You may classify me as a potential residential customer of a small hybrid solar solution. My electrical know-how and experience are limited to Ohm’s Law in high school (1967). Of necessity (I live in Pretoria SA), I have read a lot solar lately, understood some of what I have read, and have become very interested in energy. Know just enough now to be very dangerous.
My contribution to this forum will be mostly questions. Hopefully they will be interesting. I anticipate that I can learn a lot here.
I am trying to understand the supply chain of the solar industry in SA. On the web it looks like all installers are also dealers/suppliers. Dealers have installers but it appears that there are no installers that are totally freelance, so to speak – unaffiliated consultants. This is understandable because an installer needs training/experience/certification in the products they commission, but it also implies a bias. Are there any such freelance consultants, and who are they?
Put another way, is there an installer that will advise and allow me to procure the components of a solar kit from various suppliers and invoice me only for consultation, installation, commissioning, CoC and possibly monitoring afterwards?
This bias is a real and limiting thing. It worries me that the suppliers I had discussions with do not have a wider interest in solar technology. For example, the three (one is a Master Installer) that I had contact with knew nothing about micro-inverters. I am just critical because it makes me feel unsafe.
I don’t think there are any installers world wide let alone in SA who can state with certainty that they are 100% unbiased.
There are certainly those who are less biased / more open and honest, depending how you look at it, but everyone will have their preferred / favourite in the end.
I think it’s only natural, as you said guys get training, certification, build up experience maybe in a certain product. Over time they build up trust in the product, trust in the reliability, support system behind it, ease of working with the product etc.
This is a difficult situation. We did this before and ran into trouble a few times. As an installer, our cost includes support and after sales service. When you buy the material, you have an agreement with your supplier, on support as well as any warranty claims in the future.
What happened in almost all the cases where we got involved in similar situations is the following:
If a problem arises, or some hardware fail, you will immediately phone me to assist, this might lead to a trip to your site and possibly a few hours of fault finding and assessments. Lets say the inverter failed, you will ask me to remove it, and then you will return it to your supplier, and this is where the fun starts. His first response will either be “Sorry the equipment was installed incorrectly” or “We need to assess the unit”. Should they choose to assess it, you will need to answer questions flying up and down for weeks, photos of the installation, what surge protection do you have, what fuses did you use, COC please, and a 1000 more…
During this time, you will ask me to assist with all the questions and I would need to constantly try and proof that I did the installation correctly. They use silly arguments like we needed to use a different brand of Surge arrestors, while I try and proof that the brand I use is certified by SABS and may be used in this specific application. All of this takes time and a tremendous effort, and maybe they will approve the claim, or maybe not.
Most of the company’s that sells to the public directly, will try all in their power to prove that the installation was done incorrectly to avoid replacing it. Us as installers, build a reputation with our suppliers and after a few years, they know, when I rock up at their counter with a “Faulty” unit, that they can replace it without doubt because it was installed correctly, and I would have done all in my power to assess it correctly.
It would take a fraction of the time, getting my unit replaced ve getting your self bought unit replaced.
We dont do it anymore, we have lost too much time and money doing it.
I will only do it for existing clients as a favour, but we sign the necessary documents beforehand that clearly state that he is on his own with any RMA claims in the future. We will assist in assessing the situation and making the call, but that’s it.
I know this sounds rude, but we have burned our fingers way too many times.
Other problems we experienced is that the client buys the cheapest equipment available and normally the equipment is not compatible, or he chooses to work with Lead Acid or Gel batteries, and that is problematic in its own. Trying to commision a system with non compatible equipment or a poor monitoring platform become a nightmare quickly and the client expect you to get it running without understanding the limitations of the system he chose.
Lastly, to find a reputable installer that is not currently booked 3 months in advance will also proof to be a mission. Very few of them will accept new work especially if it involves less profit… And if you find an installer that does not have work currently , you should “carefully” consider using or not using him. There should be a good reason for a solar installer in the current situation in SA to not have work. Just the thought of it makes my hair stand up…
I saw the installer more as a consultant that advises me and not as someone that I force to install incompatible or inferior equipment. By consultant I meant somebody with knowledge of all the available technology and the ability to offer most of them as an option for installation. Also as someone with enough knowledge of the industry to sub-contract where needed.
