How to avoid solar sharks

Fast read

When considering solar energy options, it is important to ask the installer a variety of questions to ensure you are getting a high-quality and reliable system.

Some key questions to ask include: how long the company has been in the solar industry, what accreditations they have, whether it will assist in the system's connection to the grid, what after-sales service they offer, what finance options are available, whether the recommended products are in line with CEC standards, what the available feed-in tariff is in your area, what documentation will be provided after installation, where the company is located, and whether they have a good reputation.

Asking these questions can help you make an informed decision and ensure that you get the best solar system for your needs.

Ask these questions to avoid any solar sharks 

So you have done your research on solar, and you are finally ready to start receiving some quotes from different installers. If this is the case, then you’ll want to be prepared and make sure you get the best understanding of what your selection will include so that you can avoid any solar sharks. This will help you make an informed decision.

This has become increasingly important given the current status of the solar market, with several companies selling and installing solar panels for a customer, closing their business, and then leaving the customer with an orphaned and faulty solar system.

Therefore, feel free to include any of the questions below in your discussion with installers so that you can get an idea about their reputation and whether or not they are a reliable company for your solar installation. Of course, all the companies we have listed on our site have already undergone this vetting, but there is nothing wrong with checking yourself. 

installer carrying solar panel
A little bit of investigating will expose whether you’re actually getting a good solar deal.

Questions to ask the installer to avoid solar sharks

1. How long have you been in the solar industry?

This will allow you to get an understanding of their experience. A true industry veteran has survived the ups and downs and is likelier to stick around. A solar shark company that has only recently appeared in the solar industry or has only been active for a year or two should raise suspicions about its long-term commitment. 

2. What accreditations do you have, and will you install the system? If not, will the installer be accredited by the Clean Energy Council (CEC)? 

Make sure that the installer that will be working on your system is CEC accredited. This is because, otherwise, one would claim the rebate fraudulently. The rebate is only supposed to be paid to installations by CEC-accredited installers.

3. Will they be able to assist in your system’s connection to the grid?

Most solar installers should provide this if the installer refuses to answer or says no. This should be seen as a red flag. You want the install company to manage the grid connection part. This will allow you to avoid spending time on the phone and dealing with third parties.

4. What after-sales service do they offer?

This is one of the most critical components of an installation that is often overlooked. As solar and batteries are long-term investments, having a company that can help maintain the system on short notice for many years is very important.

5. What finance options do they offer?

This will allow you to get an insight into whether or not you will have to pay for the whole system upfront. For example, a finance option might allow you to pay for part of the system and finance the second part—that way, you can choose the higher-quality option.

6. Are all their recommended products in line with CEC standards so that one can claim the rebates, and will the effect one has quoted be the one that is delivered?

Some solar sharks quote you good gear but have a clause in the contract that they can substitute the system components for “equal quality” ones. So insist on getting the items that were quoted.

7. What is the available feed-in tariff in this area?

You might need to consider changing energy retailers if your current provider does not offer the most competitive rates. Your installer, which deals with this issue daily, should be able to recommend the best electricity plans in your area.

8. What documentation will be received after the installation?

Usually, companies will supply a handover kit as part of the handover. Ask what’s in it. This is also very important as it will determine how well-educated you are and how much understanding you will be given about your system, which is especially important when there’s a problem.

9. Where are they located? Are they local? 

This links to the availability of after-sales service. If they are local, they will be much more likely to come and inspect your property pre and post-installation. If their head office is hundreds of km away, they must engage a sub-contractor, which will always take some time.

10. Do they have any case studies or past customers willing to speak, or what is the standing of their Google reviews?

This is to see how they have worked in the past so that you get an idea of the installation quality and customer service they provide.

couple laughing on couch
Look for positive customer reviews; they are always a good sign!

Questions to ask yourself

11. How much electricity do we use?

This will allow you to do some prior research via past electricity bills and understand the solar system size you will be working with. Then, of course, there are other variables to consider. However, this is the first basic required knowledge. 

12. What is our budget?

This is an important question as solar and battery systems can come in various price points. However, we recommend never going with very cheap solar, as it always will disappoint after a relatively short time.

13. What is the expected time frame for significant returns?

As this is a long-term investment, understanding when you should expect to make returns beyond the purchase price, e.g. after five years, is essential. However, you won’t need to be stressed when you don’t see immediate positive returns and will have some realistic expectations.

14. Will the company quoting my solar system do the installation and be responsible for the installation quality?

This is important as many solar shark companies use third parties to install their work and then want to see these third parties be responsible if there is an issue. You do not want that. You want the company you paid to be responsible for the ongoing support. So even if they sub-contract part of the work, they are still your party to make after-sales inquiries.

15. Should I buy cheap?

When did you last enter a 2-dollar shop, buy the cheapest option available, and have a long-lasting result?   

16. Do I know how the warranty claims are handled?

Warranty claims can consume a lot of time, so ensure you grasp the basic procedures. This preparation ensures that if the day comes when you need to make a claim, you won’t feel stressed.

modern house with solar system who avoided solar sharks
Every home solar system must be installed customarily to its specific requirements.

Questions specific to the solar system to avoid solar sharks

17. What system size do they recommend?

This will allow you to explore how much you should expect to pay and how much roof space you should expect to be taken up. You can also try our solar output calculator to see how much electricity you can expect to generate year-round.

18. What is the expected lifespan of the proposed PV & battery system?

Asking this question is crucial to grasp when substantial gains will occur and their duration.

19. Will shading be an issue for my solar system?

This will determine what angle your system faces, what products will be used, and how efficient the panels will be. It will also mean you will not receive maximum solar output for some of the year. Make sure you understand whether your system is affected by shading and how you will avoid this.

20. What direction will the panels face, and will this affect their production?

It can also impact your system’s ROI because panel direction should align with your consumption pattern. For instance, heavy afternoon air conditioning use benefits from solar panels facing North-West or West.

21. What product models and brands will be used for the system?

Researching the products recommended allows you to assess their quality and determine if the installer is trustworthy based on their suggestions.

22. Under what specific conditions will the warranty be voided?

This is important as it will ensure you don’t do something such as move the panels yourself. This will void your warranty, meaning your products are on their own.

23. Will you be able to add extra additional panels or solar battery storage in the future?

As solar becomes increasingly popular and cheaper, you may want to add extra panels in the future or store your excess energy instead of sending it to the grid. So ask this question to know if it is possible with your soon-to-be-installed solar solution.

24. How do we monitor the system’s performance?

Most new inverters do have this monitor technology. However, ensure you know if what you are installing does, as it helps understand your solar returns. There are also affordable third-party monitor solutions such as Solar Analytics Integrated +. They offer a wide range of benefits for al ow annual subscription rate. Ask your installer to consider this an inclusion as it is more sophisticated and provides additional benefits to inverter monitoring – such as plan optimiser.

25. Where do we install the inverter and battery?

Ensure you have the appropriate location for these system components and that they visually blend into your home. They are also better installed away from heat and direct sunshine exposure.

Suppose you are at the stage where you are contacting installers. Include these questions in your conversations, as the answers will help you determine a solid supplier.

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