7 questions to ask when choosing a rooftop solar retailer

Solar panels on the roof of a house

RACV

Posted November 03, 2021


Interested in rooftop solar? Here are some good questions to ask before choosing a reliable solar retailer.

As of 2021, Australia is leading the world in the uptake of residential solar, with an estimated one in four homes installing solar panels systems. With the renewable energy source regularly helping slash electricity bills, more and more people are looking to power their homes through sunlight.

That said, solar panels and battery systems harness and deploy electricity throughout your home or business, and if not installed by a trained technician, can be unsafe and leave you in the dark if you experience an issue.

How can consumers know they’re buying the right solar panels? And how do you know they have been installed correctly? Here is everything to know about solar panels, and the questions you should ask your solar retailer to ensure it is up to standard. 


Understanding solar panels
 

Has the solar company been around long?

Find out how long the company has been in business, which can be an indication of the commitment to quality and long-term customer care, especially if you wish to buy solar from the company.

Knowing the number of systems a company has installed can give an indication of expertise, but some smaller firms with less volume also provide great workmanship and shouldn’t be discounted.

You can also research online reviews or get recommendations from trusted friends.

Are they a Clean Energy Council (CEC) approved solar retailer?

If an offer sounds too good to be true, or if a solar retailer gives you the hard sell, it should ring alarm bells.

To avoid scammers, make sure the company is approved by the Clean Energy Council. This means they must adhere to a code of conduct, which sets out ethical sales and marketing activities and solar-industry best practice. The CEC warns to beware of high-pressure sales, telemarketing, and door-knocking.

CEC-approved retailers also use specially trained, CEC-accredited designers and installers, rather than unqualified labourers.  They will use CEC-approved components and provide a minimum five-year workmanship warranty or longer.

RACV is a CEC-accredited solar retailer. 

Will the solar retailer organise your connection to the grid?

Approval to connect your solar system to the grid can delay installation considerably if not done correctly. The process is technical and must be completed before installation.

The Clean Energy Council recommends asking your solar retailer if they will submit the grid-connection application for you, what it costs, and an estimate of how long approval will take – which can be up to two months in some cases.

RACV installing solar panels

It's important that your solar installer is accredited and has the knowledge to provide you with solar power safety and accurately. 


 

What solar products do they use and what warranties do they offer?

There are several independent websites that compare the quality of well-known solar panels, solar batteries and inverters in Australia. 

Good-quality panels come with 12 to 25-year warranties, while inverters should have a five to 10-year warranty with an option to extend this at an additional cost.

It’s also worth checking how they process warranty claims, and whether the manufacturers have offices and teams in Australia in case of any problems.  

Does their work meet guidelines for Victoria’s solar rebate? 

To be eligible for the state government’s rebate for rooftop solar you must use an installer participating in Solar Victoria’s Solar Homes Program. These installers are bound by the CEC’s code of conduct for Approved Solar Retailers and Solar Victoria’s program guidelines.

To apply for a rebate, consumers must meet the eligibility requirements for their home and/or business, and all components installed must be on Solar Victoria’s approved products list.

Do they just provide a one-size-fits-all solar system?

Every household is different. A reputable solar consultant will guide your choice of system based on what you want to achieve financially, environmentally, and for energy independence.

Your solar company should consider available roof space and orientation, current or future shading, current energy use patterns and future energy needs. They should also take into account whether you have a growing family, are renovating, plan on getting battery storage or an electric vehicle, or are switching your appliances from gas to electric.

It’s important to ask what performance you can expect from the solar system throughout the year, and ensure the answers consider roof orientation and your unique situation and energy use.

Who will do the installation?

Many solar companies will sell you the system and then subcontract out the work. This is common with reputable companies, because they will usually have long-term sub-contractors they know and trust, backed up by quality assurance processes.

Companies offering “too-good-to-be-true pricing”, or who sub-contract work but aren’t Approved Solar Retailers, may not have a commitment to quality. For best practice and peace of mind, ensure you use CEC-accredited installers and ask what quality-assurance processes they have.
  

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