With the boom of solar power clearly evident now, it's become more crucial to know (and avoid) the deadly traps of "cheap solar".
With over 1.5 million solar installations across Australia, too many are in the category of "crap solar". "Crap solar" is a term used in the industry to describe a system that under-performs or simply does not perform at all! Most times this is without the homeowners knowledge. The practise if so widespread across the country that there is a Facebook page with over 15,000 members sharing their experience.
If you want the cheapest solar system in the market, google CHEAP SOLAR and you will be inundated with Google Ads promising you a 5KW system for $3,000. While the front end purchase may be cheaper, we know the long term consequences of buying these cheap systems are more costly to the buying down the track. What they don't realise is that they may have to pay much more over the years repairing faults, related to installation or the product itself.
So how do these companies sell systems at such jaw droppingly low prices? Here are some of the ways we have seen people getting into trouble because they don't see the hidden costs of cheaper systems.
LOW QUALITY MATERIALS
Cheap panels, cheap inverters, cheap components! If you buy a cheap system, there are two main things we see happening over and over again. Either the output isn't what it should be or the components break and need to be replaced.
The solar inverter lies at the heart of your system. This is a sophisticated piece of electrical equipment responsible for the conversion of DC electricity into AC electricity; controlling the voltage of the system to extract the maximum power available; and reporting on the solar system’s performance.
As a result, inverters are where the most faults in a solar PV system occur. Cheaper inverters usually fail after just five years, putting your whole investment at risk, with replacements costing thousands of dollars.
Cheap panels do not last in the Australian sun. Good solar panels will last 25 years plus. If substandard plastic/glue is used in your panels, or if poor manufacturing processes are followed, a process called delamination can occur. This refers to the bond between the plastic and glass of your solar panel detaching, allowing moisture and air to enter the panel, causing corrosion and failure.
In addition, poor panels also suffer from micro cracks and other cell damage which will quickly decrease the overall efficiency of your solar cells.
Many solar panel manufacturers also fabricate efficiency and power tolerance ratings to make their products appear of a higher quality. Before purchasing seemingly impressive panels, ensure their stats have been verified by independent testing authorities.
Beware of companies who will not tell you what brand of cheap solar panels and inverter you are getting!
DC isolators are something most people know nothing about, even after they have a solar system installed. Most solar systems operate at a high voltage DC. If installed well, high voltage DC is safe. If not, it is very dangerous and can cause all types of problems, including fire.
If you buy the cheapest solar system you can find, there is a higher chance that the installer will cut corners on the quality of electrical components. Quality DC isolators are around 5 times more expensive than the cheap ones. This is what happens with things go wrong.
LOW QUALITY WORKMANSHIP
The installation standards in Australia are among one of the highest when it comes to solar power installation. Certain requirements like where the switches are installed in comparison to the positioning of solar panels and the quality of the solar panels are just some of the affecting factors to watch out for.
When significant cost is cut from the installation itself, there is usually a very clear sign that corners are being cut. During installation, lower prices can be attributed to shoddy subcontractors or inexperienced labourers such as backpackers.
If your system is not installed by a professional, there are a vast assortment of things that can go wrong with an installation due to the complex nature of these systems. When something goes wrong, the expense involved in discovering where the flaw lies can cost significant time and money. If installed right the first time, this will never be a problem.
When it comes to buying a solar power system buying good quality brands from a reputable installer is one of the most important purchasing decisions you will make. This is why we recommend you choose quality products, go with a solar company with a stellar reputation and a company that offers full warranty support, service, system monitoring and a fair (rather than a cheap) price.
iinergy are the trusted solar installer in South East Queensland and Newcastle.
If you have any more questions regarding cheap solar systems or if you're ready to invest in a high-quality solar system, get in contact with us at iinergy today.