It is no secret that despite the advances in solar technology and the huge number of credible and reputable businesses doing great work to decrease our reliance on traditional fuels, as a new and emerging market, the renewable sector has its fair share of sharks and downright scams. We’ve created this document for everyone out there who might not be sure about what they need to know to ensure they won't receive subpar products at astronomical prices. So here are a couple of questions that your installer should be able answer, and will let you know where you stand.
1. Are your panels top tier? If so, show me the evidence…. Please.
Everyone has heard the terms thrown around (top tier, tier 1), but what do they mean and how will it affect price and when it really comes down to it, how will it affect the efficiency of your system. Well, it can be complicated, so don’t get turned off if your installer claims they have the best Australian manufactured panels but can only show you a tier 2 rating. The tiered ranking system relies on more than merely the effectiveness and quality of the product itself, but as a rule of thumb and if you are new to the industry, look for Tier 1 panels and ask for evidence. Show what can you ask for? Ask what companies are supplying their panels, as you can usually do a quick Google search to get information on the panels tier ranking. Ask for any evidence in general, maybe your installer has come ready and has a number of trustworthy documents describing their products. Furthermore, ask what criteria they are basing their claims and try to do your own research to see if anything they say even makes sense, as we all know salesmen have many tricks up their sleeves.
2. So your panels are top tier, but what about your inverter?
Often we forget that the inverter is just as important as the panels themselves. Well it should be easy, you just have to ask for evidence that the inverter you're buying is tier 1? Well, unfortunately, that's not the case as inverters don't play by the same rules as solar panels. Inverters are complex components, and when it comes down to it, you only have a few bits of information to rely on. Most importantly, go for a trusted brand with a history of good performance and high quality. You will be able to read reviews or even go to the website of the company you are interested in to get an understanding of what they provide. To ensure quality look for an ISO9000 certified manufacturer and don't use products that don't hold this certification. Furthermore, you want great support as your inverter is the most likely component to have issues given its complexity. This brings us to warranties.
3. What warranties are you providing? What about a manufacturer's and performance warranty?
Many customers don't really seem to understand how they are covered under warranty when it comes to each component within their system. Most people they are told there is a 25-year warranty on their system. A 25-year warranty only covers your solar panel performance, which is generally considered to some degree untrustworthy, as many manufacturers can often find ways to avoid honouring the agreement. However, don’t worry because most solar systems come with about four separate and differing warranties including the solar panel product warranty. Solar panel product warranties are seen as more reliable, but only last for 5-10 years.Beyond this, the inverter warranty is incredibly important and there are a few instances where customers may trip up. It’s important to check if the company offers a replacement warranty if they have a service centre located in Australia and if they provide the industry standard warranty period of 5 years. Finally, your installer will provide their very own warranty covering the actual installation of the system. It is important first and foremost what the warranty period is (it should be around 1-2 years but can go up to ten years) as well as making sure you know exactly what you are paying for when something goes wrong.
4. Are you an in-house installer or just a contractor?
While there is nothing necessarily wrong with contractors, the benefits of an in house installer can make a big difference to the quality of service you receive. The biggest difference is that in house installers have access to everything they need including all your information regarding any special requirements that need to be taken into consideration. Secondly, in house installers know that their work is a reflection of their company and their reputation. This means there is an inherent sense of pride that goes into creating the best experience for customers and clientele. Beyond the installation itself, any post sales support and maintenance that needs to be done can be done so by the installer which completed the system in the first place, meaning there is a preliminary understanding of how your unique solar solution functions.
5. Finally, are you CEC accredited?
It is important to ask this question above all else. A CEC accreditation is the national standard and demonstrates an understanding of the design and installation process required to provide a professional service. CEC accredited installers also have access to continual development programs to improve their service. Most importantly you can only receive government rebates if you have CEC accreditation. This means that as a customer you will often pay more for a lesser service if choosing an installer without accreditation.