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5 Things Your Solar Quote Needs To Have

Tick these boxes before signing your solar contract!

We’ve all heard the horror stories of solar companies selling and installing dodgy panels and inverters that have to be replaced within 5 years but did you know – there are a new set of techniques these companies are using to over promise and deceive consumers into signing contracts on the spot or even over the phone? We unpack what your solar proposal should include to save you making a very costly mistake. A little disclaimer – I have not been paid to write this article on behalf of ‘Open Solar’, it’s free and should be used by all solar installers!

How your system works ☐

You don’t buy a new car without first knowing if and how it works so why should a solar system be any different? Believe it or not, some companies don’t explain that your solar panels will not produce power at night (don’t worry a lot of people don’t know that). Within your proposal you should have an explanation of how your system will work.

  • Will your system be big enough to cover your energy consumption all year round?
  • Will it generate excess solar during the day and be sent back to the grid?
  • Will there be enough excess solar power (credit) to offset your night usage costs?

These are just a few of the points that should be included or at least explained during the proposal process.

System performance ☐

Much like knowing how your system works, it’s also very important to understand how your system is expected to perform. Gone are the days of multiplying the size of your system by 4.5 (peak sun hours) and writing it down on a piece of paper next to your quote. The technology is readily available with applications like ‘Open Solar‘ that carefully calculate system performance after assessing a plethora of factors including orientation and tilt of panels, panel and inverter efficiencies, shading issues and a whole lot more!

 

Return on investment/savings calculations ☐

Sometimes the promise of your electricity bill reducing to $0 just isn’t possible so don’t take it as gospel and sign the contract on the spot. Your company should have at least outlined a conservative estimate of your savings as well as a time frame you will have your system paid off. Again, Open Solar is an amazing tool your company can use to accurately calculate savings by using their in built tariff setting.

System hardware specifics ☐

Crucial! Be 100% sure that your quoted systems hardware is what you were promised! Unfortunately the bait and swap tactic happens far too much which means you may not end up with the panels and inverter you were promised. A hot tip would be to ask your installer on the day to confirm they are installing what you were quoted. This is another great example of why it’s important to have your system installed by the company who sold it to you (not a sub-contractor).

  • Is the brand of the panel & inverter what you were promised?
  • Is the wattage of your panels & inverter what you were promised?
  • Ask the company what mounting hardware they are using.
  • If your close to the beach, is your system and all its components corrosive resistant?

 

Warranty information ☐

If your company has confidence in their team and procedures they should be providing a 10 year workmanship warranty to cover any defects created by them. On top of that your panels, inverter and mounting hardware all should have a minimum of a 10 year warranty with quality panels like LG & QCELLS providing a 25 year warranty.

Read our panel reviews HERE.

Read our inverter reviews HERE

Product vs performance warranty?

Product warranty – The more important out of the two, your panels product warranty is based on the manufacturers workmanship, materials used and the quality of them. In other words, the longer the product warranty, the more confidence the manufacturer has in their product. At the time of writing this LG, QCELLS, Sunpower, REC and a few others boast the longest product warranties of 25 years.

Performance warranty – Otherwise known as the ‘power’ warranty, your performance warranty is a guarantee in power output of your solar panels over time which varies in manufacturers. Depending on your situation (how long your staying in your home), we recommend panels providing a guarantee that after 25 years they will be performing at a minimum of 80% of their original output.

 

RECAP

How your system works ☐

System performance ☐

Return on investment/savings calculations ☐

System hardware specifics ☐

Warranty information ☐

 

 

Article by –

Jye van Waelsden -Managing Director.

0% Interest Solar Loans?

What do you mean there is no such thing as interest free solar?

 

An insight into interest free solar loans and why you should run for the hills.

5 words – THERE IS NO SUCH THING!

We can wrap this article up pretty quickly by explaining how the 0% interest system works…

The finance company providing the ‘interest free loan’ to the consumer charges the solar company a fee depending on the length of the loan. That fee, believe it or not isn’t absorbed by the solar company, it’s passed onto the consumer.

For example –

A solar company quotes a client $10,000 for a solar panel installation. Of that $10,000 the finance company charges the solar company up to 25% (4 year loan term). That’s $2500 in fees! Do you really think the solar company will cop the full brunt of that cost? Unfortunately not, it’s passed onto the consumer resulting in a $10,000 system costing $12,500.

