At Solar Market, having dealt with over 1500 solar installers and helping over 100,000 solar shoppers get quotes for solar, we’ve learnt quite a bit about how to tell a good installer from a bad one.
Based on what we’ve learnt, we’ve put together this list of questions you SHOULD be asking your installer, to ensure that you make the right decision for YOU.
The top 10 Questions you NEED to ask your solar installer
About the Installer
- How long has your company been around? The solar industry is relatively new and few companies will have been around much longer than 5 years, but still ask the question and try to find out a bit about the company’s history. If you can’t find anything about the company itself, try searching for details about the owner and key stakeholders in the business on LinkedIn and Google. Have they bounced around a number of different industries and have a scattered job history? Not a good sign. Remember, past performance is the best indicator of future performance.
- How many systems have you installed? Now, as with any industry, the biggest company isn’t always the best. They may simply be the one with the biggest marketing budget. However, by the same token, you don’t want to be an installer’s very first customer. There’s no better way to tell a good installer than by seeing their body of work. In short, more systems installed means: more customers, more reviews, more information and less risk.
- Can you provide me with references in my area? Any good company should be able to point to systems they’ve installed in your area and provide references. Don’t stop there though, also do a Google search of the company, and check the company’s Facebook page for reviews. You don’t want to hear from just the good customers, see if you can find feedback from unhappy customers as well so that you can get a balanced view.
About the components
- Are the solar panels supplied and branded by a large reputable manufacturer? There has been a rise in recent times of companies selling so-called “self-branded” panels. White label products which are bought cheap and then dressed up with the installer’s branding. The danger with this is that you know nothing about where the product has actually come from, their process or their quality control. Just as you need to scrutinise your installer, you also need to scrutinise their products. Ask your installer for the product they’re selling you in writing and then do proper research on the brand, including checking customer reviews.
- Do you sell products from manufacturers who have a significant presence in Australia? Remember, if the installation company isn’t around in 10 years, you won’t be able to chase them up for warranty claims. You’ll be dealing with the product manufacturer instead. And if the manufacturer has no office in Australia, good luck trying to chase up your claim from their office in China or Germany.
- What maintenance is involved with the system? System maintenance is generally very simple. A splash with some soapy water once or twice a year, depending on rainfall. However, some companies will make you sign up for an unnecessary – and over-priced – yearly maintenance programme. Often these are the same companies which offer the lowest price on the market. They’re able to offer those low prices because they make the lost profits back, and more, from these maintenance costs.
Choosing the right system
- What size system should I install? This is a big decision, and will affect your electricity savings, payback period and overall return on investment. A good installer will be able to recommend you a size based on the following:
- Your budget
- How many panels you can fit on your roof – The smallest system most companies will install is a 1kW 5 panel system. Panels measure on average 1.7m x 0.9m – give or take.
- How many people occupy the house – Generally, the more people in the house, the bigger the system you’ll require and the higher financial return on that system.
- If you own the property – If you rent the property, it’s probably not worth installing a system unless you plan on staying there for longer than 5 years or you have a generous landlord.
- How long you intend to occupy the property – Systems generally take at least 6-8 years to pay themselves.
- How long will it take to pay off my system? Solar is an investment first and foremost, so you will need to know how long it will take to pay for itself. Any reputable installer will be able to go through these numbers with you, explain how the calculations work and also provide the raw data to back up their calculations. These calculations should be based on:
- The size of system you install
- The direction the panels face
- The percentage of that production that you’ll use yourself and the percentage you’ll export to the grid
- The feed-in tariff available, and;
- The amount you initially paid for the system.
- Can you show me what affect the system will have on my bill? As above, this depends on many factors so ask each installer to give you their best estimate, compare these results across the different installers and if there are discrepancies, ask why.
- Can you produce a roof plan to show me where my panels will be placed? This is essential as you’ll be looking at the system for many years to come; you definitely want it laid out in a way that looks good. Make sure you agree on the location with the salesperson and also that the installer on the day has that same plan and that you agree to the plan on the day. Plenty of times, a plan will be done but the installer will install wherever they like.
Well there you have it. That’s quite a bit to stomach, but remember that solar is a big investment and if you make the right one, you’ll be seeing the benefits 20 years down the track.
The first step in buying solar is to talk with, and get quotes from companies in your local area. At Solar Market, we work with top national and local installers across Australia to offer the quickest, easiest and smartest way for you to do this.
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