A 25 year ‘performance warranty’ doesn’t cover you for any problems that affect your system. It’s very easy for solar manufacturers to get out of this ‘performance warranty’, by claiming that any defects in the panels fall under the ‘product warranty’, which is usually only 10 years.
There are 5 separate warranties that you get with a solar system:
- a 25 year performance warranty on your panels
- a 10-25 year product warranty on your panels
- a 5-10 year warranty for your inverter
- a 5-10 year warranty on the rail/racking system
- a 5-10 year warranty for the workmanship
Check that the warranty is backed by an Australian entity. You don’t want to deal with a manufacturer’s warranty that states that the customer has to post the panels back to China at their own expense to get them tested or replaced!
Also remember that for a warranty to be honoured, the manufacturer needs to still be operating; so be cautious of brands without a decent track record in Australia.
Make sure that the installer is prepared to honour the manufacturers’ warranties. If they use sub-contractors to install your system, you want to make sure that the responsibility is on the solar installation company, not the sub-contractor to fix or replace any components that fail.
Most businesses use the bulk of their electricity during daylight hours (running machinery, air-conditioners, lighting, computers, photocopiers, refrigerators etc). With the installation of a quality solar power system, most businesses can reduce their electricity bills by 50-75%.
- Solar helps businesses cut their energy bills and protects against rising electricity prices.
- The panels on your roof generate power during the day, which you can use for free (even if it’s a cloudy day, your panels still produce power). 2nd source of energy.
- There are still generous government rebates available to businesses. The Federal government contributes as much as $78,000 on commercial solar power systems!
- You’ll get benefit out of the system if:
– you use at least 50% of your electricity during daylight hours
– you pay at least 18c/kWh for your power, your bills are $1,000-$20,000/qtr and your roof space is unshaded
- Payback (an average size solar system for an SME (10kW), costs around $13,500; net saving: approx. $48,000 over 10 years; payback approx. 3.1 years).
Here are our Top 5 tips on choosing a quality solar power system:
Tip 1. Give Yourself Space To Grow
Think about your roof space as an asset. You don’t want to cover it with inefficient panels.
Fast-forward 5 years to when you may have an electric car. You may also want to send some surplus solar energy to your battery bank.
If you cover your roof with inefficient panels now, there’s no room for future expansion. So choose a panel that’s at least 19-20% efficient, such as SunPower or LG panels.
Tip 2. Only Buy A European Inverter
They’re more reliable, more efficient and will last much longer than a Chinese counterpart (15 years compared to around 4-5 years). SMA, Fronius and ABB inverters are all made in Europe and are all excellent.
Tip 3. What About Warranties?
Unless your Cantonese is excellent, only buy equipment from manufacturers with warranties held here in Australia.
Imagine a panel or inverter fails … you’ll want to liaise directly with the manufacturer here in Australia to have the issue resolved quickly, rather than return the equipment to China at your own expense.
Tip 4. Go local
Local is good for a number of reasons: you’re supporting local business, but you’re also much more likely to get prompt after-sales service if it’s needed.
Tip 5. You Get What You Pay For
If you’re going to spend thousands of dollars on a solar power system, don’t skimp on the quality of the equipment or installation. Quality equipment and installation isn’t cheap. You very much get what you pay for. It’s very easy for companies to reduce costs by cutting important corners. Only go with a reputable installer that’s CEC-accredited and pay a fair price for a system.
Price is important but it’s by no means the most important factor to consider. With a higher efficiency and slightly dearer system, you can expect to generate more electricity and therefore save more money on your electricity bill than with a cheap Chinese system.
‘A poor man always pays twice.’
Make sure you don’t pay twice. Choose good quality equipment.
This is the true definition of value for money.
Here are my top 10 tips on getting the greatest benefit out of solar:
- Be guided by your orientation: your panels produce the most electricity between (N-facing: 10am and 3pm; E-facing: 8am & 1pm; W-facing: 11am-4pm), so try to use your washing machine, dishwasher, pool, dryer, air-con, etc during these hours whenever you can.
- Follow the sun: Your system will produce more power when it’s a clear, sunny day, than on a grey, cloudy day, so follow the sun and use heavy-duty appliances when there’s sunlight hitting them.
