A Checklist for Buying and Installing Grid-connected Systems

Information verified correct on October 27th, 2016

What you need to know about buying and installing solar panels.

From making the decision to install solar power in your home to opening your first cheque from the power company, do your photovoltaic (PV) solar power due diligence and complete this checklist for buying and installing grid-connected systems.

PV solar grid-connected systems buying and installation checklist

Choosing a PV solar panel system installer

Make sure you can answer yes to the following questions:

Installer accreditation
Is the workman certified in the Clean Energy Council (CEC) PV Solar Accreditation Scheme?
Is the contractor a CEC-approved solar retailer?
Can the installer can show photos from previous jobs?
What is your installer’s relationship with your distribution network service provider?
System certification
Are the solar PV panels certified by the CEC?
Does the solar PV system meet Australian standards?
  • Use an accredited installerMake sure you use a CEC-accredited PV solar installer or an approved solar retailer. Work done by a non-accredited installer may be ineligible to receive government solar concessions and rebates. Approved solar retailers  provide a five-year warranty on their systems. Only use accredited solar installers and adhere to the CEC Code of Conduct. You can search the Energy Council’s website for a list of accredited PV solar installers or approved solar retailers in your area.
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Getting a PV solar quote

Answer these questions once you have a quote for a PV solar system, and then get a second and third opinion.

What is the current electricity usage in your home? Can you reduce electricity usage and improve energy efficiency?
Has the service provider conducted an on-site inspection?
Have you been provided with an analysis of estimated electricity generation and electricity load analysis?
Does the solar configuration allow for a solar water system?
What is the payback time for the system? Are the returns in line with CEC guidelines?
Cost savings
Have you contacted your energy retailer to find out how solar electricity will affect your current electricity bill?
What is the feed-in tariff?
What rate are you eligible to get for your small-scale technology certificates?
What manufacturer and retailer warranties and guarantees are in place?
Specs and Costs
Does the quote list the specifications and price for major components of the solar system such as panels and the inverter?
Are there any additional costs for the application to connect to the grid, configuring your home power meter and switchboard, tree lopping and other expenses such as preparing your roof for the PV solar installation?
  • Solar hot water. Solar hot water systems are a great way to reduce electricity usage in your home. If you don’t have a solar hot water system already, you can get one installed along with the PV system in most cases. Otherwise, ensure there’s enough space left on the roof so a solar hot water system can be installed at a later date.
  • Costs and savings. Feed-in tariffs and government rebates are two ways you can make your PV solar system more affordable. A feed-in tariff (FIT) is how much money you get for the energy you sell back to the grid. A small-scale technology certificate is a government rebate for using renewable energy.
  • Small-scale technology certificates. The government awards credit certificates for your contribution towards reducing greenhouse gases. The more energy your PV solar system generates, the more small-scale technology certificates you earn. You can cash in your future certificates for the next 15 years, which significantly reduces the cost of PV solar installations.
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Shop around

Seek a second and even a third opinion before you sign any papers to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your new solar PV system.

Do you have a second and third quote?
Are you comparing equivalent quotations?
  • Sales tactics. The CEC advises that you watch out for one-size-fits-all system designs, quotes that offer large inverters with small systems and high pressure sales tactics from installers.
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Make sure the contract reflects the quote. You should be able to answer these questions after reading the contract to supply and install a PV system.

Does the contract provide a list of the equipment and system specifications?
Does the contract offer a full custom system design and roof plan?
Are your responsibilities and the responsibilities of the installer clearly stated in the system contract?
Has the installer sought the necessary approval from the council and electricity distribution company?
Does the contract have a cooling-off period?
Is the job start and end date listed in the contract?
Are the terms and conditions of the system warranty, workmanship warranty and performance warranty detailed in the contract?
Does the contract state whether the solar retailer or installer withholds the right to supply parts and products for future work on your solar electricity system?
Does the contract list which grants and rebates you’re eligible to receive?
Does the contract detail the net cost for parts and installation?
Does the contract display the total cost of the job including GST?
Does the contract detail any deposit you’re required to pay before work commences?
  • Warranty. Make sure you arrange with the workman or solar retailer to complete and submit any warranty forms.
  • Solar finance. If you want to get finance to cover the cost of your solar PV system, make sure the contract outlines the conditions of the loan.
  • Insurance.  If the value of the job is more than $20,000, the installer must provide a certificate of insurance.
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Has the solar installer or retailer submitted a network connection agreement and has the electricity retailer given approval?
Has the solar installer submitted the necessary paperwork for government rebates and the network connection agreement? Has the electricity retailer given approval to connect to the grid?
Do you have a certificate of compliance for the PV solar system?
Have you been provided with a system manual and copies of system specifications and technical data?
Is there any visible damage to the worksite and does the worksite look tidy?
Have you made a note of the date the solar system begins operation?
Have you been provided with maintenance schedule and information?
  • Monitoring. Make sure to monitor your system to find out how much energy you’re producing every quarter, half year and year. Check the actual energy output against the estimated electricity generation of your quoted system. If there is a discrepancy greater than 20%, there may be a problem with your grid-connected solar electricity system.

Shirley Liu

Shirley is's publisher for banking and investments. She is currently studying a Masters in Commerce (Finance) and is the author of hundreds of articles. She is passionate about helping Aussies make an informed decision, save money and find the best deal for their needs.

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