5 common issues reported by the Owners of residential solar panel system.
‘You can learn a lot from others experience’, my dad used to say that when I was a kid. I don’t know if it were his words, or my addiction, I probably read more reviews than I really should, before I buy anything. And it is probably safe to assume you do the same as well, although not to the same extent.
Reading genuine reviews is enlightening. It prepares you for the worst. And, usually, you tend to learn more from bad reviews because you weren’t expecting them. Buying solar panels for home is a large investment; genuine reviews from users of products and the companies that sell them can be enriching.
Many solar homeowners in Australia bliss themselves out everyday. These folks are either smart or pure genius. And, few that wished they never had installed solar for their home. The later were the extremes and very unfortunate; they likely bought dodgy solar panels from fly-buy companies who did less than mediocre work on the installation. Panels were sold on with 25 years warranty, but some of them didn’t even make it to 25 weeks.
Then, there are homeowners who don’t regret the decision of going solar, but wished they were more prepared from start to end. Reviews from this group of homeowners is quite interesting because you’ll find both good and bad in the same review. They explain what went right and what went wrong, and things they would’ve done differently if they knew then what they know now.
To be of little help, I read those reviews for you, and surprisingly I found few issues that were more common than others. So, I decided to write about it. In this post, I will mention and explain those issues. I hope you can learn something from their experience.
So, here are the top 5 issues…
“I waited 8 months to be connected.” -residential solar owner
The wait can be very agonizing. Your home solar system is installed and ready to go, but the switch can’t be “flipped”.
Before you can start using the juice flowing from the rooftop, the solar panel system has to be connected to the grid. That’s because in a grid-tied system, solar and grid work side by side to power your home.
Who is filing for grid connection permit?
Grid connection has to be approved by your utility company. Usually, its the solar company that files this application on your behalf, which you have to sign off, usually at the very beginning of the whole process.
It is your job to make sure that the application was filed – on time and with accurate information about your property. Validate that your system size is within the maximum size limit (usually 5-6 kW for single-phase homes) or you have the permission for system above the size limit.
Another thing that can delay the approval is the quality of job done by the solar company. If the installation fails the final inspection, it will only add more time before the switch can be flipped. Beware of installers that are not accredited by the Clean Energy Council (CEC).
Then there are things you have no control over. Not all utility companies are created equal. Some are fast, while others are slow. This one, I believe, is purely your luck. I am not sure if there is time limit for these companies to respond to your grid-connection applications. If there was, it is likely very long.
“Quite a price difference, essentially the same product” – residential solar owner
This is partly true. Price difference for the same size system between any two companies can be significant. But are they all really offering the same type of product? Make sure you are comparing the same stuff..
Same type or not, here are few reasons for the mismatch in the price of solar power systems.
- Technology and brand: I have written in detail on this topic at Types of Solar panels. In short, there is a known price gap between mono, poly, and thin film solar panels. And depending on who made them, the price can vary within the same technology as well. Inverter brands such as SMA (SMA- Sunny Boy is the most popular inverter in Australia, according to CHOICE’s recent survey) and Fronious are some of the good brands, you can expect to pay more for these.
Quality products demand high price. Always true.
- On-site inspection: You should insist all solar companies do an on-site visit before they send you their quotes. Sometimes, the nature of the work, such as complexity of roof access, height of the roof, and site preparation, if any, can increase the cost of installation. It is only fair if everyone inspects the site physically rather than via google maps, and then quotes you based on that. Be very careful of cheaper quotes received over the phone. Cost of installation is more than half of the total price.
- Appetite for profit: Some people want to be rich overnight, while others like to build business one solar installation at a time. Avoid dishonest solar companies that offer average product for unusually high price tag.
“Faulty solar panels and inverters: Long wait for replacement.” – residential solar owner
Reviews are littered by this kind of response from the homeowners. I then found that Choice survey showed that 25% of the owners reported having some kind of issue with the solar PV system. 12% experienced issues with the inverter as well. It didn’t, however, mention which brands of panels or inverters were having issues.
Even with warranty on the product, many solar PV owners still face uncertainty when the problem arises. Homeowners have reported long wait times, their feelings oscillating between rage and despair – first with the company that installed solar, then with the product manufacturing company.
You can reduce your risk of having faulty panels and inverters by investing in products where the deposits of “quality” may be richer.
And, before you sign any papers, make sure you’re crystal clear about the solar company’s policy on what happens if a panel or the inverter stops working at least in the first twelve months: Who covers the cost? Who is the first point of contact? What is their replacement policy? Etc.…
“Solar power system is not big enough.” – residential solar owner
This can happen if your household energy consumption increased immediately after you installed solar panel system.
Or, if you don’t understand how solar works, it may also be because the homeowner is not seeing any reduction in his/her electricity bill. Not having the right size, however, could be a misleading conclusion to the problem.
If the amount you owe to your utility company didn’t drop after the solar installation, it is an indicator that you may not be using (or self-consuming) solar electricity that is being generated during the day. Read Calculating what size solar system do I need…. on my own
Most solar companies provide a mobile app to monitor your daily solar production. If the power generation seems low than what you were expecting, phone the installer and ask for site inspection. Good ones will show up and fix it.
I will say this about the size of solar power system for home. Do not invest in residential solar system that is bigger than your true need. If you anticipate your consumption to go up in the near future, or you intend to retrofit batteries, consult with your solar company about how big system you should get so you don’t feel like the system is not big enough.
Adding solar panels to your existing system later can be costly and very time consuming. There are only few solar companies that look forward to retrofitting solar panels.
“Customer service sucks after installation.” – residential solar owner
This is true for some companies that are not into building relationship with their customers. To them, after-sales service is of less priority because, as they see it, there is no financial value to it.
Although this is one of the most common problems faced by solar owners, there is no sure method to completely avoid such companies. There are those that are really good at what they do, some that are mediocre and others that are just plain bad. Our goal is to identify and avoid the bad ones at least.
One of the things you can do is find out how long the company has been in business. Use this ABN Lookup tool to find out when the company was registered for business. Longer is better.
There you go… Those are the top five common issues as reported by the residential solar panel owners in various online review sites. As you can see, most of the issues are either related to the product or the company that did the installation. If you don’t mind spending a little bit more on quality products, half the battle is won….
…The other half is finding the solar company that is honest and cares about its customer – which is the reason why I started this site. We have a list of pre-qualified solar installers across the state of Victoria, who have proven track record and are loved by the homeowners who used their service. If you want 3 free quotes for residential solar from our pre-vetted solar companies, fill out the form in the link below.
Hope you enjoyed reading the article. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reply back to me.