Australian home with a solar system installed.

If you’ve found yourself on this page I assume there is a reason: your last quarterly bill shocked you, and you are dreading opening your next one.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Retailers have raised their rates by 20% in the last 6 months alone. That means that the average Australian homeowner (read: you) spends an additional $600 per annum on power from the grid.

Now, if you’re looking into going solar, you’re already on the right track—it can save you money in the long run, and save the planet too.

But to make sure you get the most out of solar power, you’ll need to get your head around the basics.

Like: How does solar actually work? Do you need to get off the grid or not? Is it worth it? How much will it cost? Will I still have power if it rains?

We have the answers to all of these questions and more, so dig into our ‘Ultimate Guide to Solar Power’ and kick your quarterly bill for good.

Why Staying on the Grid Will Cost You

We all know that domestic power bills have been increasing over time. Sharply. To cite just one example, the average Australian electricity bill rose by around

Why Go Solar?

While the upfront cost of solar may be daunting, the truth is that solar power is the cheapest form of energy in the world. In fact, in most states

The most important component of any solar system is the array of panels up on your roof. During the daytime, your panels absorb the sunlight and convert it into clean electricity.

Most people assume that it’s as simple as that, but don’t go forgetting the important role your inverter plays.

You see, to be used in the home, sunlight needs to be converted into the right type of electricity.

An inverter takes direct current (aka DC) from the solar panels and turns it into alternating current (aka AC).

This allows your solar energy to be used by the appliances in your home. The inverter usually sits on the exterior wall of your house or inside the garage.

Solar systems can be grid or off-grid.

On-grid systems are connected to the electricity network. Off-grid means that your home produces and consumes electricity separate from the national network.

If your solar energy system is connected to the grid, you can export your excess electricity to the grid and get rewarded for the contribution.

On the other hand, if your home is using more power than your panels can produce, you will draw power from the grid.

That is why a smart meter is a necessary and important component. It measures how much electricity is exported and imported, so your energy retailer can provide an accurate quarterly bill.

You can also generate power during the day and save it for later or use it at night time. For this, you’ll need a battery.

Recently, home batteries have become increasingly popular. With the advent of the Powerwall, energy storage has opened homeowners up to a world of possibilities when it comes to saving power.

Let’s take a closer look at all solar system elements.

Inverter

Most people’s interest stops at the quality of their solar panels, but a high-quality solar system requires more than a high output array.

The thing is, the power that comes from your solar panel is known as a DC or direct current.

To make solar work for your home, you need an inverter that transforms direct current into a 240V alternating current (AC), which is usable in the home.

Maybe Acca Dacca should have really been DC/AC (although it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it).

Here are a few products that lead the inverter market nowadays:

Meter

If you choose to direct your excess energy back to the grid, you’ll need a meter.

Net metering, NEM, or Net Energy Metering is a process of buying and selling solar power between you and your electricity provider.

Using this system, if your solar panels produce more energy than you need, you can choose to feed the excess into the grid and receive a credit on your account.

And if you consume more power than your solar is capable of producing, you can use the electricity from the grid.

Making sure you get the right meter can be a little complicated, but a good installer should help to simplify the process.

Make sure your installer applies to Energex (the energy authority in Queensland) who will accept or deny the application, before notifying your retailer, who will be the one to actually install the meter.

If you don’t want to send your excess power to the grid, then a battery solution might be for you.

Home Battery

To save your solar energy for later use, you will need to store it in a home battery. As little as five years ago, home batteries seemed like an unrealistic option for most homeowners. But today, thanks to reduced costs, better technology, and greater demand, batteries are more affordable than ever.

Basically, the battery makes the solar panel work for you 24/7, even at night, when the sun is no longer out. It will also provide energy during blackouts and brownouts.

Instead of receiving a FiT (Feed-in Tariff) of 6-11c, you can save 22-28c for every kWh you store in your battery unit.

By doing so, homeowners can increase their consumption of renewable energy by up to 85%!

The best batteries for a solar system are:

How to Choose an Installer for Your Solar

Once you’ve decided to go solar, it’s time to choose the right installer. Solar is an investment, so it is important to get your money’s worth.

But not all of them are worth your attention. According to the ASIC liquidated companies register, over 520 businesses which include the word ‘solar’ in their company name have gone into liquidation—that is, they’ve gone under—since 2011.

