Making the shift to solar power is an easy decision considering the rapid rise of power bills and is a choice that homeowners are now making every day. The volume of people moving to solar has increased significantly over the past few years with the topic of ‘going green’ becoming more prominent and the change such a cheap advantage for consumers. As a result of this increase, companies here in Australia such as Western Power aren’t making adequate money and are now in debate of pushing the power charges even higher. Those consumers that have made the conclusion to switch to solar won’t be too affected, however those that haven’t will be left in an even more unaffordable position.
The initial investment of this transition is quickly seen as a small price to pay when you are able to experience firsthand the savings made over the coming months and years on your power bill. The change is an exciting one, but with any investment – you need to be careful.
Considering your options
Any industry has its share of deceitful parties who have little interest in your needs and are simply only chasing money; the solar power sector is no different. The old saying “if a deal is too good to be true, then it probably is” can be very much applied to purchasing a solar power system.
With an increasing range of suppliers and products on the market it’s no wonder there can be confusion surrounding the options available – consider these questions:
What size solar panel system is right for your household’s energy consumption?
What product/installer do I choose? Are they a CEC accredited and using CEC approved products?
What make are the solar panels and invertors? Do they meet Australian standards?
What warranty and guarantees are offered by the importer/manufacturer?
Country of origin
Because panels don’t have many working parts where it comes from is not a problem with over 90% of the best brands from China or other Asian countries.
Unfortunately when it comes to inverters, those from China don’t have the best reputation and therefore not recommended. SMA from Germany makes the world’s best inverters followed by Italy.
How solar panels are mounted is an essential point as this connects the system to your roof. Depending on whether your roof is tiled or tin determines how the panels will be mounted and most mounting frames in Australia meet the Australian standards. Good quality systems include Conergy, Grace, Sunlock, Clenergy and Schletter.
In addition to these points, consider the following:
Buy high quality solar panels suited to your exact needs (your current energy bill is also a useful guide to the type of system you might need for your family home or business).
Cheaper systems may cut the initial expenditure but can be unsafe and wont ‘go the distance’.
Make sure you aren’t buying cheap imitation products. Smaller companies sometimes sell off “fakes” which have been imported from China.
Get quotes and ask if the system is upgradable, as you may want to increase the number of solar panels on your roof in the future.
Panels and inverters – Understanding their efficiency and size
The power of your system depends entirely on the solar panels, so a large inverter does not mean that the system is more powerful.
The inverter exchanges the electric current created from your solar panels from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current). If it has a low efficiency the solar energy being converted into electric energy by your panels will be lost as heat energy. If the inverter is highly efficient, most of this solar electric power will be converted to AC and therefore more beneficial for its consumer.
In order to make a system appear more powerful, some companies focus on promoting the inverter size. For example, a system with a 4kW rated solar inverter but with only 1.5kW of solar panels is a 1.5kW system. The larger inverter will not boost the amount of electricity generated, compared to a smaller sized inverter.
Is the inverter the right size for the number of panels? The kW rating of the inverter should be equal to or great than the solar output. kWh is a measure of energy, whilst kW is a measure of power.
Will the panels fit on the north-facing roof of your house? This should be assessed before any work is done.
Invertors manufactured in Germany as opposed to China, are better quality, long lasting and will produce better results. A good example is the Sunny Boy.
However it’s no use just having a high quality invertor, high quality solar panels are crucial for the overall best outcomes; for example Uni-Solar panels.
There are 3 types of common solar panels, monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film.
Most solar panels sold in Australia are mono and poly.
Thin film is much less efficient as it takes nearly double the roof space of other solar panels.
Cheap solar panels won’t draw in as much sun as the more expensive ones do.
Durability + Warranty
The durability of a solar panel is important so ask you installer how much warranty you will have. Inverters will have between 1-5 years and reputable solar panels will have a warranty for 25 years. Check if the company requires you to send the product back to country of manufacture at your own expense, as most will pay to have the panel replaced for you.
A key point to remember is that a warranty will only be honored for as long as the company operates, which proves selecting well-known brands over low cost brands that can disappear overnight is a much solid choice.
Now you have the facts
Your deliberations will be detailed, from the technology and durability to installation issues and variable power charges. It’s easy to be put off with all the options, but don’t be! Once the solar panels are in place, maintenance is minimal and for at least 20 years, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the sunshine at a manageable cost.
This piece was written by the team at Infinite Energy, solar power providers based in Perth, Western Australia with offices in Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.