Solar

Everything you need to know before Getting Solar Installed

Teho Talks Solar Power

Man installing solar on a rooftop

Installing a Solar System onto your home can be extremely rewarding. The financial benefits alone can help you reduce your bills and cut down your grid power consumption. Plus, all of that is before you even consider the positive impact on the environment.

However, when you first start looking for Solar, it isn’t always an easy journey. With so many different manufacturers, retailers and installers it is challenging. Then add a layer of jargon and government-based rebates, without good research you can be lost in a sea of detail.

Teho is an energy broker and we specialise in solar. We help you get the best deal and connect with the best installers to get you the best solar onto your home sooner.

That is why we have put together this 10-step guide to help you, no matter how much knowledge you may already have, navigate the world of solar and get the right outcome.

In this you will learn:

How to understand your usage

Understanding your usage is absolutely vital before getting solar installed on your home. 

The first thing to know is: the solar power you have generated from your solar system will be used by your home first (appliances, lights etc.) and then any surplus power will be exported to the grid.

When you export power to the grid you don’t get the same amount back (feed in tariff) as you would if you had to buy the same amount of power. For example, you might be buying power off the grid at around 30c per kW however your sell rate back to the grid (feed in tariff) may only be 7 – 20c per kW. So, the more you can use of your own power, the better.

For example, a home that uses more power during the day will get more value straight away than a home that uses more of their power at night. 

Don’t let this put you off though, it usually means your payback time for your system will just be a little bit longer than that of a home that uses power during the day. Speak to your energy broker to better understand your possible payback period.

Teho Tip

If you ever get a quote and the company calculates your payback period on 100% self-consumption, this can be a red flag that their practices are not honest. They do this to make your payback period look shorter when in actual reality, it isn’t.

If you do not understand your usage, you won’t be able to calculate your return estimates before you get your system and you will never truly understand the impact of your system. Plus, it will make it harder to know what size system (how many panels) to get installed in the first place. Adding more panels after installation is much more challenging than getting it right the first time. It isn’t a simple plug and play.

Pay attention to your bills and when you are getting a solar quote have a few ready so your Energy Broker can use them to help produce the most accurate quote possible.

Snapshot from an Electricity Bill

Pay attention to your bills and when you are getting a solar quote have a few ready so your Energy Broker can use them to help produce the most accurate quote possible.

What main parts are in a solar system?

There are three key components to a solar system. We have broken them down below so you can learn what each component does and the role they play within the system.

Panels

The Panels are the engine of the solar system taking natural light from the sun and converting it into electrical energy. Simply, more panels mean more energy, however there are a few more factors that need to be considered. We won’t go into detail here, but if you want to know more, you can read our guide on solar panels.

There are two main types of Solar PV (PV standing for photovoltaic) Panels used in Australia. Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline. Without going into technical detail, in Australia either are perfectly good choices. 

Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline Solar Panels

The easy way to work out what type of panel you are looking at is the shape. As you can see the Monocrystalline have their edges cut away and Polycrystalline are perfect squares. 

When you are looking at a solar quote, comparing panels can be really challenging. There are so many brands on the market and every installer and retailer is different, so it makes it hard to know what’s what. Firstly, a brand is a good start. Panels with no brand can be a red flag that you might not be getting a quality product.

Inverter

The inverter is another vital part of your new roof top power station. There are two main inverters that you could be quoted. A string inverter or a micro inverter.

The inverters job is to take the DC power generated by the solar panels on your roof and convert it into 230V AC current that your home can use to run everything.

A string inverter is the most common, one string inverter is used per system which brings all of the power from the panels together. These are the units you have probably seen attached to the side of a house with a solar system. 

A micro inverter does the exact same job as a string inverter however it is attached to the back of the solar panel and there is one micro inverter per panel.

There is another less common option known as a power optimizer. For more information check out our complete guide to inverters or speak to your energy broker

Racking

Racking is the unsung hero of a solar system. Racking is the connection between the solar panel and your roof which securely holds it in place for the rest of its rooftop life.

How many solar panels should your system be?

The age-old question! How big should my solar system be? Over the years solar technology has progressed in leaps and bounds. A lot of this can be attributed to the uptake in people installing their own home solar systems.

Given the growth in technology, the general uptake from the public and government support, the cost of panels has come down significantly. When you couple that with increasing power prices and good feed in tariffs, the answer is simple. How much solar should I put on my roof? As much as you can! (within your budget). The three big impacts you need to consider are: your financial budget, the total amount your DNSP (Distribution Network Service Provider) will allow and how many panels your roof can take.

For more information, talk to your energy broker.

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The best location for your solar panels

The location of your panels can have a significant impact on your energy generation and impact the return you get from your solar system. A lot of the time, your roof is going to drive what you can achieve. Unless you are building your house from the ground up with solar being the consideration for your roof, there isn’t a whole lot you can do to change what you have got.

The key things to consider are:

Nearly anywhere works

When solar cost a lot more money, the way a panel faced had a much more meaningful impact on your return on investment. However, now with the lower cost for solar systems, you can get a return just about any way they face, it may just take a little longer.

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west

That will not change anytime soon. So, it means easterly facing panels generate more in the morning, westerly in the afternoon and northern panels enjoy the middle of the day and generally give you the most overall. South facing panels won’t generate as much and we won’t recommend these unless it’s a must. 

Angle

Don’t stress about the angle. The angle of your panels does not greatly impact the amount of energy you generate, so speak to your broker to ensure they are the closest they can be to capture as much sun as possible.

