In Episode 3 of the YEA podcast, Markus Lambert interviews Jeff Hoare, owner of a solar business in Rockhampton, Queensland.
Hoare emphasises the importance of high-quality solar installations and warns against cost-driven decisions that result in poor-quality and potentially unsafe products.
He underscores the potential pitfalls of cheap solar installations and stresses the importance of understanding export limitations and actual energy usage.
Hoare critiques the use of cheap materials and labour, highlighting their impact on durability, safety, and aesthetics of installations. He also highlights the importance of after-sales service, and the need for regular monitoring of systems.
Discussing the failure of many solar companies due to low-quality products, Hoare advocates for thorough customer research and consulting licensed professionals. He also predicts future trends, including the prevalence of battery systems, electric vehicle charging, and smart homes.
Jeff Hoare at YEA Podcast EP3
In this episode 3 of the YEA podcast, host Markus Lambert interviews Jeff Hoare, a solar business owner from Rockhampton, Queensland. They discuss Jeff’s background in the solar industry, the realities of operating in Rockhampton, the importance of quality in solar installations, and the changes Jeff has witnessed in the solar sector over the years.
Jeff explains that Rockhampton, a hub for miners and home to two of Australia’s largest abattoirs, is one of the most solar-abundant places for sunshine on the planet. It is essential for the region to utilise solar energy, and Jeff’s mission is to provide high-quality solar systems that will last for more than two decades.
Jeff’s solar journey began in 2004 when his father established their business. Initially focused on solar hot water and insulation, Jeff joined in 2008, bringing his electrician skills to the company. He eventually bought his father’s share in 2009 and grew the business to a 20-person team. Jeff highlights his preference for in-house electricians rather than subcontractors, as this ensures a high level of quality in installations.
Selecting quality solar products
The podcast emphasises that cost-saving motives often drive the decision to use lower-quality materials and neglect crucial components. However, these decisions could result in significant issues, such as microcracking in panels due to rough handling or potential system failure from insufficient bracket use.
When Jeff selects products, he doesn’t hunt for the cheapest price. He instead partners with high-quality companies providing strong warranty support. These companies might not be the cheapest, but they maintain the integrity of their products, a value Jeff ardently upholds.
Jeff has witnessed a considerable increase in value in the solar industry over the past decade. He credits this growth to improved panel quality, enhanced warranties, and advanced monitoring options. As an early supporter of the Clean Energy Council’s approved solar retailer program, Jeff pushes for more sector regulation, insisting that only licensed electrical contractors should sell solar panels.
During the podcast, Jeff offers a realistic view of solar installation’s financial aspects. He suggests that people with low electricity bills, around $200 – $300 per quarter, think twice before investing in solar solely for cost-saving reasons. Instead, he nudges those with higher bills towards investing in solar, ensuring financial and environmental benefits.
As the interview progresses, it becomes clear that Jeff’s philosophy deeply embeds quality and longevity in both products and business relationships. His dedication to delivering high-standard service and his ethical solar selling approach testify to his commitment to the industry.
Cheap solar – the cancer of this industry
In the podcast, Markus Lambert and Jeff Hoare delve into the pitfalls of cheap solar installations. They concur that end customers might face high solar purchase costs when the energy generated mismatches the energy used, leading to squandered potential energy.
For example, a household might install a 10-kilowatt solar system but only uses two to three kilowatts per hour running appliances. The surplus kilowatts generated, which aren’t used or exported to the grid, are wasted. Here, the main beneficiary is the one who sold the superfluous panels.
They underscore the necessity of comprehending export limitations. These refer to the amount of solar energy power companies, like Ergon, permit for grid export. Consumers should factor these limitations into their decision when sizing their solar system. An overly large system might generate more energy than allowed for export, leading to wasted energy and diminished return on investment.
The speakers also caution against the danger of “cheap and cheerful” systems. These systems frequently resort to cheaper materials and practices, like plastic cable ties that can degrade under UV radiation, leading to gutter blockage and potential water damage in the roof and ceiling. These budget systems also jeopardize safety by omitting protective covers for rooftop isolators, making them susceptible to weathering and potential fire hazards.