MORE FEES

On top of the ‘interest free loan’ fees passed onto the consumer, they hit you with this!

  • $3.50 monthly Revolving Credit Account fees (even after you have paid off the loan – until you close the account)
  • $2.95 Fortnightly Payment processing fees
  • $35 to $90 customer establishment fee (depending on the deal the retailer gets)
  • $15 Late payment fees
  • $15 Change of details fees (for changing any of the details around your arrangement, such as payment dates etc.)
  • $30 Collection fees (on top of a late payment fee!)
  • $22 Repeat purchase fees. (Consider it a customer loyalty fee).
    Up to 40 months

There is an honest and ethical way to offer finance..

It’s called a fixed interest rate with a company who is regulated and governed by the “National Consumer Credit Protection Act.”

Australia has legislation in place to protect consumers who borrow money. It’s called the  “National Consumer Credit Protection Act.” However, because of the interest free loophole, some finance companies like Certegy are not regulated by the NCCP Act.

Who do we trust? (for now)

After countless meetings and phone calls with various finance companies we have decided to partner with Brighte. Brighte have introduced their ‘Green Loan’ at a fixed rate of 7.99% with 2-7 year terms. Brighte is backed by one of the big four – NAB and we feel confident in offering Brighte’s Green Loan to our clients.

Brighte Green Loan Fees

  • 7.99% fixed interest rate
  • No upfront/setup cost
  • No account management fees
  • There are no fees and charges for making extra payments or paying your account off early.
  • $4.99 late payment fee

The end all example to finish any argument between a ‘fixed green loan’ and an ‘interest free loan’. Unfortunately the 0% interest loan is simply a selling tool for what I consider unethical solar retailers.

Loan amount – $10,000

Loan term3 years

0% interest loan fee passed onto the client$2500

7.99% fixed interest loan over 3 years$1310

Total amount paid with 0% interest loan option$12,500

Total amount paid with 7.99% fixed interest loan option$11,310.

You pay $1200 more with 0% interest loans!

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS INTEREST FREE SOLAR!

 

This article should not be considered financial advice. I’m just a sparkie. Contact the lenders to get accurate and up to date figures.

Article by Jye van Waelsden – Managing Director

 

 

Grab The Popcorn, Summers Coming!

Another ABN, another Solar Cowboy!

April – June 2018 – 57,351 installations.

 

April – June 2019 – 70,238 installations

Supply and demand – The Home Insulation Program

“The reality is that the Australian government conceived of, devised, designed and implemented a program that enabled very large numbers of inexperienced workers — often engaged by unscrupulous and avaricious employers or head contractors, who were themselves inexperienced in insulation installation — to undertake potentially dangerous work,” the commissioner wrote.

The Solar Industry hasn’t learnt much..

In 2018, 3,678 systems were inspected. Of these:

  • 2,850 (77.5%) were assessed as compliant.
  • 748 (20.3%) were assessed as substandard.
  • 80 systems (2.2%) were assessed as unsafe.

You don’t need to be an electrical contractor with any solar experience to own a solar company..

In QLD, the company selling you your solar system does not need to hold an electrical contractors license. This means that your solar system could be designed by someone who not only has never installed a solar system but has never been on a roof before in their life! The cascading impacts of this can be horrific. If your solar system is designed by an inexperienced individual working for a sales company the following can become very costly :

  • Sub contractor/installer doesn’t care – Unfortunately the solar sales companies selling these systems work off very small margins, meaning the solar panel installer is paid very little by the sales company. This can result in very poor workmanship and a sub standard installation. Majority of the time you’ll end up paying twice!
  • Over promising amount solar panels – Believe it or not, there is a huge difference between designing a solar panel system from a desk using satellite software and actually measuring up a roof in reality. This mistake partnered up with a sub contractor/installer not caring can result in 18 panels being installed when you’ve paid for 22. The worst part is, you’ll never know unless you get up on the roof and count!
  • No after sales support – Sales companies are renowned for low margins and a high turnover of sales. As you could imagine, there is no incentive for taking care of their previous sales. Try and call a ‘sales office’ for support and you’ll be left in the dark. I guess you can’t blame them.. they’ve got to put food on the table right?

