These are busy times for solar panel installers. This results in long wait times and customer downtime. Experts also warn of abuse. “Unfortunately, there are active cowboys.”
“It’s a great investment, especially in these times, and of course we also want to do our part for the climate,” Dominique de Witt says. He considers himself fortunate that the solar panels he ordered in March will be on his roof before the end of the year, before subsidies are phased out. You can now get a subsidy of up to 1,500 euros maximum for the installation of solar panels in an existing home. Next year, that amount will be halved. “We took that into account in our decision, because the extra support is a nice bonus,” says De Witte.
Not only the changing subsidy system, but also the rising electricity prices are causing the demand for solar panels through the roof to increase. “Orders are rarely processed,” says Christoph Janssens of Wase Zon, who was ordered by De Witte for his plates. “Anyone who decides now will have to wait until April for their panels to be installed. The waiting time for the first site visit is until March. I’m sorry to disappoint people, but we want to be able to continue to ensure good service.”
Other solar panel installers can barely keep up with the demand. It is not just a matter of manpower. The lack of basic components such as transformers, which convert direct current from the panels into alternating current, is also a problem.
“Normally we get five to ten orders a day, now there are sometimes 60 to 80,” says Piet Van Poucke of Linea Trovota. “In June, we actually closed individual orders for this year.”
Higher electricity prices mean that the payback period for investing in solar panels is significantly reduced. “Although you should also take reports of a 2.5-year payback period with a pinch of salt,” Van Poucke says. “Because it is not guaranteed that the electricity prices used in the calculations will remain very high.”
According to Dirk van Everkoren, director general of the Organization for Sustainable Energy (ODE), interested buyers don’t need to worry too much about this. “Solar panel installation lasts 20-25 years. It doesn’t really matter if you earn it back in three, five or seven years. The gist remains that installing solar panels is a no-brainer. There is no better investment for your savings than putting it on a rooftop.” Your home. The premium you can get for this is at most on the pie, but it has little to do with the decision to install the panels or not.”
Anyway, the chance that you will have boards installed this year is slim. “I hear from our members that the average waiting time is five to six months,” says Van Everkoren. “If you are looking for specific boards, it could be longer. If you are lucky enough to find an installer who has bought a large stock, it can be less.”
Pay attention to fixers trying to take advantage of the situation. Standard installation of 4 kW at peak (dynamometer, DD) “Today it costs about 5,500 euros, or 1,400 to 1,500 euros per installed peak kilowatt,” says Bram van Don, energy consultant at the citizens’ cooperative Campina Energy in the Kempin region. “But I’ve already seen quotes from my installers asking for twice the current prices.”
According to Van Dan, some installers are also asking to sign the quotation in a few days or to provide a guarantee of an additional amount to install the panels this year. “The question, then, is whether the additional cost is not greater than the support you’re missing,” says Van Don. “Anyway, you can ask your questions if the installer promises to install the panels this year. Why isn’t it fully booked yet?”
Citizens Co-operative Energent, which organizes mass purchases of solar panels, is temporarily suspending registration due to excessive demand. Curator Femke De Cremer has already seen offers more than doubled. “Unfortunately, there are also active cowboys in this sector,” says Decremer. “Also watch out for great offers where not all costs are clearly stated, such as using an aerial platform for installation.”
Consumer organization Test Aankoop is particularly wary of less transparent parcel sales offers. “Some companies offer a package of solar panels, a heat pump (boiler) and/or a battery,” Simon November says. “And that’s for a very vague and high overall price.”
Not every offer a little more expensive is questionable. Higher-quality, higher-capacity switches and boards can be the cause of the price differences. “Although the more expensive high-efficiency panels are usually not worth the extra cost if you have enough space,” Van Don says.
Van Evercooren recommends always paying close attention to the quality of the materials on display. The PV module reliability scorecard from Evolution PV, which ranks the best performing panels, can provide some guidance. “Ask for different quotes and compare them,” Van Evercooren says. “Engaging with an experienced installer and satisfied customers. This is the best insurance against unpleasant experiences.”
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