We spoke to the multi-award-winning Solar Integrity, who is one of our longest-standing installation partners, to offer some pointers on choosing a quality solar installer.
The communities that work with Mondo to achieve their energy visions enjoy confidence knowing that we thoroughly vet our partner solar installers. We ensure that our partners reach specific standards in safety, workmanship and financial security, as well as appropriate industry certifications.
Bobbi McKibbin is the Director of Solar Integrity and holds volunteer positions on the Clean Energy Council’s Installer Reference Group and the Victorian Government’s Solar Victoria Industry and Consumer Reference Group.
She has been in the solar industry since 2006 and in that time has seen just about everything. She is also a passionate industry advocate.
We asked Bobbi a few questions to help you find the right installer, whether you are looking to build a community-wide solar program or just want some panels and a battery at your place. If you want to inquire about our energy programs for your community, get in touch via this form.
Q1: Choosing system hardware is one thing, but what should customers look for in an installer?
Choosing a solar installer is just as important as choosing the solar system components. You can have the best gear, but if corners are cut then you could see the same or worse issues than choosing cheap components.
You want an installer with passion and knowledge, not only for what they are doing, but what the possibilities are in the future. If they are looking to the future possibilities and trends then you know they are serious about what they are doing.
And, of course, you want an installer/company that is going to offer you support well beyond the day of installation.
Q2: There’s a lot of cowboy installers out there. What are some practices you’ve witnessed or heard that customers should be wary about?
Sadly, fraud is one of the biggest issues in the industry. Customers frequently don’t get what they’ve paid for. Panels, for example, can get swapped out for cheaper products without customer knowledge.
Another problem is installers claiming they can claim higher rebates than what is possible. It’s always a good idea to do your own research and match your quote with information online. In Victoria, the website to refer to is solar.vic.gov.au/solar-rebates.
Using a cheap balance of system products – there’s a lot more to a solar system than just the panels and inverter. For example the cable, mounting kits, or isolators. There was an issue some years ago where there were a large number of faulty isolators used and a national recall was issued. Good companies put in place a replacement program of the recalled product. Not so good companies took the stance of “I’ll fix it if there’s an issue”. Waiting for the later is far too risky. Waiting until someone’s system catches fire is too late for action.
And then, of course, there’s safety. In order to keep prices down, many companies don’t use proper safety control mechanisms. This puts their workers at great risk. For us, and for all of Mondo’s partner installers, staff returning home safely each night is just as important as a happy customer.
Q3: What is a Clean Energy Council (CEC) Accredited Installer and why are they different from other installers?
Clean Energy Council installers stand out for two main reasons:
- CEC installers can claim the government rebates
- Most network providers require a CEC accredited installer to sign off on installations to be connected to the main power grid
Additionally, there is a new requirement in Victoria (though that not all installers are a part of it) and that is to be an Accredited Solar Retailer (ASR). This program is run by the Clean Energy Council. In order to participate in Solar Victoria’s Solar Homes Program installers now have to have this accreditation. In short, it means that we agree to hold ourselves to a higher standard than just the “normal” standard.
Q4: What, if any, are likely to be the ‘single points of failure’ in a solar PV system, and how do you ensure their longevity?
The reality is that if you choose a quality product and a quality installer it should be years before you need any serious maintenance or replacement parts, however, it’s usually the inverter that is the first failure point. Their warranties are 5-10 years, so it’s important to pick a reputable brand.
In saying that, sadly lightning strikes can affect systems before the warranty expires, in which case damage isn’t covered. That’s why you should ensure that you have the investment value-added to your house insurance. Also, it’s a good idea to check your solar system is operating normally after a big storm – which is why an Ubi Energy Management Platform is such a handy thing to have so that you can check!
On top of this, it’s a good idea to have your solar system checked over by a solar professional every 1-2 years. Not only will they check that your system is working as intended they will also do the required safety tests to ensure they shut down and start-up in the required timeframes.
Many thanks to Bobbi for taking the time to speak to us. Hopefully, this puts you on the right path at the beginning of your renewable energy journey!
Director of Solar Integrity