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"How do I tell if this deal from XYZ solar is too good to be true?"

Posted on 7 May 2013

What a great question!  Read on and find out about some of the dirty tricks used by the cowboys.

Imagine you see an advert for a 1.5kW system, installed for an incredibly low price compared to everyone else. (We’ve seen a few)

Everyone loves the idea of getting a bargain. So is this a great deal or not?

Your first port of call should be to see what experiences previous customers have had. Just do a google search for the companies name and a review or use whirlpool forums to see others experiences in all their uncensored glory. (xyz solar reviews).

But back to the extra cheap offer, let’s look at it:

1) They typically claim that you will get a “Fully Installed” system. But a close examination of the fine print may reveal that you must arrange and pay to connect it to the grid yourself with an import export meter from your local electricity distributor. 

Now – in many regions the installers are not legally allowed to do the final grid connections.  This will be done by the owner of the grid (in QLD Energex & Ergon).

The good long-term installers will:
a) make this clear to you when they quote, and give you an indication of the extra cost to you and
b) arrange the grid connection for you so that it gets done soon after the install.

So beware firms who don’t even mention the grid connection of your solar system!

2) Some even sign you into contracts to sell the power back at incredible rates like 72c kwh – what they don’t say is you are now buying power on “time of use tariff’s” that charge you more for the power you use so you can get the higher Feed In-tariff.

3) Some companies offer a FREE system and lock your property address into a contract for the next 25years (if you sell the house the new owner must agree to all the power going back to the grid for this company)  - 5kw a system that could cost $10,000 now earns a company more than $57,000 in 15 years and you miss out on $47,000 in earnings.

4) Beware of companies that won’t tell you what brand of panels you are getting! Or they give you a list and say that they cannot guarantee you which one you will get at the time of install; usually it’s the cheapest nastiest panels around.

One way companies keep your prices down is by buying panels on the “spot market” in getting the absolute cheapest panels they can. Make sure you don’t take the sales persons word for it or the large branded name of the reselling company – like large energy retailers out to make a quick buck.  Look for Panel manufacturers with a long term history (over 10 years) in panel manufacture – not just cars or white goods etc.  Find out what their investment in Research & Development along is with partnerships with Large Global Universities.

5) Inverters, it’s a warning sign if they won’t tell you the brand or it’s never been heard of before – play it safe stick with the long term proven manufacturers and don’t be tricked by the German design as it is usually a copycat made in Malaysia or the Philippines.

6) Look out for extra charges for pre install inspections – if they cannot come out onsite in the first place to check and measure up – then alarm bells should be ringing.

7) Additional charges may also apply for “non-standard” installations…

The full terms and conditions may reveal some or all of the following “extra charges”:

“Additional charges may include:
a. Houses more than XXkm from the CBD may incur an additional charge.
b. If your roof does not have a sufficient slope there may be an additional charge per panel.
c. Your fusebox may need upgrading.
d. If you require additional wiring, a surcharge may apply at the discretion of our installers.
e. If you have a two storey home, this may incur a cost.
f. If you have roof tiles and require tile brackets but charge you extra – there’s almost no difference in a tin or tile bracket cost.  And watch out for those that drill your tiles….
g. If you live more than 50kms from the CBD
h. If your roof is not between 20 and 45 degrees
i. You have fuses instead of circuit breakers, or you require “additional wiring” whatever that means.
j. And extra fees for 2 storeys…. don’t get me started.

Most reputable companies will charge extra for more difficult installs. Look for companies that are completely transparent about any extra charges and explicitly identify them before any deal is done.

8) Companies who insist that your system is “serviced” every 2 years or the warranty is voided hmmm – well let’s put 2 & 2 together.   Yes you should wash your panels regularly and even have a general inspection from time to time – but no Panel or Inverter Manufacturer state in their warranty terms that they must be serviced or you have no warranty – what happens when the company that sold you the system go bust?  And what about the heavily advertised “25 Year Warranty” that you see every man and his dog promising….

9) Your installation - you could be at risk of getting a poor job with inferior cables, breakers or just bad workmanship with these super cheap deals. The chances are that they are going to be sub-contracting the install to any tom, dick and harry that needs the work.  For a licenced electrician to gain their approved Government Solar Installation licence takes about 3 days in a Tafe – ask the company how long their installers have been installing systems for them.

Look for a Building Services approved and insured installer for the long term integrity of your home – your home is worth hundreds of thousands or more the last thing you want is your investment damaged by poor installations and cheap quality systems.

10) The Australian Government has now introduced strict fire ratings for the panels, due to the flooded market with panels that don’t meet that standard many are being sold at never before seen prices, protect your home against the chance of a panel fire and fire damage from panels that could melt or explode when near a bush fire environment.

11) You get what you pay for in this world.



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