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Happy solar customers

Questions to ask your installation companies

A good installation company makes all the difference

Our customers have told us that one of the hardest things when choosing a solar company is the conflicting information. We’ve listed some questions below that we feel any reputable solar installation company should be able to answer, if they can’t or won’t, think about whether or not you want to give them your hard-earned money.

1
Choosing the right installer
  • Who will actually install the system?
  • There is no point in taking your time to make sure you have chosen good quality components with great warranties if they are not installed correctly. One of the biggest issues in the solar industry is poor installation work; this can arise from third-party installations teams and a lack of quality control. A large number of interstate companies will contract work out to installers in your area. This means it comes down to pot luck who installs your system. You might be lucky and have a good team turn up or you could end up with an inexperienced team who are more interested in heading home than ensuring your system is installed to the highest standard.

    Well established local companies base their business on customer satisfaction, so it is in their interest to make sure their local customers are happy.

  • How long has your company been around?
  • The solar industry is relatively new and few companies will be older than 5 years old. Home and energy was established in 2011 and is proud to consistently receive excellent customer feedback and gain over half our work from customer referrals.

  • How many systems have you installed?
  • Go for companies who can demonstrate that they have a good reputation in your area. Home and Energy have installed over a thousand solar power systems on the Sunshine Coast and are proud to be doing the right thing.

  • Can you provide me with references in my area?
  • Any good company should be able to point to systems they’ve installed in your area and provide references. We can provide literally thousands of local references so don’t just take our word for it, go and say hello to one of our existing customers. We always check with customers before using them as a reference.

  • Do you handle all the rebate paperwork for me so I just have to pay the difference?
  • Generally, we will take care of the rebate so all you pay is the difference. We take our time to explain how the scheme works so you can decide which option works best for you.

    See the Australian Government Small Scale Technology Certificates website.

  • What documentation will I receive both before and after the install?
  • Before the install, you will receive a quote clearly stating the components to be installed and your total out of pocket expense for supply and installation. Once the installation has been completed you will be provided with an installation pack. As part of the Clean Energy Council guidelines, all installers are required to provide the following documents.

    • A list of equipment supplied.
    • A list of actions to be taken in the event of an earth fault alarm.
    • The shutdown and isolation procedure for emergency and maintenance.
    • A basic connection diagram.
    • System performance estimate.
    • Recommended maintenance for the system.
    • Maintenance procedure and timetable.
    • The commissioning sheet and installation checklist.
    • Array frame engineering certificate for wind and mechanical loading.
    • Installer/designer’s declaration of compliance.
    • Warranty information.
    • Equipment manufacturer’s documentation and handbooks for all equipment supplied.
  • Am I responsible for organising connection to the grid?
  • We will manage this process for you free of charge and in most cases there is nothing for you to do. In some situations, customers are required to call their electrical retailers to inform them they have solar connected and help the process along.

2
Choosing the right size system
  • What size system should I install?
  • This depends on several factors including:

    • How much energy you use and what times of day you use it.
    • How much room you have for panels. You need to ensure you have enough shade-free space; our consultants can help you with this.
    • Your budget- Systems range in price from $2000 for an 8 panel 1.5kW system up to around $8000 for a 24 panel 6kW system.
    • How long you intend to occupy the property- Systems generally take at least 4-6 years to pay themselves.
    • Do you plan on installing a battery system? You need to ensure you generate enough electricity to power your home through the day and have enough electricity to charge your batteries for the night.
  • How much is the Feed in tariff worth and which retailers pay the most?
  • A Feed in Tariff (FIT) is the amount you’re paid per unit (Kilowatt hour-kWh) of unused electricity that you sell back to the grid. The amount paid for the FIT changes over time and various electrical retailers pay different amounts. At present it ranges from 10 to 16 c/kWh.

    With the new feed-in tariff you want to think about solar power a little differently. You pay up to 29 cents per kWh for the power you draw from the grid, to maximise the amount you can save on your power bill, you are better to replace that power with solar power, using the solar power your system produces in the home during the day, as it is produced. Every kilowatt hour of solar power you use in your home, will reduce your bill by as much as 29 cents.

  • How long will it take to pay off my system?
  • This depends on:

    • The size of system you install.
    • The percentage of solar power you directly use in the house.
    • The percentage of solar power you export to the grid and how much you are paid for your feed in tariff.
    • The amount you initially paid for the system.

    Our consultants will go through these numbers with you. We have developed a visual solar calculator to help explain how the calculations work and also provide you with accurate estimations.

