Living in a household with a solar installation should feel fantastic. A rooftop solar system can:
drive down the cost of living today,
provide some protection against any rise in power prices in future,
and it of course makes a contribution to a cleaner and greener world.
But sadly for an unlucky few this is not the experience they will have with certain solar systems.
The unfortunate reality is that there’s a number of solar systems sitting on rooftops across Australia right now that are dodgy. In some cases, the households living under these rooftops may have purchased the system. In other instances, the current residents of the household perhaps bought the property and took ownership of the system when they did. Whatever the case, dodgy solar systems can be really bad news, and for many reasons. So let’s look now and what can be done if you suspect there’s a dodgy solar system on your roof.
Confirm the Solar Installation Details Where Possible
The first step for remedying a dodgy solar system requires confirming the installation details, and the accompanying information surrounding it. If the owner-occupier(s) of the property has resided there for many years and continues to do so, then it’s likely not a mystery who arranged for the solar system to be installed! Ideally, it’ll then be easy to find the key details. By contrast, for those who have come to reside in a home after a solar system has been installed, some additional leg work will be required to try and establish the details surrounding the installation.
In certain cases, a current owner of the home may already have access - or the ability to access - information regarding the system. For instance, if the previous owner installed the solar system via a leasing arrangement that they sought to transfer to you on the sale of the home, then you would be a lessee on the system, and would surely have a signed contract hanging around regarding this. But if the previous owner has purchased the system outright, or potentially engaged in a buy out from the lease before the sale of the home and also purchased the system while doing so, then the particulars surrounding the system may not be easily available.
In some instances, vendors selling a home may make their contact details available to the purchasers just in case any questions arise about the property after the sale, or to simply keep in touch. If you have the former owner’s contact details in hand, getting in touch with them will be the first port of call to find out more info about the solar system. But if there isn’t information about the system easily accessible and it’s not possible to obtain it from the previous owner, it’ll be necessary to try to learn more about it via another avenue.
Other Ways to Find Out Info About Your Solar System
If you don’t have installation documents or a way to contact the previous owner, check out your power bill and any other correspondence you may get from your electricity provider. Unless you have an off-grid system, odds are good your solar installation is making use of a feed-in tariff (FIT) to feed some excess energy into the grid. If no excess shows up at all, it could be a sign the system isn’t working.
It could also be a good idea to have a chat with any neighbours nearby who you’ve become friendly with. It’d perhaps be a little odd if a nearby household could tell you when the previous owner fixed a tap in the kitchen or painted a bathroom wall! But solar panels on the roof are pretty noticeable to people in the surrounding street. Your neighbours may recall when they saw the previous owner install the system, and this could help give you a clear insight into its age.
Once you make enquiries with a solar installer to arrange a visit you can expect they’ll have some initial questions for you about the system too. They’ll perhaps be able to walk you through some steps on the spot to get some additional info surrounding the system, but if not it shouldn’t be a big issue - the in-person assessment is what’s critical.
Call Out a Quality Solar Installer
A quality solar installer should be able to reveal some new details regarding your solar system once they visit. In circumstances where there may need to seek out more info elsewhere - or perhaps point you to another source for some more specifics - they should be able to do that too. It’s really important if you have concerns surrounding the quality of a solar system to ensure that you do indeed seek out a quality solar installer.
Ultimately, it may emerge (as discussed further below) there is only a minor problem with an otherwise good system, and a quality solar installer will offer a way for it to be easily and quickly addressed. But the reality is a questionable solar installer may not tell you that, and in fact not be able to tell you anything about the system at all! This is because if questionable solar installers install dodgy solar systems regularly, they’re not likely to provide clear-cut advice and credible pathways to seeing a great solar system operate on your rooftop. It just wouldn’t gel with their regular approach to doing business.
In a nutshell, if you have serious questions surrounding the quality of your solar system, a questionable solar installer won’t help answer them. That’s why opting to call out a quality solar installer for an assessment is a must.
What Options Are Available to Me if My Solar System Has an Issue?
A drive through the streets of a typical Aussie suburb would encourage the view that rooftop solar systems all generally look pretty similar. Yet in reality, every system is unique in terms of its installation, components, and performance. Once a quality solar installer has been out to make an assessment they’ll be able to provide a few options regarding how to remedy any problem(s) surrounding the system. But generally speaking, there are a few likely to come up:
1. The System Requires a Clean
Solar systems should receive a clean regularly. Exactly how often ‘regularly’ is can vary, depending on a number of factors, such as how much dust and debris can be generated in the local environment surrounding the system. Nonetheless, as a general guideline, a system should be cleaned at least once every 6 months. As a result, if there’s concern about a system underperforming, it may be possible for the issue to be addressed by getting a trusted team out to clean the panels.
2. The System Requires Replacement Parts
A reason a system may be underperforming or not working at all could be due to a part(s) failure. It’s possible to have individual parts replaced without needing to replace the whole system. In such circumstances, it’s also worthwhile to consider what other works could be done while this occurs. For example...
3. The System Could Be Expanded
By itself, this option isn’t a solution for a system that’s not working correctly. Ultimately, it’s necessary to establish why a system may not be performing properly first before adding more components to it. It’s also true that adding more panels to a dodgy system is really not wise - as the old saying goes it’s essentially just throwing ‘good money after bad’.
But if you’re unhappy with the performance of the system and it’s been established the system is a quality one that was installed by a quality installer? Then it could be worthwhile exploring the potential of adding some more panels to the system and increasing its generation capacity accordingly.
4. The System Requires Removal
Sometimes the reason a system isn’t working is that it’s failed altogether. When this occurs, repairing and reviving it may not be possible. As a result, removing the system could be necessary. Although this can be some unpleasant news to get, it does offer a step in the right direction.
Once a dodgy solar system is removed, it’s possible to start pursuing plans to get a quality solar system put in place. One that’s a pleasure to have and use, and won’t dish up headaches as the previous solar system did.
The Path to a Brighter Future with Solar Power
Arriving at the realisation you have a dodgy solar system is never fun. But if you feel this is the case, it’s important to know you’re not alone. Across Australia and among our readers here, there have been people who have unfortunately come across a dodgy solar system in their lives but then taken steps to address it. You can too.
Remember there is likely to be a number of avenues to rectify the issue, but it all begins with getting in touch with a quality solar installer. They will be able to advise what options are available. In a worst-case scenario, total removal of the system - and replacement with a quality one that actually works properly if you have the desire to get a new system right away - may be necessary. But in a best-case scenario, your current solar system may actually be a good one that has run into a spot of bother, and now just requires a little maintenance and/or repair work to get it back to good form.
To find out, it all begins with a phone call or email to a trusted solar installer. For more information on renewable energy, check out more of our stories here.