The rising cost of electricity and a global drive towards earth-friendly energy alternatives have meant that more and more people are interested in going solar. Which means that more and more solar solutions suppliers are springing up. With so many suppliers out there, how do you choose the right one? Here are seven questions you should ask before you decide:
1. Does the supplier have a proven track record and a solid reputation?
The most important consideration when looking at Solar suppliers is to choose someone with a proven track record that shows they have the necessary experience and expertise to install reliable, efficient solar solutions.
Here, it is important to check that the supplier’s expertise lies specifically in solar energy. Your supplier should not only be up-to-date with the latest solar technologies, but they should have the experience of having completed numerous solar installations across a wide selection of residential challenges. Your solar solutions supplier should be able to show you examples of successful installations that they have done for other homeowners to give you an idea of the type of workmanship and service you can expect. In short, they should be able to provide references from satisfied homeowners.
Cala van der Westhuizen from Energy Partners Home Solutions, a leading energy solutions provider in South Africa that forms part of the PSG Group of companies, adds: “Find a supplier that has been in business for some time and runs a stable operation. Remember that the lifespan of an energy system is crucial to its value, which means that it should be producing electricity during the lifetime of the system. You should always ask yourself – will the supplier still be around in a couple of years?
No matter how big their business or how long they have been in the solar energy game, a supplier’s reputation always precedes them. This is why we advise you to always get
a third-party opinion. You can do this by looking up the supplier’s social media pages to see what people are posting about them on their wall or in the comments section. You can also search online for testimonials and reviews on sites like Hello Peter where the community rates and reviews suppliers. Lastly, if you see that your neighbours or friends have recently install a home solar system you should ask them what they thought of their supplier.
2. What is the return on investment?
Although solar technology is becoming increasingly more affordable, it could still be a costly exercise. That is why you should take into account whether the system you are thinking of installing will give you a good return on investment.
“A good home solar energy system can cut your electricity bill by as much as 70%. This means that on a R30 000 bill you can potentially save R20 000, depending on how much roof space you have available. So a proper solar solution should pay for itself with what it saves you on electricity. In fact, a carefully planned and designed solution could pay for itself within five years. Ask your supplier if they can make this promise,” says Van der Westhuizen.
If you are still in the planning stages of building your home and worried that a home solar energy system will drive up the price of your bond, keep in mind that the right home energy solution will save you more in electricity costs over the lifespan of the system than the increase in bond repayments. If you look at the below graph, it should give you a clear idea of the impact of a home energy system on a home loan payment over 20 years.
3. Are the supplier’s systems regulation-compliant?
Solar energy systems have to comply with certain local regulations and most municipalities require that you apply for permission to connect your system to the grid, otherwise you risk facing harsh penalties or even having your system disconnected. Your solar solutions supplier should advise you on, or even manage, this process on your behalf to help you ensure your system is compliant. It has happened often at Energy Partners Home Solutions that new customers with existing systems discover that their original suppliers never registered their systems, and that when they want to confront them they are either unwilling to help or they have shut their doors on the business.
4. Is the supplier using the latest technology?
Solar technology is improving at a rapid pace to keep up with the fast-growing industry. It is therefore important that your solar solutions supplier is up to date with the latest technology and is able to provide you with the best possible solar solutions on the market.
Van der Westhuizen agrees: “At Energy Partners Home Solutions, for one, we are continuously searching for new ways to make our clients less dependent on grid-tied electricity and help them save even more money on their utility bills. For example, we developed our own hybrid inverter, the Icon™ home energy system. It not only works like a regular inverter, but can also integrate a home’s storage batteries and manage its hot water system to maximise savings. It is a first of its kind in South Africa.”
5. Are the supplier’s solutions right for you?
A good solar solutions supplier takes the individual needs of their customers into account and offers customised solutions that meet their unique home energy requirements. Before installing a solar system, the supplier should first do a thorough home energy assessment, taking into account factors such as the size of the home, number of family members and the area in which the home is located.
“No two clients are the same. When it comes to water heating, for example, Energy Partners Home Solutions will recommend a solution based on the amount of sunshine in your area, the warm water demand of the household and also what has already been installed. Based on these factors, we will find you the ideal solution for your household,” Van der Westhuizen explains.
6. Does the supplier take a holistic approach?
Your solar solutions supplier should be able to see the bigger picture when it comes to helping you save on electricity. They must be able to offer you more than solar PV and recommend additional other energy-efficient solutions.
Van der Westhuizen adds: “As much as 40% of the energy that traditional solar PV systems could generate is wasted, as it often goes unused. A smart system designer will make sure that the maximum amount of energy is produced smart design, optimised usage and efficient storage.
7. Does the supplier have foresight?
Your solar solutions supplier must be able to help you plan properly. When implementing a solar solution into a new home design, ensure they are capable of working with your architect and builder to understand your requirements and effectively incorporate the system in your project plan. The solar energy supplier should instruct your builder or electrician to install the required wiring as part of your renovation or building project to avoid extra costs later and to ensure a neat installation.
It is also important that your supplier understands which loads are essential to you during power outages and which loads are less essential. It is recommended that you instruct your electrician to split your electrical distribution board (DB) into essential and non-essential loads. Your prospective solar solutions supplier should be able to help you determine whether your electrical distribution board will be big enough to accommodate the extra equipment required for the solar PV and backup system you need, because it is difficult to expand your electrical distribution board at a later stage.
Ask the right questions
As you can tell from these seven questions, price should not be the only consideration when choosing a solar solutions supplier. Therefore, when you compare quotes from different suppliers, do not forget to also ask the right questions to ensure you receive the right energy solutions.
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