If you are worried about damaging your roof or your energy broker or installer are unsure whether your roof will be appropriate, there are non-invasive systems available on the market. The most important thing to consider is talking to your energy broker to decide what system will best work for you and your home. Non-roof mounting is doable but comes with more challenges and will impact the price.

What are Solar Rebates? (or STC’s)

Solar Rebates, or STC’s (small-scale technology certificates) as you will commonly see them referred to, are certificates issued by the government as part of Australia’s Renewable Energy target for new panels that are installed. The certificates have a redeemable financial value and saves you money on your solar installation.

In most cases, retailers will factor them in when quoting and you will assign the STC’s to the retailer when you sign your contract. I.e. The STC’s will be factored in like a discount to your total package.

The STC program is still quite lucrative and can have meaningful impact on your total systems cost. For example, on a 6.6kW system you will get around 10 STCs which equates to approximately $3,800.00 off your system. Speak to an energy broker for an exact quote.

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Anyone can claim the rebate through the STC program even if you have an existing system and are upgrading. There are just three key components to be eligible: your system needs to be under 100kW, it must be installed by a CEC approved installer and the panels and inverter must be approved by the CEC.

The STC system is slowly being phased out over the next decade with the value of the program slowly diminishing in value each year. So, get your system installed sooner rather than later to redeem those benefits.

For more information on the possible rebates value you can use the governments STC’s calculator. Or, when you speak to your energy broker, ask them about the STC’s associated with your quote.

What are Feed in Tariffs and how do you get them?

Feed in Tariffs are a vital component to making a solar system even more valuable.

Simply, Feed in Tariffs are the amount of money your energy provider will buy the energy off you that you have returned to the grid. As we mentioned above, using your own generated power has a much better financial outcome, but any surplus can still be sold back into the grid (woohoo!).

Teho Tip

When you are generating your own solar energy in say Sydney or Melbourne, the Feed in Tariff can significantly vary from retailer to retailer and state to state. Don’t take for granted who you buy your energy off because once you have solar, they buy it back off you! Shop around and make sure you get the best deal.

Finding a retailer with a good Feed in Tariff can really impact your systems return on investment so if you aren’t sure, speak to one of our energy brokers and they can discuss possibly switching energy providers for you to get the most value possible. Feed in tariffs range from around 7c – 20c per kW so it can have a truly meaningful impact if you get it right.

When will you get your money back?

There are quite a few variables that will impact the return on investment of your solar system, however the calculations can be quite simple. You need to consider: the size of the system, the initial capital costs (or the ongoing commitment if paying with finance), the amount of energy your system will generate each year, your total house hold power consumption, how much of that power you will use and how much will be fed back into the system (giving you some cash from Feed in Tariffs).

It is not unreasonable to use a range of 3 – 8 years depending on all of the variables above. However, for a more accurate understanding, take the time and go through the steps.

The best thing to do is to use our solar savings calculator, work it out manually or speak to an energy broker.

How much will it cost you to install solar?

Your system cost will change depending on three key variables.

What gear you want installed

Simply, higher end products come with a higher end price tag. Speak to your energy broker to consider some options so you can make an informed decision.

How big the system is

More kW = more panels = more money.

Where you live

Australia is big. Dense and more populated areas usually mean less additional costs associated with the install so it can mean you get a slightly less expensive total cost.

Other stuff

Additionally, there are a lot of other factors that will impact your install cost however it is best to leave them to the professionals. A few examples are a full (or old) metre box, you may need to upgrade your metre box to handle the system; or if you have a flat roof you may need to consider frameless panels.

Companies will advertise system prices online without ever considering your situation or what is best for you, so for that reason, we won’t give out prices as we don’t want to ‘bait and switch’ anyone. 

Speak to one of our energy brokers and they can give you an obligation free quote that will be tailored for your exact scenario. 

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Do you need a Battery?

You never need a battery, but it can be good to achieve a few key things.

Due to the cost of batteries, the pure economics can be challenging. There is no denying that. We will keep it simple here however if you want to learn more, check out our guide on solar batteries.

Firstly, they can cover you in a black out. We can all recall that time the power has cut out as we are halfway through watching a movie or dinner has just gone on. A battery can mitigate this by saving power for when there isn’t any.

Secondly, you can use the power that you have saved up during the day when you may not have needed all of it. These are known as hybrid systems. They will use energy from your battery before drawing from the grid.

Teho Tip

Buying a battery with your solar system will not instantly ‘take you off the grid’. This concept has built some momentum but is not the case. Getting off the grid is very much an achievable exercise, but it can be a very costly one.

Understanding Cash vs. Finance

Cash vs. Finance can be a confusing exercise when it comes to buying solar. We are not a finance company or a bank, so we have decided not to talk about it in detail. Finance is a specialist field for a reason, so for advice speak to someone in finance!

Our only advice is before signing up to anything, make sure you are comfortable that you know what it is, you are happy with the initial costs and the ongoing costs associated with it. There is nothing worse than getting home and a pair of jeans don’t fit like they did in the store. Imagine that feeling but the purchase is a brand-new solar system for your home!

FAQ

Most frequently asked questions and answers

Feed In Tariff is the name for the amount of money an energy provider will buy power back off a customer for when they feed back into the grid. This is generally surplus power generated from a Solar System.

Small-scale technology certificates. These are certificates issued by the Government when someone installs a new solar system. They have an associated financial value that can be claimed. 

PV stands for Photovoltaics. It is the conversion of light into electricity and the science behind what makes solar work.

A solar inverter takes high voltage DC power that is created by solar panels and converts it into lower voltage AC power that can be used in your home.

Solar saves you money by generating energy from the sun which in turn can be used by you in your home. Any additional energy can be sold back into the grid and you will receive a feed in tariff for every kW you produce.

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