My solar & battery system has stopped, what are my options?

Fast read

If you have a warranty issue with your solar system, the first step is to contact the solar company that sold and installed the system. They have the responsibility to manage and resolve the warranty claim with the manufacturer.

It is illegal for the retailer to refer you directly to the manufacturer, and you can insist on them dealing with you.

Your solar  & battery installation company should inspect the system, communicate with the manufacturer, and handle the entire process.

If you purchase cheap solar, there is a good chance your installer has disappeared and you will face a whole journey of pain. That's we say pay a fair price 1st and then get long term savings. Avoid cheap solar at all cost.

During the assessment and approval process, the manufacturer should promptly address the claim. You may need to provide detailed information, such as testing results, photos, and reports from the solar company. The manufacturer should also compensate the solar company for any reasonable costs incurred in servicing the claim.

How should a warranty claim be managed? Who do I go to?

Solar systems are exposed to the climate and their surrounding environment 24/7. This means that the likelihood of something occurring to the PV system after a few years in the sun that causes an issue is a lot higher than other electrical components, protected inside your home.

For this reason, solar system component manufacturers offer long warranties on their products. However, when contacting some installers of cheap solar or some of the budget price manufacturers of your system components about an issue within the time of your warranty, they can be slow to respond and act upon the issue. This can get frustrating as you want your solar system up and running again ASAP.

So you have a warranty issue with the components of your solar system?

Whether it’s with the panels, inverter, battery or other components, while you are trying to get the warranty-supported products supplied and replaced in your system, your solar system is not working. This means the system is costing you money for every day, hour, and minute that it is not working. What is the best way to get this resolved quickly?

How the Australian Consumer law works

It is worth noting firstly that under Australian consumer law. There is a whole chain of responsibility for honouring warranties on any product that you buy in Australia. What this means is that the manufacturer in Australia is responsible for providing a remedy or replacement for warranty issues. This actually holds for the whole supply chain that these products flow through. For example, usually the retail solar company is likely to have bought the products from an electrical or solar industry wholesaler who, in turn, purchased the products from the manufacturer, who imported them into Australia.

While the manufacturer is ultimately responsible for the warranty on the product, as the wholesaler sold the product to the solar company, they are responsible if the manufacturer is no longer in the country or has disappeared completely.

Similarly, the solar company who sold the solar system to you also has responsibility and liability for the product warranty., especially if the manufacturer and distributor have disappeared.  As part of this chain of responsibility, your first point of call, when you have issues with your solar system is to contact the solar company that originally sold and installed the solar system on your home and describe the issue to them. It is always good in such situations to be not emotional and stay neutral and factual. Blaming usually does not help.

By the way the installation company can not push the responsibility onto the installer – in case they used a subcontractor. The buck stops with the company who you gave your hard earned money to.

inverter which has burn marks
It is next to impossible to get suppliers and manufacturers of cheaper equipment to come back and attend to warranty issues

What to expect from your solar system company regarding warranty issues

Your solar company should take down the facts you report to them, and they should NOT try to fob you off to the manufacturer. If they sold the gear to you, they have an obligation under consumer law to look after you in such a situation and investigate what is wrong.

It is not right for a retailer to tell you to go directly to the manufacturer for a warranty claim. It’s a breach of the consumer law. The solar installation company should not be referring you to the manufacturer. They should manage the entire warranty claim process with the manufacturer. Therefore, all correspondence should be via your solar company and at the end of the day, they are responsible for supporting the warranty on the product they have sold to you.

So be it if this means sending a staff member out to inspect and fact-find. That’s why we always recommend going with a local company, as they will be more likely to send someone over than a solar sales company from far away.

In cases the issue is not warranty related, e.g. a big hailstone smashed a panel, the installation company is entitled to charge you a call-out fee, as panel glass breakage via hail is not a warranty issue – but more of a home insurance matter.

After the solar installation company has come out and completed an inspection and assessment of your system, several scenarios could happen.

The straightforward scenario in theory

The installer comes out, and fact finds. Step 1: The issue is found, e.g. malfunctioning inverter or a corroded panels with water ingress. Sep 2: The manufacturer of the product is still in Australia and honours warranties.  -tick (good news). Step 3: The installer will communicate with the manufacturer and organises product replacement. The labour and, the transport costs (other than if you are very remote,  and the initial inspection cost should all be paid for by the manufacturer to the installer.

