Why You Shouldn’t Buy Cheap Solar
We often have this discussion with customers, “I saw a system advertised on tv for $4,000 why should I pay more to have one installed locally?”
If you are installing solar to save money, than its important to know that cheap systems can often cost you more in the long run, with poor quality equipment and inadequate installation techniques. More goes into a system than just panels and an inverter, a cheap system could cost you thousands in repairs and lost solar production.
You wouldn’t walk into a car dealership and immediately purchase the cheapest car, so why do consumers choose to purchase the cheapest solar PV systems available?
While it might seem like a great idea initially (who wouldn’t want to save $2,000 – $4,000 off a major purchase) The truth is those who purchase cheap solar systems are often stung by much higher costs in the long run, or they are left with a system that doesn’t generate anywhere near as much as they expected. Here we are going to look at just some of the examples we have seen with low end solar systems.
Your system’s Components WILL be Low-End
There is more to your system than just panels and an inverter, chances are if you are purchasing a cheap system you will be getting low end components. If the system you are considering is well below the market average, we encourage you to look closely at the products being offered.
Every company will offer you some kind of warranty but are they everything they are cracked up to be?
For Example, at first glance Australian Premium Solar seem like a reputable panel brand, they’re 100% Australian owned, have a dedicated testing facility in QLD, come with a 12 year product warranty and an industry leading 30 year performance warranty.
However, if you dig a little deeper you’ll discover despite some ambiguous marketing Australian Premium Solar panels are NOT manufactured in Australia, their 12 year product warranty does not include labor and transport costs and their 30 year performance warranty is VOID if you do not service your panels yearly.
This is not an isolated problem either, with Universal Solar Group solar panel’s performance warranty becoming void if servicing is not completed once every three months, alone with an additional service every one and five years.
If substandard plastic/glue is used in your panels, or if poor manufacturing processes are followed, a process called delamination can occur. This refers to the bond between the plastic and glass of your solar panel detaching, allowing moisture and air to enter the panel, causing corrosion and failure. In the colder climates like we have in Glen Innes there have been cases where moisture has got behind the glass and frozen over night causing the panels to crack under the pressure.
In addition, poor panels can also suffer from micro cracks and other cell damage which will quickly decrease the overall efficiency of your solar cells.
Many solar panel manufactures also fabricate efficiency and power tolerance ratings to make their products appear of higher quality. Before purchasing seemingly impressive panels, ensure their stats have been verified by independent testing authorities such as Photon Laboratory and the CSIRO.
The solar inverter lies at the heart of your system. This sophisticated piece of electrical equipments is responsible for the conversion of DC electricity to AC electricity; controlling the voltage of the system to extract the maximum power available; and reporting the system’s performance.
As a result, inverters are where most faults in a solar system occur. Cheaper inverters usually fail after just five years, putting your whole system at risk, with replacements costing thousands of dollars. At Glen Innes Solar we have dedicated a large part of our business to inverter repairs, we employ a full time technician who repairs inverters from all over Australia, in 2017 we were rated as the largest inverter repair center within Australia.
Balance of System
Cheaper solar systems also cut corners by using non-genuine, plastic balance of system components. This includes MC4 compatible imitations rather than genuine Multi-Contact M4 Connectors, and plastic housed DC rooftop isolators, which not only fail much quicker but cal also pose fire risks given the heat and intense UV we experience in Australia.
While higher quality BOS components may result in your system being more expensive, they guarantee you longevity and your family’s safety.
Purchasing the Cheapest System May Impact your Returns
In addition to reducing carbon emissions, most homeowners purchase a solar system to save on their electricity bills. Payback periods for Solar can be anywhere between 2-5 years.
Therefore, your solar system will essentially only save you money if it continues to perform after the payback period. while purchasing a good quality system may cost you more initially, you have the peace of mind that it will continue to perform and save you money long into the future. The cost of replacing faulty parts in the future will be substantially more expensive, and completely nullify any savings you may have made in the short-term.
Your system’s Cheap Price May Be Compensated by Dodgy T&Cs
If a price seems much to low compared to what other providers are offering, it’s a good idea to take a look a the solar provider’s Terms and Conditions. T&C’s can be a minefield of dodgy “gotcha’ clauses, where solar providers make up for the money they’re not getting selling their systems.
Some clauses we have seen in the past include:
Solar company ‘X’ engages installation contractor ‘X’ as your agent. Installation Contractor ‘X’ is liable for any damage or defect in installation of your system.
In this clause, your solar provider is passing all liability onto the contracted installer. This means if something goes wrong with your installation, your solar provider is absolved of all wrongdoing, and is not required to offer you any assistance or reimbursement. You’ll have to take on the contractor (If you can find out who they are) by yourself.
Solar Company ‘X’ limits it’s maximum liability to $100 only and will not be liable for and consequential damages
Despite how careful and experienced your solar installers may be, accidents can occur from time to time. Choosing a reputable solar provider with a whole of system warranty like Glen Innes Solar means you’re fully covered in the event of any damage that occurs during the installation.
However if you decided to go with Solar Company ‘X’ and something goes wrong, you’ll only receive a maximum amount of $100, regardless of how severe the damage is.
This is a rising issue with an average of 10 solar companies a month closing their doors, consumers all over Australia are left with “Orphaned Systems” that when faults occur the consumer has problems getting warranties honored and sometimes the only way to honor warranties is to send them back to the country of origin which outweighs any financial sense when looking replacement value.
How to Choose the Right Solar System
Like any major purchase, don’t let price be your one and only deciding factor when investing in a solar system.
Take the time to research your solar provider, including how long they’ve been in business, if they are CEC Accredited, if they offer any warranties and what components they use.
We receive numerous phone calls from people whose initially cheaper systems simply don’t work. At the time of purchase, they thought they had a safe warranty, however their provider has since gone out of business or simply won’t return their calls and due to a loop hole in their T&C’s refused to honor any warranty.
This means they have no chance at replacement, this is a rising issue with an average of 10 solar companies a month closing their doors, consumers all over Australia are left with “Orphaned Systems” that when faults occur the consumer has problems getting warranties honored and sometimes the only way to honor warranties is to send them back to the country of origin which outweighs any financial sense when looking replacement value, As a result, many are forced to remove the system and start again.
The saying “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten,” is especially true within the solar industry.
Purchasing a solar system is more complicated than simply buying an appliance like a microwave or TV, it is a power station attached to one of your most valuable assets – your home, and the quality of a good panel or inverter is something only money can buy.
If you have any questions the team at Glen Innes solar are here to help, We provide a range of services from; Inverter repairs, System Health Checks, (we may be able assist with your system if you believe it is not performing as efficiently as it should be) if you are looking at going solar we also provide Free in home consultations to help to guide you through the process and make sure you are getting the best possible outcome.