Why is it important to buy a quality solar system in Cairns?

Many local solar interested house owners would not be aware that Cairn’s has one of the most unforgiving climates when it comes to the cheaper range of solar panels. Why do we know this?

The Cairns climate is tough on solar panels

Because Cairns and the region surrounding Cairn’s was home to the biggest solar panel replacement programs in Australia only a few years ago, with over 120,000 panels being replaced, or where the warranty was worthless, solar panels in Cairns simply had to be dismantled and thrown away.

The reason was that in 2015 some of the cheaper solar panel manufacturers went away from Dupont style backing sheets and tried a more cost-effective solution, with unfortunate consequences. In Cairns the local combination of humidity and long spells of warm temperatures meant that the encapsulation of the solar cells, being the laminate surrounding the solar cells, opened up and initially minute particles of water entered the panels.

Ruined Solar Panels After some time the cracks opened up wide and at that time corrosion also started in those solar panels.
Now we know that water and electricity do not mix, so these panels then caused water resistance alerts in the inverters and to protect the homeowners and for general electrical standard safety reasons, those inverters shut down.

The issue was now that when one solar owner had 20 panels, maybe initially only 4-5 had this issue, so solar installers in Cairns of cheap solar had to be on the roof testing every PV panel to work out which one had the water ingress issue. Unfortunately, after the initial 5 faulty solar modules were replaced, soon after the string inverter alerts started again, only to reveal that the other remaining 15 panels had issues now as well.

So, the lesson from this exercise for many experienced local solar energy businesses in Cairns has been, avoid the cheap gear, because you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, many new solar installers did not learn this lesson and still try to sell on price, rather than on long term outcome.

But now back to the overall question: Why is it important to buy a quality solar system in Cairns?

There are usually 2 types of customers looking at going with a solar panel system installation. One type of customer buys on price and hopes that his/her cheap priced system will last long enough to make a solid return on investment, hoping to reduce their electricity bill. The 2nd type of customer does their research and then buys based on an informed decision.

Quality of the Equipment, Quality of the Installation and the Quality of the After Sales Service.

Each of these three elements are important because for example good gear and a poor install is still a poor outcome. Poor gear and a good installer – will still not lead to a lasting system. Most importantly, while some fast-talking solar salespersons claim that solar has no moving parts – so nothing can go wrong, this is not true. We found that over our decade in the renewable energy industry that After Sales Service is one of the most important aspects to get the best financial return out of solar, but more about this later.

Solar Installer Cairns Replenishable Energy installs Commercial, Offgrid and Residential home Solar in the wider Cairns region

The components of a Quality Solar System

A quality solar system is made up of many parts and elements, which means to buy a quality solar system, is to buy a number of high-quality components of the solar system, not just a good panel or a quality inverter, but also all the rails, solar panel clamps, other switches, fuses, safety isolators and the right size cabling.

Then of course, all the good gear in the world is not that useful, if one has not found a reliable, well trained, and qualified solar installer. For example, our regional wind loading regularly requires cyclone type bracketing, which in simple terms means more brackets on the rail, than let’s say in Sydney. Now these brackets in good quality can cost less than $20 each, but you would be surprised how many cheap system offerings have to cut back on overheads , like 10 additional brackets.

The end customers will never see the difference, because the solar panels hide the rails, so one would not know if that rail is held in with 2, 4 or 10 brackets. Nevertheless, in the next major cyclonic storm, this small detail can make a big difference.

Let’s look at the solar system components one by one and the important aspects to consider, especially in a place like Cairn’s where heat and humidity put inverters and solar panels under one of the highest stress levels in the whole of Australia, and cyclonic winds will put enormous wind loads on rails, brackets and panels alike.

Solar panels and the inverter solution are one of the major components of a renewable energy system. Solar panels will be subjected to more than 100,000 hours of continuous sunlight, extremes of heat and cold, wind, rain, hail, and other weather elements over the course of their 25-year output and in many cases product warranty period. Australia has an unusually harsh climate for an electrical device, and Cairns humidity and winds are then more factors, on top of the usual level of weather exposure.

With comprehensive assessment and quality control, a good brand like LG helps to ensure that you get the most from your system over its relatively long life. A brand like lG also means you are dealing with a manufacturer that employs over 300 staff in Australia and has an annual income stream of more than $1 Billion from their many products from TVs to fridges and air-conditioning. These facts give your product warranty a stronger meaning.

