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Has your solar PV installer or supplier folded and left you without any support for your system?

For the solar owners - have you tried to contact your solar PV installer or supplier only to find that the company no longer exists?

We’re looking for examples of these companies that have liquidated and avoided the warranty claims for the systems they installed.

And, if you know that another company has then risen from the ashes of the old one and phoenixed into a new one, relieved of all responsibility from its previous dealings, we’d particularly love to hear from you!

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I had my 4Kw system installed in 2010 just in time to reap the full feed-in-tarrif on offer in WA & whilst I’ve never had a problem with the system or its components the company, UNTD Solar, soon closed down having I feel ridden the crest of the wave long enough to make their killing. There was one issue with a leak in the roof & the electrician/installer was happy to return & sort it out but I was also promised that there was software being developed to allow me to monitor my inverter through my Apple computer & this never was going to be as simple as suggested &has never come to fruition.

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Quite a few companies were installing cheap Chinese inverters and panels… and then went bust under the weight of warranty claims.
Sure a lot of dodgy installers jumped on the installation bandwagon when the high FiTs were originally being offered, but installation rates are higher now than 6-8 years ago.

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I had a 1KW system installed in 2009 with a 2KW inverter so I could expand it later. The inverter was relaced under warranty but when it again failed in 2014 I found the company which installed the system no longer existed and I had to pay the inverter manufacturer to replace it.
I am now in the position where if I want to expand the system no one is interested, they just want to supply a complete system.

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The possible main reason for that is to do with warranting another company’s old work - wiring etc. Also, it is often a more straightforward job to install a complete new system, rather than add bits and pieces to an older system, some of which will have components that no longer comply with new regulations, and will need replacing.

In your case, the existing 1kW string of panels is probably connected to a 2kW inverter which only has one MPPT input. Finding suitable new panels to match the string voltage of your existing 2009 panels may not be straightforward. The inverter may have to be replaced too, since it may not have an audible or other warning of an earth fault, which all new inverters must have. Also, your existing inverter may only have input for a single string of panels.

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Definitely a factor, but they still should be able to fairly quickly establish standards compliance … similar to getting a new power outlet, its not uncommon to need a lot more or the sparky won’t touch it. Any decent sparky should be able to give a ROM quote to get the system to code.

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We’ve heard from a lot of solar owners with various issues but at least 10% of these involve companies that have liquidated, leaving the individual with a faulty system and little recourse. The boom-and-bust nature of the solar industry, often due to the prevailing government policy, has led to many honest and not-so-honest companies going under.
Have you had any experiences with dodgy solar providers?
https://www.choice.com.au/home-improvement/energy-saving/solar/articles/what-to-do-if-your-solar-company-goes-out-of-business

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True Value Solar is closing down its Australian operations in the coming months:

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You make a good point. The other factor is continually changing standards, which can make it difficult to expand a system later. I installed solar at the end of May this year and I went as big as I could - well in excess of current requirements. This is because I plan to purchase an EV in five years’ time (post-mortgage).

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Although 'The shareholder of True Value Solar is currently considering to discontinue the Australian business within the context of a voluntary shutdown. ’ they are continuing to solicit business! Caveat Emptor at its finest!

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Is there also a gap here with consumer law?

There are three parties to consider.
The owner of the PV system, the installer (also part designer), the distributor/importer/manufacturer of the panels and inverter.

Given panels can come with a 25 year warranty, and inverters 10years or longer:

  • Who has what obligations under existing consumer law.

  • Is consumer law up to date with the needs of solar PV and related technologies?

  • Should any contract for solar PV installs also include the Panel and Inverter companies as one of the parties to the installation agreement?

  • What changes do we need if any to consumer law to better protect owners?

A simple observation is that a $300,000 new House is at best covered for up to 6 years and 3 months in Qld last time I looked.

How does the warranty on a solar PV install differ if at all from purchase of a $5,000 Fridge from Hervey Norman?

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Not gone out of business, but definitely getting worse and worse is Energy Matters/Flex. I had a system installed late in 2012 after the they failed to turn 7 times for install dates.

After the install, my roof started leaking into the house and caused extensive damage. I am still fighting with them to have it fixed.
The Sunnyboy inverter failed and I lost over 3 months worth of production, but was eventually replaced. The reason I wasn’t aware it failed is that the Bluetooth is so bad I have to take my laptop and stand next to the inverter to slowly download the stats off it. Not something I am able to do too often

The LED panel on the replacement failed after a short time, and was replaced.

In the meantime, we had many, many, many, many visits from plumbers who tried everything to stop the water leak, including adding flashing over the gutter next to the panels, and an overflow spout to make sure there was no build up of water in the adjacent gutter. Nothing worked.

The DC isolator switch was leaking water. It turned out that the switch box was frequently full of water, and the switch was badly corroded to the point where the electrician who came out said it was indeed amazing that it didn’t cause extensive damage to the whole house. The electrician also recommended to EM/Flex that the installation be rewired because it was of such a poor standard. They also discovered that the conduit from the inverter was drilled up through the roof which was likely causing the a part of the water problems. This was also channeling water down to the isolator switch…

EM/Flex eventually organised a plumber to come out, he had a look and said the channels were not all fitted with washers where attached to the roof, so water was likely collecting and dripping down in through the roof. They had used cheap silicon to waterproof, and it was perishing and had broken away in many places, so that again water could be entering the roof. The plumber recommended the installation be removed, new roof sheets be installed and the solar installation be returned.

I was also concerned about 6 years of water running down the inside of the walls, and asked for a builder or engineer to have an look and make sure there was no dry rot.