Summer is coming..

With Summer approaching you really have to steer clear of the cheap ‘bill crusher’ deals you see every day in your facebook feed. The marketing from these solar companies will increase dramatically, just like the number of new ABN’s.

3 key things to look for :

  1. Does the solar company employ in house CEC accredited electricians or do they sub contract?
  2. Do they use reputable solar panels and inverters?
  3. Read their reviews. Hint – Read their worst ones.

The amazing movement towards a renewable energy future isn’t as amazing as it sounds. Just like ‘The Home Insulation Program’ the ‘Solar Panel Rebate Scheme’ is poorly designed and has attracted unqualified, inexperienced and negligent contractors to undertake dangerous work.

I hate to put a negative article out like this as I truly believe that real change occurs when a positive narrative is told but when it is impacting great small businesses who genuinely care about their clients it’s hard not to.

Article by Jye van Waelsden – Managing Director

01/10/2019.

 

Try our new Calculator – https://paramountenergy.com.au/calculate/

 

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

Steps To Calculate How Many Solar Panels You Need

It’s a question we’re asked by nearly every client and while it can be difficult to calculate, there are a few easy things anyone can do before contacting a Clean Energy Council accredited solar professional.

Find your Average Daily Usage on your electricity bill

Electricity bills are similar to cracking The DaVinci Code, they’re extremely complicated and can be impossible to understand. The single most important information to extract from your electricity bill to calculate how many solar panels you’ll need is your ‘Average Daily Usage’ which is measure in kWh. This can be found on all electricity bills ( Yes, this is one of our clients bills, $2! ).

Why is your average daily usage important?

Much like an architect designing a house, you aren’t going to build a 5 bedroom home for 2 people or a 2 bedroom home for 5 people! You could but it wouldn’t exactly be comfortable, or you’ll spend a lot more than you need to. The same applies for designing a solar panel system. Once we understand our energy requirements, we can then design a solar panel system that meets them.

The Simple Calculation Using The Peak Sun Hours Table

 

Brisbane averages 5.4 peak sun hours per day which ranks 3rd in Australian cities. What does this mean? It’s a complicated way of saying that for an average of 5.4 hours per day, your solar panel system will be producing power!

If we use the average daily usage in the electricity bill at the top of this page (10kWh), take our 5.4 peak sun hours into consideration and use a 300W solar panel as an example we can use the following formula to calculate how many solar panels we need to cover our average daily usage –

10kWh divided by 5.4 Peak sun hours =1.85kW or 6 x 300W solar panels.

20kWh divided by 5.4 Peak sun hours = 3.7kW or 12 x 300W solar panels

30kWh divided by 5.4 Peak sun hours = 5.5kW or 18 x 300W solar panels

You get the point…

Then why do solar companies recommend installing the biggest system possible?

STC’S –

More commonly know as ‘The Government Rebate’, eligible small-scale renewable energy systems are entitled to a number of small-scale technology certificates. For example, a 5kW solar panel system is entitled to 82 STC’s valued at around $36 per certificate or $2952. A common reason for oversizing a solar panel system can be purely financial as illustrated below –

5kW solar panel system cost before STC’s =$10,000

5kW solar panel system STC rebate = $2952

5kW solar panel system cost after STC rebate = $7048

 

6.6kW solar panel system = $12,000

6.6kW solar panel system STC rebate = $3924

6.6kW solar panel system cost after STC rebate = $8076

As you can see for an extra $1000 you can increase your solar panels system size by 1.6kW. Resulting in 8.64kW of extra solar power being produced every day!

Losses

Solar panels have a combination of factors that will contribute to power losses. Dirt and grime, cable losses, manufacturers output tolerances and inverter efficiency. All of these losses combined can contribute to a solar panel systems overall output being much less than what the ‘sticker’ says. For example a 250W panel can have losses up to 60W turning the panel into a 190w module. Adding these losses up over a ‘5kW system’ can quickly turn into a 3.8kW system. Yet another reason oversizing your solar system can be a good idea..

