Buying solar products

This consumer information will help if you’re considering buying solar panels to generate power in a Queensland home.

Solar panels are different from solar hot water systems. In most cases, solar panels:

  • are mounted on the roof
  • connect to the mains power grid supply through an inverter.

The inverter transforms solar power into electricity that you can use in your home. This becomes your first source of electricity—anything extra will come from the grid.

Read more about solar power for your home, including a checklist for planning, installing and connecting your system to the grid as well as different ways to pay.

Before you buy

Before you buy and install solar panels for your home, make sure you research products, suppliers, grants and rebates to work out if the investment is the right one for you.

Ask your electricity supplier:

  • if they will be able to connect to the local network and get the feed-in tariff
  • what the solar feed-in tariffs and rates for peak and off-peak periods are
  • if there are any extra fees for switching to solar or switching to another electricity company offering cheaper bills or a higher feed-in tariff.

Ask solar power providers:

  • what size system is needed to cover your energy bills and the total installation cost
  • if any government rebates apply, how much you would get and what you need to do to receive them.

A few home solar schemes are offered in Queensland that provide benefits or lowered energy costs. Schemes include:

To be eligible for either scheme, you must use an accredited installer and approved products.

The Clean Energy Council is the body that trains and accredits installers and approves solar products.

Protect yourself

Before signing a solar power contract:

  • work out potential savings on your bills and how long it would take to recover the total cost of going solar
  • ask your local council or building authority if there are any building regulations for installing solar power
  • ask your state or territory consumer organisation if there is a limit on the size of the deposit a solar supplier can ask for up front.
  • read the contract carefully and ask about any unclear terms.

Do not pay the full price up-front. Some suppliers will ask for a deposit. We suggest you pay:

  • no more than 25% of the full price
  • with your credit card.

Credit cards let you request a charge-back through your bank. This is helpful if your goods never arrive.

Your solar panel installer must have:

Solar power agreements

There are a few solar power agreements available to you, including:

  • purchasing a system outright or financing it yourself
  • purchasing a system through an alternative arrangement, such as a
    • solar power purchase agreement (SPPA)
    • solar leasing agreement (SLA).

An SPPA is a contract where a business provides, installs and maintains your solar panels in exchange for you agreeing to buy the energy produced by the system for an agreed price and period.

An SLA is an agreement where a business provides and installs your solar panels in exchange for you agreeing to make periodic repayments on the system for an agreed period.

Feed-in tariffs

It may be possible for excess electricity not used in your house to be exported into the electricity grid for a payment. This payment is called a feed-in tariff.

If you live in South East Queensland, you may get a market feed-in tariff directly from your electricity retailer.

There is no mandated rate for electricity exported into the grid, so electricity retailers offer competitive, market-based tariff rates. This means you should shop around for the best deal.

If you live in regional Queensland, you can access a regional feed-in tariff.

Read more about feed-in tariffs.

Generating power

Several factors can affect how much power you generate. These include:

  • your system’s capacity (generally 1.5–4 kW)
  • the average sunlight hours
  • your panels’ position on the roof (usually facing north and angled to collect the most sunlight)
  • the inverter’s rating in kilowatts (make sure this is equal to or more than the solar panels’ output).

Most consumers find that solar panels generate just over one-third of the electricity the household uses. This will change depending on your individual use.

Average figures

On average, most household solar panels:

  • hold 1.5 kW of electricity
  • generate an average of 6.3 kW.h of electricity per day (based on average sunlight between Brisbane and Cairns).

Most households use about 18 kW.h of power each day. This means that if you live between Brisbane and Cairns, you can expect your power bill to reduce by about 1/3. Inland households (near the Northern Territory border) tend to get more sunlight each day. They can therefore generate a little more power.

Getting help and knowing your consumer rights

Consumer guarantees

Your electricity supplier and solar power provider must ensure their products and services meet the consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law.

Additionally, they must not:

  • provide you with false or misleading information in advertising, promotions or during their sales pitch
  • approach you in person or by phone or email using forceful or high-pressure sales tactics to get you to buy a solar panel you don’t want or can’t afford.

Consumer guarantees protect your rights whenever you buy goods and services.

If goods or services fail to meet a consumer guarantee, the business must remedy the problem. This will usually be through a refund, repair, exchange or repeat service.

Consumer guarantees apply for the reasonable life of the product, even if other forms of warranty have run out.

Read more about:

Making a complaint

If you have a problem with your solar panels, the installation or the plan, you should contact your solar provider or electricity supplier as soon as possible to explain the problem and the outcome you want. In many cases a simple phone call or visit can fix the problem.

You can also:

  • contact your installer and ask them to come back and inspect the system
  • call an independent licensed electrical contractor to inspect your system

It is a good idea to write a complaint letter or email, so the seller is clearly aware of the problem and what you want—and you have a record of your contact.

If you don’t reach a solution or remedy to a dispute, you can lodge an official complaint with us.