1. Make sure you get solar panels that will last
A good starting point is to make sure that the panels you’re looking at are graded Tier 1. But, keep in mind that not all Tier 1 panels are good quality. Think of it like a car – Australia requires certain safety standards, but that doesn’t mean that all cars will perform equally during crash testing.
Third party testing is extremely important. DNV-GL does stress testing of panels far beyond the minimum Australian standards. A select few panels get ‘top marks’ on these tests and tend to perform 2-3 times better when factoring in elements like extreme heat, salt-water corrosion, high winds and impact from things like hail.
One of the easiest ways to make sure your panels will last the test of time is by choosing panels that scored well on the DNV-GL report and checking the amount of solar power that is warrantied over the 25 year panel lifespan. The typical Tier 1 panel warranties that the panel will still produce 80% of its original power at the end of 25 years, but top-quality panels will be guaranteed beyond that – typically between 82% and 85%.
At ShineHub we offer panels from a range of providers, but the panels we typically recommend all have a few things in common; they are all Tier 1, they have all passed the DNV-GL tests with flying colours and they have a power production warranty over the standard 80% figure offered by most providers.
2. Check your electricals
You’ve probably heard occasional horror stories of solar systems bursting into flames. Firstly, this is extremely rare! Secondly, it’s typically not the panels themselves that cause fires, it’s the wiring that connects the panels to the house that can break down and cause issues. Really, it’s no different to any other electrical wiring in houses – if it’s installed properly there’s a very minimal risk of any issues.
Most homeowners don’t know how to properly check the quality of electrical handiwork, so shonky solar installers can take advantage of this by cutting corners. It’s critical that homeowners get photo documentation of all the electrical work that has been completed to be checked by an expert. Unfortunately, this is not common in the industry.
At ShineHub, we require our installers to submit photo documentation of all electrical work, fittings and safety fuses as part of our quality assurance process. Once checked, these are provided to the customer post-installation for their records.
3. Check certifications
Make sure that your battery installer has specific battery certification and training. Unfortunately, battery certification is not legally required in all states of Australia, meaning that some installers installing batteries with very little knowledge of how to do it properly. As you may imagine, this is not a recipe for success.
Government programs like the SA Home Battery Scheme have required a battery certification for anyone installing batteries (which is great) but if you’re not in South Australia, it’s easy to get fooled by a dodgy installer. Most solar companies advertise that they use ‘Clean Energy Council certified installers’, but it’s important to understand that this often refers to installers with a panel certification only, not batteries. Only about 20% of installers nationally are certified to install batteries (but 100% of ShineHub installers that install a battery system are!).
All batteries are different – some can be installed both indoors and outdoors, others can only be installed indoors (usually in a garage). It’s critical that batteries are installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. If a battery that is not rated for outdoor installation is installed outdoors, for example, it is likely that it will break down as soon as it is exposed to the elements – especially rain.
The Australian Standards office is still trying to figure out a policy for batteries. But, our counterparts in Europe have very well-established standards that we use as our benchmark. This includes fallback safety fuses that automatically turn the battery off if the battery is in unsafe conditions (for example, many batteries automatically shut off if the ambient temperature is over 40 degrees celsius).
Additionally, the Clean Energy Council has a Battery Assurance Program which is a voluntary program that independently tests battery products for safety and reliability.
Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton described the program in a recent interview with Renew Economy. “Simply put, products that qualify for the Clean Energy Council’s Battery Assurance Program meet the standard we should all expect for a major appliance we are installing in our homes. The products have been independently tested to confirm they are up to the necessary electrical safety and quality standards.”
You can view the list of approved batteries for the Battery Assurance Program here. All batteries that we offer are on the list of approved batteries.
At ShineHub we also require all installers to be battery certified, if installing a battery. We also required photo documentation of the installation as part of our quality assurance process, so we can ensure that everything is done in accordance with manufacturers’ specifications and proper safety fuses are put in place.