Buying smarter Solar in SA?

Here is a list of important checks when considering buying smarter solar in SA. We have over 16 years in the game and know what question you should be asking to sort the worthy from cowboys:

  • Cold callers – avoid them like the plague! Sales people with zero design or installation training – their job is to SELL and earn commission. Their skin in the game stops once you have signed up!
  • Ask for credentials of the person you are dealing with – have they studied design & installation of solar formally? (ask to validate their Clean Energy Council accreditation)
  • Ask how long the business has been around? – there are many companies coming and going in the solar industry, with around 80% of all solar business failing in the first 5 years. Be wary of promises that can’t be backed up.
  • Deal with someone who has a high level of ‘skin in the game’ – dealing direct with the business owner / designer almost always guarantees they have a higher level of personal investment in your project.
  • Always Always Always buy the best quality panels you can afford – even if this means sacrificing some capacity to meet your budget. Better quality panels generate more energy for more years giving you a much better outcome in the long run. Remember solar panels are the ‘engine’, poor engine = poor performance. Link to quality SunPower’s Maxeon panels
  • If budget is an issue, sacrifice the quality of inverter before sacrificing the quality of panels. People get this wrong all the time. Cheap panels with good inverter = poor performing system. Inverters are much easier to replace than panels.
  • The law of business dictates you can not pay a little and get a lot – like everything in life it just isn’t possible. If you pay less you will get less. Often the sacrifice will show up in after sales support, service & poor energy production. The money you saved up front will always cost you more in the long run.
  • Read reviews of prospective solar companies & products recommended. Whirlpool Forums is a good start – The mark of a good solar company is not how good they were to get you to sign up, it’s their after sales support and service that really matters.
  • Where to put panels on your roof – if you have north facing roof this is always the best position to put panels, they will generate more energy across the year (but especially in winter) than any other orientation. Choosing higher efficiency panels (as opposed to larger panels) means getting more power facing the best way. Facing panels south is a great idea if you are in the northern hemisphere!
  • Check the full warranty documentation for each component (usually 4-5 pages) so you fully understand what the warranty covers, there are different warranties for panels, inverters, framing, installation, and system performance.
  • It is important to check how long the manufacturer has been around – it’s great that they put a 25+ year product warranty on their gear, but if they have only been around for 10 years they really don’t have the experience to validate such a long warranty – so why then do they offer such long warranties? Firstly, most manufacturers hedge their bets that people move house on average every 7 years, the new owner of the home / system likely doesn’t receive a copy of all the system documentation from the previous owner – so warranty is sort of lost. Secondly a panel manufacturer usually agrees to repair, replace or refund – with standard panels worth around $200 it is very little skin off their nose to pay you out for a faulty panel. It is important to understand that some (albeit very few) manufacturers have engineered the most common faults out of their panels – these are typically older more established companies (20+ years). Companies such as SunPower, LG, Panasonic have done this, and proven the durability of their equipment.
  • Bigger panels are not always better – panel manufacturers are falling over themselves to make larger panels than ever before – this is great news for fitting capacity into containers and that is about all. As cells increase in size (therefore panels increase too) the long term stresses on cells and interconnections increases, this can be from hot-cold cycling, hail & wind causing the panels to flex. Whilst the glass may survive impact from hail (because the glass can flex) silicon cells do not flex, they just break. Smaller panels (and cells) suffer less stress. Have you wondered why many panels use 1/2 cell technology? it is to reduce the physical surface area of a cell by half – to reduce the stresses mentioned above. Mostly bigger panels are harder to handle and cause physical stress to the installation crew. Don’t get sucked in to bigger-is-better mentality.


solar systems | solar man | south australia

Paul Staska is passionate about renewable energy, the environment and quality workmanship. 

After gaining an environmental awareness back in the 1990’s Paul embarked on a quest to ‘do his bit’ to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

He has been involved within the energy efficiency sector since that time conducting energy audits, 5 star building assessments and specialising in solar energy since 2005.

After 2 1/2 years of study, in 2007 Paul earned accreditation for Solar Design and Installation of Grid, Hybrid and Off-Grid Systems.