How To Choose a Solar Installer In Zimbabwe?

Deciding on a Solar Installer in Zimbabwe can be the most challenging part of your solar buying process. 

You may find yourself in unfamiliar territory with the nuances of buying a solar power system for your home in Zimbabwe.

  • Are you purchasing quality equipment? 
  • Will the system performance and meet your electricity requirements? 
  • Will the system be installed correctly? 

These are very important factors when choosing your solar installer to enable you to make that switch with confidence.

Important Factors to Consider when Choosing a Solar Installer:

1. Verify Business Performance: 

It is always wise, with any home project, to make sure that the company you choose to work with has the necessary experience.

1.1 Track Record and Experience: When conducting solar reviews, double-check that your solar installer has an established solar track record. They should be able to discuss and show you previous projects and installations and if so, did they offer end-to-end installations, or only carry out a few steps? 

With the emergence of any new industry, it can be tricky to know which companies you can trust. A key factor when evaluating a solar installer is whether or not they exclusively install solar systems as many companies delve into the industry as a side hustle without really becoming experts themselves.
How To Choose a Solar Installer In Zimbabwe?
How To Choose a Solar Installer In Zimbabwe?
1.2 Reviews and Complaints: Company reviews from previous customers are helpful when evaluating the particular solar installer however they can be misleading. If you are independently doing research on solar installers, be selective about the review sites you utilise as some of these sites allow companies to appear as featured companies in their listings in exchange for a fee. 

Its best to approach sites or platforms which contain both reviews and complaints where the companies can respond. The way in which a company has responded to a particular complaint and actions that were taken to rectify the issue is illustrative of a company’s dedication to customer satisfaction.

2. Ask for Quality Assurance: 

Any solar installer worth their salt would be an accredited service provider under a third party quality assurance programme, such as the PV Green Card (a SAPVIA endorsed programme to ensure the quality and safety of PV installations) or the P4 Platform quality assurance program (an independent system that scores contractors on performance, knowledge and best practice to promote good practice in the PV sector).

3. Which Staff Qualifications Do They Boast? 

Installation of photovoltaic systems is technical and requires that the people doing the installation have the education and the experience to ensure that a safe and good-quality job is done. Does your solar installer employ or subcontract certified staff? Ask for proof of registration from the electrician (also called a wireman’s licence), and check that it is up-to-date.
3.1 Minimum qualifications required: The staff hired to do the manual labour, such as the scaffolding and framework need not have any official qualifications in truth, though the experience is always a bonus and something that can be queried. Installations that supply less than 1000 volts can be designed and installed by an electrical contractor recognised by the Department of Labour – proof thereof is known as the wireman's licence. 

Any work above 1.5m (which is applicable in almost every residential solar installation) requires a certificate in working at heights. According to the Occupational Health & Safety Act, the solar installer must provide a competent person to do the work and the construction regulation further stipulates that every worksite must have a fall protection plan that will cover training for working at heights, equipment for working at heights and rescue procedures for working at heights.

4. What are Your Warranties/Guarantees?

Make sure you obtain all warranties and guarantees on offer, both for the installation as a whole and for the components of the system (solar panels, inverter, battery and the structure of the system). Double-check if there are any differences between the manufacturers and the installers warranties and guarantees. As there are various components to a photovoltaic system, each of which is oftentimes covered by a different warranty from the manufacturer it is crucial that the installer fully explain each one.

Typical warranties to discuss with the installer of your PV system:

  • Workmanship: Workmanship and components of the system wherein the warranty should cover the cost of labour and replacement parts in the event of system malfunction or failure.
  • Solar Panel Warranty: Solar panels generally have their own warranty which is oftentimes specified in two parts, being:
  1. The actual product warranty (to cover materials and workmanship); and
  2. Panel performance warranty – to cover expected output of the panels over a given time period taking into account the annual degradation of the panels.
  • Inverter & Batteries: The inverter is a critical part of the system and will have its own warranty which ranges between 10 to 25 years depending on the brand you are installing. Batteries generally have a 10-year guarantee, however seeing as though this is a very pricey component of a solar system, be sure to carefully consider the type of battery you install and the warranty that comes with it. Lithium-ion batteries, apart from their numerous other benefits last the longest and can in fact last ten times longer than lead-acid batteries. They are however more expensive than other batteries.
  • Mounting System: The framework/racking should have its own warranty and considering that this part of the system will have to sustain intense weather conditions, a period of at least 20 years is a reasonable period for coverage.

5. What Should the Installation Process Entail?

Generally, the installation process should consist of the following so be sure ask the following questions:
  • Site assessment and site pan: Have they done a site assessment and provided a site plan with depicting the layout of the system?
  • System cost breakdown: Can an itemised breakdown of all costs, which includes each part and labour, be provided?
  • Payment schedule: Is the payment schedule clearly stipulated in the contract? It should indicate exactly when payment is due and what the payment schedule is, if any.
  • Production estimate: The installer should be able to produce an electricity production estimate for the system for a year with average weather. Be sure to compare this with your average usage.
  • System monitoring: Do they provide system monitoring? If so, how does it work and are you able to access it online?
  • System maintenance package: Do they offer maintenance packages? If so, have they explained the importance of maintenance of your system.
  • System components: Were all the components and the purpose of each explained to you in detail?

It might seem like a long list of things to keep in mind when choosing a solar installation team, however, they are not to be ignored if you want to ensure that you have every possible base covered.

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