20 Things You Need To Know Before Installing Solar power
1. Why Should I Install Solar Power In 2023?
The cost of electricity is skyrocketing, making solar power a no-brainer for nearly all households.
To put it in simple terms, we can help you size up a solar system that can generate electricity that costs around 5-6 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour).
Really… It’s that good.
Because solar power is so cheap, the more solar power you are able to use, the more money you can save.
Good quality solar power systems have never been so affordable. This year we will see over 50% of our customers integrate battery storage into their home solar system to store excess solar power. That can then be used in the evening.
Solar panels now produce more power than ever
370W-415W residential solar panels are now available. That is a huge improvement from the standard 300W panel we installed only a few years ago.
With great government rebates still available, there has never been a better time to install a system for your home.
2. How Much Does Solar Cost?
A top-of-the-range solar system costs around $1,500 to $2,000 per kW. This would include REC Alpha Pure panels with Enphase Microinverters. For example, a 10kW system will be about $16,000 to $18,000.
A mid-range panel with Enphase Microinverters will cost around $1,000 to $1,500 per kW. For example, using Q Cells panels with Enphase Microinverters. For example, a 6.6kW system will be around $10,000 to $11,000.
It is also possible to go with a standard string inverter in some cases. Doing so will further reduce the price. However, nearly all of our customers choose Enphase because of 10 significant benefits Smart Solar has over a standard system.
As electricity prices continue to rise, a good quality solar power system can typically pay for itself in as little as 3 to 5 years. For example, a 10kW system can reduce your power bills by around $3500 to $4000 a year. Basically the larger the system, and the more solar power you can use in your home, the larger the benefit will be to your power bills.
Not only is solar power affordable, but it is also significantly cheaper than power from the grid. If you’re interested in the maths behind how solar can generate electricity at 5-6 cents per kWh, click here: The Cost Of Solar Power Vs The Grid
This means you can now avoid the cheap end of the market and invest in top-quality solar panels for your home that will perform for decades. More information on solar power pricing is available here.
3. What is the latest residential solar technology?
It’s what we call Smart Solar. Enphase Microinverters convert DC to AC underneath each panel. This means no high-voltage cable runs through the roof or DC isolators, so it’s also a lot safer.
By having one small inverter underneath each panel, it means the panels are independent of the rest of the array. This increases output in partial shade, it allows us to use multiple roof sections, and it allows you to take advantage of positive power tolerance.
Smart Solar Systems from Enphase now come with a sophisticated monitoring system. This connects to the internet to provide real-time performance data, status reports and automated alerts if one of the panels is underperforming.
Consumption monitoring is also available to help you monitor how much power you are using in your home. Previously, system owners had to keep an eye on system performance manually or they would book regular service calls.
We can now monitor your system in real time, and Enphase can even remotely reset firmware if there is an issue with one of the panels. This next generation of solar technology ensures little to no downtime.
Safety is now greater than ever
Safety is also a key issue. Gone are the days of high-voltage cables running through the house. Smart Solar Technology allows us to run a safe and easy AC cable from the panel array directly into your meter board, significantly reducing electrocution and fire risks.
4. How Does Residential Solar Power Work?
A solar system produces clean energy from the sun to help you save money on your power bill and reduce your carbon footprint.
Solar power feeds into your home to power everything that connects to mains power. By using solar power in the home you are directly reducing your power bill as you are not buying electricity from the grid. As power becomes more expensive, this is more and more important.
If you don’t use the solar power as it generates, it automatically feeds out to the grid. You may earn a feed-in tariff from your energy retailer. This is generally around 5 cents to 10 cents and appears as a credit on your power bill.
If you use more power than the solar system is generating you will automatically buy power from the grid at your contracted rates.
To get the most benefit from solar power, you should use most or all of the solar power at the time it is generates. To do this requires some analysis of your current and future usage patterns. As well, preferably some knowledge about how solar power works.
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5. Is my home suitable for solar power?
