Making the decision to buy a solar PV system to install at your home is a rewarding and worthwhile investment. However, it can be quite daunting once you start your research and are suddenly bombarded by the solar industry lingo, competitive pricing and sometimes abrupt or aggressive advertising and sales tactics. As a solar system is a long-term investment for your property and future energy bill savings it’s important to not get pushed into the first quote you receive.
Doing your research will not only help you understand what brand and providers are reliable but will give you knowledge on how a solar system works and how you can get the quickest return on investment.
Here are some buying tips to assist once you start shopping around.
Determine What Type of Residential Solar System You Need
The first thing you will need to know is what type of solar system you require or can be installed at your property. Determining this before you dive into further research will assist you greatly. What type of solar system will be most suitable to you will be dependent on your location, energy needs, budget and the reason you’re deciding to install a solar system.
There are three main types of solar systems which have been broken down below;
Grid-connected with a standard inverter
A grid-connected solar system is a solar system that is connected to the household and the electricity grid. These types of solar systems will generate energy for your home to run but will use energy from the grid if the solar system is not generating enough energy or in the evening when solar panels are not receiving any sunlight to generate electricity.
Being connected to the grid also means when your solar system produces excess energy (which is common on a clear, sunny day) that it will be sent to the grid and you will be reimbursed in the form of a feed-in tariff which appears as a credit on your electricity bill.
Grid-connected with a hybrid inverter
Similar to the above, a grid-connected solar system with a hybrid inverter is connected to the household and the electricity grid so it can pull energy from the electricity grid if required. The difference with this solar system is the hybrid inverter which provides the ability to add battery storage to a solar system. Being able to have battery storage means when your solar system is generating excess energy during the day you can store this energy in a battery to use when your solar system is not producing any or enough energy e.g. at night.
An off-grid solar system is also called a stand-alone system. These types of solar systems are not connected to the grid and require battery storage. Off-grid solar systems are usually only found in rural areas that have difficulties connecting to the grid. Off-grid solar systems are substantially more expensive than grid-connected systems due to the amount of energy they need to generate and store to keep a household running without back up from the grid.
Search For Feedback and Recommendations
Instead of being told that the most expensive solar system is the best for you by a pushy salesperson, seek out feedback and testimonials. You can find feedback about brands, installers and manufacturers online, from peers and people in your neighbourhood. This way you’ll get the full scope of people’s experiences with a solar system and possibly get some references for reliable, trustworthy installers or some tips on what size system you’ll require for your household.
Know What Rebates and Discounts You’re Entitled To
In Australia, we’re fortunate enough to have the Federal Government Solar Rebate which can discount the upfront cost a residential-sized solar system by approximately $4000 or more! To be eligible for this rebate you must install with a Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited installer and select CEC approved products. Many installers will advertise or quote the price of a solar system inclusive of the Federal Government Solar Rebate as most Australian households are eligible for it.
There are also additional rebates in selected states throughout Australia that you can claim on top of the Federal Government Solar Rebate which can further discount the upfront cost of a solar system. Knowing which ones, you can claim before committing to a quote will ensure you choose installers and systems that meet the eligibility criteria.
Know The Different Warranties
When installing a high quality, reliable solar PV system with a reputable installer and company, it’s doubtful you will need to claim through your warranty but nevertheless errors do occur and understanding your warranties and what you are entitled to can save you not only a substantial amount of costs but headaches and time.
Typically, there are four types of warranties you should receive when installing a solar system.
Panel Product Warranty
A Panel Product Warranty is a warranty that will cover the replacement or repair of the panels should there be defects or fault causing a lack in performance or no output. A 10-year panel product warranty is pretty standard and any more than this means the manufacturer has high confidence in their product.
Panel Performance Warranty
A Panel Performance Warranty is a slightly trickier one to assess and claim under as the warranty is a pledge to the panel’s performance and production over its lifetime of 25 years. Performance warranties need to take into account the gradual decline in performance during a system’s life. A performance warranty will state something along the lines of the panels being able to provide 90% production for 10 years and 80% for a further 15 years.
Inverter Warranty as a standard will be 5-10 years and will cover the replacement or repair of the inverter should there be defects or fault causing a lack in performance. This can be the most important warranty due to the inverter being the most likely component of a solar system to have any issues due to the amount of work it does to convert energy.
Installation warranty conditions and time periods will vary per company so it’s important to ask your installer upfront about the conditions and the protocol for using the installation warranty. Things you’d want to be covered for are call-out fees and labour, should there be any issues with your system that require the installer to inspect, fix or replace. You will also want to be covered in case of any damage to your roof that may have occurred during the installation of the panels.
Get A Number Of Quotes To Compare
The more installers you speak to and receive quotes from, the more you be able to gauge what the standard pricing is and avoid jumping into an overpriced quote or one too good to be true. You’ll also build your knowledge on solar by asking a number of questions giving you the ability to make a well-rounded decision of quality, value and price.