A Solar Panel Warranty Is Only As Good As The Company
for this reason, Lumenaus only installs LG Solar Panels… you can take great comfort knowing your system is backed by LG’s industry-leading 25 year warranty, and 70+ strong Dealer Network
Cheap Solar –
A Cautionary Tale
In Australia out of 1.7 million solar installations, too many are in the category of ‘crap solar’. ‘Crap solar’ is a system that under-performs or is simply dead – sometimes without the owner’s knowledge. Avoid being a ‘crap solar’ owner. Buy cheap; be seduced by ‘no-brands’ with long but worthless warranties and you will be the proud owner of ‘crap solar’.
If you Would like to view the page yourself, you can find it at: facebook.comgroups/1453886731514406/.
We have selected a range of submissions from the ‘crap solar’ facebook page to give consumers a greater awareness of the pitfalls and risks of buying cheap quality solar system in search of a bargain. This should highlight the need for caution when making purchase decisions. Today a quality mid-size system will cost between $7,000 and $10,000. Be careful if the quote is much cheaper than that. A quality system can last for decades, a cheap system will definitely not stand the test of time. – just check out the following pages of cheap solar.
Buy quality; buy once.
Disclaimer: Some of the comments have been edited to make the meaning clear and explicit language has been removed.
Original Poster : “What causes this? Contamination?”
Low Panel Quality
Installer 1: ” Micro cracks usually from poor /rough handling or shipping (inverter and bolts etc stacked on top of flat packed panels on pallet, followed by too many blokes who have no idea except faster faster!!!!) Rest might be bad seal (cheap panels have crap finishing during manufacture) allowing moisture ingress. Micro cracks can cause permanent shorts, until one day it burns through the backing sheet, causing fire on the roof.”
Installer 2: “I have also had to deal with this”
Installer 2: “The cheap solar cells themselves have problems.”
Original poster : “I get sick and tired of going to a quote where the customer says they had a quote for “German” top quality product and asking why their quote is a lot cheaper than ours*. Here we go again with the whole explanation. Now I have the evidence, not only is it only a couple of years old the panels are stuffed with de-lamination and water ingress. Quality stuff right there? How’s that spelt in German. “Schittsa”, there you go. Get the Schittsa out of here!”
Low Quality Panels De-laminating
Installer 1: ” Ah – there’s your problem. They were installed outdoors.”
Installer 2: “Last time I was there, they were filling a 40ft container, with dead Hanover and Topsola solar panels,…… pallet after pallet. Was amazing to watch.”
Installer 3: “People are not driven by reality they are often driven by what they want to believe is true, this is where the issue is, people for some reason can’t understand that you cannot buy the latest Mercedes for the price of a Datsun 120Y yet they for some reason think they can get the best panel for a budget price.
Installer 4: “You can’t blame them for thinking this, as they have been oversold budget products as quality for many years now resulting in total confusion in the industry for the lay person.”
Original poster : “Called to a Fronius not working, customer said they have a panel cracked! This is what I found.”
Cheap Panel Fire Risk
Installer 1: “This is scary. Looks like the panel has been put inside a large microwave oven for a couple of minutes (Put a CD in a microwave to see what I mean).”
Installer 2: “I’ve seen this on a job I installed with the same panel but not as drastic hot spots.”
Installer 3: “’Pretends to be quality’ crap solar.”
Installer 4: “Found one a while ago in a similar state.”
Installer 5: “Buy from reputable companies and good brands, everything else is like buying a ticket in a Chinese lottery.”
Original poster : “ Someone had a crack at string protection.”
Poor Installation And No Follow-up
Installer 1: All parts from an unnamed company recalled, no longer in business. The solar retailer is no longer around. The worst part is the original installer came out check it and said he’d be back. Never came back and the system had been left on.”
Installer 2: ” At least it’s isolated now :)”
Installer 3t: “Cable entry on the top of a weatherproof box is just plain poor workmanship.”
Installer 4: “Rooftop isolators make sense – that is the source of power (you wouldn’t put a breaker next to a GPO). They are no worse than an air-con switch. The problem is lose standards, poor quality components, and dodgy tradespeople.”
