In this blog we look at how some solar installers can offer solar at cheap prices, the pitfalls and dangers of cheap solar, and give advice on choosing a reputable solar supplier.
Most people will have seen the ads in their social feeds or on the internet for cheap 6.6kW solar systems priced for $3,200 or less. LIMITED OFFER or SALE ENDS SOON shout the banners, often featuring ex Aussie cricket captains.
Then you will see ads for other 6.6kW systems that are hundreds of dollars more. We often get asked by our customers “Why is some solar so cheap?” The answer is in the shortcuts taken with the quality of the components and installation.
Cheap Solar – The Harsh Truth
Cheap: of little account; of small value; mean; shoddy.
Australians seem addicted to cheap solar. The truth with solar is you get what you pay for. In the long term cheap solar costs you more. Consider this:
- Over 700 solar companies have gone out of business since 2011 leaving tens of thousands of customers as “solar orphans” with worthless warranties and useless systems.
- At least 1 in 5 installed systems were found by the Australian National Audit Office to be “sub-standard” and failed to meet industry standards.
- The same audit found 2% of systems were “dangerous.”
- The cheap installers hide behind solar panel and inverter “brands” and some behind Aussie ex-cricketers.
- The shortcuts taken with the installations are a shortcut to property danger.
Don’t put your home in danger with cheap solar.
How Do They Get Solar to a Cheap Price?
Most people believe that the major cost of a 6.6kW solar system is in the solar panels and inverter – the hardware.
The biggest single cost is the installation – the man on the roof and the quality of the installation components and workmanship.
To get to the cheap price they use cheap components and unlicensed, unskilled labour including backpackers. Unskilled labour is cheap.
The installation by the unskilled workers is then signed off by a remote, licensed installer who does not conduct an on-site inspection of the quality of the job or to see if it even meets regulations. There were cases uncovered by the Clean Energy Council where a cheap solar company installer was signing off on up to 10 solar systems a day!
The cheap solar companies are in a race to the bottom on pricing, and Australian families and businesses are the biggest losers.
In the last few months of 2020 there was a jump in the number of fires caused by poorly installed solar. The NSW Department of Fair Trading spot checked 100 solar businesses and fined 20 of them for failing to meet industry standards.
Kevin Anderson, the Minister for Better Regulation, said there were unscrupulous operators “Who are selling less than the best quality products, not installing it properly and causing fires.”
As these cheap systems begin to age, they become more of a risk as the issues with poor installation and poor quality components come to the fore. The danger is real.
Do you want a backpacker or a licensed installer to install your solar system?
Cheap Solar Installation = Compromised Safety
What corners are cut in the installation?
Every week we are taking down these cheap solar systems, some only three or four years old. The customers have been stuck with a worthless system that is not working and have no choice except to buy a new, quality solar system.
They have bought cheap once and now have to pay again.
With these systems we remove the poor quality of the workmanship is astounding. We see systems that:
- Fail to meet Clean Energy Council regulations.
- Have “Solar Snakes” – conduit with the high voltage DC cables inside – running across the roof.
- High voltage DC cables lying directly across the roof.
- Untied and unbundled high voltage cable laying beneath the panels.
- Inferior poor quality DC isolation switches are used and not installed to regulation, posing the risk of failure and fire.
How to Choose Your Solar Retailer
In order to avoid becoming a “solar orphan” left with a faulty system and worthless warranties, it pays to do some research and choose your solar supplier wisely. Ask the following questions:
- Are they a reputable retailer with over 10 years history that can back up the long-term warranties?
- Are they a CEC Approved Solar Retailer? This is different to a CEC Accredited Installer which is mandatory for installers.
- Do they have credentials from the top industry companies such as LG and Tesla?
- On installs do they just use labourers and backpackers with an accredited installer to sign off later?
- Do they have a showroom and a physical address, or just a pretty website?
- Also check the address – some companies hire mailing addresses in serviced offices in CBD areas so they can put several state capital addresses on their website.
- When you request a quote does a person come out to inspect and provide a free consultation? If not, would you expect them to come if there was an issue?
Choose a solar retailer has that has the history, resources and credentials to help you now and in the future.