The Solaray Team has access to detailed aerial photos on the computer to help accurately measure how many solar panels will fit on your home. A site visit may also be necessary to confirm the measurements.
We can help you clarify your roof’s orientation and any shading issues.
If your roof is suitable for solar power, we can help you size up a solar array, recommend brands and the type of system best suited to your house. Ultimatgely, we provide a firm price for the installation and book you in for an installation date.
This is usually done over the phone to save you the hassle of a site inspection. However, if we need to come and see you we will do so free of charge. Find out more about solar power for homes.
6. Are there solar rebates currently available?
Rebates are available to qualifying residential and commercial premises in Australia that install Solar Panels and other Renewable Energy Systems. The Federal Government’s scheme is actually called an incentive rather than a rebate.
This incentive can mean significant reductions in the cost of Solar Systems. The intent is to encourage Australia’s use of renewable energy. The incentive program, which is part of Australia’s Renewable Energy Target, means that when you install a Solar System, a number of Renewable Energy Certificates are created. These Certificates (referred to as STCs or Small-scale Technology Certificates) are then purchased by Energy Companies as part of their Renewable Energy commitments.
The value of these Certificates can vary and can either deduct from the price of your system or bought via the Clean Energy Regulator’s certificate Clearing House system. There are also several additional incentives and grants available for commercial systems. One of our commercial consultants would be happy to discuss these with you.
On top of this, the Victorian State government has a solar rebate program in place. There are a number of important points to note with this rebate, so please follow the links to more information below:
7. Does solar power work on cloudy days?
A solar system does not only work at maximum capacity. In low light conditions such as early in the morning or when it is overcast, solar panels will still convert light into power for your home. This will just be at a reduced rate.
For example, an 8kW system may only be outputting 5kW of power on a cloudy day. There is a point where the energy produced is no longer strong enough to power the inverter and the system will turn off. This happens every evening and perhaps during an especially dark storm.
Here is an example of one of our high-performing Enphase Micro Inverter systems on an overcast day. As you can see output can change minute by minute as the sun comes out and disappears again behind the clouds. This system is orientated west of north, hence the peak solar output occurs from late morning through to around 4 pm in the afternoon. This is an early spring day (September) so the peak output period will increase in length over the summer, and be a little shorter in winter.
6. What is a kilowatt hour (kWh)?
This is a unit for measuring energy and it is how your energy retailer bills you.
A kWh is one kilowatt of power measured or used over an hour. For example, if you have an air conditioner that uses 3kW of power, it will use 3kWh of power every hour, so if you are billed 25 cents per kWh by your energy retail, it will cost you 75 cents every hour to run the air conditioner.
Similarly, an 8kW solar system will generate 8kWh of power for every hour that it outputs power at full capacity. If on a sunny day in summer a 10kW works at full capacity for 4 hours and you use all of this power in the home, you will save $10.00 on your power bill (10kW x 4 hours x 25 cents).
7. How much power does a solar system generate?
This depends on a number of factors including where you live, your roof orientation, the angle of the panels, the weather, the seasons and the size of your system. Because of this we only use averages as well as guidelines from the clean energy council.
The Clean Energy Council advise that in Sydney a solar system should on average output 3.9 kWh of energy per day for every kW of solar installed, taking into account the seasons and the weather. On any given day this figure could be extremely different. In Melbourne, a solar system will output 3.6kWh per day per kW of solar installed.
As an example, a 2kW system should output 7.8kWh on an average day and a 10kW system will output 39kWh per day.
Using this figure, a simple yet effective way to estimate the output of a solar system is to multiply the system size by 4. For example, a 2kW system will generate approximately 8kWh of power on an average day. Importantly, a solar system will output a lot more power in summer compared to winter. This normally works well with a home in Australia due to our hot summers.
Our customers will typically use more electricity in summer because of the air conditioner and pool pumps, and because many people are home from work over the Summer Holidays.
