Getting started with solar

Top 15 things to ask before buying solar

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2019 is a perfect time to invest in solar energy – with the multiple layer of government rebates and financial incentives at an all-time high, more families and businesses are choosing to ditch their bill and do something good for the planet and their wallets.

But how do you make sure you’re definitely going to get a good deal? We’ve compiled a list of the 15 questions need to ask before buying a solar system.

1. How much will “going solar” cost?

The cost of a new solar system will depend on your budget, and the size/type of system that best suits your energy needs. We can help you do this with our guide to solar.

These two things will help you determine which products to invest in and knowing that will help you calculate how long your investment will take to pay for itself (see point 11).

It’s possible to have solar systems with zero cost up-front and the rest ‘paid-as-you-save’? this depends on your needs, how much you pay for electricity, how much energy your system would generate, or whether your needs would be better served with a financing arrangement.

Solar prices have fallen over 50% in the last six years. Combine that with federal and state-government rebates and consumers have never been in a better position to take control of their electricity bills.

But a P.A.Y.S. or “zero out of pocket” solar system is often the easiest way for families to take control of their bills and immediately benefit from going solar.

2. What kind of system will I need?

Again, the type of solar system you install will depend on your energy requirements (check your power bill!), budget and the roof space you have.

To make it simple, we’ve compiled a handy guide that explains the technology behind solar power, and how to determine what kind of system your home needs. Here’s a brief overview of what you need to know:

  • Your electricity bill will show your kWh (kilowatts per hour) usage in a typical day, but you also need to know your peak-usage times
  • Your peak kWh requirements and budget will determine the number of panels you should consider investing in
  • Your energy requirements will also help you determine what type of inverter you need; inverters collect solar energy and convert it from DC to AC, which is then used to power your home or business
  • Depending on your current or future energy needs, you may want to invest in a battery to help store generated electricity for use during peak periods, or during cooler months and cloudy days

You can read more about choosing the right solar system here.

3. Can I buy a cheaper system?

Many consumers get sucked-in to buying cheap up-front, but always end up paying more in the mid-to-long run because they’re replacing faulty and failing parts sooner.

Good solar panels can last you 25+ (even 35+) years, and inverters will typically need replacing after 10 years. Choose your system wisely – check reviews for specific product information and avoid equipment (panels or inverters) that don’t live up to quality standards.

Think of it like buying your first born child, niece or nephew their first car when they turn 18. You don’t need to buy them a Porsche, but you may get a nasty surprise if you choose the cheapest thing you find in local paper.

Here you can find out what the real cost of going cheap is.

4. Is solar right for my property?

We live in one of the sunniest countries in the world which means that most Australians can find a solar solution that will work for their property. The trick is to maximise what you’ve got to ensure you get the most out of your renewable energy investment.

Your roof will determine the number and position of your solar panels. Roofs with north-facing sides are favoured for their exposure to sunlight – but east and west facing (or a combo of all the above) are still pretty good if your roof space requires it. An experienced and professional installer should advise you on the best position and angle for your solar panels to be in, factoring in location, sunlight and any shade you may get throughout the day.

5. Do I need approval before installing a solar system?

Yes – but that’s not something you’ll usually need to worry about.

Before you go ahead and invest in solar energy, you will need approval from your distributor, this process is completed by your chosen solar supplier. They’ll want to understand what size system you would like to install.

(RELATED: Want to know out if you’re eligible for $2,225 Victorian solar power rebate? Check out our solar power rebate article that contains all the information you need. From the eligibility criteria to a quick step-by-step on how to claim the rebate.)

6. How do I find the right installer?

Choosing the right installer can feel confusing or downright difficult, like looking for a car park at the AFL Grand Final.

MySolarDirect is on a mission to take the guesswork out of choosing a quality solar retailer. We empower Victorian home and businesses to find a provider that will guarantee a safe, easy and quality installation for your property.

When looking at retailers it pays to do your homework. Choose one that’s been around for three or more years that has a good reputation. Australia has strict regulations are designed to protect consumers from dodgy businesses and false claims/advertising. Any business that has been reproached by the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) should be avoided at all costs.

Word of mouth is also important when it comes to selecting businesses or products. Pay attention to consumers that have had good experiences with the companies you’re looking at (while being mindful of any “paid” reviews). Ask retailers and installers for testimonials and check out Google Reviews.

Lastly, look for installers who have passed government inspections, and steer clear of those that haven’t.

MySolarDirect pre-vet all the suppliers we recommend and only provide quotes from registered, qualified and reputable solar companies. We gather continual customer feedback and only work with companies that continually and consistently provide excellent customer experiences. To get a free quote for your specific needs, visit our homepage, call us on 1300 131 784 or schedule a call here.

7. What warranty is my system protected by?

It’s always best practice to ask your installer up-front what the warranty is for installation as well as for the products they use. This can be helpful, as you may wish to choose different products that have longer guarantees etc.

