Arron Wood

Sustainable Business and Education Leader

How do I go solar for my home?


With electricity prices constantly on the rise getting your power from the sun is becoming a more attractive option for many Australians.  Deciding to go solar can be an exciting, but confusing time for many people.  There are so many brands, feed-in-tariffs, rebates and it can all seem just a bit overwhelming.

 So like any major purchase here are some points to keep in mind when choosing your solar company.

 ·       Accredited Installers. In order to qualify for Solar Credits rebates your solar power system has to be installed by a Clean Energy Council accredited installer

·       Get a few quotes This is a big purchase and you wouldn’t buy a car without shopping around so make sure you get quotes from a few different companies and compare what they are offering.  There is also nothing wrong with negotiating on price.

·       Find a trusted brand. The solar power industry is relatively young in Australia, and is growing rapidly. This is a good thing, because it encourages competition amongst suppliers, and provides a lot of options for consumers. It also means there are a lot of young businesses popping up that may not have the expertise and experience you’re looking for. Try to find a reputable and established company you can trust. Make sure they are a quality endorsed company with a proven installation history, and have a proven track record.

·       Make sure that a system is customized to YOUR needs and considers your available roof space, your current electricity requirements, and your budget. A good sales representative can give you a range of options that meet YOUR needs. You may want to simply reduce your own power bills, or you may want to feed as much power back into the grid as possible and make a profit from the extra power you generate.

·       Always compare like products. System components, such as your panels, inverter, and mounting systems can vary in quality from manufacturer to manufacturer. Make sure you’re getting quality products from trusted brands. Make sure the components and are certified to meet Australian standards. This is important when applying for government incentives, which could save you thousands of dollars.

·       Ensure that you are getting genuine product warranties and customer guarantees. Normally a quality panel will carry a 25 year manufacturers warranty, a quality inverter should carry a 10 year warranty. Look for a company who uses top quality products and backs them. Some companies will even offer extended warranties and performance guarantees for extra peace of mind.

·       Make sure they help you find ways of making your system work better for you. A good sales consultant will chat to you about how you use your power at home, and suggest ways of maximizing the power your system produces. It’s not just about selling you a system, it’s about helping our environment, and a good sales representative will show you have you can make simple behavioural changes that can make a difference to the environment, and to your bills! 

·       Government rebates are available. Make sure you choose a provider who can help you make the most of government rebates and incentive programs. (A) The Solar Credits initiative could save you literally thousands of dollars on the upfront cost of your system. The value of the discount is dependant on the value of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) at the time that you buy. Each system is entitled to a certain number of RECs determined by the size of the system you choose and how much sunlight falls on your roof in your suburb. The price does fluctuate, so it can vary quite a bit. (B) “Feed in tariffs” are a premium rate paid to you by your electricity provider for the extra power your systems generates and feeds back into the grid. Currently electricity can cost over 20c per kW hour in peak times for you to buy. In Victoria, electricity providers are only required to pay about 8c per kW hour for the solar power you sell back. Pretty lousy really and there’s a strong case for a feed in tariff more like 12-15c to better reward those going solar who missed out on the heady days of 60c feed in tariff’s.

The Clean Energy Council has released a consumer guide to buying solar panels. It is available on their website and I have a 4.3Kw system and I couldn’t’ be happier.  In an average year the panels have generated twice as much electricity as I have used in that same period.  The future has never looked brighter!