There are several factors to consider when seeking a great solar quote.
These include understanding your energy usage patterns, the condition and orientation of your roof, the state of your meter board and electrical infrastructure, the accreditation of the company and the equipment they use, the type of solar system that is most suitable for your needs, any rebates or incentives available, the length of the warranty offered, the quality of the customer service and support, and the overall cost of the system.
Researching and comparing quotes from multiple companies is important to ensure that you are getting the best deal and that your chosen company is reputable and trustworthy.
How to get a great solar quote
Solar is becoming increasingly popular in Australia, and it’s no surprise that this will continue. Not only can solar help reduce your electricity bills and make your house more eco-friendly, but solar can also help improve the value of your home. However, if you are considering going solar and want an excellent installation, here are 10 tips to secure a quality solar quote.
1. Understanding your energy usage
The most important piece of information that an installer needs to know before supplying you with a great solar quote is your energy use patterns. For grid-connected solar systems, the most common installation for residential households, solar generation is at its prime between 9.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m. For more specific information to you, use an energy usage monitor.
If you don’t want solar battery storage, the excess energy your system will produce will not be stored. Therefore, it’s very important to understand how much energy you use during this period to determine whether solar is worth it for you.
For the installer, understanding your energy usage habits will also aid in their sizing process as well as the location of the panels. In addition, some installers gain your consumption data via your electricity meter, which will be possible if you have a modern smart meter.
Otherwise, you might need to explain how you use electricity in the home. The best way to assist is to find the electricity bills – preferably for the last 12 months and explain your future electricity usage plans. For example, are there more children on the way? Are your 10- and 11-year-olds turning into energy-guzzling teenagers in a few years? Will you purchase an EV shortly?
It might also lead to the installer recommending a solar battery if you are ready to go ahead with an EV and seek to charge it from home
2. Your roof condition and layout
Your solar installer needs to understand different aspects of your roof to give you a great solar quote. In general, a solar system will produce the most amount of energy if it is facing north or northwest. In saying this, most roofs will be able to have solar installed; it just means the installer will have to do an extra analysis of your roof orientation.
Therefore, they must understand your roof’s orientation as well as the make of roof sheeting, be it tile, metal sheeting, or slate. In addition, the type of roof will affect the hardware required and how big the maximum size of your system can be.
For example, if you want a solar battery, your solar system size must be bigger than a standard solar-only system, as now you seek to cover your night-time use.
As part of the solar quoting process, you want to see your roof layout with the panel location marked, so you can appreciate the aesthetical aspects of your new system.
A roof inspection will help the installer determine whether there will be a longer installation process that requires more work than a typical solar system installation. For example, slate roofs or roofs with old brittle tiles will take longer.
3. The condition of your motherboard and electrical infrastructure
A physical site inspection will allow your installer to work out the condition of your meter board and the overall condition of the home’s cabling, providing you with a great solar quote.
The installer, while on-site, can also determine the cable run from the roof solar system to the switchboard. They can also work out the position for a string inverter or solar battery should you decide on these technologies. Roof access and panel orientation should also be discussed during the site inspection and determined during this site inspection.
Satellite mapping technology, such as Near Map, can not give you this kind of detailed overview. For this reason, installers must enter your site before the quote to avoid unexpected issues arising on installation day. Therefore, companies should always inspect the area before giving a quote.
4. Is the company you are considering an accredited sales or installation company using accredited equipment?
In solar, three types of companies install and supply systems. Firstly some sales companies are good at selling solar and then subcontracting the installation to other parties. Energy retailers and prominent national solar players fall into this category. However, they are often set up in high-rise call centres, and visiting them and seeing the person in charge of any product showroom will be difficult.
Secondly, you have medium-sized businesses, being solar companies with dedicated staff for selling and other staff for installing. They have a brick-and-mortar head office and welcome a visit to their showroom to explain products and technology to you.
Thirdly there are smaller tradespeople companies which usually have 3 to 6 staff. They often operate in the region, and regularly the boss does the selling and installing. They sometimes have a showroom and are too small to offer this service.
What do we think of Your Energy Answers?
We here at Your Energy Answers, through our personal experience for nearly two decades, prefer the 2nd and 3rd type of company. The reason is that reliable after-sales service is integral to a long-lasting solar system’s journey. Unfortunately, type one companies rarely excel in after-sales service. They are often too busy selling the next system to worry about past customers.
So we say – go with an installation company – not a sales company.