Installer 5: “And hope like hell that the installer has put appropriately rated DC isolators in the system. If not you have a nice little fireworks show….. I’ve seen 240vAC isolators used before.”
ORIGINAL POSTER : “When the owner can’t get onto the original installers so you get a call about their solar not working. Find this 80% of the time I reckon. Cable entries were on the top of the enclosure and fixing screws were not siliconed, so good chance it was moisture. How hard is it to: #1. Use a good weather proof enclosure. #2. Cable entries and exits out the bottom. #3. Use glands with rubber inserts with holes for cables which seals the glands. #4. Silicone up any holes or screws! We have never, not once had this problem! But we find it on other jobs all the time.”
Poor Parts & Installation
Installer 1: “Who uses a c10 breaker!!”
Installer 2: “Nothing wrong with top entry. Know how to seal them properly and you don’t have a drama.”
Installer 3: “I totally agree. Just never seen another installer do it properly to be honest lol which is very sad…”
ORIGINAL POSTER : “How do you like your isolator sir? Well done?”
Burnt Isolators – Cheap Components
Installer 1: “Customer had the fire brigade out because of the amount of smoke apparently.”
Installer 2: “Dodgy install – can’t be that old.”
Installer 3: “Roof top isolators are our industry’s version of the introduction of the Cane Toad. When you have people out of their depth without the necessary underpinning knowledge making poor decisions based on false assumptions for the industry in general this is the end result. Proof is in the pudding.”
So in summary, one gets what one pays for. Tier 1, 25 year output warranty are meaningless terms. Tier 1 is no reflection of build quality and it is not a reflection of the financial strength of the manufacturer. The 25 year output warranty is worthless and will never be claimed. The fine print prevents that. The Manufacturer Warranty and the strength of the manufacturer is all that counts. Buy big brands with a quality reputation and you can avoid being a CRAP SOLAR customer. .
You Get What You Pay For
The Top 10 Solar Scams
1. Misleading & Worthless
25 Year Performance Warranties
All Solar panels come with a standard product warranty (often 10 years ) and a performance warranty (usually 25 years). The performance warranty gives the customer the false impression they have a meaningful long-term product-related warranty, and is often confuud with the significantly shorter product replacement warranty.
2. Tier 1 Label Lies
A term developed by Bloomberg NEF to rate panels which have been used in at least 6 solar farms with different banks in the past 2 years. The term has no relation to build quality of the product or financial stability of the manufacturer. Bloomberg itself says: “(Tier 1)dassification is purely a measure of industry acceptance and there are many documented examples of bankruptcy of Tier 1 manufacturers.”
3. Poor Quality Panels
Not all panels are the same. Below Is the EL image by PV lab Canberra of a panel purchased new rerently from the industry panel pool, prior to install. The panel which was brand new and came off a pallet was f ull of micro cracks, which were identified as critical failure points for the faro re. Overall the quality of solar panels and inverters is patchy as best and consumers regularly do not get what they expect. CF in the image to the right means CRITICAL FAILURE in this particular solar cell.
4. The Golden Panel Issue
Some solar panel manufacturers create fimired high quality panel and inverter models purposely to pass industry standards in long term testing. However the product imported by third parties, and sometimes by the manufacturer and sold under the same brand and model, has however significantly diminished quality, which can lead to early failure.
5. Fake Panels
In the past, there have been issues in Australia with counterfeit solar modules. When these modules then failed on the roof not so long after installation, the real manufacturer identified these products as fakes.
Anyone can ring OAM solar panel factories overseas, and just like fake handbags or Levis Jeans you can get asked to nominate a brand that you seek to purchase. These factories will then generate this °brand” with fake labels and brand insignia. The cheap lake’ panels will be purchased by unsuspecting customers, who will get less than they expect.
6. The “Go Bust” And Leave Your Customers Stuck Scam
The companies advertising cheap solar systems either via door knocking companies or the interne often follow a simple business model.
Sell cheaper quality equipment, for example inefficient panels with higher rate of degradation with long warranties for a cheap price. Make It sound like solar panels and inverters are all the same and then claim the solar rebate on the installed system.
7. Underperforming Solar Panels
All solar panels come with a panel rating e.g. 310Watts. This rating means that a panel produces nowatts if a 1000W per m2 light hits the panel. Unfortunately too often cheaper panels do not produce as per the name plate wattage and produce significantly less. meaning the customer’s system will not produce the electricity that the customer expects. Such underperforming panels overtime are likely to degrade further producing increasingly a lower and lower output and reducing eaming capacity of such systems.
8. Door Knocking Solar Sales Often Create Poor Consumer Outcomes
Some solar sales companies use aggressive door to door sales tactics targeting the vulnerable. such as pensioners inreresred in solar. Solar appeals to retired Australians as it offer an opportunity to reduce the long term cost of living via reduced electricity bills. There are many documented incidents of pensioners having been sold low quality solar at vastly inflated prices vre door knock tactics. This gives solar companies in general a bad name.
9. One qualified solar designer with many signatures
Budget, large volume solar companies invariably use cheaper, less qualified labour such as apprentices, backpackers, overseas visa holders and labourers to undertake installations.
One approved installer with the appropriate qualifications then signs off the paperwork (sometimes not even having attended the site) as if he/she conducted all the work.
10. Small Print Clause About The Chosen Equipment
Some less scrupulous solar companies have small clauses in lengthy contracts that allow solar panels and inverters to be switched to “similar equipment”. The best equipment is advertised in the marketing, but then switched prior to install to cheaper equipment under reasons such as: “We could not get the specified equipment from the distributor”.
The Final Chapter
Choice Consumer Magazine recently wrote a number of articles about dodgy solar and also the Victorian Consumer Law centre prepared a 70 page report outlining consumer issues of the solar industry. They key Issues they Identified were:
- • Early failings in budget solar installations or grid connection;
- • Inappropriate or unaffordable finance being offered to purchase solar systems;
- • Misleading and high pressure sales tactics in the context of unsolicited sales;
- • Cheap product developing product faults and poor performance;
- • A lack of affordable and easy to access dispute resolution;
- • Many business closures; avoiding warranty obligations;
- • Poody structured Solar Power Purchase Agreements
The Solar Industry –
A Final Snap Shot
- • Residential solar systems installed – Over 2 million since 2007
- • EST Solar Installation companies in Australia in 2019 – Over 3500
- • Solar companies having gone bankrupt since 2011- Over 700
- • Solar systems with limited or no warranty – Over 600,000
- • Solar panel manufacturers who left Australia after selling panels with 25 year performance warranty since 2013 – Over 400 different companies
- • Solar panels not registered anymore since 2014 – over 20,000
- • No mandatory testing of solar panels installed in the field on a regular basis
Rebates paid to solar since 2007 – via increased electricity prices – Over $8 billion
- • No significant solar panel and inverter recycling scheme operating in Australia
Top Tricks Of The Solar Trade
The “No Deposit No Interest” Scam
There is a famous saying: There is no such thing, as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as interest free solar. Someone always pays. If a solar company offers you a “No deposit – free finance”, then you pay for the interest in the solar system price. It’s not FREE. So let’s say your solar system would be $7,500.
As soon as the sales person knows you want to the “Free Finance” the price will be $8,300. The interest was just bundled into the purchase price. Interestingly, then when you ask if there is a cash price – you will find out cash is $7,500.
Small Print Clause About Warranty Inspections
Cheaper quality panels often fail after 4 to 6 years in the Australian climate. Lately a “Tier 1” brand has seen over 200,000 panel failures in Australia after as little as 5 years, despite lengthy warranties. However some large solar companies that sell on cheap entry price systems offer such panels. One particular operator had a clause in their warranty conditions whereby the
customer needed to have a 5250 annual system inspection by the initial installation company to keep the warranty valid. This clause was purely in existence in order to have the product warranty being able to be avoided during future claims.
If the product is of poor quality and prone to failure the Annual Inspection will not help with that, as the issues are usually not installation related, but develop within the product.
