When it comes to affordable solar solutions providers, home owners have more options than ever before. However, not all companies have the proper expertise, and while home owners might be tempted to go for the cheapest option, the wrong choice could result in more problems than solutions.
This according to Cala van der Westhuizen, Head of Marketing and Sales at Energy Partners Home Solutions, a division of Energy Partners, and part of the PSG group of companies, who says that as the cost of solar panels has become more affordable to property owners, many consumers in South Africa have been able to afford installing photovoltaic (PV) systems in their homes. “This in turn has resulted in an increase in the number of solar solutions providers entering the market.”
He adds that not all suppliers are equal in the quality of service that they provide. “Home owners have to make sure that they get the best value, best support and best installation available if they choose to install PV systems. All of these factors have a direct impact on the payback period for their systems.”
Van der Westhuizen says that there are seven questions that every home owner should ask a solar solutions provider before engaging their services.
- Does the business have a proven track record and a solid reputation?
“First and foremost, home owners have to choose a company with a proven track record, which shows that their employees have the necessary experience and expertise to install reliable, efficient solar solutions,” Van der Westhuizen says.
“Find a company that has been in business for a number of years and is a stable operation. Remember that the lifespan of an energy system is crucial to its value, and a good system can reasonably be expected to last between 20 and 25 years. You therefore need to be sure that the company will remain in business for the entire period you will be using your system in order to deliver maintenance support,” he adds.
Van der Westhuizen also advises home owners to get a third-party opinion. “You can do this by looking up the company’s social media pages, online testimonials and reviews on sites like hellopeter.com, or speaking to neighbours or friends who have recently installed home PV systems.”
- What is the return on investment?
Van der Westhuizen explains that a good home solar energy system should reduce electricity costs by up to 70%, depending on the amount of roof space that the home has available.
“A proper solar solution should pay for itself in cost savings, and 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.
- Are their systems regulation-compliant?
Solar energy systems have to comply with local regulations and most municipalities require that home owners apply for permission to connect their systems to the grid, says Van der Westhuizen.
“Your solar solutions supplier should advise you on, or even manage, this process on your behalf to help you ensure that your system is compliant. In our experience, we have seen home owners with existing solutions discover that their original suppliers never registered their systems. This opens property owners up to the risk of steep fines,” he warns.
- Is the company 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 the company 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 says.
- Is the solution right for you?
According to Van der Westhuizen, 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 company 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,” Van der Westhuizen explains.
- Does the supplier take a holistic approach?
“As much as 40% of the energy that traditional solar PV systems could generate, often goes unused. A smart system designer will make sure that the maximum amount of energy is produced as a result of smart design, optimised usage and efficient storage,” says Van der Westhuizen.
He adds that a solar solutions provider should be able to see the bigger picture when it comes to helping home owners save on electricity, and be able to recommend additional energy-efficient solutions as well.
- Does the supplier have foresight?
Finally, Van der Westhuizen says that the expertise to help the homeowner plan properly, are vital. When implementing a solar solution into a new home design, it is vital that the supplier is capable of working with an architect and builder to understand the home’s requirements and effectively incorporate the system in the project plan.
The company should have the skills to instruct your builder or electrician on how to install the required wiring as part of your renovation or building project, to avoid extra costs later and to ensure a neat installation, he explains.
“When you compare quotes from different suppliers, do not forget to ask these vital questions. There are a multitude of factors that have to be taken into consideration when finding the right solar solutions provider, by going on initial costs alone homeowners could end up wasting money in the long term,” van der Westhuizen concludes.