12 Questions to Ask Before Buying Solar
By Peter Sutrin, Electrician
Published January 10, 2020

If you’re planning to install a solar system, it’s important to be aware of the many shady operators (no pun intended) who’ll quote a cheap initial price then end up costing you money.

Here are some questions you should ask before buying solar, so you know you’re getting the best option up front. 


1. Will my solar panels be in the shade? 

If one cell in a solar panel is covered by shade, the whole electrical group won’t work and the solar panels will have reduced power. It’s important to be aware of whether overhanging trees, roof arches or other buildings will cause shade during the day. If they do, you may find yourself with a system with much lower efficiency. A good installer will be able to calculate the amount of shade throughout the day, as well as during summer and winter. This way you’ll be able to make sure you are placing your panels in the best possible position. 


2. Do I need a meter or switchboard upgrade? 

With new rules and regulations, even newer houses may not have the right switchboards or meters available. Make sure that any quote includes the price for these extras. 


3. What is the warranty on the solar system?

Cheaper systems often have shorter warranties, meaning you won’t be covered for any breakages or system failures after a few years. This means you run the risk of expensive repairs, or even a full replacement of your system, at your own expense. 

It’s also worth being aware of the terms and conditions of the manufacturer so you know what your options are if the company shuts down after installing your system. 

Proven Energy supplies panels with a 25 to 30 year full replacement warranty and inverters with at least a 10 year warranty. 


4. How old is the company?

To avoid the work involved with warranties and repairs, many dodgy companies choose to close the business down and start under another name. Doing your due diligence to check the age of the company and their history will help you decide if they have your best interests in mind when quoting a solar system. 


5. Do you use contractors or your own installers?

Companies that use their own employees and contractors are more likely to offer a stable and high quality level of service. When companies choose to outsource to other companies, you’ll run the risk of dealing with installers who don’t all maintain the same level of service, or care as much about their reputation and quality of their installation. 


6. Will a CEC Accredited Installer be on site?

Legally, an accredited Clean Energy Council licensed electrician should be supervising your installation. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof of their accreditation and licensing and confirm once the installers are onsite. 


7. Will the quoted STC rate change after installation?

The Government pays financial incentives to the solar system installer, in a similar way to how first home buyer grants are paid directly to loan providers. 

The purchase price will include this financial incentive as a pre-calculated discount from your retailer or installer. Some company’s final prices change according to the actual price they sell the STC’s for. 

At Proven Energy the quoted STC value is final, so you don’t need to worry about the quoted price changing. We believe in a firm quote and so we’re willing to take this risk on for our customers.


8. Does the price align with the quality of the panel?

Price hikes on cheaper panels aren’t unheard of; people often associate higher prices with higher quality. It’s worth doing your research into the quality of the panel and the average market price. Don’t run the risk of paying top price for an unknown brand without a good record. 


9. What monitoring, support and maintenance is available?

The best way to track your solar usage and efficiency is through an app such as Solar Analytics. Regularly checking your app lets you identify issues with your panel efficiency, so you can address problems before they show up on your power bill. 

Ongoing support and maintenance ensure your panels maintain efficiency and keep saving you money. Make sure you’re aware of the ongoing support the company offers, as well as the monitoring they offer on your new system. 


Things to research before buying solar panels:


Even if you’re happy with the answers to all your questions, it’s still important to check how reputable the company is with your own independent research. Here are a few things you can research yourself to make sure you’re really getting the best deal and the product lives up to the sales hype. 


10. How long do the solar panel and inverter brands last?

It’s hard to find an impartial review in the solar panel history, but with a little digging in Facebook groups or forums like Whirlpool, it’s possible to find feedback on the brand’s general pricing, average lifespan and any common faults or issues. Another good indication is the age of the company. REC, for example, have been in business over 20 years. 


11. What do company reviews say?

Although an occasional bad review may be due to circumstances outside the company’s control, a history of bad reviews can show that the company doesn’t necessarily live up to their promises. It’s also important to check the age of the reviews; are they all in the last few months, or do they show consistent customer feedback over at least a year or two?


12. What are your consumer rights?

If the company you’re dealing with only offers warranty if you use their services in the future, or seems to want to pressure you into agreeing to something like a big upfront deposit, make sure you’re aware of your consumer rights and you’ve thoroughly read the contract.