If you have done any level of research into solar within the Australian market, you would have seen advertisements for systems that seem too good to be true. These systems promise a quality product for approximately half the price of systems quoted by established solar installers, as well as a quick install window. We wish that it was possible to match these prices whilst providing quality solar to our customers; in our experience it is not. These prices require several corners to be cut in both the product and installation quality, leading to several problems with your system’s safety and production. Typically the most significant cuts to cost come from panel quality, the quality of installation and the lifetime of your system as a whole.
Many individuals refer to the ‘Tier 1’ panel list compiled yearly by Bloomberg New Energy Finance when deciding panel quality. This list relates to the Bankability of the solar manufacturers, which means that this list does not necessarily focus on their panels’ quality. The best indicator of panel quality can be found within the datasheets of the individual panels and the panels’ reputability as reviewed by installers and customers. Whilst many solar panels look the same to the untrained eye, there are many differences in the materials and manufacturing methods that can lead to much lower production and sometimes system failures. These issues can be sourced from several factors in their production, such as the quality of the silicon used, the cells’ format, and the degradation rate.
List of tier 1 panels Q2 2020
Established international companies such as REC and Hyundai can invest greater cash flow into acquiring and treating the silicon they use in their solar panels, leading to greater efficiency and a lower degradation rate. They can also invest a higher percentage of profit into research and development, meaning that their panels often have different points that further set them apart from their competitors. Alternatively, local or small companies lack the cash flow to make these investments and often produce a much lower quality product as a result. This lower quality silicon directly correlates with lower performance and a higher rate of sunspots and microcracks. Due to these lower costs, these panels are much more affordable but will not produce for nearly as long, leading to a lower investment return.
Another advantage of investing in a more established company is a more significant investment in safety features. Companies such as Solaredge and Enphase utilize optimizer/microinverter technology to monitor the operation of the system. This means that they can detect electrical faults and immediately stop production on the system, preventing possible damage to the system. This feature is mandatory by law in all residential solar systems in the US. Still, it is not required in Australia, meaning that suppliers can install lower quality and ultimately more dangerous systems, using a much lower price tag to entice customers.
Companies that can offer the lowest prices in the market typically use contactors on an installer level rather than hiring their own employees. On its own, there is nothing wrong with this practice, as many reputable companies utilise contractors to supplement their workforce. However, many companies source their contractors through reverse auctions to meet these low price points, which means the cheapest possible contractors will be hired to install solar on your property.
The datasheet for REC alphas, one of the worlds leading solar panels
Essentially, good solar isn't cheap and cheap solar isn’t good. While a 6.6kw system for under $3000 may sound enticing, it is crucial to consider the panels and inverters’ quality and consider the risk you are taking by making this investment. Systems of this quality often last a fraction of the time they are quoted to and historically have poor warranty support.
Here at Hawking Solar, we only install solar systems that we are confident enough to offer a 12-year workmanship and production warranty on. However, unfortunately, many companies do not hold themself to the same standards. If you have a quote and want to make sure the products offered will help you take your power back from the company, feel free to get in touch here!
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