As with most products, our experience is that higher quality products such as REC Solar Panels will often achieve results above the expected averages. Here are the average daily output figures for a 5kW solar system in Sydney:
8. How many solar panels do I need for my house?
The right-sized solar system depends on what you want your system to do. For many people, it is about making sure the solar system pays for itself in as little time as possible. For others it is to reduce their power bill by the greatest amount or to reduce their carbon footprint and do their bit for the environment.
Paying back your investment as quickly as possible requires sizing up a system to match your daytime energy usage. In a perfect situation, you would use all of the solar power that it generates and have the solar panels facing north or (northwest to maximise your savings during the peak time of use billing period. See below for more info).
Example solar power system
For example, if you install a 5kW system for $6,000 and it generates about 7000kWh a year. So, if you pay an average of 30 cents a kW for your electricity you would save about $2,100 every year. This would result in a return on your investment in under 3 years!
In reality, it is difficult to use 100% of the power a solar system generates, however, if the system is sized correctly you should be able to get close to 70% or higher.
You can now also store excess solar power in a battery to use at night. This makes it much easier to maximise the benefit of your solar system.
A tip, buy the biggest solar power system you can
Minimising your power bill is easy. Simply buy the largest solar system you can afford and/or fit on your roof. As we mention above, there is a good fit for everyone but there is no harm in getting a system that is a little bigger. This can allow for future increases in power usage if you are planning on buying an Electric Vehicle, pool, spa, air conditioner or some other large user of power. Of course, don’t forget the kids! For some reason, teenagers seem to find it difficult to shower without the heat lamps on, and then there is the hairdryer…
The reason returns diminish when you have an oversized solar system is that instead of saving money from your bill by using the solar power rather than buying power from the grid (eg. contracted rate of 25 cents per kW), you are selling solar power to the grid at your contracted feed-in tariff rate. Because of this, we now have many customers with a power bill of well under $100 a quarter:
“I am pleased to be able to say that the system has worked flawlessly since commissioning and has exceeded my expectations.
Our last monthly bill was $10.53 – the same bill in previous years was $198.79 and $163.67”
If you have an environmental motivation, your roof space and budget are all that are stopping you!
The bigger the solar system the better, as you are reducing your reliance on polluting industries such as coal and gas and helping to produce clean, renewable energy. Buying a solar system is one of the most significant steps you can take as an individual and a household to help build the renewable energy sector and reduce our reliance on old and polluting technology. There are now millions of solar systems in Australia. As this number continues to grow our voice becomes louder. Governments are starting to listen!
More info is available here: How To Size Up A Solar Power System
9. What direction should my solar panels face?
Solar panels will generate the most energy over the course of a year when they are facing north. This is especially important in winter when the sun is lower in the northern sky.
A Solaray consultant can visit your home and use specially designed software to demonstrate the sun and/or shade that your particular roof will have in winter, summer and at any time during the year.
If your house has a north-south roofline, we can install panels on either the eastern or western roof depending on what time of the day you use the most power. Many households use more power in the afternoon when the kids are home from school and the air conditioner and pool pump are running. If this is the case we would install your solar panels on the western roof.
The other point that can influence this decision is time-of-use billing in the Ausgrid distribution area.
Please see the question about your new digital meter below for more information.
It is important to understand that panels installed on a roof facing south of either east or west will generate less power than a solar system facing north. They may not even turn on during winter. In most cases, we would advise against using any south-facing roof unless it has a very shallow tilt of fewer than 10 degrees or so.
Detailed information is available here: what direction should my solar panels face?
10. Do I need a new digital meter when I install solar power?
Yes, all solar systems require the replacement of your meter with a new digital meter. These bi-directional meters can monitor how much excess solar power you send to the grid as well as how much power you buy from your energy retailer.
If you have a digital meter you will still need to get it replaced as it will not have the correct programming in it. Unless you or your builder specifically installed a digital meter that can measure solar. This is rare for houses that have not had a recent renovation.
All meter replacements are now the responsibility of your energy retailer. Should you prefer, Solaray have an arrangement with Energy Locals where we can arrange to replace your meter at no cost to you. The Energy Locals plan includes a solar feed-in tariff of up to 10 cents per kWh, competitive prices on electricity, carbon offsets for all your energy use, and no exit fees or lock-in contracts.