A high-quality panel differs from a low-cost panel in the sealing materials used, such as backing sheets, soldering, and solar cell efficiency. For example, while LG panels are slightly more expensive, they are designed to provide consistent performance year after year.

Solar systems with inferior products are now failing after only a few years on the roof. Unfortunately, in some cases, the installation companies have gone out of business, knowing they delivered short lasting gear, so they left before the warranty avalanche hit them.

The owner of a cheap home solar system has to be prepared to get the run around when something goes wrong because the initial price never allowed for a proper After Sales Service.

One of the key issues with cheaper panels is the problem of delamination. When the bond between the plastics and the glass separates. This is a problem for a solar panel because it allows air and moisture inside, causing corrosion and imminent failure. Delamination will occur if the following conditions are met:

  • Inferior plastics/backing sheets are used, or
  • The lamination time has been reduced to save on electricity, meaning that the thermal properties of the plastics did not allow a proper melting of the two encapsulating sheets. Therefore the bond will open up via thermal expansion after some period of being exposed to heat and cold;
  • Plastics and glass are not completely clean and compatible;
  • The laminating machine is worn out, misaligned, or has poor pressure and temperature regulation.

NOTE: Bubbles, creases, or imperfections on the plastic rear surface indicate poor lamination workmanship and can be an early sign of delamination.

Low quality solar panels
The next most important component of a solar system is the inverter solution. The inverter is the most demanding component of any solar energy system. A string inverter converts the direct current (DC) generated by the solar panel into alternating current that can be used by the grid or in your home.

When the intensity/radiation of sunlight changes, or when a cloud obscures the sun, the inverter must adjust the electricity being converted immediately. During the day, an inverter never stops working. It naturally switches off at night.

Inverters are complex electronic devices that, like any other device, can be built for a lower cost or for robustness, long life and performance. It is difficult to predict how the quality of the components used in each inverter will translate into life expectancy unless you are an electronics engineer. But here at Replenishable Energy, we have experienced and seen in the last decade, which inverter brands stand the test of time.

Although the cost of inverters has dropped in recent years, as a general rule, you get what you pay for. From the outside, they all appear to be a colourful box, with some plugs, but it is the inside that will make a significant difference in the coming years. North Queensland, and specifically Cairns has insects, dust, and can be hot. These conditions can all be the enemy of electronic equipment , including solar inverters.

Typically, success is monitored by features, conversion efficiency (how much power is lost when transferring DC to and from AC?) and the inverter’s ability to deliver power under a variety of conditions. We recommend reading the inverter datasheets and consulting with your installer. We will only recommend the top brands like the Austrian made Fronius inverter, as they last in the field and also offer a strong 5 plus 5 year warranty. Avoid offers that appear to be too good to be true.

Another component for your quality solar system are the accessories, also known as balance of system.

Replenishable van installerQuality accessories that are certified to Australian standards are critical for the long-term peace of mind performance of your solar power system. All high-quality products, such as your LG solar panels, a well-known European brand inverter, and branded mounting system accessories, will help you extend the system’s life. Remember that LG NeON H panels for example have a 25-year Product Warranty, and you want all components of the solar system to last as long as possible. While cheap solar inverters have failed locally as quickly as 2 years despite long warranties, quality inverters installed in 2010 by us are still operational today.

Another important aspect is the quality of the solar panel installation. Many of the solar sales companies use subcontractors, where the installation quality can be a hit or miss. At Replenishable Energy we use our well trained and accredited local inhouse staff, which will ensure a consistent high-quality job.

Even if you acquire all components of high quality, they will be useless if you proceed with a cost-cutting installer. Regularly we see manufacturers of quality gear push back on warranty claims due to obvious and very poor installation practices.

So when choosing a solar system a $1800 price difference for a system for example, sounds like a lot of money, but when one considers that a 6 to 7kW solar system in Cairns can return over $1600 a year in savings, a system that costs $1,800 more, but lasted 10 years longer, actually gave a $14,200 additional financial benefit to their owner.

We say Buy Quality – Buy Once, Buy Cheap, Buy Twice.

For any questions do not hesitate to contact Replenishable Energy on (07) 4031 2251 / 1300 682 773 to get more info.