Future proofing your solar panel system

It’s no secret that Australian’s are fed up of increasing electricity prices and our reliance on fossil fuels. We’re taking matters into our own hands and taking control of our energy. A major plan for a lot of Australian’s transitioning to a clean energy household is to adopt battery storage technology which is coming down in price and powering forward with innovation. If you can’t afford a battery or the investment isn’t yet viable for your situation, a great way to prepare for this technology is to install a solar system that generates excess solar power. You can reap the benefits from your excess solar power by receiving a reasonably generous feed in tariff from your energy retailer. They credit you for each kWh of solar power you export to the grid which offsets the cost of electricity you use at night.

 

Selecting the right solar products and preparing for the future

The solar industry is a complicated beast and selecting the right solar products becomes harder every day. One very important question to ask yourself is ‘Have I selected solar panels, inverters and materials that are easy to adapt and scale to new technologies like battery storage and one day micro-grids?’ Unfortunately Australian’s get far too caught up in price and aren’t thinking long term about their investments. We strongly believe the day will come when we have a decentralised electricity grid that will allow communities to trade and share energy amongst each other. We’re preparing for it, are you?

 

 

Best Solar Inverters Reviewed

Solar Inverter Reviews

While selecting a solar inverter isn’t as daunting as choosing the right solar panel, it’s still an extremely crucial step in building a quality solar system that’s built to last. We’ve taken the guess work out of this step by hand picking the worlds best solar inverters for you to choose from. We also dive into the difference between a ‘DC string inverter’ and an ‘AC solar system’ or ‘micro-inverters’.

Sungrow Inverters ★★★★☆

Sungrows Australian HQ are based in Northern Sydney and have been present in our market since 2012. Sungrow inverters claim to have a 15% global market share which makes them a major player in the solar industry.

Sungrow Inverter Warranty ★★★★☆

Sungrow inverters come with a 5 year warranty with an option for a 5 year extended warranty. Any warranty claim with Sungrow inverters should be dealt with directly by the installer.

Sungrow Inverter Efficiency/Performance ★★★★★

Sungrow inverters are 98% efficient with dual MPPT allowing them to be extremely suitable for technical designs (east/west designs). Sungrow inverters also have Wifi monitoring to allow you to keep an eye on your system from anywhere.

Sungrow Inverter Price & who it’s for – $900

Sungrow inverters are your best bet when on a budget. Safe to say there as good as a cheaper inverter gets!

 

Fronius Inverters ★★★★★

Fronius inverters are manufactured in Europe and are regarded in the industry as the best DC string inverter in the world! Fronius Australian HQ is based in Melbourne and have amazing customer and technical support.

Fronius Inverter Warranty ★★★★★

Fronius inverters offer a 5 year product warranty with a bonus 5 year extended warranty if your installer registers your inverter correctly. If you have an issue with your fronius inverter and your installer has gone ‘walk abouts’ don’t panic. Fronius advise you to contact a qualified solar installer to diagnose the problem at ‘no cost’. Your installer will then contact Fronius and organise a replacement.

Fronius Inverter Efficiency/Performance ★★★★★

Fronius inverters are 98% efficient and have legendary status for their MPPT’s which can handle up to 3 different solar panel orientations (if two are symmetrical). With a 10 year warranty, amazing warranty service and even better technical support, Fronius inverters have earned a sterling reputation for a reason. Fronius also offer a great device for export limiting called a ‘smart meter’ which also provides comprehensive monitoring. Although, I always recommend installing a device called ‘solar analytics’ to partner with your fronius inverter as this device is far more user friendly and offers more information.

Fronius Inverter Price & who it’s for – 5kW – $1900

Fronius inverters in my opinion have now taken over SMA as the world’s best DC string inverter. They’ve grown so much in popularity over the last couple of years that it’s often tricky to get a hold of one! As always, it’s extremely important to select an experienced solar installer but you can’t go wrong with a Fronius inverter!

 

Enphase Micro-inverters ★★★★★

Enphase are a U.S based company who lead the industry in AC solar systems technology by a long shot! Unlike your traditional DC string inverters above, Enphase AC Micro-inverters sit behind each solar panel to provide individual panel monitoring, individual panel optimisation, easy scalability and an overall safer system (AC electricity- no DC electricity run through your roof space or rooftop DC isolators).

