5 questions to ask when installing solar power

Installing solar for your home can be confusing. If you’re not sure where to start, these 5 questions will make sure you’re on the right track.

Technical terminology, dodgy operators, marketing overpromises: navigating the process can be overwhelming. If you’re making an investment in solar for your home, you want to feel confident and assured that you’re making the right decision, getting quality products, that do the job, paying the right amount and will be looked after if something goes wrong. 

To help you take your first steps on this journey, we’ve put together 5 key questions that you can ask yourself and your installer to get the information you need to feel confident in your purchase and service.  

Ideally, for ultimate confidence, you should choose a solar retailer that is accredited by a trustworthy, independent scheme, such as the Clean Energy Council’s Approved Solar Retailer program. These are retailers who have demonstrated quality service standards, and commit to providing information that is clear, honest and useful to you. 

So, installing solar power for your home doesn’t have to be as difficult or confusing as it sometimes seems. Plug into these 5 questions, to get started.

1. Is a solar power system right for me?

If saving money on bills, reducing your carbon emissions or increasing your independence from energy providers is important to you, then solar power might be a great fit! But you also want to ensure your property is suitable. 

Firstly, figure out, do you have the right to install solar panels on your roof? If you own your home, you need to check that there aren’t heritage overlays that prevent installation, and if you have an Owner’s Corporation, you will need to seek permission. If you are a renter, you will need to speak to your landlord and determine if you will be in the property long enough to realise the benefits of solar power enough to make up for the upfront investment. 

Secondly, assess if your roof is suitable for solar power. You’ll want to ensure your roof is large enough for panels, faces north, east or west and is not too shaded. A good solar installer will help you make this assessment.

2. How long will it take me to pay back the cost of my solar power system with my energy bill savings?

A good solar power installer will help you estimate your payback period; the cost and size of your system how much electricity you use during the day and what you get paid for your feed-in will be contributing factors.  

Usually, it takes between 5 and 10 years to pay back the upfront cost of your solar power system, and this period is getting shorter as the market grows, panels get increasingly more efficient at turning sun into electricity, and prices fall. If you choose a finance option, you might even find that the annual savings on power bills could almost cover the costs for your panels annually, reducing the upfront money you need. Bring two electricity bills, from different seasons (e.g. summary and winter) to your consultations with potential solar installers, and they should be able to crunch the numbers on these options with you.  

A good solar power system should usually last for 25 years or more, there is plenty of time to recoup your investment and enjoy free electricity.

3. Am I eligible for any rebates or subsidies?

Many state governments around Australia run solar rebate programs that support households to purchase solar power for their homes. If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible for a rebate, a good solar installer will help you to figure this out. 

Some state government solar rebate programs will require you to use a retailer that is a member of a best practise industry scheme, such as the national Approved Solar Retailer program, run by the Clean Energy Council. Installers that are accredited by of these schemes commit to providing a proper standard of product and service to their customers.

4. What is the warranty on the components and installation of my system?

When you receive a quote for your solar power system, a good solar retailer will provide you with clear information about warranties.  This includes the details and warranties of the different solar power system components. For example, many solar panels have 25-year warranties, and many inverters have 10-year warranties. It should also include an installation warranty, which covers any problems with the installation. Some will even cover work needed after the warranty period to replace components that fail during their product warranty period. If your solar retailer isn’t providing you with clear information about warranties, it may be a sign that they’re not the right retailer for you.

5. What happens if something goes wrong?

Sometimes solar power systems don't perform as expected or can completely malfunction. This could be due to faulty components or installation errors.

Good solar installers want happy customers and will do their best to sort out problems as quickly as possible. Providers and installers who are members of a best practice scheme such as the Clean Energy Council’s Approved Solar Retailer program are required to have good processes for dealing with faults, problems, and complaints.

If your solar power system seems to have a problem, first contact your installer. A good one will promptly respond to you, figure out the problem and fix or replace it.

If your installer won’t help, your state or territory consumer protection agency will give you advice and maybe assistance. Use this list to find yours. There are legal protections for customers if manufacturers or installers don't do the right thing or provide products and services that don’t deliver what they said they would.

Installing solar power on your home doesn’t have to be difficult. By knowing which questions to ask and what information to look out for, you can make confident, informed decisions. And once you have clean energy from sun, you’ll know it was worth it.  

For a detailed, step-by-step guide on installing solar power and the questions to ask at each stage, check out the ‘Plug In to installing solar power’ fact sheet.

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