Cheap silicon or Sikaflex, little saving – big difference
The conversation addresses the misuse of silicon in cheap installations, citing that many low-cost installers use a cheap type of silicon that lacks UV resistance, leading to installations that do not last.
Moreover, they discuss the use of cheaper labour in the installation process. Often, the workers installing the panels are not qualified electricians or trained solar installers, resulting in poorer quality installations and potentially unsafe situations.
The podcast highlights the importance of understanding the solar system you’re installing, knowing the potential output versus actual use, and being wary of cheaper systems that could cost more in the long run.
Jeff Hoare continues to discuss from installation aesthetics to after-sales service. Hoare stresses the importance of a well-concealed conduits and aesthetically pleasing installation that not only works well but also looks good. They joke about homes becoming ‘uglier’ despite saving money on electricity bills due to poorly-conducted installations.
Jeff explains their process, which is in-house from sale to after-sales service, and emphasises the company’s focus on simplicity for the client. He clarifies that installations’ durations vary depending on their sizes, with standard systems typically taking a day, whereas battery installations can take two.
The installation of over 500kw of solar presents a significant challenge
Hoare discusses the complexities of their toughest installation – a 515 kilowatt solar system at a manufacturing facility in Rockhampton. He pinpoints wind loading as the predominant problem for residential installations because of Rockhampton’s coastal location in a cyclone-prone area. He warns against the dangers of cheaper systems, which might not reveal their deficiencies until they face harsh conditions like cyclones.
After-sales service is crucial, according to Hoare. He compares it to servicing a new car, a process that preserves the product’s quality and performance. His company provides services like testing, inspection, and submitting a written report every three years. Hoare insists on regularly monitoring the system’s performance.
Hoare recommends using appliances during daylight hours to reap maximum benefits from the solar system. He notes that using more appliances in daylight means gaining more from the solar system. In discussing return on investment, he mentions that while cheaper systems might provide faster returns, they usually have a shorter lifespan. He encourages customers to conduct thorough research and consult licensed professionals.
EcoSmart, Hoare’s company, boasts about their high-quality products and fast, efficient after-sales service. Hoare underlines their dedication to customer satisfaction and their longstanding local presence, which earns them trust and loyalty from their clients.
Why do so many solar companies fail?
Markus Lambert, in this segment of the podcast, expresses his disappointment with the prevalent trend of solar companies failing and leaving their customers high and dry. These companies sold inferior, cheaper products, and when warranty issues cropped up, they couldn’t financially sustain their business and shut down, sometimes deliberately.
Hoare recalls a significant competitor that shut down due to their poor-quality Chinese-imported products that they falsely advertised as high-quality. Now, they field calls from those customers struggling with fire hazards and failing solar panels, providing them with honest advice and help. They also encounter situations where potential clients opted for cheaper alternatives and later regretted it when those systems failed.
While discussing the possibility of saving these systems, Hoare mentions that although some parts might be replaceable, extensive damage often renders the entire system useless.
He recognizes a growing trend in orders for battery systems, driven by people’s desire for energy independence, particularly considering the uncertainty of grid supply quality. He advises prospective battery owners to use their stored energy efficiently, comparing it to conserving a limited “bucket of water.”
EVs and the future – a summary
Hoare anticipates that with advancing technology, every solar system will eventually be coupled with some form of battery, and Electric Vehicle (EV) charging will become more common. However, the current range of EVs hinders the broad adoption of this technology.
Speaking about smart homes, Hoare perceives them as the future, although they are not a typical request at present. His company offers a diverse array of services from solar power and batteries to LED lighting, efficient air conditioning, and modest home automation. Offering a broad range of services is vital in a smaller town like theirs.
He advises those thinking about solar and batteries to choose local installation teams that use high-quality products and companies that will provide long-term support. He alerts buyers about the risk of poorly installing high-quality products or combining them with cheap, substandard parts, leading to disappointing performance, even if the original product was excellent.
In conclusion, the discussion underscores the significance of high-quality products, local support, and skilled installation for a successful solar system.
Should you consider purchasing solar, batteries, or other renewable energy products, we recommend engaging with a qualified local supplier or installer to provide extensive 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 a well-vetted, experienced, reliable, and trustworthy company to serve your needs.