  • Can I make changes to improve how the system works for me?
  • Yes by trying to shift your electricity usage to the day time, you will self-consume more of your solar power and therefore reduce the power you buy from the grid. Items like swimming pools, dish washers, clothes washing, dryers, pumps and hot water systems can be controlled by timers so they operate at staggered times through the day. Changes like this will go a long way towards eliminating your power bills.

  • Is shading going to affect my production? If so, by how much?
  • If the panels are installed on different roof areas facing slightly different directions, will you use an inverter with an input for each different facing section?

    It is important that panels are carefully grouped, if panels are under different conditions the array will be heavily influenced by the weakest panel. By using inverters with multiple trackers or micro inverters we are able to place groups of panels in different directions. This means that each group of panel can work independently of each other.

  • What direction will the panels face and what affect will this have on production?
  • North gets the most sun during the day. However, due to the changes in Feedin Tariffs you’re better off using the power that you generate yourself. Installing panels on east or west roofs help capture the morning and afternoon sun. In some cases, this works better with family lifestyles as they are not home during the middle of the day.

  • Is roof pitch an issue?
  • This is not a big issue as there is normally an easy solution. You could install a tilt frame or add extra panels to make up any loss. Once again this is where our free home visit really helps us give accurate advice.

  • How many panels can I fit on the roof?
  • There are several online tools that companies use to measure your roof and this is very helpful in the initial quoting stages. To really gain an understanding of the roof structure and layout it is important that a member of the installation team inspect and measure the roof. The position of roof timbers and battens determine the final panel position. It is this positioning that makes the difference between a well thought out configuration and those shocking eyesores we see all too often.

3
Choosing the right components
  • Choosing the right size system
  • What brand of panels and inverter will I receive? Can you point me to 3rd party reviews of them? We will help you make an educated decision on which panels and inverter to choose. We are not tied to any manufacturer, so can recommend the best solar products for every customer. With an emphasis on quality design and engineering, an honest, no-pressure approach to sales helps you choose wisely. Try the Whirlpool forum for honest conversations from people who know what they’re talking about and who are more than happy to offer advice.

  • Where are the components made?
  • About 80% of panels and 50% of inverters are made in Asia, the rest generally in Europe. Country of origin isn’t a problem in itself. Who services the warranties if a panel or inverter fails is more important. All the products we use come from world leading manufacturers that have Australia based offices. We will assist with any warranty claims making the process as smooth as possible. All the reputable inverter manufacturers have a similar warranty procedure. In the event of a warranty claim, the manufacturer will send out a replacement inverter and cover the cost of the electrician to swap it over.

    Most inverters come with 5 to 10 years warranty as standard with extended warranty available. Solar panels come with 25 years performance warranty which normally means the solar cells are guaranteed to be generating at least 80% of its nominal output in 25 years’ time. You will also see 10 to 12 years manufactures warranty, this covers the construction and frame work of the modules.

  • Do the panels have a negative or positive power tolerance?
  • A 5% positive power tolerance means that a 100W panel will produce between 100W and 105W.

    A 5%+/- power tolerance means that the panel will produce between 95W and 105W. Better quality panels have a positive power tolerance. No solar cell manufacturer can produce cells to the exact specification so therefore, the higher quality manufacturers will pay more for the cells with positive tolerance while the rest with +/- will go to lower quality manufacturers.

  • Do the panel and inverter manufacturers have an office in Australia?
  • It is important to go with the major manufacturers who are able to deal with warranty claims quickly. All our chosen brands have offices in Australia.

  • Is shading going to affect my production? If so, by how much?
  • If the panels are installed on different roof areas facing slightly different directions, will you use an inverter with an input for each different facing section?

    It is important that panels are carefully grouped, if panels are under different conditions the array will be heavily influenced by the weakest panel. By using inverters with multiple trackers or micro inverters we are able to place groups of panels in different directions. This means that each group of panel can work independently of each other.

  • What maintenance is involved with the system?
  • This generally involves cleaning the panels with warm water once or twice a year depending on rainfall. Warm water and a towel will do the job nicely.

  • Does the inverter have communication software?
  • Most inverters come with an option to connect to the internet. This is a useful tool so you can see exactly how well your system is working. Another great benefit is that the inverter will send emails to both the customer and installer if there is an issue; this means there is minimal down time from faulty equipment that could otherwise go unnoticed to your next power bill.

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We're not tied to any manufacturer which means we can recommend the best solar panels and inverters for every customer.
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