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Choosing a Solar installer

Earlier this year I was watching a new documentary from Craig Reucassel, The Fight for Planet A: The Climate Challenge. Now, as I’ve had time to think in more recent years the climate has been something I’ve thought about – more since it’s big on the political agenda in Australia of late. I seem to be thinking it’s a bit short sighted to only be investing in coal fired power stations and to not invest in more renewable energy or sustainable solutions such as a wind and solar – which can be a 24/7 power source or even implementing a alternate to coal power systems such as gas – which could do the heavy lifting. Aside from the environmental considerations, I felt it was a good decision to make in choosing to go solar for not only the environmental benefit, but, the financial incentives there are in generating your own power during the day.

In generating our own solar power during the day we find it extremely helpful in being able to run items that draw large amounts of electricity such as our pool pump and air-conditioners without having to pay the utility company.

Last year in September we had solar installed from a well-known and long running company in Townsville, True North Solar. I did investigate about six alternate solar installers and True North came out on top.

In choosing to go solar, I found the advice from solarquotes.com.au extremely helpful and YouTube channel’s like – Undecided with Matt Ferrell.

The checklist provided by SolarQuotes was essentially the tool I used to narrow down the provider I was happy to go with – Solar Checklist (Excel Format)

In searching for a Solar Quote

I knew from my research that I didn’t want a cheap Chinese panel system. I had heard about how in the earlier days of solar rebates and the feed-in tariff in Australia there was a huge amount of unregulated and cheap chinese panels being installed. Some of which I had read about and found could catch on fire or even have cheap or unregulated isolation switches installed that could catch fire if overloaded.

I found that after you start looking for quotes, occasionally you’ll see an offer for say a $4000 system. Which, if you’ve been in business before – You’ll know that it must be an awfully cheap system to be $4000 installed. Because, from that you would have at least two installers (say at $450 each the day) an inverter $500-$1200, panels ($1000), marketing expenses and miscellaneous costs and profit would be the remainder. So, those kinds of quotes, rang alarm bells with me and should with many of you if you’re reading this. I’m talking about companies like Arise Solar for instance, the ones you see advertised on the TV.

Well, once I knew to rule those out, I knew I wanted a good price, so I looked around for electrical only companies that also had a solar arm, because, being a local to Townsville, I wanted to make sure I supported local where I could.

From the onset with my dealing with companies, I asked for a quality system. To which, many only gave me a quote for a JA Solar system or a Canadian Solar system. Which, don’t get me wrong, aren’t bad but I was looking for more a Q-Cell, Panasonic or LG system. Though, most did provide the inverter I was after a Fronius.

The companies I sought quotes from included, Barra Electrical which I almost went with because they offered Q-Cells which have a similar warranty system to LG panels (25 Years worth of warranty, but LG also cover the labour). Barra Electrical installed the solar at our neighbours property and I quite liked the workmanship and quality of the install.

I did have a competitive quote from Central Solar Services as well but in the end I decided to go with True North Solar. I did seek quotes from other local electrical companies but many only provided quotes on cheap solar panels and inverters – Which isn’t what I asked for in my dealings with the companies.

Why I choose True North Solar

Out of all the companies in Townsville, I knew True North Solar had been around for quite some years. I also knew they did LG Solar which I found through the LG Solar website (If you mention their add on the LG Solar website you’ll get 5% off).

The things about LG Solar that stood out to me was the 25 Year Warranty for on modules (parts and labour). This means that if there’s an issue with a panel – LG will pay for the replacement panel and labour.

The Company – True North Solar also went above the usual level a solar installed would do and recommend that all circuits in the house be put on an RCD (great for your safety) and hot water be installed on a timer.

The extra mile the company went in suggesting to put all circuits on an RCD (Something, I had been wanting done) and installing a timer was enough for me to know this company was the one. The 5 per cent discount was also a great incentive which basically meant I got the inverters for free (or what I would have paid for the solar system alone)

The main thing to consider that I choose an LG system for was the knowledge that we will likely be the residents of our current property for some years yet – We don’t intend on moving anytime soon – Which should mean our payback for the solar system (which is about six years) is acceptable for the investment that solar takes. Because, as much as one might think solar adds value to your house, it really doesn’t but with LG you can also transfer your warranty to the new owners – So, it kind of does but it’s not going to add $1000s to your property value.

The solar system itself cost about $7000 which is to be expected and on the cheaper side when looking at quality system (according to solarquotes.com.au).

The installation

The communication from the company was excellent and it was installed within a number of hours (About 4-5 hours). True North had about 6 crew working on the install, which if you know how much labour costs, that’s allot of crew to have at one job on a residential property.

After the install, one of the installers led me through the inverter, including showing how to shut the system down safely and power it back on. They also connected the cloud part of the system for monitoring and checked the meter for showing usage was also communicating with the inverter.

After the installation within about a week, I received a 25MB zip file with all images of the panels and their serials along with a copy of the invoice, warranty certificates, manuals and a recommended maintenance and inspection schedule. Which I intend on following as close as possible.

As a customer I felt well looked after and setup for solar success.

I would highly recommend True North Solar for their Solar system and their parent company KDP Electrical.

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