Steps to purchase, install and connect a solar PV system at home
Keep in mind the following steps to installing a solar PV system at home.
- Read this Buyers Guide to learn about solar electricity systems.
- The Clean Energy Council’s are good sources of information. Gather your questions and seek independent advice.
- Confirm your own household’s requirements – see the section on Planning your solar electricity system.
- Seek recommendations on installers or companies that manage installation, and then contact those who are appropriately accredited for quotes.
- Select your preferred installer.
- Make sure the quote meets your needs, using our checklist can help.
- Confirm that your system can be connected to the grid
- Apply for the
- Install your new system
- Connect to the grid, arranged by your installer.
- Enjoy your new system and reduced energy bills.
Finding a retailer or installer
As with all major purchases, you should carefully consider both price and quality when buying a system.
Always get at least three Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailers to quote for the same size system so you are able to compare prices, makes, models and warranties. When comparing prices, note that a quality system may cost more, but that this may be a cost that’s worthwhile for a system with a long and useful life. Always ask for details on the type and quality of solar panels and inverter.
Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailers
The Clean Energy Council (CEC) is a peak body for Australian clean energy businesses, including solar and battery retailers. It has developed a Solar Retailer Code of Conduct as a way for solar businesses to show their commitment to responsible sales and marketing activities and solar industry best practice. CEC Approved Solar Retailers are solar retailers who have promised to follow this Code of Conduct when doing business.
All retailers taking part in the Solar Homes Program are required to be signatories to the CEC Retail Code of Conduct.
Solar Victoria requires applicants to the program to use an Approved Solar Retailer for their system installation if they intend to claim a rebate.
Many retailers are already Approved Solar Retailers. Customers of these retailers can be confident they are getting clear, honest information, quality installation, and good warranties. Requiring all businesses to be Approved Solar Retailers would protect consumers from questionable providers and help establish a more level playing field for the solar installation industry.
Clean Energy Council Accredited Installers
The person who installs your system needs to be accredited. Grid-connected and stand-alone solar systems with 230 volt wiring have to be installed by a Clean Energy Council Accredited Installer. Systems with batteries require a CEC Accredited Installer with either an additional battery endorsement, or stand-alone installation accreditation.
Solar Victoria also requires installers to hold an unrestricted Class A Electrical Licence registered with Energy Safe Victoria.
How to be sure of quality?
You can be more confident in a solar retailer or installer if they provide you with a written quote and undertake a detailed generation analysis onsite, as part of a free ‘no-obligation’ quote. You should ask about the maintenance and operation requirements of your system, and don’t be rushed into making a decision.
You could also search for a potential retailer or installer online to see if there are complaints from other consumers, or ask for references.
Consider how system faults will be handled
A warranty is only as good as the company that provides it. If the company disappears in a few years, you might have difficulty making a warranty claim should failures occur. It’s not possible to know the future of any solar panel manufacturer or installer, as some of the biggest players over the years have simply disappeared. Seeking out a retailer or installer with a long history in the business helps.
Also, be aware that under Australian Consumer Law, warranties are required to be honoured by product manufacturers even if retailers have gone out of business, so make sure you receive and keep information about the manufacturers of all the different components of your system, and the different warranties on each component.
Consumers have specific rights under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), regardless of any other warranty provided by the supplier or manufacturer. For more information about your rights visit the website.
What not to do when engaging an installer or company
Installing a solar PV system is something that you want to get right: after all, you only get one shot at the rebate, and a well-installed system with quality parts can continue to save you money for many years to come. A poorly-installed system or one with cheap components can be nothing but trouble.
Don’t buy a solar panel (PV) system from a door-to-door salesperson, or from a salesperson who cold calls you on the phone. If you have signed a contract in this way, take advantage of the 10-day cooling off period under consumer law to cancel the contract, and then take your time to do your homework, plan your system and find a quality installer.
What to look for in a quotation
There are a number of details to check in any quotation for a new solar PV system.
Check the panel’s performance specifications are what you’re after (see section on panel wattage for more).
Other factors to consider include construction quality, frame type and colour, panel dimensions and weight. Some panels may be more suited to your roof shape than others, especially when used on small buildings such as sheds.
