A Case Study: Switching to Solar Power - What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Choosing to go solar is the smartest decision you can make to reduce your electricity bills, safeguard your lifestyle or business against load shedding, and secure a future for the environment and your grandkids.

This was some of the thinking behind Mr. Rautenbach’s decision to install a brand-new solar power system in his Roodepoort home. With limited knowledge of the solar power landscape, Mr. Rautenbach commissioned an installer before knowing how to assess the reputation and competency of the installer.

The Challenge:

Solec SA was contacted by Mr Rautenbach when his solar power system failed just four months after being set up by an installer unknown to Solec SA. Mr Rautenbach was left without solar power after spending R160 000 on the system.

Our solar power experts spent time with the Mr Rautenbach, and soon discovered that the bad installation had gone wrong from his first interaction with the installer.

A sketchy quote: After failing to carry out a proper site evaluation of the property’s electrical needs, the customer was quoted on two cheap mass-produced inverter systems that would be paralleled to accommodate the peak loads of the household. He then compensated by oversizing the system instead of following the proper sizing process. He also failed to detail in his quote, the products or components he would be using and further failed to attach the applicable datasheets in respect of each component to the solar power system.

Missing certifications: Mr. Rautenbach’s original installer did not have all the certifications from relevant solar industry third parties and although he promised a Certificate of Compliance once the installation was complete, this never materialised.

Poor product quality and installation techniques: The installer used a cheap mild-steel frame that he welded together to mount solar panels on the roof – this was too heavy for the roof to support. When welding the structure together in situ, the sparks damaged some of the solar cells, rendering the warranty on the P.V. modules useless before they ever had a chance to produce.

The poorly painted mounting structure left rust marks that ran down the roof after a couple of rainy days.

The D.C. cables on the roof where not placed in conduit, leaving the wiring exposed to the sun and UV burns.

The solar panels, ranging from 300W to 350W, were mounted flat on the tile roof with some of the modules protruded above the peak of the roof.

The bad installation meant that even though the average life expectancy of the mass-produced inverters had a two year warrantee, and the lead acid batteries a two-year lifecycle – the system gave out after just four months.

The Solution:

  • Solec SA started with a thorough site inspected and followed up with a detailed quote, listing all products and components and attaching the relevant datasheets for solar panels, inverters and batteries, along with all relevant warranties and guarantees from both Solec SA and the manufacturer. We also walked Mr. Rautenbach through the specifications as well as any limitations the system might have.
  • We provided Mr. Rautenbach with a Certificate of Compliance. It should be kept in mind that many electricians have entered the solar power market, offering lower prices for installation. Some of these installers can be difficult to track down after installation and since most are likely not certified installers, manufacturer warranties are void in the case of faulty equipment.
  • Solec SA removed the old installation free of charge and installed our Superior Smile5 inverter with 20kW battery capacity. The circuit breakers on the distribution board had burnt out and had to be replaced at the customer’s expense.
  • We used the proper lightweight aluminium fixtures to mount new angled solar panels on the roof – these had previously been laid flat (solar panels absorb light but dislike heat and should be angled to allow air to flow under the panels to cool them down).
  • After noticing upon inspection that the D.C. cables on the roof where not placed in conduit, we rectified this so wiring would not be exposed to UV burns.
  • We also made sure the panels mounted over the peak of the roof where a thing of the past. Panels mounted in this way can present a high wind speed hazard where a large surface area is exposed to wind gusts.

At Solec SA we’re passionate about the solar power revolution. Nothing makes us happier than seeing our customers reap the benefits of their solar power systems with a minimum fuss and hassle. This means we apply the best quality and the highest standards to every phase of the solar power journey – pre, during and post project.

“Thank you very much for your excellent service with my solar installation at my house. I want to thank Andre and Stephen – your craftsmanship is of the best quality and I can say with great pride that you made my solar experience at Solec SA a 100 out of 100. I also want to thank JD for arranging the quote and installation. Andre and Stephen you are tops!" – Mr Rautenbach

 

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