Warranties differ depending on how your solar company covers them. For example, “manufacturer-only warranty” means you are only covered via the manufacturer of the products installed. This type of warranty could see you chasing manufacturers who are based overseas, should something break on your system.

The more reputable solar retailers often cover the warranty themselves. This is great, because the solar retailer has a warehouse with replacement stock readily available and doesn’t charge any call out fees, replacement fees or labour costs for component faults. Just make sure you’re dealing with a recommended business, because if they go out of business – so does your protection. When you need them most, you want to be sure they’ll still be around to help (refer to question #3 in this list).

Do your homework and find out how the company you’re considering manage warranties. Like buying stocks or shares, it’s generally safer to go with the blue chip companies.

8. Do I need a specialised electrician for installation?

Yes.

Beyond that, we always recommend that solar systems should ONLY be installed by electricians that are qualified by the Clean Energy Council (the CEC).

To cut costs, some retailers hire non-CEC qualified electricians to do the installation and then bring in someone last minute who is CEC accredited to approve the work. This is risky and can cause all sorts of future headaches if the work wasn’t completed or checked properly.

For peace of mind, ask your installer beforehand whether a CEC accredited electrician will be responsible for your system’s installation from start to finish. It’s worth it, and ensures your investment is sound before it is used, and for many (many) years to come.

9. Do solar systems need to be serviced?

Yes.

Typically, you should clean your panels of dust & bird poop. If you live in a dusty area or your house is surrounded by trees, then cleaning your panels every 6 months is recommended. If you are in a highly built up residential area with minimal dust & trees, 12 months is fine. Be wary of installers who try to enforce more frequent checks, unless they have good reason to do so based on your property’s needs and location.

10. What is my feed-in tariff?

Your feed-in tariff is the amount of money your electricity provider will pay you for any electricity your solar system generates that goes back into the grid (basically, any electricity you make, but don’t use). Tariffs vary between providers, with some paying as much as 7c – 25c per kWh.

Check with your energy provider how much you can expect from them, and feel free to shop around or negotiate a better price.

11. When will I pay off my solar system?

The time it takes to pay off your solar system will depend on the following:

  • How much your solar system cost to purchase
  • How much energy your system generates (based on your location and the size you install)
  • How much energy you use directly from the system versus how much goes back into the grid (the energy you don’t use)
  • The value of your feed-in tariff

You can pay off your investment sooner by:

  • Installing the right system for your energy needs
  • Maximising the amount of solar energy you consume (e.g. using electricity heavy appliances during the day instead of the electricity you buy from the grid at night)
  • Making use of any rebates or financial incentives that help reduce the total cost of purchase of your solar system
  • Making the most out of your feed-in tariff; the better value per kWh the more money goes back into your pocket/pays off your system

MySolarDirect or your chosen installers can help you crunch the numbers to figure out what will work best for you.

(RELATED: Want to know what it costs to get solar power in 2019? Read our article on pricing and the changes you can expect on your electricity bill here.)

12. Who do I contact if there’s a fault with the system?

Your installer or solar retailer should provide you with contact details in case of any system errors. We recommend ensuring they have an office with staff working inside of it ready to take your calls before signing. Also be aware of where their office is located. Some retailers will use offshore call centres to handle customer service which can result time zone and other issues.

Think about buying a car private versus a reputable dealership. Once you drive away from the private seller, you are on your own. Be sure to protect yourself, so that when something does go wrong and have access to people who can help with your enquiry.

13. Will I be able to add more panels in future?

Depending on your future needs and immediate budget, you may want to add panels down the track. It’s worth discussing this with your installer as this could change the type of inverter you purchase for your solar system. Sometimes it’s worth installing an inverter with a larger capacity so more panels can be added. In other cases, it can make sense to add a new “stand-alone” system later.

14. Where has the solar system been manufactured?

Knowing where your system has been manufactured is important. It’s equally important to understand how your system made its way into Australia. Did the company you purchase from import the components themselves, or are they buying from a distributor in Australia? To ensure your warranties are rock solid buy your solar system from a company who imports their stock directly from a manufacturer.

Note: Almost ALL panels are now made in China, from the very best to the very worst. Be wary of anyone selling you “German” panels and inverters because it’s almost a guarantee that it’s either very outdated technology – or simply not true.

15. Will adding a solar system improve the market value of my property?

Depending on who you ask, estimates range from 1.8% to 3.6%. That means that if you started with a $500,000 property, you’re theoretically adding $9,000 to $18,000 resale value (before you calculate the yearly electricity savings).

Because public perception favours renewable energy sources, having a solar energy system will typically increase the value of your home or business – but the amount depends on your system, your property – and how much a customer is willing pay of course. This is worth considering when it comes to re-financing your mortgage or if you intend to sell your property down the track. Adding a solar system could add an immediate boost to your property’s value, often significantly more than your initial solar investment!

MySolarDirect is here to help you go solar! If you still have questions about what to expect or do to invest in solar energy we’d love to help you – click here to get in touch.