Solar PV Guide
Step 1: Do your research
Are you looking at purchasing a Solar PV System for your home or business? Before making any decision on investing in solar it is important to do your research.
Some of the important thing that you need to consider are:
- How Solar PV Systems work.
- What do you want the system to achieve?
- What type of system do you want to install?
- Where do you want to install your system?
- How much do you want to spend on your system?
A Solar PV System converts sunlight directly into electricity. The amount of electricity produced is dependent upon the amount of sunlight striking the PV modules. The more intense the sunlight, the more electricity produced. This will mean that the amount of electricity produced from your Solar PV System will vary during the year and the season.
It is an important decision to install solar which is why any installation company should be able to provide you with information on what they will install on your property. Steer clear of installation companies that cannot or are unwilling to provide this information.
Step 2: Contact your electricity retailer
Not all electricity retailers offer solar-friendly products. You should contact your electricity retailer to find out:
- How solar will affect your current electricity rates?
- Will you lose your off-peak rate?
- What they offer for feed-in tariff. (Most states have a minimum feed-in tariff that the electricity retailer must offer, however, this is not the maximum and by shopping around you may be able to get a better deal.)
- How much will the electricity retailer charge you to change the meter to a bi-directional meter suitable for solar.
- In some cases the electricity distributor may require a truck appointment when changing the meter. The cost of this is not usually included in the Solar PV System installation and may require you to engage another electrician to provide this service. If this is the case there will be additional fees and services changes.
Step 3: Finding a Solar PV Retailer and planning your system
It is important to shop around when buying a Solar PV Power system. Beware of fast talking sales people who use high pressure tactic to get your sale. If the sales person cannot answer or deflect your questions pursue the matter until you have a satisfactory answer. If they sales person is still unable or unwilling to answer your questions we recommend that you contact another Solar PV Retailer.
Ask for details of the solar modules and inverter/s that are to be used on your property. If they are unable to or unwilling to provide this information it may mean that they do not have a standard PV modules or inverter that they company uses and buy the cheapest at the time of installation. Cheapest is not necessarily the best but neither is the most expensive.
It is important to talk to the sales person and discuss your needs and options before agreeing to sign a contract. Installing a Solar PV System is not a case of one size fits all. There are multiple options and other ways of increasing your energy efficiency and optimising your system.
Beware of Solar PV Retailers who advertise their systems by “inverter kilowatt size” or as “upgradable systems” and specials that appear too good to be true. Some Solar PV Retailers advise their systems in such a way that it appears that the system is bigger that what you are actually receiving because they are advertised by the inverter size and not the panel size being installed.
Sometimes they will be advised as upgradable systems, however, when upgrading a system the new PV modules installed should match the current modules installed and whether your electricity distributor will permit any additions to the system. If the original panels installed are no longer available then “upgrading” your system is no longer an option.
In some cases changes to the Australian Wiring Rules and other Australian Standards makes it not financially viable to “upgrade” the system as the installation could possibly cost more than the original installation.
Always read the fine print on specials that appear too good to be true, sometimes the technology being offered is out of date and/or obsolete.
Step 4: Signing a contract and cooling off periods
The quote is often the basis for your contact. Before accepting a quote you should ensure that you receive and copy of all “Terms and Conditions” and read them carefully. Don’t get bullied into signing a contract before receiving the “Terms and Conditions”.
Under Victorian Laws a contract:
- is an agreement between two or more parties, intended to be legally enforceable
- can be written or verbal, or both
- has terms and conditions.
A contract is created when one party makes an offer and the other party communicates an intention to accept it.
Under Victorian Law door-to-door sales persons must give you 10 business day cooling off period. Some Solar PV Retailers will give an unsolicited telephone call and make an appointment for a sales person to come to your home and discuss solar. During these appointments they use pressure tactics to encourage consumers to sign a contract. As the consumer has agreed to the appointment they have voided the 10 business day cooling off period and any deposit paid may be lost if you decide not the install the Solar PV System.
In some areas it is a requirement of the Electricity Distributor that a company or homeowner obtain a pre-approval before installation. Beware of companies that tell you that you do not need to wait for the pre-approval. There are some companies that have been known to tell their customers that they did not have to wait for the pre-approval and have installed systems on rooves without obtaining the pre-approval.
In a lot of these cases they have left customers with systems that they have bought and paid for but could not use as they could not connect to the grid. Check with your electricity distributor to see whether pre-approval is necessary for your area or the size of Solar PV System you are installing.
Step 5: Installation of your Solar PV System
Your Solar PV System must be installed by an Accredited Solar Installer and a licensed electrician in order to meet the Australian Standards. It is also necessary to use a Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited solar installer with CEC accredited solar modules and inverters in order to be eligible for any government rebates.
As part of the installation the Accredited Solar Installer will provide you will all the necessary documentation. This documentation should include:
- An Owner’s Manual
- The Inverter Manual
- Datasheets and warranties for the Solar Modules and Inverter
As part of your installation you will be required to sign paperwork, this paperwork can only be signed by the home or property owner. If you are not the home or property owner you cannot install a Solar PV System without their consent and they will be required to sign any documentation.
Step 6: Connection of your Solar PV System to the grid
Your Solar PV Retailer will usually arrange for the connection of your Solar PV system to the electricity grid on your behalf. The process of connecting to the grid differs from State to State. Although your Solar PV Retailer may arrange for the connection it is you should unsure that your electricity retailer or distributor processes your connection.
Do not assume that your system has been connected to the electricity grid because your Solar PV Retailer has forwarded the connection paperwork to your electricity retailer/distributor. Always ask for a copy of the paperwork submitted for your records.
Step 7: Use and maintenance of you Solar PV System
To keep your system working efficiently and safely it is necessary that you properly maintain your Solar PV System. You need to take responsibility for it and learn the basic safe operation and proper maintenance of your system. A maintenance schedule will be provided by the installer in your Owner’s Manual.
Take note of the schedule and undertake regular maintenance of your solar PV system. This is necessary to ensure that:
- it is operating correctly
- the system performance is maintained
- the system is safe for everyone in the premises as well as for any electrical workers working on the distribution network.
Always engage an appropriately qualified tradesperson to undertake maintenance work on your solar PV system. Not all Solar PV Retailers provide this service and it is recommended that you use a CEC accredited solar installer. A list of CEC accredited solar installers can found on www.solaraccreditation.com.au.