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Saturday, May 9, 2015

We finally invested in Solar Panels but what a Pain

We finally made the move to install solar panels hoping that it would be a simple process which didn't require us to spend days/weeks becoming familiar with the technology in order to make a decision.

Well it turned out to be a long drawn out saga and we did in fact have to learn all the details about solar panels and their installation.

Thinking it would be easy we selected three suppliers for quotations. We chose the three big electricity companies thinking that they would know what to do and be reputable. But not so. Only two responded. Neither was willing to attend the site without payment to perform the pricing. It was all done over the telephone. One supplier did this from a call centre in India. The other did it within the country but didn't respond to any follow up questions. They also turned out to have the poorest record of service with only 63% of customers NOT experiencing problems.

We then broadened the search criteria and invited another half a dozen or more companies to tender including a local electrician who came recommended. Three of these visited. As quotes came to hand we became further immersed in detail and potential issues. Rural installations have more limitations than suburban installations.

We found companies quoted on all manner of possible systems. And offerings were based on either our usage or the largest permissible system. Only three companies were concerned with the limitations of cable length and voltage rise which dictated the size of the final system. Most companies left it up to us to organise the new meter installation.

Some companies said we needed angling brackets others said we didn't. Some said 3KW was all we needed and said 5KW. As a general rule almost no one was concerned with optimisation.

We read all about panels and inverters and at least knew which were the best and most reliable brands.

The local electrician who visited spent 2 hours with us measuring and answering questions. He only dealt with the best quality materials. Over the ensuing couple of weeks we saw he and his crew in action on another site repairing water damaged pumping equipment and were impressed. Mentally we had chosen him and were hoping his pricing wouldn't be over the top.

His final proposed system was 3KW. Limited by the rather high voltage we have on this site. The pricing by our electrician was 10% below the nearest contender. He also included surge protection because of the voltage. And to assist us in measuring both our usage and our generation a pair of wireless monitors are included along with access to an web based analysis tool.

After many weeks of research, talking and comparing we were lucky enough to be hit by a rainbow. A local supplier/installer, prepared to visit, talk and build a relationship, be a one stop shop, came with a personal recommendation, demonstrated skills, designed a system for this site and nailed the whole deal home with an attractive quote.


  1. Great news! I found the big energy companies to be just as unweilding and had poor customer service. It was good to hear that you found someone local. When is the installation date?

    1. Our story gets better. when we accepted the local guys quote he said that they would start by the end of the following week. So that was the end of this week. They arrived yesterday and expect to finish today. An incredibly fast service. Pretty much within days of accepting we are getting a system. We have also asked to have a three way switch installed so that connecting the backup generator can be performed from a single point. And now with the monitoring equipment we can we will be able to size the new generator more accurately.