What you need to know before purchasing a Solar System
Part 1: Advertising & Marketing
This video series hosted by Eddie Springer will explore the misleading, dodgy and even criminal tactics out there to try and lure you to buying a solar system. Eddie will tell you all the things you need to know before purchasing a solar system in Australia, what to be aware of and what to avoid.
This is the first part of a 4-part series exploring the Australian Solar Industry, starting with the Advertising of Solar Systems, your Facebook feed will be full of advertisements and companies promoting deals that seem too good to be true. One of the more common clickbait titles for these advertisements is based around the eligibility of your residency in receiving the government solar rebates. You don't need to enter your details online anywhere to check if you qualify, you don't need to hurry... there are government incentives to install solar systems and they are not expiring any time soon. The STC's or Small-Scale Technology Certificates value will change depending on the location of the system installation and the size of the system. The half-truth is, that you will qualify for these incentives if you add your postcode, but the whole truth is EVERYONE qualifies, you don't need to enter your details to verify your eligibility, you ARE already eligible. You can also use government calculators to work out the value of your solar rebate here: https://www.rec-registry.gov.au/rec-registry/app/calculators/sgu-stc-calculator
Another common tactic used by these same solar companies are $0 down, interest-free systems, now this doesn't mean every company offering these incentives are trying to mislead you. This is a common trap used by companies supplying subpar solar componentry to get your signature well over the market value of the products and install costs. The additional costs for you, the consumer, are seen by loading up the cost of the finance into the price you pay for the solar system on the signature date. You will end up paying significantly more for your solar system than you would by purchasing through a finance agreement or loan agreement. The purpose of this point is to ensure that you are aware of the agreements that you have made in purchasing your new solar system, just like you would any other significant financial investment. Know and understand all the additional fees involved in the proposed payment plan, compare the total cost, compare interest rates and do not sign t's and c's without reading and understanding what you are actually paying for and most importantly ask more questions about the financial agreement; explore your options!
The most frustrating tactic we see is the use of the tier system when promoting products, "tier 1 panels" and "tier 1 inverters", the tier rating comes from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and was created to measure the bankability and financial stability of solar panel manufacturers. It is not a measure of panel quality or manufacturer quality and is completely irrelevant when mentioned alongside inverters. If the only precursor to purchasing a solar system from a solar company is the installation of "tier 1" panels, you need to find out why... Who is the manufacturer? What does the warranty cover? Is there a linear warranty? Ask for datasheets, ask for manufacturers contact details, do they have an Australian office? This is just scratching the surface when it comes to the tier rating, this has become a very misleading promotional tool and has saturated the market with incorrect statements, all legitimate Solar Retailers will stock components suited to Australian conditions with the performance to coincide with the system
Have you compared prices on systems and thought that one seemed too good to be true? Read the fine print. It is becoming more and more common that what you believe you are having installed is not what is installed on the day, this is called the bait and switch. They will show you all the premium options like LG Solar Panels & Fronius Inverters in the advertising of the system, but, on the day of installation something completely different will be installed "due to availability". Ensure that you have read the fine print, know what is going on your roof, just because the marketing material contains high-end components do not assume that is what is going on your roof. When systems are being advertised at 6.6Kw for $3,000 - $4,000 on Facebook and online you need to consider the components and installation will be very low end and could result in a significant risk for you and your family. Price gives you an indication of installation, safety and performance, solar is an investment, so invest wisely. There are solar systems to meet any budget, with smart finance options and repayment options, but $3,000 and $4,000 solar systems are just not realistic. The reality of a cheaper solar system is that if it isn’t monitored regularly or taken off your roof, it will be a significant fire risk and reduce the value of your home, they will not provide the expected performance and they will cost you more long term.
Another common promotional tool is sales engines and sales companies creating the image of a large-scale installer, by using stock imagery in the material to mislead their audience. Often these companies will have no understanding of solar systems or solar installation and are working only to generate leads, make sales and earn a commission. Once the sale is signed, they will cut contact and move onto the next home, you will have no support. The term for these systems is an orphaned solar system, these sales machines may phoenix to avoid debt, taxes, creditors and employee entitlements and leave your system with no warranty, no maintenance, no support and, no backup. Springers Solar take calls daily from customers who have been left with a subpar system needing our assistance in correcting the mistakes made by the previous installers, the issue is most of these systems do not meet the basic electrical standards and will need to be removed and a new system installed. It is not worth even entering negotiations with a sales machine if they can’t tell you; who is installing the system, what the warranty on the system is, how long they have been in business. Simple questions that will ultimately save you thousands of dollars. If you are unsure about what solar companies to use, view these government & industry regulator links to help make your decision: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers/health-home-travel/solar-power | https://www.qld.gov.au/law/your-rights/consumer-rights-complaints-and-scams/buying-products-and-services/buying-products/buying-solar-products | https://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/consumers/buying-solar
To summarise, when looking at and contemplating solar systems through marketing material and in the first stage of your purchase, you should have more of an understanding of the tactics used by solar companies in trying to lure you into purchasing a solar system. The first step in finding a legitimate solar company is to find a company that has their Electrical Contractors Licence number in plain sight, as a solar company, Springers Solar has to advertise our number on all material. Look for an electrical contractor in your area that specialises in solar systems. Don’t get sucked in by clickbait material, understand that there are benefits and incentives available and they will be available no matter where you purchase your system. Your solar system provider should be able to advise you on the value of your Small-Scale Technology Certificates (STC’s), if they don’t you can use the calculator link in the first paragraph of this blog to estimate the value yourself. Know the products you are buying and ask questions about the components they are proposing. Go with brands you know and talk to people that know the industry, if you are still unsure about who you can trust, you can lean on the suppliers, email LG or Q-Cells, Enphase or Fronius, SMA or Selectronic and they can send you contacts from their dealer network and help you decide through there trusted list of dealers.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions, we would be happy to help you make the best decision for your Solar System and the safety of your home and its residence.
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