“The emphasis has to be on quality” begins James Stone from local Canberra business A Good Sparky.
This is because you need to see your solar system as a long-term investment that is meant to continue performing for up to 25 years.
He also strongly encourages you to “Shop locally because you have local accountability with service calls down the track.”
Expanding on that thought, “You need to be sure they will be around to take care of any warranty issues, and solar systems need some periodic maintenance as well.”
He also says a quote should include a site visit, and “If you haven’t met the installer before the work commences, you probably won't see them after the installation as well.”
This attitude towards quality also applies to performance.
“Safety tests I have done for ActewAGL have shown a lot of five year old systems only producing 40% of what they should.”
The panels matter, but “The inverters do most of the suffering. They usually don’t like it on the north wall.”
As with any investment, it pays to find out as much as you can, which James also encourages.
“There's nothing better than talking to a customer who has done their research and knows what they want.”
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In terms of what you will need, “You'll want to cover the base load, and with batteries becoming popular it's better go big with the system so it will be able to charge the batteries in the future. It's more difficult to shoehorn in another system as an add-on later.”
James says that a 2-3kW system would cover that daytime load for most households, but in order to charge batteries for night usage as well you need somewhere in the 5-7kW range.
“The best way to get value out of solar is by consuming it” he states.
“You’re usually generating it while at work, so the best thing to do is stick it in a battery to use it later at those peak times.”
As for products, he reckons “There are probably only four brands of inverters worth using” and “four or five panel manufacturers that I personally recommend.”
He is also sure that “Any installer worth their salt should know those products are the ones worth using and should steer you towards them.”
To give you a guide on pricing, “the minimum you should expect to pay is $1.25 per Watt for a 5kW system. It can be anything up to $2.50 per Watt for the blue ribbon stuff.”
While shopping around “Customers should look to see if metering and connection costs are included in the contract price or if its a hidden extra.”
Also while looking at the contract “Warranty terms is a big one. Some of the leading manufacturers offer a longer warranty term on the inverters, with up to 12 years being the current maximum.”
As for the best panels to invest in, they “should come with a 25-year performance guarantee.”
Also visit www.facebook.com/agoodsparky.