Keep your eyes open. Here is a list of things to check before you sign up:

Are you dealing with a sales company or solar company?

After the government announced that there would be solar rebates, the industry was flooded with cowboys and lone riders looking to make a quick buck.

So it’s worth asking yourself: are you dealing with a company that is focused solely on taking your money and leaving the rest to outsourced installers?

Make sure that your chosen installer is a solar company before all else. That means working with people who understand solar, but more importantly, who understand the Australian homeowner.

How to Choose a Solar Installer

Are the products cheap or safe? Getting a deal on average products with limited longevity might save you money now, but will cost you in the long run. Remember: buy cheap, buy twice.

Are there any hidden costs in your contract? Some companies might cut corners to offer you a cheap, easy-to-sell system. Know exactly what you’re paying for.

Who is going to install your system? Using subcontracted labour instead of having their own crew is dangerous, as the result can be unpredictable and the quality impossible to guarantee.

All installers should be properly trained, have years of experience and be accredited by the

If you’re lucky, your roof will have a 22-23 degree sloped northeast or west facing roof. If you’re even luckier, you’ll have colorbond, to avoid cracked tiles.

Fortunately, if your home wasn’t built from the ground up to house the perfect solar system. Your installer can use tilted racking to provide a better angle.

Make sure your home’s roof meets Australian standards:

Water Leaks

On average, about 50 percent of installs require tile grinding. It is critical when installing on a tile roof to safeguard against potential water leaks into the roof.

Tip: Make sure your installer will do everything that’s needed to prevent tiles from cracking or leaking in the future.

Cable Fixings

Australian standards require that no cables be hanging under the solar panels and be in contact with the roof.

Tip: Make sure your installer uses a combination of stainless steel cable clips to fix all cabling to the panels and rails and understands the necessity of a neat and tidy install.

Roof Penetrations

Australian standards require the use of a Dektite (or similar) to seal cable entry points.

Tip: Make sure your installer uses full-sized genuine flashings to ensure a guaranteed watertight cable entry.

Rooftop Isolator Protection

To meet Australian standards, solar systems must include isolators on the roof, at the inverter, and on the switchboard. If your installer fails to install high-quality isolators, they may deteriorate in the sun and cause a system failure.

Tip: Make sure your installer fits your system with all the appropriate components, to prevent system failure.

Final Touch-ups

An unlevelled solar array on the roof looks terrible. The installer should take the measurements between the roof and the rail at either end then make adjustments to counter any bows in the roof. Most roofs have a bow!

Tip: Make sure your solar looks awesome!

How Many Panels Do You Need?

Solar Paneles Installation Process

The size of your solar system will depend entirely on how much energy you use on a daily basis.

The best way to get an idea of just how much power you produce is to look at your power bill. You will find when your house is most power-hungry, and how much energy you’re using during those times.

To roughly calculate what size system you will need, and, ultimately, how many panels to have installed, simply divide your quarterly bill by 100 to find the kW size of your future system.

For example:

Your Solar System = $650/100
Your Solar System = 6.5kW

To determine the number of panels you’ll need, divide the total size of the system by the panel’s output or wattage.

Most Tier 1 panels fall within the range of 270-310 watt panels.

If you were to use a 285W panel, your system would need 23 panels in total to produce 6.5kW for every sun hour.

Analysing your power bill is the best way to understand how big your system will need to be to cover the cost of your bill. It will also give you an understanding of how much you might end up spending.

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How Much Does a Solar System Cost?

When talking price, every homeowner wants the same thing: a dollar figure.

Unfortunately, an exact price is difficult to determine, as every property is unique.

It’s always best to talk to your local solar company or installer first, and request an inspection before getting a price.

However, the CEC (Clean Energy Council) has given homeowners Solar Savings Calculator.

On the other hand, if you’d like to find out how much you might save check out our Solar Savings Calculator.

What Are STCs and How Do Rebates Work?

STCs stand for Small Scale Technology Certificates. STCs are awarded by the government for reducing CO2 emissions.

For the Australian homeowner, it’s an opportunity to get an upfront discount on the system and installation.

Simply put, larger corporations purchase your STCs to help contribute to a smaller national carbon footprint.

To keep up to date on the latest STC price,

If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!

Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.

Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.

Photo credit: Depositphotos

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