Please contact the Solaray Team for more information and for the terms and conditions.
11. Does a digital meter mean I will pay more for my power?
Your new energy tariffs will then depend on which energy distribution area your house is in.
If you are in the Endeavour Energy distribution area, your regulated energy tariffs should not change when you install solar.
In the Ausgrid distribution area, having a new digital meter typically results in you paying time-of-use billing. This is a great opportunity to further reduce your energy bill but you will need to manage your power usage to ensure you maximise the potential benefits.
Energy prices in the shoulder and off-peak periods are much cheaper than a flat-rate tariff. The peak billing period is between 2 pm to 8 pm on weekdays only, which means you will pay less for your power 82% of the time.
According to Ausgrid, an average Sydney household only uses 22% of their power during the peak period, when power prices are approximately 50 cents per kWh.
If you have a roof facing between north and west, you can take advantage of time-of-use pricing to further minimise the amount of power you use during the peak period by running your home on solar power. This results in free solar power during the afternoon and low tariffs in the morning until 2 pm and after 8 pm. Please note that the actual tariffs you will pay depend on which retailer you are with and the available packages. If you have any questions about this please call us today on 1300 525 451.
12. Should I wait for better technology before I install a solar system?
Now is the best time to buy a solar power system in Australia, due to generous government rebates and the record-low price of solar panels. Also, power prices are rising. That means that you are missing out on thousands of dollars in savings every year you put off going solar.
It is important to remember that no matter how efficient panels become in the future, a 10kW solar system is always going to output the same amount of power irrespective of how efficient the panels are.
If you have the roof, buy the solar panels
A common mistake people make is to equate a panel’s efficiency with the system’s output. A 10kW system with high-efficiency 410W panels produces exactly the same power as a 10kW system with low-efficiency 300W panels, it just does so using fewer panels. Unless you have a restriction of a small roof or you are looking to install a commercial-size solar system (over 30kWs or so), efficiency is largely irrelevant.
You would be much better off buying a system with today’s 410W panels compared to waiting 5 years to buy a system with 500W panels. This is because by installing solar power today, you can start saving money immediately.
Solar power prices have been dropping for many years. However, we are approaching a limit to this price drop due to the fixed costs of installing a system such as the installation, cabling and mounting kit. The biggest change we are seeing in solar panels is efficiency, not price drops.
Why wait to have a 17-panel system giving you the same output as a 20-panel system? More information is available here: Don’t put Solar Power on the backburner
13. What maintenance does a solar system require?
Very little, if anything at all. Solar panels are passive, however, they can collect dust, bird poo and other particles that will build up over time. Luckily the rain will normally wash all of this off.
If there is a period of many months without rain, by all means safely wash your solar panels by spraying them with a hose, but we don’t recommend that you go up onto your roof and wash them by hand. It is not worth your time and it can be dangerous. We advise you to do it whilst standing safely on the ground.
If you get up onto your roof to clean the gutters then spraying your panels could be a good idea if you are able to do it safely.
Nearly all Solaray systems are now what we call smart solar systems, where the inverter connects to the internet. This provides panel-level monitoring and system status alerts to our service team so you will know if something is wrong with one of the panels without needing to conduct a regular service check. We have heard of companies charging yearly service fees to maintain a solar system, but this would only be required with older solar technology.
14. Can I finance a solar power system?
Yes, we offer a number of great options depending on what you are comfortable with including a low-interest payment plan from Brighte.
Households across Australia face rising energy costs, while solar power has never been so affordable. Installing solar panels can reduce or even eliminate your power bills, plus they can supply your home with clean renewable energy for decades.
But as the average system size continues to increase and more than half of installations now include battery storage, many people are now choosing to finance some, or all, of the system. Larger systems cost more money, but they can also save you many thousands of dollars year after year, making it an attractive and safe investment.
Thanks to the current low-interest rates, it’s common for the monthly loan repayments to be less than the benefit of the system, often significantly, especially if you spread the payments out over a number of years.
