Rockhampton's Donna Sweetman is having problems with solar panels on her roof.
Rockhampton's Donna Sweetman is having problems with solar panels on her roof. Allan Reinikka ROK201218asolar1

Rocky home owners at risk of fires after solar power recall

A GREENER and cleaner way of powering homes has turned against consumers this year, with homes reportedly catching on fire amidst a Central Queensland recall of roof top isolators.

Around 300 customers - who feared putting their homes and lives at risk - are now out of pocket, facing higher energy bills and extra costs of up to $1000 to remedy their faulty systems.

Park Avenue's Donna Sweetman received a letter from Power Saving Centre on September 17 this year, stating that installations performed by the organisation from January 2013 to December 2015 could be at risk.

"There are known cases of the isolator catching fire and even though it is only a small percentage, approximately 1.2 per cent of total installs during this period, we are replacing all the HGN4-25DC DC isolator 25A roof top isolators under an organised replacement program,” the letter read.

The safety recall suggested that customers switch off the Solar Supply Main Switch and the PV Array Isolator if customers "know or suspect that this isolator has been used” on their installation.

"Please be aware that it will mean the solar will not work when these switches are turned off and there will be no reimbursement for any lost income or an increase in your power bill,” the letter also stated.

"Please contact our office so we can arrange STT Electrical to come to site and inspect your Solar Power System.

"If a recalled isolator is found, our electrical contractor will replace the isolator free of charge whilst on site.”

Ms Sweetman said she rang to arrange an appointment after receiving the letter on October 3, however she was informed it would take some time for a contractor to come out.

"I rang back in November and I got the same of conversation,” she said.

"Then I rang them back last week and it said 'due to a shortage of staff, this business will be closed until further notice'.

"Then I rang STT Electrical Services and spoke to their receptionist and asked to speak to the contractor. They said they no longer had a contract with Power Saving Centre and would charge me $99 for the contractor to come and see if I needed a replacement.

"Each one would cost $165 each and you could have four or five or even six on your roof... and good luck getting any money back.”

After that, Ms Sweetman said she called Consumer Affairs, who then put her onto Clean Energy Regulator, who then passed her on to Product Safety Australia, who then passed her on to QBCC, and then ATSIC.

Ms Sweetman said the company's ABN number was under a family trust account and cannot go into liquidation or become insolvent.

"The owners are registered as plumbing and drainage... QBCC told me even though they're registered as that, they need to register with the Electrical Safety Department and they aren't licensed there,” she said.

"Nobody wants to be responsible for this safety recall. I'm still waiting to hear back from Power Saving Centre.

"STT Electrical now goes automatically to voice mail now.

"Who is going to pay for it? No customer should have to pay at all.”

Ms Sweetman said she knows of two other customers who have had their products catch fire, and one friend had to go through their own insurance to fix the damage to their home.

"In March, the box for the solar system was on fire and it's lucky the neighbour saw it and came over with a fire extinguisher,” she said.

The fire began under the house and had begun to burn through the floor's underlay and into the woman's son's bedroom.

The product itself had melted onto the concrete below.

"They're going through insurance and trying to get money from Power Saving Centre but their insurance companies are fighting with each other and she's out of pocket $1000,” Ms Sweetman said.

"Power Saving Centre told her it's not their problem and that the safety switches were the problem because they're on the roof and the box got burnt, it was a different area.

"They sent someone to investigate and lodged a quote and it was a lot higher so she went through another company to get a new board and because she did that, they told her it wasn't their problem to check the isolators.”

The Australian announced on Wednesday that Energy Minister Angus Taylor had written to his state counterparts about the risk of faulty solar panel installations.

According to Mr Taylor, one quarter of all rooftop units posed a severe or high risk to homes.

The Morning Bulletin has attempted to contact Power Saving Centre numerous times via phone and email without any success.



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