- Program away: If you’re not home during the day, program your appliances (eg. pool, spa, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, air-conditioner) to come on during daylight hours, so that you’re using your free solar power (especially if it’s going to be a lovely sunny day).
- Stagger where you can: Within reason, stagger your electricity usage – ie. if you can avoid it, don’t use all your heavy-duty appliances at the same time. If you use everything all at once, you’ll find you’ll be buying some of your power from the grid, rather than just using your free solar power.
- Minimise at night: Try to minimise your electricity usage at night when your solar panels aren’t operating, otherwise, you’ll be buying more power from the grid than you’d like. eg. switch to LEDs, eliminate stand-by power.
- Wipe them clean: After a dust storm or if you notice some bird poo on your panels, it’s wise to wipe/clean them with a soft sponge and warm soapy water to ensure optimal performance.
- Be in the know: If you really want to ensure you’re getting the most out of your system, consider buying an energy monitor, which will tell you in real time how much electricity you’re consuming vs producing and if you’re exporting any excess solar electricity back to the grid.
- Output OK? It’s a good idea to check your system’s output on your inverter every once in a while, to make sure your system is operating/producing as it should.
- Who’s paying the most? Find out which energy retailers are paying the most for surplus solar power.
- Get a freebie: email us your ‘before’ and ‘after’ bill and we’ll provide you with a free bill analysis of how your solar power system is going and whether you’re doing all you can to utilise your free solar energy.
Although we all like the idea of disconnecting from the grid altogether, for most households and businesses, it’s advisable to stay connected. This is because the cost of a hybrid system (where you have solar panels + battery storage + the grid as your backup) is so much cheaper than an off-grid system.
The cost of an off-grid or stand-alone system is about $50,000 whereas the cost of a hybrid system is between $10,000 – $12,000.
Batteries are available but at this stage generally do not come standard when you buy a solar power system. They’re becoming more popular and certainly cheaper than they were a few years ago. As the cost comes down, you’ll find that bundle deals (including panels, inverter and batteries) will become standard.
If you’re able to use a reasonable amount of your electricity during daylight hours, you’ll benefit from installing a solar power system. By simply using the electricity that your system produces each day by running appliances like washing machines, clothes dryers, air-conditioners, pools, spas, etc, you’ll see an immediate reduction in your bill.
Yes – if your system produces more power than you’ve used during the day, you send the excess back to the grid and you get paid for this:
- Energy Australia: 5.5c/kWh
- Origin: 6c/kWh
- PowerShop: 7.2c/kWh
- AGL: 8c/kWh
- Click Energy: 10c/kWh
Yes – you use the solar electricity your system generates, as it’s being generated. This means you buy less electricity from the grid. Example: You consume 10kWh/day. You buy a system which produces 7kWh/day. You use this 7kWh and then buy 3kWh from the grid. Therefore, the amount of electricity you buy from the grid reduces by 70%.
There’s a huge variance in the quality of solar power systems in Australia. The main differences are:
- The quality of the components used
- The durability of the panels
- Efficiency (how much electricity your panels will produce over the next 25 years)
- How they perform in hot and overcast conditions
This depends on:
- How much electricity is used each day
- When you use most of your electricity (day or night)
- Your budget
Your usage System size Mid-range system
Premium system (after rebate) Small user
2kW system $3,900 $4,900 Medium user
3kW system $5,000 $6,400 Larger user
5kW system $7,100 $8,500 Big user
7kW system $8,800 $11,400
Here’s a rundown of how much you can expect a good quality solar power system to save you:
|Your usage||System size
Yes there’s still a generous Federal government rebate, which contributes to about a quarter to a third of the total system cost. The average size residential system is 5kW and the rebate for this size system is just over $3,800. The larger the system, the larger the rebate.
Instead of buying your power from the grid, you get it direct from your own power source: the sun. The panels on your roof generate electricity during daylight hours, which you get to use for free (if you’re not home much during the day, it’s easy to program appliances to run at certain times with a delay start function). At night, you will draw power from the grid, as you always have. But because your electricity-hungry appliances have run mostly during the day, you’ll find your electricity bill will drop dramatically.