The GST Calculation, Which Avoids GST
Some solar companies deliberately miscalculate the GST, allowing them to unfairly compete with honest companies, as their system prices will be lower. On the downside, the Australian taxpayer loses a lot of revenue via this “trick”. The issue is explained below:
If one now multiplies this $300 difference per job of GST under-calculation by say, 200 installations a year, this means $60,000 of GST has not been declared, and pocketed as additional profit.
So the solar industry faces a double whammy of a) quality solar installers being forced out of the market, as they cannot compete easily with rorting businesses, and b) the ATO and Australian society losing revenue.
The “Bulk Buy” Can Save You Money Dream
Many times I have heard about fantastic solar deals via bulk buys. The way it works is that a usually out of town solar company offer to sell solar systems in a BULK BUY. The argument goes that because the solar company buys more volume, due to their socially engaged nature they will pass these saving on and therefore the consumer gets a great deal. THIS IS OFTEN NOT TRUE.
It’s a smart marketing ploy, but the reality looks different. I have seen at filled town hall meetings customer falling over each other to sign up on a deal, from a company their never heard off, that for the ones in the know in the industry is not better or worse that a savvy consumer can secure any other day.
The Keep The Quote In The Family Scam
Some of the very large, very cheap solar companies, promoting the Tier 1, 25 year warranty – free panels offer, have been phoenixed on previous occasions and are most likely gone out of business in a few years again. That’s why they can offer a 10 year extended inverter warranty on a 5 year maximum lifespan product.
The offers are similar, the deal looks similar, but because you got three offers, you feel you have done your research, and without knowing, you have only really looked at one company.
The issue is you never had a quality focused local company
Overestimating Solar System Output
To Generate High Return On Investment Calculations
Using past weather data, on can approximately calculate the kWh output a solar system can create. The Clean Energy Council also supplies guidelines. The internet also has websites which can show the output of different solar systems in different parts of Australia. Just look for solar system output calculator on the internet.
Some solar companies deliberately overestimate the solar system production in order to achieve a fast Return on Investment (ROl) number.
The “You Have Been Selected For
A Battery Trial” Deal
A particular solar company every few months send letters to owners of solar system and it seems they collet these address details via Google Earth maps. The letter states: “Final Invitation – closed group Test Phase — Solar Battery Trial”. They then proceed to inform you that you have been “selected” for the “Initial Solar Battery Testing Phase”. I can start to smell a “free battery offer” here.
But no, it’s not free it’s only for “substantially lower than the price we will release it to the general market”. Who does not like a bargain? The problem is when one agrees to participate in the trial and orders the product, which is now offered if we believe the letter at “substantially lower price”, the reality is – the price is actually not better than a normal local solar company would have charged for the same deal.
The Multiple Rebate Loophole – Double Dip Scam
The solar rebate in 2008 was $8000 per house hold before it was scrapped and replaced by new programs which reduced over the years and which now, in 2019 offer over $3000 in rebate subsidy for homes installing the average solar system size of 6.6kw.
The rebate scheme which is enshrined in legislation had a significant loophole for the past decade, which benefits poor quality solar over high quality solar. The loophole is that a household can claim the rebate over and over, meaning one can buy poor quality solar, see the system fail in 3 years, put it in landfill before it achieved its CO2 abatement and buy another poor
quality system, using the rebate again and again and again.
The Double Dip Rebate Scam Part 2
For a decade till February 2018 one could have a failed individual solar panel or even quite a few on the roof and simply replace them and claim the rebate for the replace panel again.
In many cases this meant for a $200 panel one could close back in rebate – meaning the panel replacement cost was only the cost of the labour component. This part of the rebate scheme was therefore rewarding poor quality panels over long lasting panels, as there was only a limited financial penalty if the panels failed – and every person using electricity paid for it in higher prices.
Solar Roof Top Isolator Supposed To Increase Safety But Actually Adding A Risk To Solar
A device designed to increase the safety of solar systems called a roof top isolator actually adds a fire risk to solar systems on the roof.