Enphase Micro-inverters Warranty ★★★★★

Enphase provide a 10 year warranty on its micro-inverters, covering defects in workmanship and materials. Their customer support is incredible with majority of problems being solved remotely over the phone through their gateway.

Enphase Micro-inverters Efficiency/Performance ★★★★★

Enphase Micro-inverters are extremely smart and efficient. Similar to the impact that DC optimisers have, micro-inverters allow each solar panel to work individually as its own little generator resulting in a far more powerful system. As stated above, Enphase AC solar systems are a far safer option with functions like ‘auto shutdown’ and benefits like ‘no DC electricity’.

Enphase Micro-inverters Price & who it’s for – 1 x IQ7 micro-inverter – $150 

Unlike traditional DC solar systems where only 1 inverter is required, Enphase AC solar systems require 1 micro-inverter behind each solar panel. I highly recommend Enphase systems where you have future plans to either expand or add battery storage. Enphase monitoring is also amazing for the tech geeks out there who love to check their system daily like me. They also lead the way in being VPP ready which means if energy becomes decentralised and micro-grids form, Enphase will be prepared!

Should you buy Battery Storage with your Solar System?

Interest in battery storage for homes increasing rapidly as families seek to take control of their energy.

2018 was Australias best year for battery storage and it looks as though 2019 will be better! Batteries are in high demand thanks to the promise of energy self-sufficiency and back-up power in the event of blackouts, but are they safe? Solar battery storage, regardless of wether its lithium ion, lead acid, flow or aqueous hybrid ion, is perfectly safe if it is installed by an accredited electrician.

Safety checklist –

  1. Know what type of battery storage system (i.e. battery chemistry, power and energy size) you are having installed. Different battery types have different requirements.
  2. Use a Clean Energy Council Accredited Designer/Installer with the ‘battery storage endorsement’ to design and install your system.
  3. Understand what you will be using your battery for, and the amount of energy available for your use (this is usually less than the manufacturer’s rated total amount of energy labelled on the batteries).
  4. Monitor your system regularly (at least once a month) and ensure that you: a. have a system in place – for example, an appropriate battery monitoring system, a log book, and a visual and audible alarm b. know what to check for when doing a visual check or taking meter readings.
  5. Batteries do not perform well with sudden changes in ambient temperature, so they must be appropriately housed with adequate airflow. On extremely hot or cold days, you may need to do additional monitoring; ensure you have a system in place to remind you to do this.
  6.  Ensure your batteries are not accessible to children, are vermin proofed and are separate to the living areas of the house. Do not store items on top of or lean items against your batteries or enclosures, because they could be a potential electrical fire risk. Consider installing signs to remind you of this.
  7.  Ensure your batteries have the correct safety and warning signs for the battery type, and that you know how to follow their instructions (e.g. emergency shutdown procedure and emergency action plan).
  8.  Keep manufacturer and installer and warranty information to refer to as needed, and use only accredited installers and professionals to alter the system. Revisit your whole system periodically and replace or upgrade components as required. Your accredited installer should be your first point of contact for maintenance. Keep the installer’s contact details.

Mercedes home energy storage

Battery storage, a good investment?

About 80% of batteries installed are lithium ion which generally have a 10 year warranty. If your serious about installing battery storage you must at least break even on your investment over that period.

Example of a ‘worth it’ investment.

For the purpose of this exercise we won’t take into consideration the credit you will receive from the energy you export back to the grid that would normally offset your nightly usage. As the energy stored in your battery will only be used at night we will calculate the cost of energy use at night to see how many years it would take to ‘break even’ on your investment.

  • Average cost of solar battery storage including installation – $7000
  • Average use at night – 15kWh or $3.30 (depending on your state) $3.30 x 365 days = $1204
  • Average payback period – $7000 divided by $1204 = 5.8 years.

With the cost of batteries decreasing, and safety not being an issue we will begin to see a mass uptake of the technology and see Australians take control of their energy.

Best Solar Panels Reviewed

What solar panel is right for me?

