There’s little arguing the fact that adding solar to your home can be one of the smartest things you do. Firstly, you are doing your bit for the environment and our future generations. Secondly, you are reducing your future household expenses and potentially setting yourself up for grid independence (if you add in a battery).
What else can you add to your home that actually pays you money?
Recently feed-in tariffs have been significantly reduced, so adding solar and expecting the significant financial returns of the years past just simply won’t happen at the same level. However, you can still usually get paid something to send your excess solar generation back into the grid (depending on your electricity distributor and their approvals process). A well-designed solar system will still undoubtedly save you money on your ongoing electricity expenses – let’s face it, we are always going to be using lights and power, heating and hot water.
If you’ve ever started investigating your solar options or had a conversation with a friend, you may have been put off from going through with an installation. Unfortunately, despite layers upon layers of regulation, there are still sharks in the solar industry that do their best to line their own pockets with minimal thought about the customer. And if you have a friend that says, ‘I paid for solar and it hasn’t saved me a cent, don’t waste your money’, there’s every chance that they have fallen victim to one of these sharks. And let’s face it, it can be tricky searching for a truly trustworthy Geelong solar installer.
Fortunately, there are some very ethical and honest professionals in the solar industry. If you commence your solar journey with a company that is focused on providing a unique and tailored, long term solution for you and your home, then putting in a high quality solar system will safeguard you against rising electricity prices and grid uncertainty.
So how can you make sure you find one of these solar professionals who will have your interests at the top of their agenda? Here are my top 9 tips when considering solar:
- Use a local and reputable solar installer. Make sure they do not subcontract their work. You want to be sure that whoever is selling the system is also responsible for the installation of it. That way if there are any issues down the track no one is going to handball their responsibilities. Referrals here are key. Be sure they live locally so that they can quickly sort out any system issues if required. Make sure they have also been around for a while. Be wary of sites that offer to source ‘3 quotes’ as quite often these companies are not truly local to the area. These companies also often pay to source these leads.
- Be sure that they conduct a site visit. Any solar company should not even be quoting unless you have met them, and they have conducted a site visit. A site visit means they can assess your home fully and design a system that takes everything into consideration and will work. Then at install, there should not be any surprises or change required to the system design. During the site visit they should discuss location for the panels and inverter, any switchboard work required and battery locations if applicable.
- Ask the salesperson if they are accredited. The other benefit of a site visit is to ensure whoever is preparing a quote, understands how YOU use power in your home and what your future electrical needs may be. Be sure that the person is accredited in either system design and/or installation (ask if they are CEC Accredited) and not simply a salesperson. They should be asking you questions around your electricity usage, and if you plan to make any changes to your home or your lifestyle pattern. All of these things will impact on your electricity consumption both now and in the future.
- Make sure they don’t just talk solar. To make sure the company you are talking to isn’t just trying to make a quick dollar from a solar install, they really need to assess your complete home set up. This should involve discussion around battery options, heating and cooling, hot water and your future vehicle choices. Many homeowners will currently also be using gas for many of these options. What will happen though when your gas hot water system needs replacing or the old heating system suddenly gives up the ghost? While you might not necessarily replace all of these straight away, being mindful of what you may replace these with in the future will ensure that you put in an appropriate solar system to cater for these now.
- Cheapest isn’t best, but don’t be ripped off either. Solar can be really confusing and the quality of both components (like panels, inverters and batteries) can differ enormously, as does the quality of installation. Believe me, all solar installations are not created equal. Deals that seem too good to be true often are. And there are also companies that promise the world at an inflated price and then fail to deliver, both in terms of the customer experience and the installation. Again, seek referrals from people you know and be sure to get at least 2 quotes so you can compare. A reputable company should be encouraging you to compare options. Afterall, this is a significant and long-term investment for your home.
- Find out if you are eligible for rebates. There are 2 main rebates for residential solar. The first is the federal rebate (STCs). Everyone will be eligible for this, it decreases every year, and is dependent on the size of your system. The second rebate is the Solar Victoria Solar Homes program which offers various rebates including for panels, batteries, hot water, heating and cooling, businesses and rental properties. There are various eligibility criteria to access these rebates. Make sure whoever you are dealing with is confident in guiding you in what rebates apply, and if they are trying to do something a bit dodgy here be concerned – you don’t want those practises to flow through into your system installation.
- Ask questions. Solar can be an absolute minefield of information and super confusing. Whoever you are dealing with should be able to clearly explain their proposed solution to you without causing even more confusion. Have a think about what is important to you and ask those questions. For example, are you looking for products with long warranties, highest performance, or that simply look nice on your roof?
- Find out about the process and timeframes. How will the solar installer work with you? Will they assist with rebate applications if you have questions? How long will it take to install? What happens after install, will they come back and show you again how it works? Who sorts out the paperwork? You want to make sure that the entire process is as easy as it can be for you.
- Trust your gut. Ultimately you will know if something doesn’t feel right. Trust your intuition and if something doesn’t feel quite right then either do some more research or get another opinion.About the author: Sophie Wright is CEC Accredited in Grid Connect and Battery Design of photovoltaic power systems. She is also the Sales Manager at Vortex Electrical based in Geelong, a member of the Solar Victoria Industry and Consumer Reference Group and founding member of Australian Women in Solar Energy (AWISE). She is passionate about demystifying solar for consumers and ensuring that the industry continually strives for higher ethical and moral standards in providing the best solutions for everyone.