CHOICE membership

Tell us your experience when buying ordering installing solar and/or batteries


#1

We’re researching for an upcoming story on solar and batteries and we’d like to hear your experiences.

  • Did your purchase and installation go smoothly?
  • What problems (if any) have you encountered when buying ordering installing solar and or batteries?
  • Have you come across any dodgy salespeople or operators?

Thanks for taking the time to help us out, I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.


#4

Hi Alison, great questions. We’ve certainly seen some dodgy business practices from organisations promoting a “Battery Trial” at a hugely reduced cost, but our calculations show that the overall cost to the trial participant would actually be more than purchasing a battery outright. We cover this here. I’m happy to send you a personal message with examples of these promotions. Steph


#5

Very. I had mine designed and installed by a local electrician who is specialising in solar installs, very popular in my area because of the equity between feed in and purchase tariffs and the endless amount of sunlight. He organised everything start to finish, no hassles with hardware, delivery, installation, commissioning … Another bonus was a home improvement scheme that brought the total cost of 5 kW down to under $5000. I didn’t go for batteries.

The local power retailer extracts their pound of flesh for doing ‘not much’. Smart meter installation is expensive, and there’s a quantity of smoke and mirrors and just plain misinformation from them that I’m still wading through to some degree …

My decision to go to a local business, someone with a reputation in the town, was in part driven by some of the stories I’ve read about the dodgy ones. We did have a phase where clowns travelled here to door knock and try to convince people to sign up for solar, but I think the combination of being remote and having some good local operators who are doing installs already (and not interested in working for nothing for some dodgy crowd interstate) meant they saw little business here.


#6

Have installed solar on two houses now. A 5kw system in Sydney on a single phase house and a 10kw system on the new house up here in Tamworth on a 3 phase house. Both systems were without battery, first by choice and second due to stuff-up about to be rectified finally.

Install in Sydney was done at the height of the “door to door” phase and whilst the install went well, the performance of the system was below par and after install service was as reliable as a New England poll on whether people like Barnaby Joyce :stuck_out_tongue: (side note for those interested, I know plenty of people up here now through work and social life, and not one person got asked in the recently published poll lol).
The Tamworth installation was through a local mob, and everything went smoothly except the supply of the battery. Our local installer gets a lot of stuff supplied through Solahart and at the time of the installation was informed by Solahart that the Tesla Powerwall 2 was going through extended testing due to safety faults Solahart had found, so couldn’t be supplied at the time. He took them at their word (and so did I) and thought nothing of it until we still had no battery 6 months after moving in. It was then I did my own investigation and found out from Tesla that they had received similar reports from around the country. They deduced from their order records that what was happening was suppliers/installers were taking orders from people without actually holding any stock, and planned to bulk buy what they needed at different intervals. What they didn’t understand is how Tesla operated here, in that Tesla only shipped in a supply every few months to cover what had been ordered and deposits placed on, with only a few extras to cover extenuating circumstances (due to costs of shipping to Australia). Therefore those taking orders from customers without placing orders with Tesla were without batteries and had to make up excuses to tell their waiting customers. My local installer was shocked when I told him what I had found out, and of course was upset that his supplier had risked costing him business (as I was so upset). Local guy has sourced a battery that gets installed next Friday though, so happy he fixed the situation and is getting it done. Doubt I’ll deal with Solahart again though lol.

Dodgy operators are a yes. When I looked into solar for the new build here in Tamworth, went to an online site that organised three quotes to contact you in the area you were going to install. The local guy was one, the second company I never actually received the quote from (even after I contacted them directly lol), and the third mob are still sending me quotes via text at extremely unbelievable “sale” prices. I didn’t go with them at the start because their pricing was way too good to be true, or at least if they did the job at their quote I’d expect to be looking at my roof now and see hundreds of hamsters running in wheels on my roof lol.


#7

Driven mad by Solar Sales telemarketers offering Govt “rebates” of big figures like $7k. There is no rebate, the company requires you to sign over your Renewable Certificates, rather than trade them yourself. They peddle misleading information, saying that enlarging your system would not affect, but rather increase your feed-in tariff. In Qld any enlargement or addition of batteries voids the contract at $0.44/kWh and forces a new contract at about 4cents/wKh.


