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10 questions to ask your solar power installers

Thinking about solar power? Many Kiwis are beginning to seriously consider this as their home energy source. 

However, before you commit, it's important to understand what goes into the installation process, as it is a big decision. In the midst of all your important home decisions, getting insider insight — namely, what actually goes into setting up solar — is priceless. 

Being fully educated on the process is the only way to be a savvy, confident solar customer and get your money’s worth. With that in mind, this blog discusses the 10 crucial questions to bring up to your solar consultant so you’re fully prepared.

1. Should my solar system be big enough to just lower my bills, or completely get rid of them?

Your solar system can be big enough to supply all the electricity you normally use at home which should help you take a chunk out of your utility payments. 

The size is really only limited by your budget. Your consultant can sketch out projected savings relative to system size, to help you decide. 

2. What angle should my roof be, and where should my solar panels face, to generate the most power?

The roof should ideally be angled at about 25 degrees and the panels should face northward. But even without the perfect angle or orientation, there are other options, such as tilt framing, or installing on your roof as-is if the panels will still yield enough power. 

3. What important documentation should I receive?

The two most crucial documents you should get include a detailed quote and terms and conditions. The quote should show you exactly how every item (inspections, labour, etc.) figures into the total. The terms and conditions should set expectations for using your system and dealing with the company in the future. 

Looking into how solar will effect your energy bill? Read this article is about how going with solar energy for your home can stabilise and lower your monthly charges.

4. How do I get in touch if something goes wrong with my system?

The consultant should clarify who handles customer service and troubleshooting (whether themselves or a third party), and the best ways and times to reach them. 

5. How do I remove and replace solar panels, in case I need to make repairs on my roof?

To minimise risks to yourself, the solar system and your property, your consultant should handle the job.

6. Does the solar system come with its own insurance, or will I need to extend my home insurance policy to cover it?

Sometimes, but not always, home insurance can cover a solar system, with no separate or extended policy needed. Ask your insurance provider, and see what the solar company suggests.

7. Which manufacturers will the consultant source the solar system’s parts (panels, mounts, inverters) from?

The solar company should openly tell you whom they buy their parts from. Having this information on hand is important so you can verify quality, look up reviews, or compare manufacturers before signing off.

8. Will the consultant take care of all setup and maintenance?

Some solar companies do everything themselves, while others outsource various parts of the job. It’s important to know how your consultant will do things.

9. How does grid-tied solar power work, and how can I 'sell back' extra energy?

Solar panels collect sunlight and pass the generated direct current (DC) onto an inverter for conversion to usable AC power. A grid-tied solar system remains connected to the local utility grid, letting you automatically draw on grid electricity if you use up your solar energy for the day. 

Any surplus solar power you generate is fed into the grid. In a buyback tariff arrangement, your utility then pays you a small amount for the extra energy. 

10. How can I be sure repairs are done quickly, should my system need service under warranty?

A reputable solar company will be very responsive if something go wrong. They should tell you what kind of timelines to expect, even from third-party services, if you call in for repairs. 

By asking all of these questions, you’ll be a much wiser, more prepared solar consumer. Please remember: solar comes with many perks, but knowing the ins and outs will help you make a better decision and be confident you'll be getting the most from your system and whichever company you choose to work with. Be sure to get all of the facts you need before installing, and you will be much better off.

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