in Sydney and around Australia. Contact Bare Energy today!

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