When is it NOT true that you get what you pay for?
Solar is a technical product involving both high tech products and a high degree of care needed for installation…If someone is saving $1000 or $2000 or $5000 from a system, what has to give in order to make that work for them?
LJW Solar is rarely the cheapest in solar, and has an unblemished safety record.
From News.com.au 28th September 2011
THOUSANDS of new solar power systems are failing because of poor quality components, in another blow to Queensland’s green energy vision.
Industry insiders have told The Courier-Mail many consumers were unaware the cheap systems they had bought were faulty or not performing efficiently. They said some faced a costly “time bomb” as warranties ran out and low-cost inverters failed, leaving them with replacement bills of about $2000.
The Courier-Mail revealed on Saturday the state’s energy grid was not coping with the high uptake of rooftop solar systems.
Energy Minister Stephen Robertson admitted new applications for the solar systems were being rejected in areas where high uptake threatened the safety and reliability of its 1950s-designed network.
Yesterday it was revealed 6000 households had panels but were losing money while they waited months for Energex to install “smart meters” that measure the value of the surplus power.
The latest problem relates to customers unknowingly being sold poor-quality inverters with components from countries such as China. Inverters are the most important component in solar power systems, converting energy generated from roof panels into power suitable for households and the grid.
They are also expensive, so the use of cheaper ones can save $1000 even on a standard 1.5kW system. However, the imports have a high failure rate and also don’t extract the optimum energy from panels.
Brisbane businessman Brian Springer, who operates Springers Solar, said there had been a rise in “suspect business models” in the industry.
Mr Springer said his main concern was that reputable companies were being tarnished by those chasing a fast buck. “Cheap systems have become a major problem and it’s getting worse,” he said.
“Customers are missing out on energy efficiency and reliability.
“They have to look closely at who they are buying from and ask themselves are the products … of high enough quality.”
Mr Springer said his business used top-of-the-range SMA German products and offered a 10-year warranty.
Master Electricians Australia’s chief executive Malcolm Richards said he was aware of issues with cheaper products being used in solar systems.
Mr Richards said a key issue was many systems were not operating efficiently because the size of the inverter was not ideally matched to the panels.
“There has been a shortage of 1.5kW inverters because of demand, so 3kW inverters were sold as an up-sell to customers. They still work but with less efficiency and require more electricity to run so this detracts from the performance of the system,” he said.
Nigel Carrall, of Annerley in Brisbane, bought a 1.5kW system for $8000 through Origin in August last year and was alarmed when his power bills did not fall after six months.
He contacted his provider in May and was told to check his inverter, which he discovered was showing an error code.
Mr Carrall said that after more calls a sub-contractor employed by Origin replaced the inverter.
“That was at 11am and they said it was the 10th one they had replaced that morning.
“I worked out I had lost about $1000 over the 10 months my inverter was not working.”
An Origin spokesman said the company was aware of Mr Carrall’s claim and it appeared he was entitled to compensation. The spokesman said the problem with Mr Carrall’s inverter was not indicative of a high failure rate in inverters installed by Origin.
“We have sold 15,000 of these systems in two years and only had 200 issues.”
The Office of Fair Trading has received 256 complaints about solar since January 1 – 56 more than last year.