Have you ever wondered why some solar panels and solar inverters cost more than others? When studying the market one can find cheap 5 kW systems for under $4000 and going all the way to $10,000. So are cheap solar systems just as good or will they disappoint? Australia is a great case study to understand what happens with cheap solar after a few years. The solar boom in Australia started in 2007 – so now we have solar power systems out there that have been baking in the harsh Australian sun for a decade and the results are now coming out. How do they hold up?
There is now a clear consensus in the solar industry – you get what you pay for. Overall it seems that when one pays a bit more, then one gets a more robust inverter and more efficient, higher output and higher quality panels. This means over the life of a system, it appears higher quality components produce an overall higher return on investment.
For example, while some cheap inverters regularly do not make it to the 5 year mark, the top brands in the inverter space can last 10 to 13 years with minimal issue. The same principle also seems to apply to panels, with cheap ones failing early (despite lengthy warranties) while good ones last decades.
The problem is often when one tries to claim the warranty on the cheap product in Australia – the manufacturer or importer has left the shores or the installation company has left town. What can one do about that? Do your research before you buy and buy a quality system while the rebate is around. It would be a shame if one has to buy another system in a few years when the rebate has finished and then has to spend so much more. It makes sense to stretch a bit now to get the best long-term financial and environmental outcome.
A few years ago an Australian installer wanted to highlight the pitfalls of cheap solar and started a Facebook page called tongue in cheek “Crap Solar”.
The site now has many hundreds of examples of poor installation practice and failed systems. More recently a summary of the “Crap Solar” material has been collated in an easy to read brochure. Solar Trust Centre has now gained a copy of this material and you can see it by simply clicking here.
Happy reading of “Cheap Solar – A Cautionary Tale“. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.