5 things to know about investing in solar panels for home or business
Choosing whether to invest in a rooftop solar power system for your home or business is a big decision. Solar energy is one of the most popular forms of renewable energy in the electricity mix here in WA . In fact, around 400,000 WA homes and businesses (or around 36% of customers in the South West Interconnected System or SWIS) already have a rooftop solar installation.
Each rooftop solar power system represents a distributed energy resource, or DER. DER are smaller-scale energy resources that connect to the grid and either use, generate or store electricity – and the WA Government has published a DER Roadmap outlining a framework to make the most of these resources.
There are many questions to ask when considering a rooftop solar power system, so if you’ve been thinking about investing in solar panels for your home or business, here are five things you should know.
#1 A solar panel system might not be a good option for you
Having a rooftop solar power system could be one way to reduce your home or business electricity bills, but it does involve a significant upfront investment. According to the Clean Energy Council (CEC), the average cost for an average size home system (5.5kW) can range from $3,500 up to $9,500 and larger systems can cost anywhere up to $15,000. The upfront cost will depend on a range of factors, including the system size and brand of rooftop solar panels and solar inverters used.
When you’re deciding if a rooftop solar power system is a good option for you, you should look at how and when you use electricity at your home or business. Remember, solar power is only generated during the day when the sun is shining and the amount of power your rooftop solar installation could generate will depend on your system size.
If you use a lot more electricity than your rooftop solar power system can generate, or if the majority of your electricity consumption generally happens at night and you can’t shift your electricity usage habits – then you should consider carefully whether rooftop solar panels is a good option for you. If you’re considering solar for your home, you might be better off taking advantage of a Time of Use tariff . If you’re considering solar for your business, you may be able to support green energy for business in other ways.
If you can make the most of the solar electricity generated by a rooftop solar power system, it could be a great investment in your home or business. Using electricity generated by your solar installation could help to reduce your electricity bills, as you’re likely to be drawing less power from the electricity grid. Further, since the electricity mix from the grid includes both renewable and non-renewable sources, using electricity generated by your rooftop solar power system is also a way you could reduce your emissions.
#2 Look beyond the price of your solar installation
When you are looking at what to consider when buying solar panels, it’s important to choose your solar supplier and installer carefully. To start with, be wary of any company who promises ‘zero electricity bills’ in the future. Daily supply charges for connection to the electricity grid will still be payable as well as charges for any electricity usage charges for any electricity you need to draw from the grid and you will still need to power your Wi-Fi, lights and alarms when the sun isn’t shining.
Here are some other things to think about when you’re looking for a quote for a rooftop solar power system:
- Beware of any price which seems too good to be true and high-pressure sales tactics that require you to sign up or accept and offer quickly by a certain date.
- Solar panels generally last a long time, so look for an experienced solar supplier with a great reputation so they can provide you support in the future if needed.
- Quality solar panels and solar inverters are likely to cost more upfront but could last longer when compared to cheaper options.
- Make sure your solar supplier and installer is comfortable answering any questions you have – such as explaining how small scale technology certificates (STCs) work and the whether your home or business may be eligible for the distributed energy buyback scheme (DEBS).
- Think about your electricity needs now and into the future as batteries storage systems, electric vehicles (EVs) and electrification are likely to play a bigger role in our lives.
If you’re considering investing in a commercial solar system for your business electricity needs, here are some tips to help you choose the right solar installation company.
#3 Solar panels are just one part of your rooftop solar power system
Rooftop solar power systems catch that famous WA sunshine and use solar inverters to transform the solar energy into electricity or power that can be used to power your home, business and even electric vehicles.
As a whole, your solar PV system is made up of:
- Solar panels - These are a collection of photovoltaic (PV) solar cells which collect the energy from the sun and convert it into DC (direct current) electricity.
- A solar inverter - This converts DC electricity to AC (alternating current) electricity, which is then used to power appliances and equipment in your home.
- Mounting or racking - This is used to attach your solar panels to your roof and is usually made of aluminium. Your solar installation company might angle the mounting to maximise the panels exposure to the sun.
Your solar system might also have a consumption monitoring feature accessible with a mobile application that measures how much electricity your solar panels are producing and how much electricity you are drawing from the grid. Not every rooftop solar power system will include a consumption monitoring feature – but if your system does, monitoring your solar power output and use can help you to make the most of your rooftop solar power system. You can also use Synergy My Account to see how much you’re drawing from the electricity grid.
You could also consider investing in a battery storage system to help make the most of any excess solar power your rooftop solar power system produces during the day. Rather than exporting solar power to the electricity grid, excess solar power could be stored in your battery to help power your home or business when the sun goes down, or on cloudy days.
#4 The position of your solar panels matter
Your solar panels should be positioned on the roof of your home or business where they will have the most exposure to the sun. Depending on the space available, the location of your home or business and any shading on your rooftop, your solar panels could even be mounted at an angle to maximise sun exposure.
Your solar panel supplier and installer should consider your electricity needs at different times of the day when considering where to place your solar panels. For example, more solar power will be generated in the morning from east-facing solar panels, in the middle of the day from north-facing solar panels and in the afternoon from west-facing solar panels.
If you’re building or renovating your home, you might like to consider how your home design could help you to make the most of solar energy.
When you’re exploring the different elements of a rooftop solar power system, remember that the biggest system with the most solar panels is not always the best option. Exporting solar power back to the electricity grid used to be a high priority for solar customers – but it’s now known that the real benefit of a rooftop solar power system is using as much of the solar power your system generates as possible. This reduces the amount of power you may need to buy from the electricity grid, which could help to reduce your electricity costs.
#5 You can be a solar super user
As more renewable energy generation is introduced across the SWIS, everyone can play a role in helping to keep the electricity grid stable to avoid the risks associated with low load. By using as much of the solar power your system produces as possible, you can make the most of your system and help support the stability of the electricity grid too.
With a few simple habit changes, you could be a "solar super user" by shifting as much of your electricity use to times when solar power generation is highest. This is usually between 10am and 2pm. For example, you could run your dishwasher and washing machine during the day, so you don’t need to draw that power from the electricity grid by running these appliances overnight.
You might like to use a mobile application to monitor your electricity consumption to help you make the most of the solar energy your system generates by adjusting your electricity usage habits. You could also consider connecting a battery or using your solar energy to help power an EV in the future.
If you’re wondering what happens once your rooftop solar panels have been installed, here are five things to do after your solar panel installation.