Choosing a Solar Power Installer
In Australia, the most impartment factor when choosing an installer is to ensure that they are "Clean Energy Council Accredited". This is a qualification that they need in order for the government to pay out its rebates. And even more important than that it means that you can be confident that they have been trained in the safe installation of Solar Power Systems.
There are 4 main criteria you should look at which I explain below:
Obviously this is very important, but is may not be the most significant factor in your purchase. Remember, this is a system that you will depend on every day for 20-40 years, so it is critical that you have a system that you are happy with, has the features you need, and is suited to your individual circumstances.
2. Warranties / Maintenance
What performance warranties does the supplier provide?? All PV panels degrade 0.5% to 1% per year, but your supplier should provide a performance guarantee that guarantees the performance of your panels over at least 10 years.
Ask them how you will know if your system is performing properly. Some contractors may monitor your system over the internet; others may have a service scheme where they inspect your system regularly.
A well fitted solar panel can be a beautiful thing. What kind of mounting system does your contractor use and how do they look and do they allow air to flow under the panels? There should be at least a 100mm gap between the roof and the panel.
Ask for some referrals and go look at previous installations. Inspect the workmanship, and overall simplicity of the installation. Do they use stainless steel nuts and bolts to prevent galvanic corrosion with any aluminium framing? If there is an aluminium frame on a tin roof, have they used an insulating separator to prevent galvanic corrosion?
Having a good relationship with your contractor matters a lot of for such an important project. A good relationship will ensure any problems are fixed up quickly and in a mutually beneficial way. Choose a contractor that you are compatible with. For example: If you like to ask loads of detailed questions, go with someone who enjoys explaining things in terms you can understand!
Here’s a list of questions you may like to ask:
l Who designs my system?
l Is the designer accredited by the Clean Energy Council (not just the installer)?
l How many systems have you installed?
l Who does the electrical hook-up to the grid?
l Is the inverter transformer less? (these are a little more efficient)
l Is the inverter expandable if I get more panels in the future?
l If the panels are installed on different roof areas facing slightly different directions, will you use an inerter with separate inputs for each string of panels? (this is essential)
l Do the panels have bypass diodes installed? (these diodes improve the performance in cloud cover and under partial shading by ‘bypassing’ the shaded cell so that is doesn’t bring down all the other unshaded calls’ performance)
l Does the price quoted include all the necessary metering changes and paperwork for my local electricity supplier?
l Can you provide me with references in my area?
l How will I know if my system is performing to its max potential on a day to day basis?
l Do you handle all the rebate paperwork for me so I just have to pay the difference?
l What is the lead time from my payment to getting electricity from the panels?
l Do you give an accurate estimation of system production with your quotes?
l Does the mounting system allow airflow under the panels to help cool them?
l What performance guarantees do I get for the system as whole?
l Which guarantees/warranties are your responsibility and which are the manufacturer’s?
l Are the installers employed by you or are they subcontracted?
l If I have to deal with the panel or inverter manufacturer in the future, do they have an Australian office?