Going solar is an investment in the planet’s future, but it’s also great for your household budget! You can decrease energy bills significantly with solar energy, so here are some things to consider before you install a solar system.
Your home’s location
The very first thing you should consider before installing solar panels is the location of your home. Solar is a good investment no matter which state you live in, but it’s more about the exact geographic location of your home. To get the most out of a solar system in Australia, you’ll want to access as much daytime sun as possible.
So, if your home is in a valley, surrounded by trees, or you just don’t get a lot of sun, solar may not give you the benefits that people in sunny areas receive. In addition, the way your home is positioned can also have an effect. While you can certainly install solar panels on most roof types, it may cost a little more to mount them if your roof doesn’t have a sloped surface that naturally faces north.
How much energy do you currently use?
Once you’ve determined that solar is definitely a good move for your location, you need to consider how much energy you currently use. This is important because it informs the decision on what size solar system you should purchase. We’ll touch on this shortly, but if you’re using on-grid solar, then your solar system only needs to generate enough power to be used during the day. You’re connected to the main grid for night-time energy use, so this should be factored in.
With that being said, you should always look to install a solar system that generates more than you need. This keeps you covered for high usage periods, but it also means you can take advantage of feed-in tariffs by exporting some of your excess energy to the main grid.
Do you want battery storage? (On-grid or off-grid solar)
You have two choices when it comes to solar. On-grid solar is where your solar panels generate power while the sun shines, and you automatically draw power from the main grid when your system isn’t producing power (mostly at night). Off-grid solar comes with a battery, so excess power you generate during the day is stored for evening use. This may allow you to completely break away from the main grid and never pay a power bill again.
Naturally, off-grid sounds best for most people, however, solar batteries are still quite expensive, so the cost may be prohibitive to some. It really comes down to cost, but if you can afford the battery, why not go completely solar?
What government rebates are available?
Next, consider what government rebates are available. State governments sometimes offer incentives to go solar. Nationwide, there is a system in place where your solar panels attract STCs (small-scale technology certificates). The type of system you install determines the value of your STCs, but in short, they can be claimed back as a rebate to offset the upfront cost of your solar panel installation.
For example, a 6.6kW residential solar system is eligible for around $3,300 in rebate, however, this figure usually decreases each year. The sooner you go solar, the more rebate you can receive. Be sure to check that the system you purchase is eligible for STCs.
Can you obtain finance for your solar investment?
There are several ways to finance your solar system, giving you the opportunity to cash in on existing government rebates and pay off the system over time. Of course, you can get a personal loan but interest rates may turn some people away from this.
Alternatively, there are finance companies such as Brighte and Plenti that offer low-interest loans specifically for eco-friendly causes such as solar installations. There are always new and innovative ways to finance your solar, so do some research or ask your retailer if they have any recommendations or finance options.
What is the estimated payback time for your solar panel installation?
You may have heard that solar systems pay for themselves over a certain amount of time. Basically, what this means is you will save enough on your energy bills over time to cover the initial cost of the system. Typically, modern solar systems pay for themselves in around 3-5 years, but it all depends on your existing energy expenses and how much solar energy you generate.
When you speak to your solar retailer, ask them for a thorough consultation to assess your needs. Ideally, they should be able to analyse your current usage and recommend the perfect system. From there, they’ll be able to see how much you can expect to save each year and compare it to the upfront cost.
Check the warranty on your solar products
It’s also extremely important to check the warranty on your solar products. Solar panels usually have two types of warranty. First is the product warranty, which covers you against equipment faults or malfunctions. The second is a performance warranty. All solar panels decrease in performance over time, meaning something that operates at 90% efficiency today will decrease in effectiveness each year. This is never a drastic degradation that you’ll notice, however you certainly would if your efficiency dropped by 20% in a year. The performance warranty lays out certain levels of efficiency you should expect at each yearly milestone, and if your system’s performance drops below that, you may be entitled to repairs or replacement.
Your warranty for solar panels, inverters and batteries comes from the manufacturer, too, not your retailer. So, while the retailer should be happy to help you out, the final warranty decision rests with the manufacturer. For that reason, choose brands that have a presence in Australia, because it can be notoriously difficult getting warranty repairs if you’ve bought cheap solar panels from a company that has no office in Australia.
Is your solar retailer a reputable company?
Finally, do your research on the solar retailer carefully. Look for online reviews, testimonials, and also check that they’ve been in business for a decent number of years. This gives you confidence that they deal in quality products, offer good customer service and can be trusted to help you out if any issues should arise.