In Australia, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a solar installer. With over 8,000 CEC accredited installers, knowing which one to pick can get pretty confusing. While there are plenty of high-quality, local installers out there, there are also a lot of dodgy installers who only have one thing in mind: getting your money.
But how can you decipher a trustworthy company from a not so trustworthy company?
Here is a list of seven red flags to look out for when shopping around for solar.
Red Flag #1 – Sales, freebies and limited-time offers
Pushy sale tactics such as ‘today only’ discounts, relentless hounding calls and door knocking all scream dodgy! These common sale tactics are used to get you to sign up quickly.
Quick sales mean that you have less time to do your research about the company or the products that they’re trying to sell you. Often these types of companies use low-quality products, have poor reputations and are not customer orientated. This often leads to issues with follow up checks, maintenance or warranty claims once your solar system has been installed.
You should always ask for time to go away and think about your options and never sign on the spot. We always encourage you to do your own research and find a company that is CEC accredited, experienced, local and trustworthy.
Other common sales phrases to be mindful of:
- “The government will pay you to get solar” – In Queensland (and very likely every other state as well) that is simply not true. The Government will not pay you to get a solar power system installed. The Queensland Government website should be referred to for information regarding grants and schemes – not a Facebook ad from a random company.
- “The government rebate is ending!” – The financial incentive on the upfront purchase of a solar power system (technically known as the STC incentive, but commonly referred to as the “government rebate“) is in place until 2031. While it will reduce each year by around 6%, unless the legislation changes, the STC scheme will not be ending any time soon.
Red Flag #2 – Quoting a solar system without a home visit
During a pre-installation inspection, an electrician should check whether your switchboard needs to be upgraded and do the calculation to see if your mains are big enough for solar. A CEC accredited solar designer (who may also be an electrician) will also determine the best layout for the panels. They will take factors such as potential shading, obstacles on the roof and the screw lines into consideration when designing the layout.
These factors can make a big difference to the system’s pricing, and if they aren’t considered, you could be slugged with a nasty unexpected bill at the end. Home visits also allow you to meet and see the installer face-to-face, giving you the opportunity to ask any questions and discuss your wants and needs.
Red Flag #3 – Not mentioning the product warranty
The solar panel manufacturer’s product warranty is much more meaningful, important, and useful than the panel performance warranty.
- Depending on the manufacturer and the solar panel model, the product warranty typically varies between 5-25 years. Industry standard is 10 years.
- Within the same manufacturer, the product warranty can vary depending on the module of the solar panel. A good example of this is LG. The NeON panels have a 25-year product warranty, while the Mono X has a 15-year product warranty.
- It is the industry standard for solar panels to have a 25-year, 80% output performance warranty. To put it another way, a 25-year performance warranty is nothing special. All solar panels sold in Australia, both good and not-so-good, have this warranty. What differs greatly is the manufacturer’s product warranty.
If a solar company is very vague about its warranty or does not mention the manufacturer’s product warranty at all, alarm bells should ring. Way too often, we get calls from people who say something similar to ‘I spoke to another company, their system has a 25-year warranty’. However, the reality is that the system they are talking about actually has a 25-year solar panel performance warranty (which is industry standard) and only a 10 year solar panel product warranty…
Read more about solar panel warranties here.
Red Flag #4 – Dirt cheap prices
When it comes to solar, like many things, you typically get what you pay for. Some companies can install solar systems for next to nothing because they:
- Use the cheapest products that they can and buy them in huge quantities. With cheap components usually comes low performance, poor quality, dodgy warranties and expensive repairs in the future.
- Sub-contract the installation work to the lowest bidder. Very often, the amount the subby gets paid for the installation barely covers costs, so the temptation to cut corners to make a bit more money can be just too great.
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.
You wouldn’t go into a Land Cruiser dealer and expect to pay a Great Wall price – the same principle applies to solar power systems…
Red Flag #5 – They haven’t been in business very long
Unfortunately, there are dodgy solar companies out there who lure you in with sales tactics and cheap prices, who later cease trading to avoid paying debts or dealing with warranty claims. These kinds of solar companies are usually around for less than 5 years, install a lot of solar systems, make their money, but then close once things start going south, leaving their customers with no support or valid warranty. The sad thing is that this happens all too often… LG Australia reports that over 750 solar companies have gone into liquidation or simply stopped trading since 2011, leaving an estimated 750,000 Australians with useless solar warranties (as of 13 March 2020).
How do you find out how long they have been in business? The Australian Business Register has a handy online tool, called the ABN Lookup. You can search the organisation’s name or ABN number to access public information including their main business location, trading names and when they registered their business name.
By choosing a reputable, local solar installer that has been around for 5+ years, you are avoiding dealing with a dodgy company and becoming a “Solar Orphan” – Someone whose system is unsupported by the initial installation company; and also often the manufacturer of the inverters and solar panels have gone into liquidation and are no longer in Australia.
Red Flag #6 – Celebrity ambassadors
We’ve all seen the ads on TV and Facebook where Australian sporting celebrities or even politicians faces, are used to promote cheap solar systems.
Truth is, this is just another sales tactic to try and gain your trust.
Many of the companies that are doing this are known in the solar industry for producing poor quality and even unsafe solar installations across Australia.
Red Flag #7 – Not quoting specific products
“or similar” “Subject to availability”
If you have received a quote and it does not mention a specific brand and model of solar panels and inverter – this is a big red flag!
Dodgy companies will advertise higher quality products and then swap them out for cheaper, poor quality products instead – often without telling you. This is referred to as bait & switch. These companies use advertising ploys such as “Tier 1 Panels” and “25 years (performance) warranty” to lure you in. Then in their conditions of sale, they will state that they reserve the right to swap out components for ‘equivalents’. Then, surprise surprise, they end up installing a really cheap inverter and solar panels on your home, instead of the higher quality ones that they were advertising.
Don’t be lured by celebrity ambassadors, pushy sales people, over-estimated saving promises or ridiculously low prices,
instead, choose solar installers that are locally-based, have a strong reputation for installing quality solar systems
and have been in business for many years.
At Electrical Sensations, we are proud to have been servicing Toowoomba and the Darling Downs since 2004. We are 100% committed to designing energy-saving solutions and installing high-quality equipment that will best meet your needs, in a manner that we are proud to put our name to. No cutting corners or compromising on quality, reliability or safety. Please don’t hesitate to contact us, we would love to help you save money on your electricity bills!
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