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Solar Power installers in the ACT: Recommendations and cautionary tales?

By koalathebear - 22 June 2010 20

We’re considering having solar panels installed at our house.  Given the cost involved, we’d really like to go with installers who are recommended as being good and reliable and we’ve been really happy with previous RiotACT recommendations for various goods and services.  Part of the reason we want someone reputable is that our roof is mostly east-west and not north so we’d want someone who would be honest with us about options and give us sensible recommendations e.g. are pole-mounted panels worth doing if the roof isn’t the best place etc.

I know that RiotACT has discussed solar power before (guidelines, an ad for Solar Power and a reduction in the gov. rebates) but I haven’t seen a thread discussing people’s experiences with installers – which ones were good, which ones weren’t so good and why.  I found this thread on the whirlpool forum of all places, but was hoping for something a little more recent.  Thanks heaps in advance!

What’s Your opinion?


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20 Responses to
Solar Power installers in the ACT: Recommendations and cautionary tales?
54-11 11:37 am 23 Jun 10

Thanks michcom. No, my Kanekas are on a sloping tiled roof, but not perfectly oriented. My 1.8 system got a high of 9.0kwh in March (March ave=6.9), and last Sunday (20th) got 4.4. Those figures indicate that you’re getting better efficiency than me. Not a lot in it but over the life of the panels will add to quite a bit. Thanks for that – it just gives me a bit of a comparison.

What is sadly lacking in the solar energy market are case studies showing exactly what people are achieving on the ground, not theoretical figures produced by the panel manufacturers.

trevar 8:38 am 23 Jun 10

Whatever you do, avoid using Modern Solar at all costs. We signed the contract with them a year ago, and it was only with the help of Fair Trading that we actually had the installation completed last week.

michcon 7:01 am 23 Jun 10

+ another for solar shop

The only negative experience I had was that the installers broke a few cement tiles (which I’m sure was an accident) but they didn’t tell me, or try and fix it. As it turns out, it didn’t really matter to me, as I had a pile of spare ones in the shed.

Apart from that, it was a top notch install. The service was great, they were ready to install within a month of laying down a deposit, and they dealt with all the paperwork and ACTEW/ACT Government certifications. The Kaneka panels are made in Japan, and the SMA inverter is made in Germany – top quality stuff. It cost me $4990 for a 1.44KW system (which we bought almost a year ago).

54-11,

It’s unfortunate that you felt mislead, if I understand correctly, your panels are not orientated north, but rather just facing straight up? This would certainly effect how much you can generate, particularly during winter when the sun is so low in the sky. I wonder why they didn’t recommend some frames so they could be better positioned?

By comparison, last Sunday (one of the shortest days of the year) we achieved 4.2kwh and in March we were getting around 8.5kwh / day. This is on our 1.44Kw system, and it too is not ideally orientated (half our panels are facing NE, and the other half NW).

GottaLoveCanberra 9:12 pm 22 Jun 10

StrangeAttractor said :

hope to have my system installed by the end of June, which I think will be unlikely.

You think correctly.

OpenYourMind 8:24 pm 22 Jun 10

We went solar shop and have been very happy. Solar Shop may not be the cheapest, but they seem to be in it for the long run and care about their reputation and operating professionally. They don’t sell the junk systems, so they’ll seem a little more expensive than some solar vendors. Make sure you compare like with like.

Maybe I’m a geek, but It’s a great feeling to get home and see how much energy you’ve produced for the day.

StrangeAttractor 3:41 pm 22 Jun 10

I’ve gone with Beyond Building Energy. I signed the contract on the 7th of Jan, and have still not had anything installed. They are however, very friendly and helpful.

So far they’ve explained delays away as continued international shortage of inverters, and hope to have my system installed by the end of June, which I think will be unlikely.

Avoid Modern Solar. After 3 months of no calls, and no paperwork, all for a vastly overpriced system, I asked for my deposit back, and only got it after a few calls and letters.

Gungahlin Al 2:44 pm 22 Jun 10

The Naddiks said :

…After contacting them I was yet again told that things were very busy due to the 30th June cut-off before our wonderfull Rudd government cuts the feed-in tariff back…

The feed-in tariff is an ACT Government initiative – not Federal.

The Naddiks 2:28 pm 22 Jun 10

I paid for a system from Original (3kw), and in 6 weeks I have only received a letter from them to fill out an application to ACTEWAGL for a new meter… that’s it, no installer, nothing else. After contacting them I was yet again told that things were very busy due to the 30th June cut-off before our wonderfull Rudd government cuts the feed-in tariff back…

emd 1:23 pm 22 Jun 10

The guys at Armada really know what they’re talking about. I can’t install solar where I wanted it for reasons out of my control, but they were very straightforward with me about what was possible. They’re a small local company, and they use good quality panels (not the dodgy cheap imports).

Gungahlin Al 12:40 pm 22 Jun 10

We had a 2kW system put on the Palmerston Community Centre (courtesy of the ACT Government) by Pure Solar (formerly Green Frog Solar). Waited months after installation to get connected, despite several calls to them and getting fobbed off as being ACTEW’s fault. Inverter was installed in the wrong room from that agreed to, and this still hasn’t been relocated to the preferred secure location.
I note that Graham Downie mentioned complaints about them and another supplier in his column in the Times a couple of weeks back.

Postalgeek 12:39 pm 22 Jun 10

Phil May from Solartec. I haven’t had solar installed by him but have had other electrical work done and he is a good honest bloke and been doing solar for years. And he lives off-grid so he knows what is needed. Wouldn’t trust any solar installer who doesn’t live off-grid or semi off-grid. Like a thin chef.

When I finally relocate to my permanent residence, he’ll be on top of my list.

54-11 11:57 am 22 Jun 10

Nerdling, have you been keeping tabs on the output of your 1.7 system? I’d be keen to know what other producers are getting.

Holden Caulfield 11:54 am 22 Jun 10

+1 for Solar Shop.

We’ve signed up with them, but have to wait on other renovations etc before we can start the install.

So far, from a customer service point of view, they’ve been good. And very patient considering we’re getting dicked around at every stage in our planning process. We had hoped to commence building work several months ago; alas we’re still waiting…

Nerdling 11:28 am 22 Jun 10

We went with Armada for a 1.7kw system and a hot water system. Prety happy with the service and no problems with the system.

54-11 10:48 am 22 Jun 10

We had a 1.8kw system (using Kaneka panels rather than the much cheaper Chinese options) installed by Solarshop Australia in March, and I’m very happy with their service. Our roof is also not perfectly oriented but the panels are laid flat and are working well.

Solarshop has got a good visibility in Canberra now – I often see their vehicles around the place. They have permanent premises in Fyshwick (many of the installers are from out of town) and they are easy to talk to.

From real world experience, my only disappointment is that the average production they claim is a fair way off. For example for March, they claim a range of 8kw/h-9.5 kw/h. I got an average of just 6.9. For April, they claimed from 6-8 – I averaged 5.9. For May, the claim was 5-6, and I got 4.1

However. I made a slight profit on my last bill, which covered Autumn. For Winter I’m expecting a bill, Spring perhaps a small profit again. Summer I’m not sure about yet, as one reason for getting the panels was so that I could run the air-con without the guilts.

So overall, I would recommend Solarshop, but just be a bit wary of their claims. I suspect that other installers would also be guilty of this as well.

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