A COSTLY MISTAKE YOU SHOULD AVOID
The solar power industry is in a price war at the moment. Due to everything that is happening in the world, we are seeing a number of solar installers dropping their prices to win business. You would think this would be a good thing, but it’s turning into an absolute disaster.
The Hidden Crisis behind cheap solar quotes on quality systems
The solar industry is currently plagued with shoddy installers who are leaving behind customers with faulty systems that cost thousands of dollars to fix. We aren’t talking about a solar panel underperforming slightly, it’s way worse than that. We receive dozens of calls from people desperately looking for help to get their system fixed. Unfortunately, the money it costs to fix these installations is typically thousands of dollars more than the money saved by going with the cheapest quote.
The promise of a low-price, along with the benefits of free energy, can quickly make these solar systems irresistible. But a solar installation requires a team of skilled installers to spend all day on your roof installing a mounting kit, running high voltage cables and completing an electrical job. It’s also nice when they clean up after themselves. If a professional did not install your system, a lot of things can go wrong. Solar systems have an intricate nature. Many problems can be avoided when the installation is done right the first time.
You get what you pay for in this industry. Instead of saving, you could end up paying double (sometimes triple).
Installers are Hiding behind Brand name products
Even when installers use well-known brands for their inverters and solar panels, they might not use the same high quality in other materials. They will discount the price by thousands compared to the industry average, but they will then claw that money back by cutting corners. Of course, this will affect the lifespan of the system.
Examples of cost-cutting include hiring inexperienced employees that didn’t pass training courses for installing panels, which may include backpackers, where you end up risking your safety. Not to mention that this installer will be avoiding any post-installation support. And good luck trying to get them back out to your house if they damage your roof!
Many consumers would look at the pricing first and then choose the most affordable. And this is the reason why we are regularly asked by manufacturers to help with service calls where the customer has tried to manage the issue with their initial installer who is not answering their calls or simply is out of business.
The ‘cheap solar’ disaster: 1 in 4 solar systems are faulty
Back in 2016 SolarCity (nowadays rebranded as Tesla), one of the largest solar installers in California who was known for selling discounted solar systems went into liquidation. They join nearly 1,000 installers in the last few years that have now left the industry. Leaving behind and estimated 575,000 solar orphans. There are thousands of horror stories posted online, and we get dozens of calls a week from people trying to get their systems back online after people give up on trying to get help from their original installer.
Everyone understands the basic reasons why the price of televisions varies so much, and yet when it comes to solar power so many of us go hunting for the cheapest quote we can find. Every day I hear people saying, “yes, you have good reviews, your system sounds great (etc.), but I have a quote here for the same system that is $1,500 cheaper…”
IT’S NOT THE SAME SYSTEM!!!
If a 60″ television from Sony with the latest technology costs $10,000, and another 60″ from a no-name brand costs $3,000, few people would claim it’s the same television just because they are the same size. Of course, the whole problem of choosing a solar power system is that solar is a completely new industry. Solar it is the sum of all the elements: equipment, workmanship, engineering and the quality of the installation.
The fact is that the equipment cost is the same for all installers, as the distribution companies are limited and the same for everyone. GreeMpower builds some of the largest commercial solar installations in California, some of which are at utility scale with thousands of panels being installed. Every year we buy hundreds of containers of solar panels, some of them directly from the manufacturer. Then, how is that possible that we still see some installers offering under market prices? The answer is simple: Many corners are going to be cut.
Throughout our company’s existence we have come across customers, who once were considering installing their system with us, calling years or months later to help fix their system as the installer from whom they received “the cheap quote” is no longer in business or has refused to correct the issue for months.
The sad reality of this industry is that most installers will avoid working on systems they didn’t install. And the ones who are willing to do so will charge a premium for the work which will wipe away any expected savings.
What you Should know about Solar Equipment
A quality solar power system is designed to last 25 years and beyond. And now premium solar panels such as Q-Cell G6+, LG, Silfab or Solaria come with a 25-year product warranty to back that up. When installed to the highest standards, little to no servicing is required.
The brain of the system is the inverter or micro-inverters. The main issue with single inverters like SMA or SolarEdge is that they die and are unable to be fixed. The inverter converts DC to AC and is the working part of the system. In the unlikely event that your solar system needs to be serviced, time is money because your system is turned off until it is fixed. Micro-inverters, on the other hand, will allow your system to keep working and give you time to replace the faulty ones which will not affect the energy production of your system as much.
