Plenty of customers shopping for solar panels go through hours of research and comparison to identify a good panel and inverter and then mistakenly assume that all they need to do is find an installer for the lowest price.
However, choosing good panels and a quality inverter is only the first step towards a smooth solar power experience.
In a recent study by Choice on solar power installations, 25% of people said they had to report faults with their system and needed support. Interestingly, less than 20% of these were due to faulty inverters and panels. Low quality equipment like breakers, cables and isolators are often to blame, as is poor quality workmanship.
When solar power systems are not installed properly, your risk of roof leaks, poor system performance, arrays installed in sub-optimal positions and even fires increases. Also worrying, is when components are not installed according to manufacturer guidelines, voiding warranties.
Think you’re covered with by workmanship warranty? More than a few solar power companies have disappeared recently, leaving customers with a warranty claim stranded.
People searching for a long-term solar power investment, need to identify a quality solar PV supplier – not just high-quality products.
Here’s what you need to know about what it takes to be a quality solar supplier:
1. Solar power companies come and go, as do warranties
Countless solar power companies have disappeared in the last few years, and when they vanish they take their workmanship warranties with them. Customers of these companies are now in the unenviable position of dealing directly with the manufacturer if one of their components fails. Australia purchases less than 2% of China’s PV production, so it’s hard to imagine these large manufacturers (some with no presence in Australia) treating Aussie customers as a priority when it comes to faulty equipment. At Solargain, we’ve been installing solar power for over eight years and our solar hot water roots stretch back as far as 1995. We’ve seen every rebate, downturn and shake out. We’ve proven we’re capable of honouring long-term warranties and we’re here for the long haul.
2. High voltage DC electricity is not safe
Electricity in general is not safe, and in solar power installations, it’s not uncommon to have DC string voltages of over 500V. This is more than double the standard voltage in your house. High voltage DC current is the primary cause of fires in solar power installations, as it has an increased chance of electrical arcing. In 2014, the Clean Energy Council took drastic steps to recall DC Isolators (twice) due to potential fire hazards. As such, experienced electricians and high quality components are a must if you want to keep your home safe. Solargain is one of the most experienced installers in Australia. We post-audit many of our installations (10 per month, per branch) and choose our suppliers in accordance with our Quality ISO 9001 certification. This is part of our quality process and helps us deliver high quality installations, consistently.
3. Contractors are incentivised to cut corners
It’s common practice for solar power providers to subcontract installations. In most cases though, the subcontracted electrician is only provided with the panels and inverters and a payment for the installation. They must then purchase their own smaller, and often forgotten balance of system (BOS) components. For this reason, it’s in the subcontractor’s best interest to purchase the cheapest possible equipment. What’s more, no record of these components is kept, so in the event of a recall the solar provider has no idea what was installed. Most installations by Solargain are completed by our own employed electricians, and even in instances of subcontracting, it’s only the labour. We stipulate, record and provide all components for our installations, rather than leaving it to subcontractors. This means no corner-cutting on BOS components and if there’s ever a recall, we’re ready.
4. There’s a right way to install (and a wrong way)
Using safe products and correct installation is critical to the overall success of any solar power project. At Solargain, we put great emphasis on:
- Using AC cabling and wiring that’s compliant with AS/NZ 5033 and AS/NZ 3000 quality and safety standards - including AC breakers, switchboard wiring and switchboard identification
- Using DC cabling and wiring that’s compliant with AS/NZ 5033 and AS/NZ 3000 - including DC isolators, DC cable in roof, module cabling and configuration
- Ensuring all inverter products are compliant with AS/NZS 4777
- Ensuring that all completed installations are aesthetically pleasing as per Solargain’s own internal standards
- Mandating that PV arrays comply with frame manufacturer specs, including the correct amount of feet and spacing distance
- Eliminating all shading that has not been signed off by the customer
- Using the highest quality DC isolator brands that are approved and safe
5. Everyone says ‘high quality’ – sort fact from fiction.
There’s not a solar energy company out there that doesn’t claim to do high quality work, so you need to seek independent proof. There’s no higher independent quality certification than ISO 9001. Quality ISO scrutinises every aspect of a business, including financials and supplier selection. These companies are also subject to regular independent audits from quality control professionals.
ISO 9001 ensures installation audits are taking place and records of these audits are kept. The commitment to maintaining IS0 9001 standards is so great, you need to employ a quality control expert to ensure ongoing compliance. If you are truly insisting a high quality company and installation, look for a quality ISO 9001 certified company.
6. Everyone has thousands of happy customers, so find them online
So many companies boast about their countless happy customers. When this is true, they should be easy to find online. Seeking the opinion of previous customers is a great way to understand more about the company you’re considering, and we highly recommend you take a moment to uncover them. If you can’t find many reviews on a company, then perhaps they don’t have as many happy customers as they think. Solargain has consistently scored around 4.5 out of 5 stars on Productreview.com.au from over 150 reviews. The opinions of our customers and other industry experts on independent forums is also something you should consider, and we encourage you to do so.
7. Service departments are rarely as good as they claim
Most companies talk about their excellent after-sales support, but few get chosen by manufacturers to service their products. Manufacturers of solar products know the industry very well, and they know the companies they can rely on to service their equipment. For this reason, it’s no surprise that so many manufacturers choose to partner with Solargain for their servicing needs.
No other company commits more to servicing solar around Australia or has our reach and technical expertise. We have performed more service calls to solar energy customers around Australia than any other company, and buying from Solargain gives you priority access to this team. This is peace of mind that no other supplier can provide.
8. The Bottom Line: Choose A Quality PV Company
For the reasons listed above, we can’t recommend choosing a quality PV supplier to complete your installation enough. This will ensure your solar energy system provides you with the best ROI as well as many years of reliable operation.
With a proven track record for safe and compliant installations, be sure to include Solargain on your shopping list.