A repair period of 1 to 4 weeks is reasonable, depending on what is the issue. Any longer and you should raise the issue of lost electricity production and the potential to be compensated for such a loss. It is funny how this request suddenly sees action and resolutions.

solar panel
A quality and local installer will be out within a very few days, as long as you are not very remote, to start on the path to get your system working again (as long as it was not cheap crap to start off with)

Unfortunately, this is where cheap solar and quality solar part ways

When it comes to quality solar components, the straightforward scenario is often easy and looks like this: 

a) A broken down PV system is less likely, as the equipment  was not cheap and is designed to last, and

b) if there is an issue, a quality, local install company has the right attitude, seeks to protect their reputation, and usually has an excellent after-sales support level. They will determine the issue speedily and work with a quality product manufacturer to resolve it quickly.

When it comes to cheap bill-buster solar, the straightforward scenario is often not available because:

a) The chance for the gear to break down is much higher, as it is built cheaply, despite long, but meaningless warranties

b) The manufacturer has left Australia, or the install company has closed their doors to avoid precisely this type of warranty support, as they could see it coming from a mile away; after all, they sold cheap gear with long warranty periods. A deadly combination.

c) You are stuck with a poorly installed solar system with failing cheap stuff, and no one is interested in fixing it.

You are now the proud owner of a solar orphan – where both manufacturer and install company have disappeared.

Please do not feel bad, as this has happened to over 25% of all solar owners in Australia, with close to 800,000 Orphan or dead and useless cheap solar systems on our Australian roofs, installed by the 800 plus cheap solar installation companies who have come and gone, since the solar industry took off. 

It is a shocking scandal.

What other options have you got?

If the installer has disappeared, but the manufacturer or distributor who sold the equipment to the installer is still around, you might be in luck. Then approach the wholesaler/distributor or manufacturer to have the warranty issue resolved. They are responsible for organising an inspection.

If you find resistance, threaten to go to your local State-based Department of Consumer Affairs. If you get no action, you must contact the department and follow their resolution process.

As you can see, this all looks like a big pain, and hopefully, you do not read this only after you purchased cheap solar and now learning the pitfalls. That’s why we say buy local, buy quality and avoid these nightmares.

The assessment and approval process of warranty issues

In most cases, the assessment and approval process can be managed and processed quickly by the manufacturer. Often at the start, you will need to provide detailed information, such as inverter error codes or photos. Then if you have a conscious solar gear manufacturer, they will organise a call-out and an issue remedy.

It is also worth noting that in the case of a valid warranty claim, the manufacturer should compensate the solar company for any costs incurred in servicing the claim. This includes labour for replacement, inspection, testing and administration. There should not be any out-of-pocket costs to you as the end customer from the warranty experience.

What if you do not know what’s wrong with the PV & battery system?

If your PV system has stopped working or is producing only a fraction of what it used to produce, then this is another headache, if the installer has disappeared, because you do not know if it’s the panels, the inverter, the fuses and cabling that causes the issue. In this instance, you will need to be prepared to pay for a local installer to come and diagnose the issue.

Make sure to ask beforehand what the call-out fee is and be prepared to be out of pocket for this amount. But at least then, you should be clearer about where to go from there.

going out of business sign
Unfortunately, like clockwork, cheap solar companies often close their doors after only 2 or 3 years to avoid any warranty related obligations

In summary

Suppose the solar company that installed your system is no longer in operation (which is the case for many cheap solar installations in Australia) then you would have needed to find another solar company to inspect the system, and they can manage the warranty claim process for you.

However, they have no legal responsibility for the system. They may charge you for the initial call-out fee and assessment to claim with the manufacturer. In this case, you could also contact the manufacturer if you know what is wrong and have them organise for representative to inspect and assess your solar system for the fault and then manage the claim from there.

If you cannot find a resolution with your solar installer or the manufacturer, the next step will be to approach your State Consumer Affairs Department/Office of Fair Trading to make a complaint. They will then assess your issue and approach the manufacturer and solar company on your behalf and discuss resolving the issue or arrange mediation of the issues to resolve asap.

A last hint

You would be surprised how often solar owners call an installation company when there is something wrong with their system and have no idea what solar panel brand or model they have. Usually, it’s the same lack of details regarding the inverter solution and the battery. That’s why we say to keep your original invoices and paperwork in a dedicated location, so you can have this information handy when needed. The installation company providing you with advice and repair service will need to know these fundamentals before anything can start.

Should you consider getting solar or other renewable energy products we recommend contacting  local solar company to give you advice.  To find the right partner try our company finder and ask our recommended experts to assist you.  Using a Your Energy Answers Authorised Partner will give you an experienced, reliable, and trustworthy company to serve your needs. 

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