When buying solar it is important to get good quality products, it’s also important to know how the system works so you get the most out of it, and understand when there is a problem, and of course it’s important to pay a fair price. However, the most important decision to make when buying solar is who to buy your solar system from. The reason is simple, if you find the right person to buy from, they should be able to guide you through the labyrinth that is going solar. In addition to that, you can have the best quality products money can buy, but if the system is not installed well, you will not be getting the most out of them.
Whilst everyone talks about panel and inverter brands when buying solar, there are actually a multitude of other components that are needed to install a system, from wiring to racking. Arguably the most important part of the system are the isolators, which isolate the high DC voltage that is produced by your solar panels. Furthermore, how the components are installed are perhaps even more important, because even the best quality equipment can be installed poorly - meaning it may not work properly, or even be dangerous.
At this point you are probably wondering how you can possibly know if a system is installed correctly, with top quality components. The simple answer is that you cannot. However, you can find a reputable company with good reviews and recommendations, so that you can be confident you are getting a high quality installation. The good news is that there are many high quality solar companies out there. In the early days of solar there were a lot of “cowboys”, selling and installing poor quality, and frankly dangerous systems. However, regulations and training has improved out of sight, and you can be confident that the vast majority of accredited solar installers are highly competent and understand the risks of poor quality installations. For that reason I do not want to overstate this point, but you should be aware that there are still plenty of solar companies in operation that are far more interested in making a dollar, than providing high quality solar systems, and one thing they are good at is selling.
Even if a system is perfectly installed with high quality equipment, there is still a chance that something will go wrong with it in the future. A few of the biggest solar companies in Australia 5 years ago, are no longer operating today. That would be very frustrating for anyone that purchased from them who now have an issue with their solar system and no one will honour the warranty. This is good reason to buy the best solar panels and inverters, which we will discuss further below, but also reason to be a little wary of the most prominent and fastest growing companies. Steady or slow growing solar businesses, or local electrical businesses that were around before solar, may be in our opinion more likely to last longer than big fast growing companies that popped up recently.
We have a few recommendations to ensure you find a reputable and long lasting solar company.
Get multiple quotes and ask lots of questions
The reality is that there are a lot of very good sales people and companies out there, that do a great job of getting you locked in to a purchase before you have a chance to think. Many of them may fortunately also be reputable, up standing solar companies, with really good intentions to do high quality installs, sell the best products, and be around for decades to come. However, buying from the first company you get a quote from, certainly reduces your chances of getting the best quality and best priced solar system.
That’s why we recommend getting quotes from three different companies, because it at least gives you something to tell the pushy salesperson, bides you time, and allows you to compare the humans you are dealing with. It is not about bidding them down to the lowest price (in fact if they are willing to pass up your business rather than dropping their price, that is probably a good sign). The process of getting quotes should not be passive, you should ask the salesperson everything that you do not fully understand, and see if they have good answers for you. Follow up with them after they leave, and see how easy it is to get in contact with them (remember, this is what you’ll need to do if anything goes wrong with your system).
Questions you might want to ask:
- Are you (the salesperson) an accredited solar designer? If not, who will design the system?
- Who will do the install and are they an accredited installer? Do they work for the same company as you, or are they a subcontractor?
- Who would I call if there was an issue with the system after install, or in 5 years time? What if the business is no longer operating?
- How long has the company been operating?
- If I were to go ahead, when would the installation take place?
- How much electricity will my system generate on average per day?
- Are there any significant factors that will reduce the electricity output for my system (derating)? (Things like shading and roof direction can significantly reduce the output, and a good solar company should be very upfront about that.)
Take your time
Before getting any quotes, take your time to read through this guide, and find out enough information to have a rough idea of what solar system you want to buy.
After getting any quotes, do not feel pressured into purchasing from age old sales tactics like “this price is for 24 hours only” etcetera. Prices do not fluctuate that much, and as discussed above, you will save more money in the long run by buying the right system than by getting a bargain. Make sure to feel 100% comfortable with the company and quoted system before going ahead with the purchase.
Try your local electrician
In Australia, solar installers need to be qualified electricians. That does not mean that all electricians are qualified solar installers. However, if you know a local electrician that you have used before and trust, you should ask them if they install solar. They might install solar themselves, or otherwise they are likely to know someone else that does. As discussed above, a local electrical business may be your best chance of buying from a company that outlasts your solar system.