We’re in the middle of trying to decide on who we’ll use for our Off Grid Solar Power system which will run the shed until the house is built, and then the house once we’re in there.

My Dad is the legend when it comes to finding good connections in a local area so we jumped when he offered to share with us his ‘Off Grid Guru List’.  I started at the top and was impressed.  He called me back in the middle of doing the school pick up, didn’t treat me like a silly house wife talking about things I have no idea about and understood that we are more than prepared to make sacrifices when it comes to luxury appliances in life in order to keep our system costs down.

Anyway, we got the quote from these guys and although it was more than we were prepared for, it didn’t wipe out our build money and we could see that it would be worth it in the long run.  After a couple of days, we decided to do the responsible thing and shop around a bit, we started seeing a bit of a pattern in the solar industry so wanted to share the tips and tricks we’ve learned along the way.

Know What You  Want

We created a list of needs and wants so that if anything on our wants list was going to dramatically affect the price of our system, we could consider how badly we really want it.  We broke it down and provided as much information as we could on our usage of these items.

The Needs:

  • 2 x laptops – one during the day, one usually at night
  • internet modem – all day
  • 2 x phone chargers – at night
  • small TV
  • DVD player with surround sound
  • washing machine
  • vacuum cleaner
  • small fridge with a freezer
  • lights – we plan on using around 40m of LED strip lighting inside and a couple of outdoor lights
  • water pump to supply water to the house

The Wants:

  • pedestal fans or ceiling fans during the peak of summer
  • small blender
  • hair straightener
  • game console
  • a couple of lamps
  • printer – we rarely use it
  • kitchen range hood
  • sewing machine

We emailed this list along with comprehensive information on the property to every solar supplier we could find on The Coast.

Don’t Be Scared Easily

Once the requests for more information or quotes started coming in, so did the fear tactics to make us spend more than double our original quote.  Statements like “You might not want a dishwasher now, but what about later when you’ve got kids?” or “You need an automatic start generator if you don’t want to kill your batteries.” or “We just don’t want to under quote you and have you hate your new way of life.”.

And then there’s the ones who decide what you need and totally disregard what you’ve told them, such as one quote that included:

  • microwave – we kind of don’t believe in them.
  • kettle – what, because boiling water on the stove top is too hard?
  • toaster – umm, what’s wrong with the grill or those camping stove top toaster thingies?
  • clothes dryer – we have literally never owned one of these in our lives, we don’t intend on getting one now.
  • dishwasher – okay yes, this we will miss but what better incentive to not use every dish in the house when cooking!
  • oven – dude, specifically said we will have a gas oven.
  • second fridge – how fucking rich do you think we are?  Our current fridge we bought second hand for $300 6 years ago!!!

So not only did we not even ask for the above, but the daily usage on the items we did ask for are totally wrong based on the information we emailed through.  Thanks for listening dude but maybe it’s time to go back to Solar School?

Just stick to your guns, don’t be scared off the life you want to live and don’t be bullied into spending more money than you’re prepared to.  In saying that, be open to new suggestions or information, chances are you don’t know it all but you’ll know when someone is bullshitting you.

Ask Heaps Of Questions

Seriously, I ask about a million questions and all in email too so I have the responses in writing if I ever need them.  Below are some example questions you should be asking:

  • Are there any low wattage electrical items we could buy to minimise our system requirements?
  • Are we able to upgrade the system in a few years if need be and what is involved in this?
  • What’s your lead time from when we place our order to when our system will be fully functioning?
  • What’s your payment schedule?  Can we put down a deposit and pay the full amount once it’s installed and functioning?
  • What warranty is included on all the parts and the installation?
  • Do you supply the certification we need for the Government Rebate?
  • What happens if we need to upgrade our appliances or electronics?  Will our system support that?
  • How many completely off grid systems have you installed in my area?
  • How long will you need to be onsite for installation?

Trust Your Gut

From the moment we spoke to our supplier, I knew he was someone we could really well with.  Listen to your instincts and don’t go with someone who rubs you up the wrong way or you don’t click with. 

It may sound silly to base such a big decision on something this flaky – but if you enjoy working with them, you’re going to have success.

Check out our Dream Team page to find the details of our supplier!