At their request, I even found a builder. He was willing to take the process step by step to ascertain what the problem was, and quote them each step of the way so that EM/Flex didn’t receive and outrageously large quote to cover all eventualities.

They ignored the proffered builder, so I tried to get EM/Flex to send someone out, or at least start the roof repairs but had no success, slowly working my way up the management structure.

Eventually, with legal advice, I wrote them threatening legal action. It took them a while, but they sent out a ‘consultant’ builder who claimed, without testing, that my gutters were a probable issue.

Eventually EM/Flex sent out an offer of not much $ which they claim will cover ½ of the estimated cost of repairs based on the consultant’s report. If I accept their offer they say it will permanently absolve them of liability.

Unfortunately, they won’t show me the report, so I have no basis on which to make a decision. (Personally, I think that they are having a lend of me.)

The Clean Energy Council accredited certifier has disappeared, including his electrical licence. EM/Flex were the named company on the certification document so I have to chase them.

I am still trying to ask nicely, because if it comes to legal action they will have to show me the documents. They just don’t seem to want to co-operate. Perhaps they don’t have insurance and want to minimise the payout?

While EM/Flex are still operating, if you have a look on line, their reviews are increasingly poor. The common theme seems to be that they are very professional in selling, but after that… it’s all downhill.

I would suggest to anyone looking to install a solar PV system, don’t use EM/Flex. It would be best to treat them as if they were already out of business because you won’t get any after sales service from them.

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Electricians aren’t roofing plumbers so I wonder where you stand with either their insurer or your own if the installer isn’t legally qualified to do work on roofing?

I’m betting there is no one right or wrong response here. It probably depends. If the issue arises after the installer has disappeared and your roof is leaking due to the standard of workmanship will your house policy cover you?

Why should a roof leak be a concern?
We had a major roof leak from a vent pipe penetration that failed taking out the ceiling in the bathroom plus sundry damage, when the house was 8 or 9 years old. Our insurer tried to push us back to our builder. That failed of course! Eventually our insurer RACQ gave in but only after we declared it was due to a storm event (cyclone related), which was 100% correct. And yes the original job was poorly done. We were just lucky with the timing perhaps and that the assessor did not want to climb on the roof to check the seal, which I had needed to temporarily repair. It was no longer looking as it had when first installed or failed!

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You are right, they aren’t plumbers, but you do expect they will work to the relevant installation standard, and don’t expect that they will drill and run conduit through the roof if not needed.

The water ingress was so bad I had to cut a section of our bedroom ceiling out before it collapsed under the weight of water. We have had black mould on the bedroom ceiling for years now from the water.

The name of the business on the certification is Energy Matters, and the certifier was working for them. So I am pursuing EM/Flex for the repairs.

It has been suggested to me that EM/Flex are such a big (international) business that they may be self insuring. My insurer will certainly not cover the problem, as it is not related to storm damage, but a ‘systemic failure’.

They actually suggested I go to my insurer, but backtracked when I challenged the suggestion.

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@meltam, looks like you have a whole new topic for discussion here about getting your installer to provide warranty on how they fixed your panels to your roof. Our very recent install had a system with purpose designed mounting brackets. These included a purposeful seal on the underside for a metal roof. If there is a need to penetrate the roof there are specially designed conduit fittings with seals. And they need to be installed on the top of the metal roof ridges to minimise the run off at the seal.

I doubt there is only one way to seal the conduit penetration or mounting system. It does not matter. It needs to be done in a way that will not fail for the life of the roof sheeting if metal. I’d assume the same for a tile or like roof. Anything less the installer should have provided advice on what maintenance is needed to ensure the sealing does not fail!

Hope you can achieve a result in your favour.

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I am told by plumbers and the electrician, that in our case the mountings were often missing the normal washers that roofing screws have, never mind any special seals.

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How frustrating!

Would you expect the average house owner to know what is required (the how in detail) to provide an acceptable standard of installation?
Would you expect the average house owner to climb onto the roof and observe the work being performed to be sure (assuming the owner knew what was right or wrong)?

The same goes for car repairers and a whole range of every day services.

Perhaps for Roof Top solar the installers need to be also brought under the relevant state Building and Construction Authority, and be subject to the same requirements as registered builders including an extended liability provision through the relevant authority?

If a home owner cannot get support from government and regulation then I can’t see why the insurance industry should not be asked to extend cover under household policies to provide protection as optional cover?

From your comments the Clean Energy Council Certification of the Installer and Certifier may be another option. An approach where the government could move the ongoing responsibility, noting that this is at Federal level while building and licensed trade work is a State responsibility. “Pink Bats” comes to mind for some reason?

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Although this article is about Flex closing down Energy Matters, @AlisonPotter, there is a list of closures in the article. Some of the other big solar business names mentioned as being in strife are:

  • Germany’s Exyte (formerly M + W) to quit the TrueValue solar business
  • contractor RCR Tomlinson,
  • Secure Intelligence Solar
  • Greatcell Solar gone into voluntary administration

I suspect that more and more PV installers and suppliers are going at a faster rate. (Soon there’s going to be more folds than in an advanced origami class.) :wink:

What’s going to happen to all the affected consumers?

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Good question @meltam. I’ll be sure to flag this with our investigations team.

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It might be better to persue the local installer, even if he is no longer installing for EM/Flex, as although Flex has said they will continue to honour warranties etc, once the head office has closed down, you’ll probably end up dealing with an Indian call centre, and I doubt anyone can get satisfaction for a claim there.
I’m told EM/Flex are shutting up shop (City Rd, Melbourne) in the very near future.

Disclosure: I haven’t worked for them on forum admin/moderation for a couple of months, after having my job outsourced to India.

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