Solar Choice Brokers are being advised by a growing number of customers that they have been offered cheap solar deals – with some installers sending out quotes for a 1.5kW solar PV system for under $500 or – in one case – $399. The advice of our Brokers to residential customers is ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’.
Please note: This article was first published in 2012 and some details may be out of date. We are working to update the article in the near future.
In response to this feedback from customers about cheap solar deals Solar Choice has spoken to numerous installers on our network, all of whom are Clean Energy Council accredited and are vetted by Solar Choice, and manufacturers of quality solar PV components. All expressed concerns on behalf of the customer, advising that people should be wary about purchasing cheap solar deals and performing due diligence on the installer and manufacturers before signing any paperwork is essential.
Solar Choice performs this service on behalf of all our customers, ensuring that both the installer and the products they use meet Clean Energy Council and Australian standards as a minimum. Many of the products our installers use pass strict EU standards and have International ISO certification.
How do they do it?
The feedback we’ve received suggests that the components used to generate the cheap solar deals are from tier 3 Chinese manufacturers or are old stock (and sometimes both). The problem for customers who purchase these products is that they are low quality products with poor performance, there is a high probability that these products will fail within the first few years, and, as many of the warranties for these products are held outside Australia, customers many be left without any product support. In some instances the cheap solar panels and inverters come from warehouses from companies who have gone out of business meaning that customers have no warranty at all.
A standard residential panel from a good installer is around 240 watts, customers we have spoken to who have been offered these cheap solar deals are being offered unbranded 150 watt panels. This low wattage means that the technology being offered is out of date, old technology and may be subject to the same warranty issues associated with tier 3 manufacturer (they may be out of business, close to it or their warranties may not apply in Australia).
The concern expressed by reputable manufacturers and installers is that there will be a ‘solar backlash’ as a result of more and more customers who have purchased these cheap solar deals being left with a broken system and no where to go. As Australia’s solar brokers we understand that the main driver for people looking to go solar is to save money on their energy bills, by purchasing a quality system that will last through the years customers will receive a better price per kWh than purchasing directly from the grid, somewhere in the region of 8¢ per kWh. Investing in a cheap solar deal, made of poor quality components, that breaks after a few short years means that the cost per kWh can be 30¢ per kWh or more.
What should you be looking for?
The cost of solar PV in Australia has hit an all time low, at the lower end of the scale home owners can expect to pay around $2,000 for a 1.5kW solar system. At the Premium end of the scale, November 2012 saw a dramatic decrease in prices with a 1.5kW Premium system coming in at just over $5,000. Customers can work out a rough guide to their potential return on investment (ROI) for their solar PV system by checking out our ROI calculator.
You can get the information you will need to populate the spreadsheet from several sources.
First you’ll need to work out what size system you need, look at the daily energy usage on your current bill. Generally speaking 1kW of solar panels will give you an average of 4kWh of power per day, so households using just over 16 kWh of electricity daily will need a 4kW system. You will also be able to put in the cost of electricity assuming you’re going to stay with the same retailer and quarterly energy usage in kWh.
If you are going to change energy retailer or are looking for the best feed-in tariff available to you, visit EnergyMadeEasy, which will give you the feed-in tariff figure and the cost of energy for that retailer.
If you live in a state with a gross feed-in tariff you need to change the figure in the ‘Self-consumption vs Export’ box to 1.0, for net metering you can either calculate the different between your daily energy consumption and energy production as a percentage or put in a rough estimate.
Now you can use the system costs shown in your personalised Solar Quote Comparison, you can look at the difference in payback time and annual ROI between the low, mid and high price option. You’ll receive quote from up to 7 installers who operate in your local area offering a range of products and prices, our Solar Brokers can also advise you of the best system size to meet your needs if you are unsure at any point.
When it comes to the technology you should get online and check out what customers have had to say, as well as what the companies have to say about themselves and their products. Our Solar Choice Brokers offer impartial advice on system sizes, products and prices and can help you make an informed decision about what is the best solar option for you, we help you make sure you get one of the good guys, not the cowboys.
If you would like more information on the cost of going solar, fill in our FREE Solar Quote Comparison or call us directly on 1300 78 72 73.
© 2012 Solar Choice Pty Ltd