With a Green Loan, your repayments can often be less than your solar savings, leaving you better off from day one!
Designed to make environmentally-friendly investments easier, these loans are low-interest, flexible, quicker to apply for than your usual bank loan, and they are able to be managed online. Green Loans from RateSetter can be used to finance Solaray solar power systems and battery storage up to $45,000, to be repaid across 3-7 years.
More information is available here: Solar Power Green Loan
If you are looking to pay for your system in full, we require a deposit (usually 10% on a standard system) and the balance on or before the day of installation of the panels and the inverter.
15. Does a solar power system work in a blackout?
For safety reasons, your solar system switches off in a blackout. It should automatically turn on again once the power is restored. If it doesn’t visit our Service Centre page for troubleshooting tips on resetting your system. If Solaray installed your system, and the issue persists, you can submit a Support Ticket request from there. We can help you switch your system on again or book a service check for you to make sure everything is ok.
If another installer installed your system, we suggest you reach out to them, or to the inverter manufacturer.
If you would like to power your home in a blackout you will need a solar battery with backup protection such as the Tesla Powerwall. We can connect a few circuits to the battery to power essentials for when the grid goes down. This includes items such as a fridge, freezers, fish tanks, TV, internet etc. In the morning, the battery will recharge from any excess solar power that is not used in the home as it is generated.
More information is available here: Price of Solar Storage
16. Do you sell battery storage systems so that I can go off-grid?
For most households that already connect to the grid, the additional battery capacity needed to go completely off-grid is too expensive to make it worthwhile.
Disconnecting from the power grid would mean that you would need to install both a daily cycle battery and a backup weekly cycle battery, with enough capacity to last up to a week or so during the middle of winter when it rains for 7 days straight.
It is much cheaper and more reliable to use the grid as a backup, rather than buying a backup battery bank for tens of thousands of dollars.
More information is available here: Why you shouldn’t disconnect from the power grid
17. Can I add solar panels to my solar system?
The main limitation is that we are only able to install up to a total of 5kWs on one phase. If you have 3 phase power, you can install whatever you like.
The other issue we often face with older solar systems is that the Australian Standards have significantly upgraded in recent years. This means that if we touch your existing system we need to replace all of the cables.
We typically recommend that you install a new Enphase system alongside your existing system. We then connect the two systems to your meter board.
More information is available here: Adding solar panels to your existing solar system
18. I have 3-phase power. Do I need a 3-phase inverter?
Not always. A three-phase inverter directs power across all 3 phases evenly. However, you can also have a single-phase inverter and not adversely affect the benefit of your solar system because the digital meter will usually reconcile the power across all three phases in 15-minute increments. Whether or not you need a 3 Phase Inverter really depends on the size of your system, your load and usage profile. So please contact our solar experts so that we can assess what you have in your home, and then provide you with the right information.
More information is available here: Solar with 3-Phase Power
19. How Do I Easily Size Up A Solar System?
We developed a little calculator to help easily size up a solar system. Check it out here: Solar Calculator
20. How Do I Get Personalised Advice & Pricing on solar power?
Simply fill out your details and a member of the Solaray Team will be in touch. In around 10 minutes we can give you all the information you need:
|The Solaray Difference||’Cheap Solar’||All Solaray Systems||Solaray Smart Solar|
|Decades of reduced power bills||Unsure||Yes||Yes|
|Most efficient solar panels||No||Yes||Yes|
|Free technical support||No||Yes||Yes|
|Whole of system warranty||No||Yes||Yes|
|Free online monitoring||No||Yes||Yes|
|Back to base status alerts||No||Yes||Yes|
|Work with partially shaded sites||No||No||Yes|
|Panel-level system output||No||No||Yes|
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It’s the brains of an Enphase Home Energy Solution that really provides you value. By being able to easily track how much power your system delivers, you can compare this to how much power you are using in the home. With a clear understanding of what is happening in your home, you can manage your power consumption and seriously reduce your power bills.
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