Solar panels

If you are considering adding solar panels to your property, we’ve put together a list of things you should understand before making the commitment.

Choosing an installer

The installation of solar panels must be undertaken by either a licensed builder or a licensed electrical contractor. Check a licence online or call NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20.

Electrical wiring

The wiring of the solar panel installation must be done by someone holding an electrical contractor licence or an electrical qualified supervisor certificate.

If the installed and wired solar panels need to be connected to the electricity distribution network, this must be done by an accredited electrical contracted. The electrical contractor is accredited under the Accredited Service Provider Scheme. The scheme is managed by Industry and Investment NSW and a list of ASP's is published on their website.

Before paying any money

Before paying any money for the supply and installation of solar panels, or allowing any installation work to commence, you must ensure that your installer gives you:

  • a written contract
  • a copy of the free Fair Trading consumer building guide, which details important information you need to be aware of
  • a certificate of cover under the Home Building Compensation Scheme if the total cost of labour and materials is $20,000 or more.

The installer must provide you with an insurance certificate when the contract price is over $20,000 or, if the contract price is not known, the reasonable market cost of the labour and materials involved is over $20,000.

Any rebate you can claim for the installation must not be deducted from the cost of the work for the purpose of avoiding the $20,000 threshold for insurance under the Fund.

Deposits

Under NSW home building law, the maximum deposit that you can be asked to pay is 10 percent.

If the work needs to be covered by insurance under the Home Building Compensation Fund, it is illegal for the contractor to ask for a deposit or other payment under the contract unless this insurance has been taken out for your job.

Using compliant systems and components

Any system installed in, on, or around your premises, whether connected to the electricity grid or in a 'stand-alone' situation, must be compliant with Australian standards.

Safety considerations

You need to make sure that your installer has met important safety considerations. Most 'stand-alone' systems and some grid-connected installations have batteries forming part of the system. Hydrogen gas is released during the charging process of the batteries. Hydrogen is a flammable gas.

All flames and equipment that could create a spark should be kept away from the batteries. The batteries should be kept in a well-ventilated area. No electrical equipment should be installed above the batteries unless in a suitably designed enclosure.

You should put up signage to let people know that a system is being installed.

After installation

After completion of solar panel installation work, a licensed electrician must check that your system is safe and provide you with a Certificate of Compliance for Electrical Work (CCEW). This is your assurance that a licensed contractor has completed and tested the work to ensure it is effective and compliant with Australia standards.

You should have also received documentation on how to use your system. It should include a list of all equipment supplied, a shutdown and isolation procedure in case of emergency or maintenance, system connection diagrams and handbooks for all of the equipment installed in the system.

Installation checklist

The key points to remember are:

  • only use a licensed builder or electrical contractor to install solar panels on your home
  • only use a licensed electrical contractor or qualified supervisor to wire up the installed solar panels
  • check the licence details of any builder or electrical contractor with Fair Trading before entering into a contract with them for the installation of solar panels.

Remember, your contracted builder or electrician must:

  • give you a written, signed contract as well as a copy of the Consumer building guide
  • give you a certificate of cover under the Home Building Compensation Scheme if the total cost of labour and materials (regardless of any amount of rebate you may claim) exceeds $20,000
  • not ask you to pay them a deposit above 10%.

If your contract is with a builder only, they must also:

  • sub-contract a licensed electrical contractor to wire the solar panels. You should ask to see their licence and check the details with Fair Trading before work commences
  • sub-contract to an accredited service provider if the installation is to be connected to the electricity distribution network.

If your contract is with an electrical contractor they must also:

  • ensure that the installation and wiring of the panels are carried out by the holder of an electrical contractors licence or an electrical qualified supervisor certificate - you should ask to see their licence too and check the details with Fair Trading before work commences
  • also be, or sub-contract to, an accredited service provider if the installation is to be connected to the electricity distribution network.

Solar panel safety FAQ

Some frequently asked questions and answers about solar panel safety.

How do I check if my solar panels are properly installed?

Home owners should not try to check on the installation panels themselves.

Home owners also should not simply 'turn off' their panel systems. Solar panel systems need to be shut down according to a specific shut down procedure. Turning off the panels in the wrong way can contribute to problems – not prevent them.

Is there a checklist prepared?

Download a checklist (PDF, 221.79 KB) with simple tips for consumers on how to ensure solar panels are safe.

What can I check?

After completion of solar panel installation work, a licensed electrician must check that your system is safe and provide you with a CCEW. The electrician should have completed the certificate and given you a copy – before they left your property. They are also required to provide a copy to the energy authority.

This is your assurance that a licensed contractor has completed and tested the work to ensure it is effective and compliant with Australia standards.

You should have also received documentation on how to use your system. It should include a list of all equipment supplied, a shutdown and isolation procedure in case of emergency or maintenance, system connection diagrams and handbooks for all of the equipment installed in the system.

What if I am worried there may be a problem with my solar panels or I want to get advice?

If you have any questions about the safety of your solar PV system, contact the company which sold you the system.

They should confirm that the installation received a Certificate of Compliance signed by a licensed electrician, that your installer was licensed, qualified and accredited and that the installer’s training was up to date with recent changes to standards.

Where the company cannot satisfy you that your system is safe, you should ask them to come and inspect it.

Where do I get the Certificate of Compliance from?

You should have a copy of the certificate. Certificates of compliance are required to be provided to the householder and to the network operator. If you don't have a copy you should ask your installer or electrician to give you a copy.

What if I don't have any paperwork?

If you have not received a Certificate of Compliance for Electrical Work you should contact the builder or electrician that installed your panels to get a copy.

I am still worried there may be a problem with my solar panels. What can I do?

If you are not satisfied with the response from the company that installed your solar panels, or you want an independent inspection of your system, go to the Clean Energy Council’s website.

Visit the Solar Accreditation website to access a list of accredited solar-trained electricians.

How do I know if my contractor was licensed?

You can check if the contractor is licensed online or call Fair Trading on 13 32 20.

I’ve had no problems with my panels to date. Should I still be concerned?

Based on advice provided to Fair Trading, panels can operate for years without problems. However you may not know there is a problem with the DC breaker until a chain of events occurs that puts the system under stress.

We suggests you talk to the company that organised to have your panels installed, or to the builder or electrician that did the work.

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