Commissioner's blog: Solar future is bright, but do your research
Our sunny skies have paved the way for a booming solar panel industry in Western Australia, as many households look for ways to cut their power bills while also reducing their carbon footprint.
Rooftop solar has become so popular in fact, it’s estimated that 300,000 WA households already have panels installed, accounting for one-fifth of the electricity produced in our main network.
Even though there’s a lot to love about this renewable, some consumers have come to Consumer Protection with complaints about poor quality parts, companies going broke and pushy sales tactics.
If you’re considering installing rooftop solar, firstly ask yourself whether they are suitable for your needs, as solar often benefits consumers who use most of their electricity during the day. Also work out how much you will save by checking your energy usage on a recent bill.
Should you decide that the savings are worth it, it’s also important to consider the orientation and pitch of your roof to determine how much sun your panels would receive, as well as being across the total price of having all the components (panels and inverter) of a system installed.
Before agreeing to buy a solar PV system:
- get several quotes for the total cost;
- consider using a supplier that is accredited by searching the Clean Energy Council (CEC) website;
- if a supplier’s verbal claims are influencing your decision, have them included in the contract;
- understand the contract’s terms and conditions;
- check with your insurer as your home insurance may need to be extended to cover the system;
- if you live in a strata scheme, check that you have approval to install a system; and
- read online reviews and feedback about the retailer
Solar power providers are not allowed to use forceful or high pressured sales tactics to get you to buy something, nor can they provide you with false or misleading information. They must also ensure their products and services meet the consumer guarantees.
Remember that solar installers must be licensed electrical contractors and only licensed electricians may perform the necessary electrical work. Once the installation is complete, the electrical contractor must submit a Notice of Completition to your network operator (most likely Western Power or Horizon Power), or for remote installations that are not grid-connected, to the Building and Energy Division of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (AKA DMIRS - the same department as Consumer Protection.
The electrical contractor must also give you an Electrical Safety Certificate, which is a legal document stating the installation is complete, has been tested and is safe. Officers from DMIRS inspect installations for compliance.
More detailed information like this is in our factsheet: www.commerce.wa.gov.au/publications/solar-panel-systems-factsheet
Commissioner for Consumer Protection
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