Problems with cheap grid feed solar systems

Cheap Is Good, no?

Like the 'Pink Batts' home insulation industry, the solar industry has been inundated with a lot of new players. While competition has the benefit of keeping prices low, there is no doubt that some companies are 'cutting a lot of corners' which can have longevity and safety questions. There are companies which use call center's or web orders to sign on customers on the cheap. Do a web search for 'solar scammers' to see for yourself.

Too cheap to be true

If it sounds to cheap to be true, it possibly is. There are many reports from customers who paid a significant deposit only to wait a year or more for their system to be installed (during which the price for solar panels dropped by 25%). And others report that the system never materialised which makes the first group of customers seem like the lucky ones.

We have compiled a short list of things to consider before you buy a solar system.

Company Background

How many accredited solar installers & licensed electricians does the company employ?
How long have they been in business for?
Are they just a call centre or web shop in someone's back yard?

Some companies sub contract out the work to unemployed builders/labourers to install the panels & sub contract a sparkie to do the final connection.

Find accredited installers

If your system is all installed by sub-contractors, will there be anyone around in 5 years if you have a problem?

Low Quality Components

Are the main components tested & approved? Do your homework:

Approved Panels & Inverters

We sell top quality "Trina Solar" brand panels.

Trina Solar is the 2nd largest solar panel manufacturer in China.

A large array of Trina panels have been under test for a few years near Alice Springs, at the Desert Knowledge site. Trina Panels have performed very well to specification [2nd best, winning panel no longer sold in Oz].

How good is the warranty?

You should be aware that a Chinese warranty is only as good as the Chinese company and the Australian importer and panel seller. Many small Chinese Manufacturers have recently gone bankrupt.

Rainbow Power Company operates since 1987 and we are here to stay. Judging by Trina Solar's profit of US$313M (in the fourth quarter of 2009), they are here to stay, too.

Quality of Installation

What will the quality of your installation be like?

Will the installation be done to a high quality if installers are sub-contracted at so many dollars per job?
We have seen installations where the panels are attached to flimsy frames that are only attached to the iron on a corrugated iron roof with no screws or bolts into the timber battens!

As it is difficult to inspect a previously installed system without climbing on someone's roof you may want to enquire via the Office of Fair Trading to find out about current or previous complaints.

Connection & Protection

What is the quality of the panel connectors, fusing, cables and circuit breakers?

Some panel installations are operating with a DC current of several hundred volts!For an excellent article about sub standard installation accessories by DSKH Pty Ltd see: Safety in PV installations.

To conclude, we'd suggest that the cheapest installation may not be in your best interests. Choose a company with a proven track record who will be there for you in 5 - 10 years when you need them!