There's no such thing as a stupid question! And we certainly don't expect you to understand everything about solar power straight away.
We have compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions here to get you up to speed!
You can also download the Clean Energy Council's comprehensive Guide to Installing Solar PV for Households for a wealth of information.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SOLAR POWER SYSTEM AND A SOLAR HOT WATER SYSTEM?
A solar power system uses silicon cells and light to produce electricity. A solar hot water system uses black pipes, evacuated tubes and the sun’s heat to heat water. They are two separate systems.
WHAT IS A GRID CONNECTED OR OFF-GRID SOLAR SYSTEM?
When your solar power system operates alongside a normal connection to the commercially available electricity grid (i.e. you pay an electricity bill). An off-grid solar system stands alone and powers a house completely using battery storage, so they are not connected to the electricity grid. This kind of system is most ideal for those in rural or remote areas.
WHAT FACTORS CAN AFFECT HOW MUCH SOLAR POWER IS GENERATED?
The amount of energy generated by a system at any time is largely influenced by the strength of the radiation levels (i.e. sunlight), which varies naturally across the day, by weather conditions, by the time of year, and also by your geographical location. Other factors which can also influence output are the amount of pollution or humidity in the air, and also any external buildings or trees which may shade the panels across the day. We are able to provide you with an estimate of how your solar panels will perform across the year based on your location and the position of the panels with your quote.
WHAT IS A FEED-IN TARIFF?
When your solar power system is generating more electricity than you are using in your home, the excess power is fed back into the commercial grid for others to use. Your electricity retailer will pay you a credit for this extra electricity, and this is known as a Feed-In Tariff. Currently, most retailers offer a tariff rate of around 8c per kWh, but you can shop around to find a retailer who will give you a better deal.
WHAT SIZE SOLAR SYSTEM DO I NEED TO CUT MY ELECTRICITY BILL DOWN?
Any size solar power system will make an impact on decreasing your electricity bill, and of course, the bigger the system, the bigger the reduction. However, for most average households the most significant change in your bill and the maximum return on your investment occurs with systems at 3kW and over. Most average households in Victoria would use around 15 to 20 kWh per day. A 3 kW Solar Power system will produce roughly 11.5 kWh's per day. A 4.5 kW system will produce around 16 kWh's per day.
It is a good idea to compliment a solar power system with other energy reduction strategies, such as solar hot water systems, energy efficient appliances and LED lighting. It is also wise to maximise your energy use while the sun is shining - that means running the washing machine or the dishwasher while the sun is out and generating free power to save you 30cents per kWH, rather than running them at night and only getting 8c per kWh for the electricity you fed back into the grid during the day.
DOES ROOF LOCATION MATTER AND IS MY HOUSE SUITABLE?
Choosing where you can install solar power is a large part of the decision. If your house doesn't have a good orientation, not much roof space, or lots of shading around, it may not be worth your while installing a system. This is why we utilise either site visits or google maps to evaluate for you during the quoting satge whether or not your house is a suitable candidate for solar power.
WHAT IF MY ROOF DOESN'T FACE NORTH?
North-facing roofs are ideal for solar power, but most systems can work up to an angle of 45 degrees off North, or a system can be designed on a side-pitch array frame for West, and West Facing roofs. Solar panels installed onto flat roofs can be tilted to face the sun.
IF I HAVE SOLAR POWER, DO I STILL HAVE POWER DURING BLACKOUTS?
If you have a grid connected system your power will still go out in a blackout, as your system’s inverter automatically disconnects the electricity supply to prevent electrocution. When this happens, you can’t get your electricity back out of the cables, and you can’t put any more in. To still have power available during blackouts, you would need to have a battery storage system installed also.
HOW LONG DO SOLAR SYSTEMS LAST?
These days, solar power systems are designed to withstand long periods of time and harsh conditions. Tests have shown that after 20 years your system should only show minimal signs of reduction, mainly due to dulling of the glass surface over time. All the solar panels we use include an output warranty to produce at least 80% of their rated output for 25 years, and other components of the system such as inverters have a warranty for 5 years, although these tend to carry on for much longer periods of time also.
WHAT HAPPENS IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG WITH MY SYSTEM?
In the unlikely event that anything should be faulty with your system, we are always here to help you. In addition to your product warranties, we provide you with a 7 year warranty on all our workmanship, so you are always covered if something goes wrong with your system. Click here to find out more about our comprehensive warranty. We pride ourselves on having good relationships with all our clients, and we are always able to help and support you with any issues that may arise.
IS THERE ANY MAINTENANCE THAT NEEDS TO BE PERFORMED FOR THE SYSTEM?
Once a grid-connect system is installed, there is very little that needs to be done. You can make sure you power output is maximised by keeping the panels dust or grime free by giving them a clean with a hose and a gentle brush once a year or so, but that is about all that is required. If you feel that your system needs a clean but you aren't able to do it, we also provide maintenance call-outs at a very minimal fee.
WILL I NEED A NEW SWITCHBOARD OR METER?
Your switchboard and meter do need to be up to date to be compatible with a new grid-connect solar system. Because you are generating your own electricity, utilising mains electricity, and also feeding extra energy back into the grid, your meter needs to be able to record all these processes, particularly so that you can receive the feed-in tarriff credits.
When we install your solar system, we help you organise this by submitting the necessary paperwork to your retailer so that they can organise to have your meter upgraded.
WHERE DO YOU NORMALLY INSTALL THE INVERTER?
The inverter is generally stalled next to your fuse box if there is room. It is silent in its operating, and displays how much electricity has been and is generating.
DO I NEED TO CONTACT MY ELECTRICITY PROVIDER BEFORE I INSTALL SOLAR POWER?
For most domestic installations you do not need to notify your electricity supplier. In some cases, mainly for larger systems, we do not need to contact the supplier to get pre approval prior to installing the system. We are aware of when this is necessary of course, and take care of all the paperwork for you. We will let you know during the quoting stage if we will be in contact with your provider.
IS MY SOLAR SYSTEM COVERED BY INSURANCE?
As with most large purchases for the home, you need to inform your House and Contents Insurer about your solar power system to make sure you are covered.
HOW LONG DOES THE INSTALLATION PROCESS TAKE?
A typical installation typically takes one to two days depending on your property. We will inspect your site prior to determine the ease of installation. The installation includes connection of the solar system to mains power, installation of the inverter, and installation of the solar panels and framing. After the inital installation of the system, we will also arrange an inspection of the property by a Registered Electrical Inspector, and also the upgrading of your meter. Your electricity provider will charge you a separate fee of around $170 to sign a Feed-In Tariff Agreement with them, and after you have paid this the meter normally gets changed four weeks following installation.