Successful solar power.
Important concepts and insider tips for owners of solar Sunshine Coast, Noosa and the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
Whether you have solar, or are considering installing a solar system you want to make sure that your investment is worthwhile.
Here are a few tips to help you maximise your solar system and cut down on those annoying and avoidable electricity bills:
The best way to reduce you electricity cost is by not paying for that electricity. During the day, when your solar system is working hard, the electricity it generates is fed directly into the appliances in your home.
The benefit of this ‘self-consumed’ electricity is that it replaces the cost of what you would otherwise have purchased. At current prices, that is ±24c/kWh.
Appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and pool pumps can easily be used during daylight hours, even if it means putting a timer on them.
If you have air-conditioning; put on during the day. That way the house will be cool in the evening, meaning less power consumed outside of solar hours.
Also, make sure that not all your appliances are on at the same time – spread them out a bit over the day. By doing this you will ensure that your system is producing enough power to cover the electricity requirements.
Get the best feed in tariff you can.
A feed in tariff is the amount of money per unit of electricity you get for excess energy fed back into the grid.
Most companies offer around 6c/kWh (kilowatt hour). If you call around it is possible to negotiate a better feed in tariff. Some of the smaller electricity companies will pay you up to 10c/kWh. This means you can reduce your evening electricity costs by up to 40% if your system is well designed.
Good system design.
Before you install a solar system, have an expert look at your electricity bills, normally this can be done during a site assessment. Using data to correctly size your solar system will help you maximise your self-consumption and reduce your initial capital costs.
Choose you solar panels and inverter carefully.
Your solar panels are the largest part of your investment. Make sure that you purchase a good quality panel.
A common mistake consumers make is a lack of research into the product. The most important thing to consider is whether the panel is manufactured by a Tier 1 company. This doesn’t mean the panel will produce more power. It simply means that the company is financially stable, has a global presence and is therefore more likely to be around in ten year if you have a warranty claim.
Inverters control and distribute the electricity the solar panels generate. Most European brands such as SMA, ABB and Fronius inverters will easily last 10 – 15 years.
There are exceptions however. With a European inverter the warranty process and customer service is excellent and, you will always have a better experience with these companies as opposed to the Chinese inverters on the market.
In saying that, the price for European inverters reflects the quality, so expect to pay more.
There are some very good Chinese inverters on the market, namely ZeverSolar, Goodwe and Growatt. Make sure the inverter company has an office in Australia that deals with warranty claims; otherwise you will be dealing with China and, could wait a while for a replacement.
Go local for better service.
There is nothing more annoying than dealing with a large company when it comes to reporting a problem. We have all experienced the run around from department to department when dealing with multi-nationals.
A local installer will, in most cases, install the system themselves and will deal with any problems you might have in the future more efficiently.
Larger companies such as electricity providers use third party installers who have no responsibility for the system once it is installed. This can lead to lower quality workmanship and the use poor quality components, such as cable sand mounting equipment.
Remember the larger companies only supply the solar panels and inverter, the installer provides the rest.
Consider battery storage carefully.
There has been a lot of media hype around solar batteries. The good news is that batteries are coming – when the price is right. Remember that you will be paying upfront for around 10 years’ worth of electricity, so the costs will be high.
Currently there is a government incentive available for the upfront costs associated with solar. By taking advantage of these incentives now, you will reduce your costs in the long run.
The current scheme is legislated until 2020. However there have been attempts by some political parties to end it sooner. If they get their way, a 5 kW solar system will cost about $4,000 more. So make sure you get as many solar panels as you need on your roof before the incentive ends.
Current battery ready inverter technologies are pretty good, but only for today’s batteries. If battery technology changes, driven by more production, new technologies may become cheaper. My advice is to install your solar panels now, while the incentive is available and, when battery storage becomes more mainstream, go for it.
Battery ready inverters will move with battery technology and so will the price.
Can I add solar panels later?
You can add more solar panels to an existing system. However the long run cost will be higher. Expect an additional installation cost and, if Australian standards for solar installations change you will have to have your current system brought up to current standards.
Under the current solar STC incentive scheme, you will still get another incentive if you expand your solar system. The incentive is based on the size (panel capacity) in kW of the system. So if you can’t afford a large system now, you can still save money on your power bill, which will allow you to save for a larger system in the future.
All things considered, solar power is a wise investment. With electricity prices constantly rising and the current incentives it makes sense.
By following these simple guidelines your solar system will operate at its peak for years to come, saving you money, reducing your impact on the planet and allowing you to be in control of your energy costs.