1 April 2022

SolarZero: is it worth it?

We unpack the terms and conditions of solarZero for you.

In the past month, our call centre has been running hot with inquiries about solarZero – it seems the company has been running a door-to-door sales campaign in some parts of the country.

So what’s the pitch?

It’ll offer to install solar with no upfront costs to you. The system has a battery so you won’t rely so much on grid power during the evening, and it’ll replace the battery when it conks out. You’ll pay off the system over the next 20 years (at which point the system will probably be due for replacement), but you’ll start saving on your power bill immediately. That all sounds great, and it can be, but there are certain things that homeowners need to take into consideration that muddy the waters.

What’s the catch?

You don’t actually own the system; they do. SolarZero peddle this as a positive thing, but we believe it’s the biggest drawback of the whole shebang. If you sell your home after the system is installed, the new owners will need to take on your agreement, or you’ll need to pay out the remainder of the agreement or have it moved to your new place (assuming it’s suitable for solar). It could make selling your house messy and expensive.

Make sure you really think that point over before signing up. We can’t think of many examples of things you bolt to your home that don’t really belong to you.

You’re locked into one power retailer

Once you sign up, you’re also locked into one power retailer. As long as the prices are good, it doesn’t really matter – but it also means you can’t shop around for a better deal.

If you aren’t locked in, you can opt to switch your electricity retailer at the drop of a hat if you find a better deal at powerswitch.org.nz.

It's not free

It’s a business and it’s going to make money from all this. While the repayments are spread over the lifetime of the system, you do pay for it in the end. It can still be good if you want solar now and don’t have the means to install it.

There aren’t many things you pay for over 20 years other than your mortgage. You need to be sure you can cover those costs if your financial situation changes.

Our take

Proceed with caution if you’re looking at taking up solarZero on its offer. If you don’t see yourself moving in the next 20 years, or can’t see a problem in moving the system or having someone else take it over, then you can sign up and enjoy the benefits of solar without the usual large upfront investment from yourself.

Sick of cold callers?

If you don’t want salespeople coming into your place, get in contact with us and ask for one of our “Do not knock” stickers. If you have one, door-to-door sellers can be fined up to $30,000, from 22 August this year.

Member comments

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Christopher B.
23 May 2022
I might be bias

I am a consumer supporter and I happen to work for solarZero.

Typically when you buy a solar system including battery you need $16K-$24K upfront and you are responsible for maintenance and repairs. Your warranty on inverters and batteries are at best 10 Years. So by owning the system you bear all the risks and your return on investment would typically be achieved around the 14 to 22 Year mark. (by that time you will need a new battery which pushes the ROI further down the line).

If you sell your house you can prepay the remaining term of the service agreement at a discount (which often is even cheaper to buy the gear from a solar company outright) . This cost can be incorporated in the sales price of your property, leaving the new owner with all the benefits of the service without any subscription fee. This makes the house extremely attractive to buy, as it will be cheap to run and the gear is maintenance free.

Finally to top up your solar solarZero customers get access to a fixed rate of energy for any import or export of energy. This is a fixed rate, and reviewed annually on the 1st of April. This year it is fixed at 8c/ kWh for grid import and 15c/kWh for any exported energy (plus lines, network charges and GST)

Feel free to shop around for conventional power retailer , but last time I checked the average price in NZ was 30c/day and 27c/kWh +GST , while most of our customers pay 30c/day and less than 17c/kWh +GST.

Finally the monthly subscription fee is inflation free for 20 Years! You will be lucky to find a loan or a power company who is willing to fix most of your power price for more than 2 Years.

Christopher

Anthony H.
07 Apr 2022
What we found

We signed the deal with Solar zero, in 2016 then Solar city, after 3 rejections of their offer. The offer did change in that period, becoming more appealing, and a better contract. So we did sign, with more panels than the usual offer, a battery, which meant with GST we were paying $125.00 per month. (max payout $30,000) In our case, we immediately started saving on our bill, and over the next 6 years even in winter were better off with the total compared cost. For 3 months of the year, we only paid the $125.00 as the power was offset with the power company credit. (it actually subsided the 125 in Jan/Feb due to the export of excess power) Now our house was perfect for solar, so again, can't comment about each situation, but with no maintenance, insurance, and the promise of a new battery after 10 years, and in a rural area, power back up when there was a power cut were comfortable we could on-sell, and we did.
Some of the customer services was weak at times, and we had to take our power provider to task wh a faulty smart meter was installed (by the power company, not solar Zero)., but with some of the associate deals, and the transition offer Solar Zero offer to help the new owner, we were happy how the deal worked.

Mark I.
06 Apr 2022
The numbers don't add up

I started the process with them and got a report indicating $1,000 a year in savings.

When I subtracted the monthly fee I was going to be around $600 a year worse off.

I quickly got a follow up call from a sales person and when I told him the above he asked for a month worth of power bills to verify which I did.

He then arranged a call from his Manager to discuss their analysis which I had the next day. She refused to send me the results and said I had to sit through a 20 minute presentation before telling me what they were. She also gave me a nonsense story about this being a legal requirement.

I finished the conversation telling her that this offer was far too dodgy for me and had to hang up.

Matt C.
04 Apr 2022
Environmental benefits and alternatives?

It would be great if your article could provide some commentary around the environmental considerations here too? Surely it's not only about cost? I'm interested in whether this option is actually environmentally friendly compared to alternatives (like a carbon zero supplier or a 'green plan' etc etc.) I'm interested in the most financial efficient way to have maximum environmental benefit?

Rob C.
02 Apr 2022
A bit too complex for me........

The contracts were quite wordy, and required careful reading. I found a few discrepancies between what I'd been told and what was written down. The initial electricity savings were minimal, and only in the long run did it seem worthwhile. Something to be said for locking in your electricity cost for a long time but I decided it just didn't feel right. When I asked about how my land title would record the fact their equipment was on my home that seemed to completely confuse the salesperson and I didn't want something on my title. There were pluses and minuses, but I felt 20 years was too long (I'm in my late 50s, so likely to need to move homes before my late 70s), and there were many benefits that didn't kick in for too many years.

Felix
02 Apr 2022
Rental System with 20 Year Contract

I looked at it nearly 2 years ago and decided against it. Below is my Plus/Minus list that I made.

This is a rental system with a fixed contract of 20 years.

Plus
No upfront costs
More pricing certainty
No need to look after installation
No need to look after maintenance

Minus
System is undersized for usage of property
20 year contract
Tied to contract when selling the property
Financial outlay (rental) for system over 20 years is $34500
Not able to expand/update when needed/wanted
No control over the use of the batteries
No control ability for other items like hot water, pool heating, EV battery charging.

Amy M.
02 Apr 2022
It's a lease

We decided against it due to the messiness you mention when you come to sell your home, but also that even after 20 years, you don't own anything and have to sign up again. It's basically a lease.

claudine c.
02 Apr 2022
Lease

There is a price for peace of mind: that's how a lease works.
At my age(70) , I really appreciate to enjoy this cheap way of enjoying this technology. The power company buys back the power you don't use. It's nearly 2 years I have started to benefit from solar zero and my bills have halved .

Mark A.
02 Apr 2022
20 Years!!!

I looked into Solar Zero and told them 20 years was a ridiculously long period for me to be bound to current technology and have no way to access new tech that was being constantly updated. Also that only Solar Zero was eligible for any Government grants for low emission energy generation.

20 years is way too long in my view.

Rod S.
12 Apr 2022
Why SolarZero?

If this was so good, everyone would want it. Imagine having to use the same electric car for 20 years at a fixed annual cost.