Buying a new home is an exciting move, whether it’s your first home, tenth home or an investment property. If you’re looking at properties with solar, you may be anticipating the prospect of saving on your energy bills, and reducing your carbon footprint.
Solar is a great investment, adding value to your home, and savings for the lifetime of the system. However, it’s important to remember that there are thousands of brands of solar on the market, ranging in quality, safety, and efficiency. Your real estate agent isn’t an expert in how electrical systems work, so it’s important to do your own due diligence.
1. Do your research
When inspecting properties, make sure you take note of the overall condition of the solar system as well as the brands of the inverter and panels. A sticker of the installation company’s brand on the inverter is a good sign, and it shows pride in the installation. If the system appears dodgy in any way, it’s probably an indication that the system hasn’t been properly installed, increased safety risks, and lowered system efficiency.
It’s easy to find reviews about most solar brands online, although it’s important to look at independent sites, not the marketing promises of the brand’s own websites. Take a look at the good and bad reviews, and check sites like Solar Quotes for any major product issues, as well as Australian warranty, and part replacement information.
2. Book an electrical and solar inspection
Although pest and building inspections are a must, many home buyers don’t think about having an electrical inspection done. An Electrical Contractor who specialises in solar installation and service will be the best choice to do the inspection. Considering the costs and risks associated with a solar system that doesn’t work, or is in a state of disrepair, it’s important that you have a professional CEC Accredited Installer to inspect the system.
Solar hot water systems can also be a minefield. Some types are more unreliable than others, and may look ok but actually not be functional at all and be running solely on the back up element. You may think you’re buying something efficient, but instead it actually needs replacing or maintenance.
3. Check the tariff
If the solar was installed before 2012, the house may be on the 44c Feed in Tariff (FiT) which pays handsomely in dividends to the original owners. Don’t be tricked into believing that will pass to you, the new owner. It is not something you should be paying extra for, as it ends with the transfer of the electricity bill into a new name. The good news is that solar can still save thousands in self consumption, so some small changes to your energy habits can greatly decrease your electricity bill.
4. Check the maintenance schedule
Just like a car, solar performs most efficiently with regular cleaning, maintenance and repairs. A solar system should be inspected at least every two years, and needs some parts replaced every five. Your system should also be cleaned regularly to ensure it’s able to convert the maximum amount of sunlight, and power your home. If the house is in an area with a high number of birds, or there’s dust, debris or ash, cleaning should be done more regularly.
5. Check for monitoring
Some system Monitoring can be added after installation, and we recommend Solar Analytics real time monitoring, allowing you to see any issues before they impact your electricity bill. Monitoring also helps you align your energy usage with solar’s peak times, helping you lower your electricity bills even further.
6. Check for shading
Especially in older homes with surrounding foliage, shading can be an issue. A small amount of shade on even one solar cell can lead to reduction in that panel’s power by a third at least, which is replicated by all of the other panels in that string, or electrical group. This leads to massively reduced efficiency and a hike in your power bill.
If there’s shading present, you may need to plan for some gardening, or hire a professional to cut back any overhanging branches.
Ready to invest in a home with solar panels? Get in touch and we can take a look to ensure the solar system on the house you’re buying will provide everything you’re hoping for.
Peter is a Licensed Electrician and the Director of Proven Energy, a Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer. After working in the industry, Peter’s interest in renewable energy lead him to found the company in 2012, offering honest and reliable solar system supply and installation for residential, commercial, off-grid and agricultural properties. Peter is a CEC Accredited Installer. Electrical Contractors Lic No. 74650