I get a strong impression that breakdowns are frequent and that support is a big part of your costs. In your experience, which component breaks down the most and what is mostly the reason for that? Is it the inverter and is it because of the high voltages that must be handled?
Something I forgot to mention, instead of paying a consulting fee, ask your questions here, that is why we created the forum… There is very knowledgeable guys that won’t mind helping with your design and chose in hardware. I am sure once that is done, finding a willing installer might be easier.
You can even contact me directly to help with your design…
In the cases where we got involved in installing self bought equipment, we had to install equipment that was sub standard imo. The failure rates were high and support became a costly exercise.
Where we installed secondhand and self bought reliable equipment we never had issues. But that said, an installer with the correct supply should be able to offer hardware to you at a better price than you can get it at as an end user.
We normally do and if the client can find a single item cheaper somewhere, we will try and beat the price.
Price is not my only or even main criteria, although, like everybody, I do have budget constraints. Future proofing for me is more important. I need to feel that I have spent my money wisely, and have a upgrade path where, as far possible, my installation can accommodate new developments. It took me a long time to discover that module optimizers can be added later and can be selectively deployed. I was worried that when I need to replace a panel, that panel may be old news. Rather spend money on a smaller installation that gives more options for future expansion. I will put my requirements before the forum and see where that goes. Can I do that in this topic or would the forum prefer that I use a different topic or category?
Over the years, we’ve had a number of contenders, but what is interesting to me is that the debate was always Blue vs the nearest cheaper contender. Right now, that contender is Sunsynk/Dye. Previously it was the Voltronic inverters, labelled as Mecer, RCT, Kodak, etc etc. I consider the current contender way more worthy than the previous ones.
I understand this to say that you can selectively add a new panel with quite a different spec to your array with this optimizer (selective install option, without the monitoring infrastructure). I am on thin ice here, so please correct me if I am wrong.
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Good luck trying to find an installer that is knowledgeable on different products and then willing to help you design a solution. Most will just try to push 1 or 2 different options with what they are used to installing or what they can make to most profit on.
Talk about micro inverters, optimizers, different battery options, sometimes even busbars, and you lose them.
As Jaco has said, better to ask on a forum like this (and not the other SA forum that has a vested interest in selling their products) and you will get unbiased, or different opinions that you can use to draw your own conclusions.
Most of the members here have victron but there are a few sunsynk / deye (like myself), goodwe, Kodak installs as well.
I did my install diy over about 1.5 years starting with 1 sunsynk 5kw inverter and 2 pylontech us3000 batteries and 1 string of panels. Then free to 2 stings, then added another 5kw inverter and found it incompatible with the first, so sold the first and bought another compatible 5kw sunsynk, then added more panels on a third string and eventually another string with optimizers.
I now have 2x 5kw Sunsynk’s, 32 panels with different orientation facing east, north and west and just under 30kwh of storage.
Btw, I will not recommend sunsynk / deye anymore. They will look for any way to get out of warranty / support and their way of dealing with any issue is a software update. If that doesn’t resolve it, you are on your own.
A friend got a notice the other day that any deye inverter not purchased from the official distributor will not have any warranty.
If the product is not listed here, I’m not interested for myself:
Do not be misled by the CoCT name there … it is a list of all NRS-certified products as is required by SA regulations for solar systems when connected to our DB’s, CoCT just made it easier and summed it all up for SA.
Want to “Future Proof” your installation … make sure it is on that list.
The fact that some, many, Munic’s are not enforcing the SANS regulations, national regulations, is a train heading your way when they are forced, by NERSA, to comply. Like Cpt was yonks ago.
Eskom, last I read, is still now allowing people to connect any SSEG to DBs they supply.