Our advice for purchasing a new solar system …
The climate in the southern hemisphere and its innate weather conditions provides a prosperous environment for solar generation. It is imperative you make a carefully considered and formed choice.
We hope this guide assists you on your path to reducing your utility bill and creating an environmentally sustainable way of life for yourself and future generations.
Understanding site specific details and consumption.
Information gathering is an integral part of the solar process. Understanding specific details about your own home will ultimately benefit the outcome.
Compare electricity bills over the course of one year. You may find your consumption changes seasonally. You may use more power during the day than that at night. Your electricity retailer summarises average daily consumption for the billing cycle on each of your bills. Have these utility bills on hand for review at the initial consultation stage.
Ultimately, using as much power as you need during the day is most beneficial when it comes to maximising the benefits of solar power. When the sun is up you are generating and using free power. But at night just like you go to bed, so does your solar power system. If your power consumption is high at night, it may be worth discussing options to add batteries or how to future-proof your system for the inevitable upgrade.
Naturally you want to make an informed decision when completing upgrades to your home or business. Combining a solar system with the right power supply will provide you with the best desired performance outcome. The diagrams below will help you determine the supply coming into your property.
In most states, a single phase property can install a 5kW inverter with-out export limitations being applied by the local network distributor. The maximum you can oversize on a single phase is 10kW. Be sure to discuss export limiting and state distributor requirements with your consultant.
Three phase power offers superior benefits to most properties. In the scheme of modern-day necessities we advise, future-proof your home for inevitable expansion. It may be worthwhile looking at the expense of upgrading your single-phase power supply to 3 phase. Obtain quotes for any distributor or retailer expenses associated with this upgrade outside of the electrical upgrade work required.
In terms of limitations, you can install up to a 15kW inverter without limitation on residential properties in South-East Queensland. The maximum you can oversize on three phase power is a 30kw inverter, export limited to 15kW. A vast amount of roof space is required for such a large installation. Three phase offers greater flexibility for businesses. Often, we see the network allow full export on large businesses. Applications for technical assessment should be submitted for all installations that surpass 15kw.
Businesses often consider going larger than 30kW. Any application above this rating requires further technical assessment. Fees may be incurred for engineering and other particular requirements set by the contract offer negotiated with the network distributor. Large connection offers of this type are assessed by site only and may require augmentation to the local network.
Disclaimer: All regions within states and territories are governed by different electrical distributers. No, one network works the same and or has the same technical assessment process. There are no assurances on what the grid will assess and deem your solar power output to be limited to; if at all. Talk to a qualified representative about the application process in your area.
Understanding how solar works.
Solar panels convert the suns light into DC electricity (direct current). The inverter converts this electricity into AC (alternating current) for use in your home or business. Powering your appliances, pool pumps and machinery instead of drawing from the electricity grid.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Realities show east facing panels will generate more power during the morning. West in the late afternoon and north generate the most energy overall but less in the morning and late afternoon respectively.
Well positioned solar systems in the southern hemisphere optimally face north. This is not always essential but always taken as priority when designing the panel layout. Other factors to consider are exposure to shading, applicable roof space, obstructions, and your consumption pattern.
Power that is generated from your solar panel system is consumed within the property first. If you have a grid-connected system, then excess is sold back to the electricity network for a determined feed in rate.
Grid-connect with battery back-up is fast becoming a practical alternative for those looking to offset their night-time usage. The battery stores excess power and charges during the day. Allowing property owners to offset dependence on the grid during the evening and even allow the capability to have back up power during power outages.
Rural properties and remote areas with limited electricity demand live independently from the grid, installing stand-alone systems. These systems work in conjunction with batteries, back up generation and usually also a generator to supplement their energy.
What is the right size solar system for your property?
Remember every home is different. The way power is consumed within each property is completely unlike the next. There is no ‘one size fits all’ system. Cheap is cheap and often ends up being the most expensive.
If your average daily consumption is below 24kWh per day 6.6kW of solar panels on a 5kW inverter will be sufficient if you are using most of your power consumption during the day. We do not recommend installing a system smaller than this.
Ultimately, your budget and available roof space will pilot your result. Often clients wish they had gone bigger from the start. The bigger the better in most cases, but not all. Oversizing your solar power system now will ultimately future-proof your home or business for the inevitable growth of the electric vehicle, charge station requirements and battery storage solutions.
Don’t regret going to small now, expanding your system in the future can become complicated and expensive.
Your roof pitch, direction and size will impact the benefits of your solar system. Shading is also an influential factor when sizing your system. Deciding on the correct hardware will directly impact the output performance of your solar system.
Choosing the right company.
It pays to do your own research and seek multiple quotes in person. You should always complete an in-home appointment and meet the representative of the company. They should tick certain ethical standards like; honest, reliable, experienced, passionate and be well presented. Gut instinct is always a guiding virtue.
The sales representative should take plenty of site photos whilst there. Check your switchboard for compliance, discuss any upgrades that may need to take place, check your roof for shading and obstructions.
They should come equipped with an informal quotation and panel location diagram with estimated system performance projections. Whilst on site they can confirm if the informal quotation is upheld or whether a revision is necessary based on the inspection findings.
The internet has a plethora of information at your fingertips, use it to background check all quoting companies. Verify they are who they say they are!
Remember you are under no obligation to proceed with an installation. You should never feel pressured, you should feel well informed and comfortable with your decision.
- High pressure sales techniques.
- Door to door salesmen.
- Anyone that says ‘Act now before the government rebate ends’
- Ask you to sign up on the spot.
