Solar panels are an excellent way to save money on your energy bills and do your part for the environment, but there are many mistakes that can be made before and during installation. Remember, a solar installation is only as tough as its weakest link and these mistakes can be both costly and, at times, downright dangerous.
This post will cover common solar panel installation mistakes and how you can avoid them.
Prioritising price over quality
Over-prioritising price and sacrificing quality is a classic false economy. As a wise person once said; “you can pay for it now or you can really pay for it later.”
Now it may seem like we’re saying that a cheap quote is always a red flag, but this isn’t strictly true. You can get great quality for a good price too. The key is to do your research and make sure that you know what you’re buying.
Below are the two main areas of concern when it comes to cutting corners in your investment:
Poor quality components
Cheap components are typically, by their very nature, of a lower quality than more expensive products. So when you’re sourcing your panels keep in mind that the price should reflect this difference. If it doesn’t, then be wary! Poor quality components can result in a slew of problems (more than we can cover here). The most common include:
- Reduced performance/efficiency
- Increased maintenance costs
- Reduced lifespan
In Australia, one reliable indicator for high quality is that they meet Australian Standards for use in the design and installation of solar PV systems. Another option is using the ‘tier system,’ which refers to the manufacturer’s reputation for quality and performance. You can learn more about choosing solar panels in our comprehensive guide.
Poor installation practices
If your installer doesn’t have the necessary training or qualifications, then you could be looking at some serious issues down the track. Some signs that may suggest a poor installation include:
- Water damage – Improperly installed panels can increase the risk of water ingress and corrosion, which could lead to system failure in a matter of years rather than decades.
- Improper wiring – If your system is not wired up properly then you can expect problems with overall performance and efficiency
- Hot spots – These can be caused by badly soldered connections, which result in low resistance in the part of the panel that generates power. This problem can lower the performance and lifespan of the solar panels.
- Electrical hazards – Improperly installed panels can cause a variety of electrical dangers that range from fires to electrocution.
Always ensure your installer (specifically the electrician performing the work) is CEC accredited. Some dodgy installers will get unaccredited electricians to perform the work and then have an accredited person sign off on it.
Energy Matters can help you find a reputable, accredited local installer who specialises in solar PV systems.
Poor system design and layout
A poorly designed solar panel installation can result in problems with water drainage, shading issues, low efficiency, high inverter loads etc.
To ensure optimal performance, it’s important that your installer designs a system that will maximise exposure to sunlight throughout the day. Some common design mistakes include:
- Installing your panels in partial shade
- Incorrect orientation of the panels on the rooftop
- Not installing enough panels in a string to activate your inverter
- Neglecting the structural makeup of your roof
Installing a system that is either too small or too large for your requirements
Although this technically falls under system design, this is such a common area of discussion that we thought it deserved some special attention.
If your system is undersized, it simply means that you will need to rely on grid electricity more often. If it’s oversized and you have little chance of utilising that excess output now or in the future, you’ll be paying more upfront for no reason.
When sizing your system, a good installer should take numerous factors into consideration, including:
- The size of your house
- Your average energy use
- Your plans for the future – Since solar panels are an investment that should last you at least 25 years, you should plan ahead and think about your future energy use and goals. For instance; will you be investing in a solar battery, purchasing an electric vehicle in the next few years, transitioning to electric appliances, adding more family members, adding a pool, etc. – the answer to these questions should influence your decision process.
5kW solar power systems used to be all the rage, but now most solar PV systems installed are at least 6.6kW in size. That said, bigger systems of 8–10kW are becoming more common, especially for systems that include a storage battery.
A solar installer should be able to guide you on the best solution for your needs, but you can certainly do some preliminary calculations yourself. Energy Matters’ solar power and battery storage calculator is simple to use! Just enter your postcode and average daily power consumption in kWh. The solar calculator will then generate useful estimated performance information and potential savings.
Not shopping around for quotes
Ultimately, choose a contractor that offers you the best quality service at a price you can afford. Shop around and get at least three quotes. Ensure that the estimates account for the full installation, including the cost of the panels, batteries, labour, and any other incidental fees you could expect. You’ll also want to get details on warranties for the solar system. Once you have several estimates, compare them. Search for reviews online and keep an eye out for any specific complaints that crop up multiple times – previous customer’s experiences should be a good indication of what to expect.
Assisting over 30,000 Australians in their transition to solar, Energy Matters can guide you toward a solar solution that marries quality and value. Receive up to 3, obligation-free quotes from our trusted network of accredited solar installers. It’s fast, free and takes the hassle out of shopping around.