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Solar Installation Costs – What Should You Pay?

What Should You Pay for Your Solar Installation Costs Prior To Installation?

Having looked around and taken some feedback on this subject we at the QLD Solar Advisor were actually quite shocked at some of the dirty tricks being played on an unknowing public when it came to their solar installation costs so thought it was time to expose a few of them while putting forward what most of the reputable companies are offering.

solar installation costsAs we keep telling everyone if something seems too good to be true then it probably is and you should steer clear of it. Anyone who has asked for a solar quote recently will no doubt have been bombarded with a number of claims about how good the company is and how great their panels and inverters and now even their batteries are. Then once you’ve been totally confused about all the different claims you’ll get the various prices ranging from the low to the high, so which one should you choose and what should you pay as an upfront deposit?

  1. Price 1 the lowest price will probably be from a small one or two man operation which has low overheads and can provide a really cheap price compared to the bigger solar companies. Problem 1: these companies come and go really quickly and take your warranties with them when they go. Problem 2: trying to get any service out of them is really difficult as they have no staff to send and are busy doing the next installation all their working days. Problem 3: to keep their prices low and their competitive edge they will use the cheapest installation equipment available which is more likely to breakdown. Problem 4: if they get a problem with too many service calls and a bad reputation they simply close up shop, move their office to another industrial park, give themselves a new name and start all over again. Problem 5: they will usually require a larger deposit prior to your solar installation to cover their overheads of ordering stock and should they decide to close their doors and cease to operate after your deposit is taken and before you are installed, you can say goodbye to that money. Problem 6: they may not get you to sign a contract prior to installation or may not leave any documentation with you at the conclusion so you have no idea about warranties or what you have actually had fitted.
  1. Price 2 the next lowest price will probably be from a nationwide telesales based large company who will happily sell you a system, but leave all the warranties with the company who installs for them. Problem 1: cutting costs to be competitive at this level means the install money available is minimal so the installers they offer the job to are going to be looking to cut corners to save as much money as possible to up their meager profits on the job. Problem 2: Most of these companies will ask you to pay the full solar installation costs in advance of the installation. Be careful, as once you’ve paid the full cost of the system you have absolutely no bargaining power with the company concerned and stories of installers turning up and informing the customer that extra charges are to be levied for other work required to be done not covered in the original contract are common. The most common one in Queensland is that your meter box is no longer compliant and requires an upgrade before either Energex or Ergon will fit your new meter and allow you to switch your system on. Suddenly that third quote starts to look pretty good, as the price to do the upgrade is coming in at over $1,000.00. So you go to cancel for what is now the better option, but wait a moment, the installation is occurring after your 10-day cooling off period so the company concerned does not have to repay the full amount you’ve paid as they have already taken on admin work behind the scenes on your behalf and travelled out to do your installation, with a day’s work for their staff lined up. So your refund to put towards the other installers price will now be a lot less than you’ve paid, leaving you better off accepting the cost of the upgrade required anyway and a really bad taste in your mouth.
  1. Price 3 Probably the highest price of around $1,000 per kW by a well – established local company that’s got a 5-year history or more, employing a few teams of installers, website, Facebook page, couple of local awards and possible strategic business partnerships with other companies. Includes everything on the contract, and takes or obtains photos of your meter box prior to confirming pricing. Charge no more than 10% as a deposit or even better have a set deposit under $1,000. Problem 1: Some of the less honest companies will post up on their website that they have been in operation for over 5 years when they have been in operation for far less than that. A simple check of their ABN history can fix that and is a basic must for your research. Problem 2: Facebook has a timeline that will go all the way back to when it was first initiated, most companies jumped on this particular bandwagon around 3 years ago, so anything less than that on the timeline should be questioned. Problem 3: Nothing but glowing 5-star reports on Facebook should hit you like an ice bucket challenge, we have not come across any company that good, especially with all the confusion in the public perception over solar which leads to much public venting on a forum like Facebook. We like companies that leave up  good and bad reports and show their responses to complaints as you can learn far more about the company from them. Problem 4: It’s easy to invent a profile on Facebook and post up a glowing review, the problem is the reviewers can be checked out too and if they are all set, or a high proportion are set to completely private then they are likely to be false. If they are open they will usually contain details about their job and background which can tip you off to false reviews.

We had an interesting case brought to our attention recently:

The Company Website and Facebook page shows glowing reviews, a national award we’ve never heard of and a five year plus history. The problems are the ABN is only in its second year, no bad reviews or difficult questions from customers, no reviews older than 18 months or no date on them, Facebook timeline is 18 months, 4 of their best 5 star reviews turned out to be solar salesmen with that very company two of whom do not own homes or even have solar systems, another was fitted by the principal partners previous employers.

Needless to say, we recommend you do your research on any company you are looking to go with and overall the third option is the one we would recommend, especially if you have friends who have been installed by them and can recommend them based on their own experience. If not, we would advise seeking out more than 1 or 2 previous customers and a great source of information on companies based in your area can be obtained from your local newspaper and business groups like the chamber of commerce.

So in a nutshell for those skimming through this article:

  • Do your research on the company, their strategic partners and if possible the salesperson involved (social and business media)
  • Price = $1,000 per kW about right
  • Deposit = $100 per kW about right
  • Contract signed only after all inspections and photo submissions are completed and all your questions are answered (be prepared and write a list of them)
  • Copy of contract and all terms and conditions supplied at the time of signing with minimum 10-day cooling off period
  • Don’t be rushed into a sale, take your time and cover all the bases a solar system is a minimum 25-year investment.

Got questions? Leave a comment below or contact us here and we’ll do our best to give you the right information for your situation.

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