Purchasing a cheap solar & battery system may seem like a good idea initially, but it will cost homeowners considerably more in the long run. Cheap systems come with poorly built solar panels and inverters, questionable warranty agreements, and short-cut installation practices.
Some main reasons you should avoid cheap solar include quality issues, warranty issues, dodgy installation and lack of after-sales service. Therefore, searching for and choosing a reputable company that offers quality products, professional installation, and good reliable after-sales service is essential.
This will ensure that your solar and battery system will last a long time and provide the maximum savings on your energy bills.
Should I buy a cheap solar system?
While purchasing a cheap solar system may seem like a great idea initially for many homeowners, the truth is that going with a cheap PV system will cost you significantly in the long run. The old sayings about buyer beware and buy cheap, buy twice apply to buying solar more than most.
The main message is that cheap solar and battery storage systems, advertised on price, are not the best choice when investing in solar. They come with poorly built solar panels, questionable warranties and shortcut installation practices.
So what are the main reasons you shouldn’t go with the cheaply advertised solar systems on the market? Well, let’s have a look.
Quality issues will arise
The promise of free energy alongside a very low initial cost may seem irresistible for someone wanting to escape high electricity bills.
But as the saying goes – nothing in life is free. Cheap solar systems will, unfortunately, often cost a homeowner a lot more than expected in the long run. Sub-standard solar systems usually come with low-quality solar panels, budget inverters and clever corner-cutting in the installation.
There is a reason that the panels you are being offered are cheap. It’s because they are not quality-made. The materials used could be better, and this is especially a problem in Australia’s scorching heat. This will, of course, affect the lifespan of your solar system.
Solar panels look like simple devices and appear nearly identical from a distance. However, one might not realise the intricacies of manufacturing quality silicon cells, connecting them with perfect soldering connections and combining them into a perfectly sealed weatherproof solar panel.
A quality panel takes a high level of care, monitoring and quality control. Unfortunately, cutting corners to make cheap panels that look okay to the naked eye is easy.
Panels should last 20 years plus
When you expect the panels (and inverters), for that matter, to have a long life (25 years+ for panels and 10 years+ for inverters), there is no room for compromising on quality, particularly in the harsh climate conditions across Australia.
If you purchase a cheap solar system, know there will likely be many quality issues with the main components after only a few years.
In the system’s early years, you will achieve poor energy production and faster degradation of panels. Faster degradation means less and less energy production.
It is unlikely that this will be apparent in the first year, but by years two to five, you will likely experience several problems with the different components.
Warranty issues will develop
Many cheap solar systems come with overpromised warranties.
Many solar sales-focused companies, especially Australia-wide ones, have a range of innovative ways to avoid their warranty obligations.
For example, cheap solar system retailers will void customer warranties if the homeowner does not provide cleaning and maintenance for their system every three to six months. The same solar company will charge high maintenance costs to deliver this unnecessary service.
Although cleaning is recommended for solar panels, once every three months is a bit too much, especially since they can usually be cleaned sufficiently when it rains.
Another way to avoid warranty claims is to import the panels and inverters and close the company after a few years. Therefore the customer has nowhere to go if issues arise.
Dodgy warranty practices
Unfortunately, the cheap – I am advertising on price – solar companies know that – so they now claim to sell quality, but the price charged tells the facts.
These solar sales companies directly bring cheaper panels and inverters into the country to lower costs. Sometimes they are procured via flyby night wholesale channels, with the product manufacturers not having an Australian office to handle warranty issues when they arise.
This creates an issue where you have no recourse for a warranty when the products fail, and the original sales company disappears (Which happens like clockwork with cheap solar sales companies – usually after 3 to 4 years. Overall, 800 of these have closed their doors since 2010).
Poorly sized batteries
While cheap, price-focused solar advertisements are everywhere, when it comes to batteries, one cannot find a cheap battery deal. The reason is that batteries are not cheap to purchase in the 1st place due to the raw material costs.
Also, the technical knowledge needs to be further developed to install a battery. So if you see a cheap battery offer, in most cases, the battery size is so small it’s next to useless. So ensure your battery has at least 10 kWh capacity, preferably more.
Unsafe installation practices common with cheap solar systems
The other problem with buying the cheapest solar system on the market is that it usually comes with a dodgy, poor-quality installation.
Typically, when the system and installation come at an extremely low price, the installer, paid per job, must take shortcuts during the installation process.
In most cases, with these cheap solar systems, the retailer will subcontract the job to an inexperienced installer at a very low cost.
They will not take the due care and will not complete the job to the standard required. Incorrectly installed solar systems can cause numerous additional problems. Poor installation may result in failures due to poorly connected panels and cables, inadequate protection with isolators and cable conduit, as well as subpar fixing of panels and inverters.
Then when you have problems with the system, it can be almost impossible to get the company to correct the difficulties/ Also, when you chase the company to fix the issue, your solar system will not produce electricity.
No after-sales service
The final issue with choosing the cheapest solar system on the market is that the company which provided you with the system will most likely not support you if you encounter any after-sales issues.
With more than 800 solar businesses going bankrupt since 2011 in Australia, there have been close to 600,000 solar customers left with failing solar systems on their roofs and nowhere to turn to.
These systems are known as ‘orphaned’ systems, and there are thousands across Australia. So if you want to avoid a failing system with no support from the initial company, make sure you don’t go for the cheapest solar system.
Like any big purchase, don’t let price be the only deciding factor. Unfortunately, in most cases, it probably is if it sounds too good to be true.
Understandably, most solar buyers hope to reduce their energy bills, so it makes sense that many go for a cheap option. However, you need to view a solar system as a long-term investment, so you should expect to wait a few years before seeing returns.
Make sure you take the time to do your research to make an educated decision that isn’t based on the cheapest option available.