#8

Many years ago I invited many solar retailers to give me a quote - the quotes - for the same 3.5Kw on same roof- varied widely. I was confused and did not know who to go with. Then Brotherhood of St. Laurence offered discounted solar hot water for low income homes. I was thrilled and signed up and also added a few panels. it took a while to go through the Brotherhood process and be approved but then the company via the Brotherhood, was great.
Recently my council offered a referral service to discuss solar suitability. This company received a commission for every referral. I was referred to the solar company and had more panels installed, again no problems with installation.
Thanks Brotherhood of St. Laurence and Stonnington councillors for promoting sustainable energy.
My only issue is there was no follow up after installation, I struggle with the technology explaining which panels are producing what and what to do or how to clean panels if there are issues. Would like a support visit to help with this.
I rely on my fabulous powershop retailer which provides details of feed in and usage data. I needed a reliable referral / recommendation to be confident to proceed, with solar panel installation. I’m grateful they were available.


#9

Hi Allison.
I arranged for the installation of solar PV cell on my house just on two years ago. The installation is rated at 4.41-kW and consists of 8 north facing panels and 9 west facing panels. The provider was ACTWE/AGL in ACT; they gave me with a quote after a “Home Show” and what made the deal was the ability to deal with a reliable company and a 24-month interest free repayment plan.
The installation went very smoothly with no issues and the system is working very well with a good positive return - even with a pitiful rebate rate.
The size of the system is as recommended by the person I negotiated with at ACTEW, which based on my household size (2) and usage (less than the equivalent of half a “one person household” - so very low).

  • What I have learnt is that having the biggest system that can be afforded is better than just fitting into the current household usage - we will not be in the house forever!

The panels are split 8-north, 9-west because of the small north wall and I thought that more evening power would be useful to cover evening peak power.

  • What I have learnt is that having a good all round (ie balanced) panel arrangement is better. I would like to install another 9-panels east facing, but cost is now more of an issue.

I did not have batteries installed because they were not an attractive option when I installed the PV panels. It is now a bit too cost restrictive to retrofit batteries.

One thing I do not like about the PV cell system I have is the on-line monitoring. The amount of information and how it is displayed is not really helpful. I have an electrical engineering background so I can play around with the data so it is more useful, but for the average person I suspect it is meaningless. My big frustration is not being able to monitor power generation and consumption (I have posted a more detailed description in "Voice your choice’ under an enquiry about energy monitoring systems). I have a big frustration that I cannot set parameters so I can look at particular details when I log in, it has a default only. Also, when the system was initiated I set up a user name (email address) and a password - I cannot change either of these!


#10

I dealt with a group in Mitchell, ACT, called Australian Solar Designs. They were great! The job wasn’t hugely complex; and I wanted to some of the work (underground cabling) myself to save money (they cooperated) and our least-favourite neighbours cut up rough about reflection - found some obscure regulation which meant the panels had to be moved slightly. They absorbed the cost. The system has worked perfectly since.
Comes time to install a battery, I will probably do it through them.
PS - the complainant neighbours have since installed solar of their own; demonstrably not as good a job - installed by who-knows.
Some new neighbours added solar; we recommended Australian Solar Designs, they’re happy.
(We’re still waiting for a battery to meet the amortisation numbers, anticipated in the next year or so - and will probably go electric, next car - upgrade our system.)


#11

Hi Alison
Our system 5Kw was provided by AEG about 4 years ago - installed OK - some components changed a year or so later. No issues since then! Earlier this year we wanted to extend the system say by another 5Kw. We contacted AEG but they said they were no longer installing solar ( hope the warranty holds out!!). We contacted a couple of local firms but they were not interested in extending our present system - too complicated apparently. So our only way forward would be to remove the present system and then install anew a 10 Kw one - expensive. Also, we have been unable to find anyone that can offer any form of maintenance on the system, we wonder what will happen if we need any repairs. Something for Choice to look at would be maintenance, how often, is it needed and so on!


#12

You could install another 5 KW system without removing your current 5 KW. This may entail a new inverter as well but this would at least not involve the removal of all your existing panels (unless the placement is wrong for extending). If you haven’t already done so when asking for the extra 5 KW make it clear you don’t want the current setup extended but another 5 KW system installed as well, this may evoke a different answer than you have currently received.


#13

As grahroll says, there is generally no reason you can’t add another 5kW system, although it may affect your FiT, depending on where you are.
However, depending on the mains cables and transformer, and other nearby PV systems, you may be required to have a zero export system.

As far as maintenance goes, making sure ventilation around the inverter stays clear, and washing off the PV panels if they get dirty are the main things to be aware of. Cleaning is not generally required if it rains reasonably often and there isn’t a lot of dust or smog around. You may not need to pay anyone to do that if you are comfortable with cleaning the panels yourself, if required. Monitoring and logging your PV system output is also a good idea, as you can compare current with previous periods to see if there is reduced output, which may indicate a problem.

