When you’re just starting out, you’re a bit like most of the first-time customers out there right now. You think ‘with a 25 year panel performance warranty, what can go wrong?!’
Then, next minute, you start competing with 90% of solar companies in town. The problem is over half of that lot won’t be anywhere to be seen in five years time. Where’s Euro Solar today? What about True Value Solar? So many of the big players from just a few years ago are today gone. Like them, I was offering 25 year warranties on cheap panels, the difference is I’m still here, sticking around. I’ve stopped now and have set our standards higher.
If you want cheap solar panels, go for your life – I just have little interest in installing them for you, because who has to fix them when they give up the ghost? Not you, me! So how about I catch you on the flip side, in a few years time when you learn the lesson I did. That is – just do it properly the first time.
I confirmed with Tarryn Coetzee from Formbay, a trading platform that deals with the solar rebates, earlier this week – numbers have indeed increased in the last 12 months with rebates being awarded for ‘replacement solar systems.’
Tarryn actually told me that a lot of interest has come from solar installers who were confused if existing homeowners could still claim Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) for new panels if they’d had a solar system installed previously. The answer is yes, they just need to purchase a new solar inverter at the same time. The solar industry here moves so quick that those out of the loop could be forgiven for not knowing.
My company, Queensland Solar & Lighting, is now getting around 50% of all of its work from customers needing replacement solar inverters and businesses that need to upgrade their commercial solar systems because water is getting into the panels, as well as old wiring and isolator faults.
Julian, an electrician friend of mine, has a successful small solar repairs business in Brisbane called Brisbane Solar Repairs. He is flat-out fielding calls from disgruntled solar customers who have been left with orphaned systems and no one around to assist with warranties. They know their solar retailer has done the Harold Holt, but they’re annoyed to learn their solar panel or inverter manufacturer are no longer in Australia either. Again, where are the big players from just a few years ago at today? CSUN, Akcome, BYD, Samil, ZeverSolar – haven’t seen them on a wholesale price list in years. Incredible stuff, really!
I made the decision to focus more on selling quality solar components this time last year when I saw the demand for replacement solar systems ramp up. Hyundai, German-made SolarWatt panels, and LG solar panels are Queensland Solar & Lighting’s three main offerings today.
I feel so much better knowing that for the last 12 months I have primarily installed high quality solar panels from well-known brands. The customers have been great too. A few older customers and scenarios have seen me install a handful of Longi panel systems, panels I have on my own roof, but I pick my mark. I just want to have confidence in what I sell today, and I do.
So much so that I’ve made up a little flow-chart as a joke to show customers that we are now committed to quality and we are more than happy to walk away from the cheap solar work as it could likely lead to problems in the near future.
We still sell cheaper inverters, but good, reputable longstanding brands that have been in Australia for over 10 years now like Growatt and Sungrow. The reliability of solar inverters has improved immensely in the last five years. Failures are few and far between these days, and if there is a problem, it’s an easy swap. On the other hand, it appears the panel quality has gone the other way. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I’m much happier and more comfortable not offering the cheaper systems anymore.
Time will tell, but the data doesn’t look good.
Author: Daniel Jarrett, CEO of Queensland Solar & Lighting
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.
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