Also bear in mind that different types of solar panels look different. Thin film panels have a uniform, plain appearance, while crystalline panels have distinct cells – sometimes quite obvious (they may have dark coloured cells on a white background, for instance), while others are designed to make the appearance of the cells less obtrusive. If appearance is a concern, make sure you see good photos of the panels before purchasing. Ask the installer if they have any photos of complete installations with those panels.
Check datasheets carefully for information on different versions of the same panel, and make sure you will be buying panels with all the features you are expecting to get. Talk to the supplier/installer and get a full part number for the panels, including any part number suffixes—that way you can be sure you know which variation of panel you are receiving. Also check out the manufacturer. Refer to the information in the Advice on panel quality and selection section for further advice).
Obviously, you want a long warranty. Pretty much all panels now have at least a 10-year materials warranty and 25-year power warranty. Find out more about warranties in What warranties are available.
Inverters have their own separate warranties, usually between two and ten years. Ten year warranties are becoming more common, and while these inverters will probably be a little more expensive than ones with shorter warranties, it could well prove worth it in the long run.
Regardless of warranties, you can expect that the inverter will fail at some point, probably well before the panels do. You can also be reassured that if an inverter does need out-of-warranty replacement after ten years, the solar system is likely to have already paid itself back and saved you more (through lower bills) since reaching payback than the inverter replacement cost.
Also consider the mounting system and how it will appear on your roof, if that’s an issue for you. Systems that use racking usually have the rack rails extending past the edges of the solar array, and this can look unsightly if the array is in a very obvious position. Mounting systems that require no rails might be the better option, but these may be available only for certain panels that have the appropriately designed frames. But this choice depends on what your chosen installer usually uses for panel mounting—they will have a preferred system and may be reluctant to use anything else.
Installer and quotation checklist
It’s worth considering the following when reviewing a quoted system:
- What is the total purchase price for a (XX) kW system?
- Is there a deposit required?
- Does someone inspect the property first to check the site is appropriate and whether extra installation costs might apply?
- What is the total waiting period from sign-up to installation?
- How many panels are required for a (XX) kW system and what size is each panel (in watts)?
- How many square metres will the panels require? What is the length/ width of each panel?
- What is the brand and type of solar panels and where are they made?
- What is the average daily and yearly kWh production for this system?
- What brand is the inverter and what’s its rated capacity?
- Does the inverter have a smaller or larger capacity than the panels or are they size matched?
- What does the inverter display show?
- What accessories, such as remote displays, are available for the solar system?
- Is there a monitoring service so I can check how my system is performing? Is there an extra cost for this?
- What is the warranty on panels, inverter, mounting frame and installation?
- What is the performance warranty on the system?
- How long is the warranty on the selected inverter?
- Are the solar panels and inverter made by the brand name company or are they made by a different manufacturer and relabelled? If so, who is the original manufacturer of the panels and inverter?
- Does the solar panel brand name company that honours the panels’ warranty have a base in Australia that I can contact if there are any issues with the panels? Also are there details of the company that honours the inverter warranty, if different? What are the phone numbers and addresses?
- For how long have the solar panel and inverter brand name companies been selling these products?
- How does the panel efficiency compare on quoted systems?
- What power tolerances are offered on panels within quoted systems?
- If the system is significantly cheaper or more expensive than average, why?
- What is the total cost of any insurance coverage before discounts and rebates? (Find out more about insurance in the Panel warranty from manufacturer section).
- What sort of after-sales service is available for trouble-shooting issues?
- What is the CEC accreditation number for solar installation?
- Do the panels have Clean Energy Council approval?
- Will the installer organise metering and switchboard modification, including the inspection and paperwork?
- Does the installer organise the application for the Federal Government STC subsidy? The homeowner will need to apply for the Victorian Government’s Solar Panel Rebate.
- Is the installation work contracted out?
- For how long has the company been installing solar photovoltaic systems?
- Can the installer/company provide contact details of people who they have installed solar systems for, who would be happy to give a reference about their work?
Reviewed 17 October 2022