Beware of Cheap Solar Systems

Thousands of new solar power systems are failing because of poor quality components. 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.

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. This 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”.

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,”

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