With well over 30 pages full of Clean Energy Council approved modules, selecting the right solar panel can be a daunting task. Fortunately for you, we’ve narrowed it down to the 4 best solar panels on the planet with a price to suit each application. We’ve broken it down into 3 categories including efficiency/performance, warranty information and price. Please keep in mind that these solar panel manufacturers have been carefully selected as the most trustworthy when is comes to warranty claims and company financial security, leaving us with complete peace of mind when recommending and installing them.

REC Solar Panels ★★★★★

REC solar panels were founded in Norway but now produce all of their solar panels out of  Singapore.  If your living near the beach or in an area that is prone to corrosion REC solar panels are corrosion resistant certified which is a great bonus. Because REC solar panels are made with silicon and aluminium that is produced mostly with hydroelectric power rather than fossil fuels, they are certified in Europe as having a low carbon footprint.

Efficiency/performance ★★★★★

The REC twin peak 2 solar panels that Paramount Energy use are extremely impactful when shading is an issue as they are split into two halves, if one half is shaded the other half is not impacted. REC offer both a ‘mono’ and ‘poly’ option with the ‘mono’ being most efficient ranging between 18.0% – 19.2%.

Warranty ★★★★★

REC solar panels are tier 1 solar panels with a huge 20 year product warranty (10 more than your average panel) and a 25 year performance warranty.

Price & who it’s for – $200-$250/panel

REC solar panels are better suited for roofs with partial shading or corrosive environments such as living near the beach. REC solar panels are a great option if your looking for a ‘value for money’ option.

 

LG Solar Panels ★★★★★

LG solar panels are one of, if not, the best solar panel manufacturer on the planet. They tick every box when it comes to the perfect solar panel including – a whopping 25 year product and performance warranty, up to 20.7% efficiency and a fail rate of just 9 out of 360,000 installed in Australia.

Efficiency/performance ★★★★★

As stated above LG solar panels have an efficiency up to 20.7% which is as good as it gets. If your home has little roof space, LG solar panels are perfect for this application as you require less panels to achieve a rated output. Did I mention they are sleek to look at? If you enjoy an aesthetically pleasing roof then LG solar panels are for you.

Warranty ★★★★★

LG solar panels offer the best warranty in the industry with a 25 year full replacement warranty including labour. What more can you ask for?

Price & who it’s for – $300-$350/panel

If you like the idea of buying the best and your not concerned about the price tag then LG solar panels are for you.

 

Canadian Solar Panels ★★★★

In 1987 the founder of Canadian Solar, Shawn Qu, was earning around $5 a week in today’s money teaching in China. That year he moved to Canada and began studying to obtain his masters degree in physics. In 2001 he founded Canadian Solar. In 2015 Canadian Solar became the second largest producer of solar panels in the world and they may be the largest in 2016.

Efficiency/performance ★★★★★

They are over 18% efficient and, unlike some manufacturers, Canadian Solar does not exaggerate their panel’s efficiency by not including the frame in the calculation. They are corrosion resistant and suitable for installation anywhere in Australia.

Warranty ★★★★☆

Canadian Solar panels have a 10 year product warranty which covers them if they fail to work in that time period due to a fault in manufacture. In addition they also have a performance warranty of 25 years

Price & who it’s for – $150-$200/panel

Canadian solar panels are an extremely good option for those on a lower budget looking for a ‘on a budget’ option.

QCELL Solar Panels ★★★★☆

Described as ‘Engineered in Germany’ QCELL solar panels are manufactured in Malaysia, Korea and China with their headquarters for engineering and research in Germany. With a large team of developers and researchers, QCELL are one of the leaders in the industry for innovation.

Efficiency/performance ★★★★★

QCELL Q Peak Duo G5 solar panels are extremely efficient at 19.6% and guarantee they will be performing at 85% of original rated output in 25 years time! Not bad…

Warranty ★★★★☆

QCELL solar panels are salt mist corrosion resistant which is ideal for seaside locations. QCELL solar panels offer a 12 year product warranty and 25 year performance warranty. QCELL have an office in Sydney which is great for ease of communication with warranty claims.

Price & who it’s for – $200-$250/panel

QCELL solar panels are similar to REC with a slightly higher efficiency. If you are living seaside with a slightly higher budget QCELL solar panels are a great option.

Solar panel technology is moving extremely quickly and Paramount Energy is committed to aligning itself directly with these advances. Happy solaring!