The Clean Energy Council (CEC) has a list of accredited installers, and you can ask who the company will use as the installer and check if they are on the CEC list. The same applies to the equipment. Only CEC-approved panels, inverters, and racking will be allowed to go onto your roof if you seek to claim the Federal STC rebate.
5. Check out the reputation and background of your solar company
Unfortunately, the solar industry is infiltrated by many fly-by-night operators, so you need to make sure you pick the right installation company. I suggest only engaging a company that ticks the following boxes:
- The company has been in existence for at least eight years. Ask them for their ASIC number and check when they started.
- Are they local, and do they have a showroom, a real Australian office, and real electricians employed, not just contractors?
- Check out the Google reviews – anything below a 4.2 rating is not too impressive. Also, you want them to have at least 30 to 50 reviews. Shy away from companies with hundreds of reviews, as many of these are possibly Fake.
- Ask them about any customers they installed recently or 12 months ago. Ask if these customers would be ok to talk to them. If so – talk to them and check out the service and results.
- Get the company to explain their after-sales service to you and make notes. For example, how long does it take for a warranty replacement? Who will install it?
- Do not go with companies that give you a one-size-fits-all quote, deadlines on specials, too cheap pricing, employ pushy salespersons on commissions, and give you the “last chance for this great special” deadline.
- Do not purchase from door-to-door solar salespersons if the price is clearly below market rate because the only way these prices can be achieved is with sub-standard equipment and installations.
- Finally, avoid anyone who claims the panels are Tier 1, says they will deliver a bill buster system to you, or claims “You will never have an electricity bill because their panels work under the moonlight.”
6. The quote should list all the equipment you are purchasing
Your quote should detail the number of panels, their brand, and wattage. Same with the inverter solution. Is it string, micro-inverter, or a solution with optimisers? What brand, and what is the inverter capacity? What brand racking do you get?
Quotes that just say panels or racking are not as helpful as those that give you the brand details. Finally, are there extra costs not included in the quote as yet? This includes meter upgrades, special safety equipment for steep and high roofs, or travel fees.
7. The quote should be valid for some time
Great solar quotes usually have a deadline, e.g. valid for 14 days. One of the reasons is that the installation company can call you up just before the deadline expires and use it as a hook to make you decide. So please make sure your quote is valid for at least 14 days.
8. The quote or attached material should list all the various warranties you get
Panels have a product warranty, and from 15 years onward is a solid timeframe. Inverters should again have a product warranty of 5 years at the minimum. With 10 years being what you want. Same with racking, ten years at a minimum, with the longer being better.
Then there is the workmanship warranty, which is the warranty by the installer that the system has been properly installed. 5 years is an average period, and seven years is one that some top companies give.
Suppose the given warranty is exceptionally long, e.g. 15 years. This can be a red flag. And can indicate that the installer does not consider to be hanging around that much longer. So the workmanship warranty has to be realistic. Also, make sure the workmanship warranty stays with the installation company.
Sometimes they use sub-contractors and try to palm off the workmanship warranty onto them. Make sure you ask who is responsible for honouring the workmanship warranty. It must be the company that sells you the system.
Ignore the worthless panel performance warranty – usually 25 years, and see our FAQ on this subject matter.
9. The quote should give you an estimate of how many kWh your solar system is producing per month and annum
Your Energy Answers offers a calculator that estimates the output of your solar system for each month of the year. It can be found here.
The calculator takes the weather station data of over 800 stations across Australia. This helps to make predicted solar hour and solar generation calculations. Your installer will have access to similar software and should give you an expected system output. While still taking into account any shading issues in your particular situation.
The quote should then take this information and make some predictions of annual savings that could be achieved. If this information is not included in the solar quoting process – ask the installer to supply it. That way, you can check if these savings were realised in future years.
10. Who do you call if there is an issue?
The solar quote, or if you go ahead, the handover material, should clearly state who you call for after-sales service and warranty matters. In the 1st instance, you want to deal with the installation company and not the manufacturer. However, do not let yourself be fobbed off to the manufacturer.
They often have time-consuming processes; after all, you are not an expert, and they can tell you fibs or truths, and you can not tell the difference. You want the company that sold you the gear to look after you – and the Australian consumer law backs you in this desire.
If you take the information supplied in the above 10 points on board and your installation company ticks the boxes. You are more likely to get a long-lasting quality solar system than the fast and furious customer who purchased it on price.
Therefore, if you are considering going solar, ensure you have a detailed understanding of the factors explored above or information surrounding these topics that you can provide to your installer for them to give you a high-quality and fair quote.