So you’ve decided to go solar, you’ve done your research and have an idea of what you want and how you want to do it and now it’s time to appoint a solar system installer. Comparing different installers and what they have to offer will give you a good idea of who to appoint. In this article, I will cover 5 key questions to ask to get the information you need to make an informed decision. You need to look for accredited solar solutions installers to provide you with the best service, best quality parts, excellent safety protocols, and a great maintenance plan and warranty:
- How long has your company been installing solar systems?
When appointing any contractor to help with your home projects, it is wise to check if they have the necessary experience. They should be able to show you installations that they have completed from start to finish. This is important as quite a few companies have adopted solar installations as a secondary job on the side. So don’t be afraid to ask them if they exclusively deal with solar installations and if they make use of subcontractors. Rather choose an expert than a Jack of all trades.
A solar solutions company should have a good track record, so look at reviews on Google, HelloPeter, and on their Facebook page, among others. You will quickly find out if they are worth their salt or just full of hot air. Also, look into how long they have been in business. A good system can last anywhere from 20 to 25 years, and you want your supplier to be able to do maintenance, upgrades, or look at faults in the system in the future.
- What is the right solution for me?
Your installer should be able to look at all your needs, establishing what requirements you should have and what you have to do to get your unique, customised solar solution. This would include looking at where you are situated, the output you require, the size of your house, the number of people in the house, roof space, etc. Ask them to explain how they can cater fully to your needs and what that would entail – grid-tied, battery backup, solar, generator input.
Your installer must be able to give you a holistic approach, advising on other energy efficiency matters, and provide a system that is smartly designed to ensure that there is no energy being lost in the process. Your system installer should also have the foresight to help you plan properly. Things always change, so ask them what would be the solution if you want to expand and your current system is no longer sufficient.
- Ask about their quality assurance, regulation compliance, and staff qualifications
Make sure that your solar installer is an accredited service provider under a third-party quality assurance program, such as the PV Green Card – a development to promote safe and high-quality Solar PV installations. Find out if the installation company is registered with the South African Photovoltaic Association (SAPVIA). This is not a requirement, but a good indicator of how serious they are about their business.
In South Africa, most municipalities require homeowners to apply for permission to connect to the power grid. Your system should be compliant and registered, and your installer should inform you on how to do this, or ideally take care of it on your behalf.
It is essential to verify that your installer’s staff qualifications are up to scratch. If your installation’s maximum supply voltage is less than 1,000 volts (most rooftop systems are), a person deemed competent as an electrical contractor by the Department of Labour can do the system’s design and installation. Ask for proof of registration (also called a wireman’s licence), and check that it is up-to-date. If the electrician is registered, he may issue a CoC for the installation, which will confirm that they have performed the installation in compliance with the national wiring codes. Some municipalities require that a professional electrical engineer or technologist who is registered with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) signs your system off. Check that the PV service provider has such a person available.
- What are your warranties/guarantees?
There are various components to a PV system, and each component should come with a warranty. Make sure you understand each warranty and guarantee for the components, as well as for the installation as a whole. Focus specifically on warranties for workmanship, solar panels, inverters, batteries, and mounting system.
- What will my cost of installation and my return on investment be?
Ask for an itemised breakdown of all costs, including components and labour. It is important to have these costs laid out to you beforehand so that there are no nasty surprises in the middle or at the end of your installation.
A good solar system should be able to reduce your electricity bill by 70%. A proper solar solution should pay for itself in cost savings, and a carefully planned and designed solution could pay for itself within five years. Ask your supplier if they can make this promise.
There are many factors involved and it might seem like a daunting task, but it is necessary to keep your bases covered. Your installation team should be carefully scrutinised and evaluated before you make a decision. This is not something that a fly-by-night should be doing. To ensure that you get the best quality product and service, you need to be vigilant and attentive to all aspects. You won’t regret it.
Thank you for reading this article. If you feel we have left out any important information or would like to contribute to this site and content, please get in touch with us by leaving a comment or emailing us.
You might also enjoy: