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How to spot the good solar companies from the bad

When you receive a quote for a solar system, it is always best to do some research on the quotation and system components proposed by the solar company. The number of complaints from end customers due to bad installations and unprofessional solar companies is increasing and gaining more attention from the press.

There have been articles written in other blogs such as this and this that provide an overview on how to best choose a solar company. We recommend end customers to always do their background research and check. This helps them to ensure they are dealing with a professional solar retailer that will stay in business long enough to assist them when faults arise. One-way customers can check whether a solar company is worth getting in business with is to look up the tradespersons and contractor licence and ABN number.

 

1) Contractor licence look-up

This government website allows you to look up the tradesperson and contractor’s licence number and see whether any complaints or claims have been lodge against them. For solar installations, a licensed electrician is required to connect the panels, inverter and battery (optional). This is also a requirement to access the small-scale technology certificates (STC).

 

Contractor License compliance information

 

2) ABN Look-up

The ABN lookup website will provide you with companies trading names and number of years they have been active. In the young solar industry, there are only a few solar companies that have been trading for 10+ years and are considered as ‘established and experienced’.

 

Data gathered from the ABN lookup website

 

3) Why are background checks important?

The Solar boom in Australia driven by generous government rebates have encouraged people to enter the solar industry. These newly found companies will sell their product for insanely reduced prices causing them to go bankrupt in the future. It is only a matter of time that warranty claims start getting out of control and the newly formed solar company will declare bankruptcy and close down, leaving all its warranty promises unfulfilled.

In the industry, a solar system in which its original installer company has gone out of business is known as an “orphaned system”. This means that the system owner can no longer go to their original installation company for its claims and after service, which causes them to seek assistance from other solar companies. An even worse case scenario is if the manufacturer of the panels/inverters does not have an office in Australia. For your reference, you can find a list of closed solar companies here.

 

4) Safety Inspections

The clean energy regulator performs inspections on solar installations and update its list yearly. In 2018, the list has disclosed that systems classified as “unsafe” represent 3.4% of the total inspected systems and systems classified as “substandard” totalled 17%. For definitions and to access the list, please visit this website.

 

Source: Clean Energy Regulator inspection Report

 

It is evident that substandard and unsafe installations are a clear problem in the industry. Besides the obviously safety, economic and customer-satisfaction impacts, these unprofessional installations have a negative knock off effect in the industry as a whole. This is because many companies are trying to make extra profits in the solar boom and off government rebates, consequently letting their customers down.

 

We urge you to not give these companies a chance and ensure you are looking into the company and its products before accepting any solar system quotation.

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