There are plenty of places around that will do PV system repairs, but most are probably pretty busy installing new systems at the moment, as more people finally realise they can save money with solar power!


#14

Our solar & battery system was installed in February this year and our next-door neighbours had an identical system installed around a month or so later.
I suggested to our neighbour that I should record the performance of both systems each month so as to both compare them and to be alerted if something goes wrong, which he was happy with.
Whilst one would expect that the performance of the two systems would be almost identical, the data shows a major discrepancy between them.

SOLAR SYSTEM PERFORMANCE DATA 06.09.2019.

JUNE/JULY/AUGUST

OUR HOME.

SOLAR HOME BATTERY F.I.T. ERGON NETT COST
1669 737 370 562 455 286 $74.48

NEIGHBOURS’ HOME.

SOLAR HOME BATTERY F.I.T. ERGON NETT COST
1759 555 660 544 1094 931 $242.31

Notes.

  1. All numbers are in kw/h excepting cost which is in AU$s.
  2. NETT is the ERGON number less 30% of the F.I.T. number.
  3. Both systems have 22 x 300w Seraphim panels, Sungrow SHK-5 inverters,
    and LG CHEM RESU10 batteries.
  4. We both have 11 panels facing East & 11 panels facing West.
  5. The roofs are parallel to each other and have a similar pitch.
  6. There is no shading.
  7. Their inverter was replaced after the first few weeks as their son complained that he could hear a high-pitched noise right outside his room.
  8. We use more SOLAR power to power our HOME.
  9. Our neighbours use much more SOLAR power to recharge their BATTERY.
  10. We export more of our SOLAR power for F.I.T.
  11. Our neighbours are being charged for much more ERGON power.
  12. Our neighbours’ ERGON costs are more than 3 times our costs.
  13. The neighbours’ system has regularly been observed to be feeding the BATTERY back into the grid as F.I.T. as opposed to powering the HOME at around 6:00 PM.
  14. At 10:00 AM today 1.09.2019, our BATTERY was at 97.8%, our SOLAR had produced 5.8kw/h, our HOME had used 1.2kw/h our BATTERY had used 3.7kw/h & we had FIT 1.0kw/h so our BATTERY must have run down to around to 60% overnight.
  15. At 10:00 AM today 10.09.2019, our neighbours’ BATTERY was at 56.8%, their SOLAR had produced 6.8kw/h, their HOME had used 2.0kw/h, their BATTERY had used 4.6kw/h & they had FIT 0.2kw/h so their BATTERY must have run down to around 10% overnight.
  16. Our neighbour works FIFO and has been away since the weekend, his wife works, and their son goes to high school so they would have consumed little power yesterday and last night.
  17. My wife sits up watching TV until midnight or later as she did last night.

I presume that the inverter and/or the battery is either incorrectly programmed and/or faulty.
If anyone has any experience or ideas regarding this problem, your response would be greatly appreciated in helping to resolve their problem.


#15

I’d really have to see the data graphically to see what is going on, totals don’t give enough information.

BTW, it is kWh, not kw/h, a common mistake.

power * time (kilowatts * hours) = energy (kWh).

kw/h is meaningless in this context as kW is a rate, adding another rate with the ‘per hour’ makes no sense.


#16

… maybe it’s the colour of the tin on the roof :wink:


#17

The assumption here is that the battery was fully charged the previous night. There are a number of variables, that will reveal whether the two systems are configured with the same power management strategy. Noted the consumption patterns for the two properties appear significantly different.

Hybrid inverters typically allow owners to choose between only drawing down on the battery for self consumption, or alternately exporting, or in some even setting time periods for the battery to supply power to the household. It’s not immediately evident from the basic Sungrow manual which options your inverter supports, other than a zero export mode. Some modes of operation may not be permitted by Ergon.

I have a non hybrid SG5K. Even for that basic inverter, not all of the Engineering settings are explained in the manual. Protection against tampering perhaps?

Are both systems connected to the cloud service provided by Sungrow, (isolarcloud or isolarhome)? If so using the PC based access, as distinct from the mobile AP you can or should be able to export a time series for any monitored inverter data series.

As @gordon suggested. It’s difficult for him to offer any feedback without a more complete picture of how the systems have performed. You might need to look at several consecutive days of data. The Sungrow data appears to update every 6 minutes.

I can look back more than 6 months at detailed performance. Or from day one for summary data.