5 reasons why solar is a failure in Australia

Article by: Tim


How can that be right? Australia with all its sunshine and with ever-increasing installations of rooftop solar, surely all those people can’t be wrong. Well generally they’re not,  just look at the estimated amount of rooftop solar generation for December 2018, more than 1400 Gigawatts and climbing each year. The trouble is many of the statistics are generated from the “installed capacity”, as reported, graphs are drawn but unless they come from actual measured sources, like solar analytics, they may be vastly overstated.

Here’s the thing, whilst there is no shortage of positivity and solar companies are going gangbusters, there are downsides, some visible and some not so. These are the 5 main reasons solar isn’t working for some Australians. They’re kinda obvious but more prevalent that you might think.

1. Shonky Solar companies

This is blindingly obvious and it’s a biggie. Sometimes hard to pick by a layman, these are often purely-sales companies that subcontract to the cheapest installer. They sell solar systems that can be judged by price alone. Sometimes these businesses will operate for a period and then “phoenix”.

Other shady practices:

  • Asking for large deposits as well which should raise red flags. Like 90% payment upfront.
  • Selling points like free wifi inverters (all inverters have wifi capabilities!!!)
  • Advertising Tier 1 panels, which in fact has no relation to the quality of the panels whatsover, it is to do with the financial stability of the panel company.
  • Electrical works that are charged additionally, on the day the installer arrives on site as an extra, because there was no site inspection prior to sale.

2. Low end products

Solar Companies can maximise profit while keeping prices low. The only way to do this is use sub-standard products and/or get installers to work to fixed prices.

Most sales companies have the right under their T&C contracts to substitute like for like quality on both inverter and panels deemed fair, “in their opinion”, as a substituted product, as well as to be able to allocate their choice of installer. So you may not know what you’re getting until you get it.

3. Poor installation

Often done at a fixed price.  Sub-contracted installer is under time-pressure to make a profit, for example $1000 to install a 6.6 kw solar system.

Many systems are installed using shortcuts or they omit the extras from the quote and the customer gets a shock after they have commited. If installers are any good they end up not doing work for the company that is shortchanging them so the revolving door of isolates everybody and there is little ability for comeback.

The company may reserve the right to choose the location of the panels that are to be installed, most likely on the easiest roof, not nessesarily the best part of the roof for solar production.

4. No after-sales service

No after-sales customer service or back up support. If the solar system doesn’t perform to expected capacity once installed and signed off it needs to be fixed. The system should be running at its best from day one (on sunny days). Companies working to a price will be hard to get back to your job for the important after sales service.

Solar systems should also be checked and serviced every couple of years. However if something goes wrong in the meantime you may lose a lot of  potential earnings/savings.

5. No customer education

Another failing is the lack of customer education on how the solar system works, the monitoring options available and how to make the most of your solar power.

The solar company should be able to help you with electricity rates offered by different retailers, both buying and feed in tariff,  the variety of products available and combinations of inverter with panels as well as the different technologies, what solar systems are best suited to the customer needs, if there shading or difficult roofs what can be done to get the best out of your investment.

So what can you do?

So if you don’t want to be one of the thousands of people that end up saying “solar is s***”, make sure you use a reputable company that will stick with you, that is, it will be around for the long term.

The saying that, “a poor man pays twice”, is true for many things, solar being at the top of the list. Beware though the operator that charges a premium price but you don’t know much about them. If they don’t have runs on the board or come via a trusted referral they may still be a risk.

Go with a company that will quote your situation, that will come out and check where they are installing and what sort of switchboard you have already. In most cases solar system installations can not be “off the shelf”.

Make sure the company has all the accreditations to be able to warrant the products they install.

Most importantly get to know your system, and have solar analytics installed so you KNOW if it is performing, a light on the inverter is a poor substitue, that might tell you that it’s working, but it won’t tell you how well.

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