Despite the lack of fires or any demonstrable harm from solar panels themselves, and in spite of the evidence showing the fire risk from DC switches, Standards Australia moved to mandate the rooftop DC switch nationwide in 2012, in the name of fire safety. Australian roofs being a high UV and high temperature environment is unforgiving to plastic switches designed for shadowed areas in switchboards and under verandas. In 2012, soon after the roof top
German, Canadian and US Sounding Panels -Made in China
In the early Australian solar boom years of 2006 to 2010 German made solar panels dominated the industry. Schott, Conergy, Bosch, Aleo, Solarworld were all made in Germany.
Then China moved into solar fast and the German manufacturer’s quality panel world collapsed. They could not compete on price with product that looked similar – even if regularly not built to the same standard. Many German manufacturers like Bosch withdrew from solar and others like Conergy and Solarworld went bankrupt. Today only Solarwatt is a German panel offered in Australia and the production capacity is relatively small.
No Clear Responsible Agency Consumers Can Go To If They Had A Poor Solar Outcome
The Consumer Action Law Centre in Victoria, Choice Magazine and the State based Departments of Fair Trading all have reported a high number of solar sales related complaints.
The Clean Energy Council, which oversees solar accreditation, does not handle consumer complaints. Therefore consumers often get the run around and spend a lot of time having solar related matters investigated.
How To Avoid Crap Cheap Solar & Choose A Quality Solar Company
A True Story
- Look for product with a 25 product replacement warranty for panels and a 10 year warranty minimum for the inverter solution.
- If it is very cheap eg less than $6,000 for a 6.6kw you will have bought equipment with a serious risk in regards to long term support and long term lasting.
- Buy major brand equipment, as these companies are more committed to the local market.
- Longer lasting systems give better long term financial returns.
- Avoid door knockers and cold calling, avoid “interest free” finance, if you need finance the cheapest interest is often you mortgage redraw.
- Set yourself a budget. Even with the rebate, a high quality system with 6.6kw of panels will not cost $4000, but $8,000 plus. These top quality systems will in usual electricity usage pattern for a family of approx. 60% self-consumption return $1500 to $1800 per annum, depending on the area’s electricity price , and as long as inverter solutions are kept in working conditions.
- Pick a local company who has been around for at least 5 years. Clean Energy Council Accreditation alone is no guarantee for a quality install. Local companies will be quicker to fix issues in the future than sales companies who use subcontractors and have their head office far away.
- Do not pair a quality inverter with a cheap panel – both items should be high quality-to have low long-term issues.
- The LG Electronics dealer network has a reputation in the industry of only getting the better install companies to deal with this large brand direct. They can be found via https://www.lgenerey.com.au
- Ignore the free panels, long warranty, low cost advertising – too many companies offer this and then disappear soon after the install.
- If you have a friend who had a system for 4-5 years with no issues -ask them for advice who they used;
- Ask for a site inspection and often the slightly more expensive quote, will actually use the better gear, meaning you get a better outcome;
- If the quote is on a handwritten piece or only a few pages, then you are not getting enough information as to what you are buying. A solid solar quote mentions likely system output, where the product is made, major brands and product replacement warranty details and detailed panel advantage descriptions.
- Ask how the system handover will be – how long, what will you be shown, what paperwork will you get? Will the installer supply you with all the panel serial numbers – which can be useful for a claim.
- Read the small print and challenge clauses that you are not happy with -cross them out and initial.
- Where is the inverter solution being installed? Avoid sunny spots as this can affect inverter life span.
- Do not give in to artificial deadlines or special offers, which are designed to get you to make a decission fast. Ask the company who does that to stop contacting you and give the business to the company that does not apply pressure sales tactics. They are usually more ethical.
- Save roof space and buy higher efficient panels as in the future via batteries and electric vehicles – you might want to expand a solar system.
- Long term warranties on the panel and inverter are usually transferable, meaning you have after 10 years, still 15 year warranty on some high quality product, meaning you added value to your house with brand equipment, which can then be advertised in the “house for sale” advertising, together with the Blue Haven Pool, the extra bathroom or the Miele appliances. Quality solar adds value to your house.
- You quality system will have made you money, so if you sell the house after 10 years and the system made you $1600 per annum, you can promote a likely future income stream backed by warranty of at least:15 year warranty remaining x $1600 = $24,000. That’s an additional income each year-which can add value to your home.