Good versus bad solar: what you need to know

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There is an unfortunate side effect to success – it brings out the second-rate copycats looking to make a fast buck. That has become a worrying trend in the Australian solar installation industry as the market becomes flooded with poor products and dodgy installers trying to cash in on the renewables revolution.

Australia is a world-leader in solar uptake with over 20 per cent of Aussie homes already opting to have solar panels installed. That equates to over 2.7 million solar systems, including a record uptake in 2020. More than ever before, businesses and homeowners are looking to slash the costs of rising bills with the innovations across renewable energy.

The problem is that our collective love of a bargain as a country has led to many Australians looking for the cheapest option all at the same time. And this could actually end up being a ticking time bomb…

Report reveals there could be “tens of thousands” of dodgy solar installations

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) recently audited the Clean Energy Regulator (CER) and found that only 1.2 per cent of rooftop solar installations had been inspected by the CER – a damning statistic.

The audit also found that one in six installations was deemed substandard with a troubling one in 30 ruled to be unsafe. They are figures that could lead to premature failure in these systems, while there are also concerns they could cause fires, injuries or worse.

Substandard panels are not delivering (obviously)

The attractive price tags put on these solutions mean that consumers are opting for cheaply made, poorly operated products that don’t deliver on efficiency or quality.

Dr Michelle McCann conducts commercial testing on these panels and said there were no obvious signs for consumers that solar panels were inferior or not, making it exceptionally hard to tell whether you’re getting a quality product or not. And that’s a scary thing to consider when you’re trying to decide on whether to take the leap or not.

“You can’t tell from the outside of a panel whether it’s going to be good or bad, and you can’t tell by looking at the brand name of a panel whether it’s going to be good or bad,” she said.
While this is likely to improve in the coming years with better standards and more brand recognition, it remains a concern for now.

How you can ensure that your solar installation isn’t dodgy?

There are four key factors to look for when purchasing solar panels: size, durability, efficiency and warranty. If your panels face north, you’ll get the best performance and maximisation of space. Efficiency is probably the most important one of these factors, as this is the metric of how well your panels will convert sunlight into electricity. Currently, the average is about 15-16 per cent; 17-20 per cent or higher is deemed as ‘good quality’. Anything below 15 per cent should not be considered.

Durability is key in Australia’s legendary storm weather, especially when Mother Nature is feeling particularly moody. Your system needs to have a high wind load and hail rating to withstand conditions like this. Finally, look for the longest warranty you can find. If you’re having trouble, we recommend speaking to our team or a third-party expert to help you find a quality-focused deal.

Furthermore, when it comes to installers, ensure they have an electrical licence on hand. Dodgy installers won’t, and they’ll try every trick in the book to convince you it’s not important. They also need to be accredited with the Clean Energy Council of Australia. Take a look at their track record and read up on their reviews or testimonials to ensure you’re up-to-date with their offering. Taking the time to do your research before you sign the bottom line always pays off.

Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.