You've picked the perfect solar system... what happens next?
We put together this quick guide, so you know what to expect, and are ready to avoid potential pitfalls.
Before Installation Day
Being prepared will mean you're far more likely to have a great solar installation experience. Sometimes things go wrong at the last minute. A design change is necessary. The inverter is installed somewhere annoying. Or product specifications changes.
Before committing to a solar quote, expect to see a design and confirmation of which solar panels and inverter are going to be used, and where they're going to be located.
Sometimes, despite the design, on-site changes are necessary. A product is out of stock, or a site inspection missed something.
We're always happy to review draft designs (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need a second opinion.
Checking the Contract
The contract with your solar retailer should document who is responsible for any add-on costs. If your switchboard is old (below is a good example!), it probably needs to be upgraded before solar can be installed - at your expense.
Your electricity distributor may also apply charges to reconfigure or upgrade your meter so that it works with solar. These costs typically aren't included in your solar contract, and you'll need to get in touch with your electricity retailer to confirm them. While you're at it, it's a good chance to confirm feed-in tariff your retailer pays (some offer above the mandated minimum - this is what are you are paid for electricity exported to the grid).
Then there are "make good" costs. If the installer breaks a roof tile, who is responsible for replacing it? This gets tricky when there are old, fragile roof tiles which are difficult to find.
Remember that, in addition to the contract terms and conditions, you are protected by Australian Consumer Law, which provides certain automatic guarantees on the quality of products and services.
On the Day
If you can, be home during installation. Have the design on-hand, and chat with your installers beforehand to make sure you're all on the same page. Depending upon the design complexity and number of installers (and maybe labourers and apprentices), expect the installation to take about a day.
Then, bring on the cups of tea, and let them get stuck into it. They'll have to interrupt your power supply briefly to complete the installation — excuse for a BBQ lunch, we say.
Towards the end of the day they'll finalise commissioning, inspections, and walk you through your new solar system. Expect to hear about any recommended maintenance steps, instructions on how to safely shut down the system, accessing the online monitoring and generally making sure everything is working as it should be. You should get all this in the form of a hard-copy manual, as well.
In Victoria, your solar system will need a compulsory inspection before it can be connected permanently to the grid. Decent solar retailers will have this all lined up so you don't have to wait too long. Don't make your final payment until this is complete, just in case there are any defects which need to be resolved.
Keep an eye out for your next electricity bill, to confirm your feed-in tariff is being paid. Your solar retailer needs to pass on some connection documentation before this can happen... if you'd like to be proactive, feel free to give both your solar and usual electricity retailer a call after a week or two to confirm.
If you have monitoring installed (which we certainly recommend), login to the portal to check how your system is performing. In lieu of monitoring, you can take a look at the inverter display during the day. Keep in mind you'll only see the rated output under ideal conditions. For example, if you have a 5kW system, chances are that you'll only see 5kW being delivered in summer, under clear skies, towards the middle of the day.