Other components of the installation, like the DC isolators who most people know nothing about. And yet cheap DC isolators can cause all types of problems, including fires. If you buy the cheapest solar system you can find, there is a higher chance that the installer will cut corners on the quality of electrical components. Quality DC isolators are around 5 times more expensive than the cheap ones, and this is why we only use the best models available. Even better – an Enphase system doesn’t have high voltage DC at all, as the conversion to AC happens under the panel. It’s safer with no DC isolators and hence there is no chance of this happening.
At GreeMpower, we only offer premium electrical components, premium solar panels with a 25-year product warranty and Enphase micro-inverters. They have ‘best in class’ efficiency ratings, close to perfect reliability and lightning-fast service when needed. It’s incredible how much of a difference it makes when the manufacturer’s service department answers the phone after a couple of rings, processes a claim and ships a replacement immediately.
If all you are looking for is a bargain, there are two main issues that we see constantly. Either the output isn’t what it should be, or the components simply break and need to be replaced. It’s rare for a cheap system to show any signs of trouble in the first year or two (by which time you have left a glowing review of how great your system is), but it is at around the 4 year mark (just when you start to get your money back) that things start to go wrong. But unlike a television – you can’t just throw out a solar system and buy a new one.
Avoid the Cowboys
Now we get into the murky side of the solar industry where companies rely on the brand names of the products they are installing, only to strip quality out of the installation service to cut costs and use tricks and confusion to convince customers to buy.
At the end of the day, any installer can quote good brands. It’s what happens after you sign the contract that really matters. A 2019 report highlighted the biggest issues in the solar industry were: disappointing output, poor system design and an inverter that needed to be replaced 3 times!
An example creating confusion is about the warranties of the system. They will reference the 25-year performance warranty of the solar panels, making you believe that this is the energy the manufacturer guarantees which is far from the truth. They will also avoid discussing the 10-12-year guarantee of the inverter (SMA or SolarEdge) which will need to be replaced during the lifetime of the system. Neither the product warranty of the panels themselves (non premium panels offer from 10-12 year product warranty).
Although there is growing pressure for the CSLB to clean up these installers in the solar industry, unfortunately, for now, it is buyer beware.
The majority of companies’ sales representatives are often on a commission-only pay structure which forces them to do whatever is necessary to get you to sign on the dotted line.
The good news is it has never been easier to find a reputable installer. One of the first things you should look for is the company’s warranties, like an Energy Production Warranty and their post-sale service.
These are other questions you should have answered before choosing your installer:
- What happens if the solar installation does not perform as estimated?
- Will the company compensate you – add more panels to correct the lack of energy production?
- Will these installers go out of their way to help you if something goes wrong?
- Is your project being managed by a project manager or a sales person?
- Does the company process all the paperwork (city permits, utility, rebates)?
- Does the Installation Agreement Contract clearly describe all installer responsibilities?
- Is everything you have been told reflected in this contract?
- Do they have an educational approach and try to give you as much information as possible?
Be careful – solar sharks are everywhere, and they are ready to prey on uninformed customers.
GreeMpower has industry-leading install standards, and we do not cut corners. The installation of a solar power system is a service: there are good installs and bad installs. Our reputation as the best Solar Installer in California (based on both industry and customer feedback) is primarily about our installation standards and our post-installation service & support.
The Cheapest Quote is rarely the Best Value
We recommend choosing quality products. Install your system through a company with a stellar reputation that offers full warranty support, service, system monitoring and a fair (rather than a cheap) price.
We have built GreeMpower on these principles, and these is why we have been ranked as one of the top 5 solar installers in California (and the largest installer of Enphase systems in California). We did so because we believed there was a need for a company that delivered quality, reliability and honesty in all aspects of its dealings with customers, suppliers and staff.
We looked around the industry and found there were many instances where customers had been made unrealistic promises, overpaid for or been supplied with shoddy products or services and often left without after-sale customer service.
It was, therefore, one of our main objectives in founding GreeMpower to set a standard for the industry to follow – a standard where customers know they are receiving the right advice for their own situation, that they will receive what was promised, and in the event of a problem, that the company and its team will deal with it to the best of their ability.
This means we do not sell ‘cheap solar’. If you search for cheap solar you will not find a listing for GreeMpower simply because we are not able to provide a quality solar system for the prices seen at the bottom end of the market.
So if you want a 6kW system in 2021 for under $16,200, you will find one. But after reading this article I hope you will come to see that the lower price of the system might not be worth the risk involved. Don’t join the dozens of calls we get every week asking for help on a system that is around 4 to 5 years old and doesn’t work anymore.
GreeMpower is the Trusted Solar Company in California