- Cheap systems being sold under the usual market rate.
- Exaggerated claims about system savings.
- Complete an ABN search on the company’s current and historical data.
- Be in business for more than 5 years.
- Licencing and accreditation verifications with governing authorities.
- Check the business address is not a virtual office.
- Google reviews should have personalised responses unique to each review.
- In-house installation teams are a must!
Approved Solar Retailer
We are an approved Clean Energy Council Solar Retailer. By signing onto this initiative, we have shown our commitment to good business practices and improving standards within the solar industry.
- Provide a standard minimum five-year warranty on your whole system.
- Detail information on the processes between installation to network connection.
- Adhere to all legislations and regulations.
- Sales Representatives will act ethically and not engage in misleading tactics.
Further information can be found on the approvedsolarretailer.com.au website.
Approved Solar Installer
The Clean Energy Council Accreditation recognises individual electricians who have undertaken the necessary training to design and install solar, batteries and other renewable energy systems. The electrician onsite installing your solar system should be able to provide you with their accreditation. Be thorough, check with the company prior to your system being installed who will undertake the installation and request a copy of their accreditation.
Perform a check on the Clean Energy Council website: CEC Find an Installer
The Quotation Process
When shopping around for solar you are likely to receive several quotations. Most difficult to interpret, offer conflicting information and a variety of hardware. We understand how confusing it can be. The quote should be concise, it should not be pages on pages long filled with technical jargon. It is important to make sure the brands and models of the inverter and solar panel are clearly stated. Warranty lengths should be mentioned.
All quotations ought to come with a satellite report showing an aerial view of the proposed panel location and an estimated performance report. Make sure you are happy with the panel location, the production output and its aesthetics.
Site inspections should be completed on quotation. This reduces the risk of inaccuracy. Your switchboard must be assessed for compliance. Should your board not meet the current regulations your meter may not be upgraded to be solar ready.
Feed In Tariffs
A solar feed in tariff or FIT as generally referred to; is the payment made to solar panel owners for the energy they generate and send back into the grid.
There are changes that will ultimately impact your electricity bill because of your solar power installation. After speaking with your sales representative consider calling your electricity retailer and confirm any changes to your contract after the installation of solar.
Now is a great time to shop around and find out which retailers are offering the best rates for solar powered clients.
The subsidy and how it works.
Small-scale technology certificates (STC) are a component of the Federal Governments Renewable Energy Scheme. It was created to promote the use of sustainable energy sources.
STC’s help reduce the initial cost of your solar power system. When purchasing a solar system from us you are supplied with a point-of-sale discount based on your STC value. STC’s can only be claimed on systems rated under 100kW. The creation of STC’s is assessed using geographical locations and solar system sizes. The module and inverter installed must be registered on the Clean Energy Council Approved Product list to be eligible to claim the subsidy.
At the completion of your installation the certificates are created. Data is captured from your installation; such things obtained are serial numbers, solar system information, site specific details and mandatory photos. Your signature is required on the digital assignment form to assign the rights of the certificates over to the installer.
The installation process.
Approval from the grid; before any physical work can commence; an application for Grid Connection must be submitted to your local distributor for approval. Electricity distributors own the infrastructure that deliver power to our homes. We sometimes refer to the distributor as the ‘grid’. There are many companies that distribute electricity across Australia depending on your zoning locations.
In Northern NSW it is Essential Energy and in South East Queensland it is Energex. These distributors have the power to either accept or reject a grid connection application if the proposed solar panel system does not meet the requirements of the grid network. Installation companies with a wealth of experience can benefit you during this process, as they have extensive knowledge of each distributors general requirements.
The more experienced solar installation company can usually advise during the quotation stage what the expectations of the grid will be. For instance, if you live in rural NSW the requirements for approval differ from that of urban locations. Single phase and three phase properties also, require different parameter settings for the approval of your solar system. This is where export limitations can come into play, as we touched on previously.
The timeframe for approval depends significantly on a variety of factors. If you are in South East QLD, then the process is relatively stream-lined. If your application is submitted correctly with all limiting factors applied your application can be approved within 24 hours. If your application goes into ‘evaluation’ the assessment may take between 30 – 60 days for final approval.
Essential Energy in Northern NSW have a slightly different system. Your geographic area; rural or urban plays a vital role in your limitations. If your application duly notes that you will voluntarily limit your system to 5kw Urban, 3kW Rural you will be conditionally approved within 10 business days. Any application outside of the standard will go into a technical assessment which can take up to 30 business days for final approval.
Now it’s time to have your solar system installed.
A date and time for arrival will be advised. Depending on the size of the solar system, the installation may take place over multiple days. You should be advised this during scheduling phase.
- Investigate feed-in-tariffs
- Animals should be restrained.
- Spare tiles should be made available.
- You must be home for your installation.
- WIFI details are required to set-up your monitoring application.
- Check with your retailer any metering costs that may be incurred.
- Your driveway should be clear and accessible for the installation team and vehicles.
On arrival the installation team will discuss with you the panel and inverter locations. It is likely you may have gone over this during the quotation stage; however there are specific install changes that may need to be addressed onsite prior, sometimes during installation. Not all installations are straight forward and unfortunately unforeseen variations arise.
Verify one of the contacts onsite is a qualified electrician accredited with a Design and Install Certification for solar PV systems with the Clean Energy Council. This can be confirmed using the Clean Energy Council – Find an Installer webpage or phoning their general enquiries line.
During hand-over a short demonstration, should be conducted with you regarding the set-up and functionality of the solar power systems monitoring application. Consider this the time to present any queries you have about the operation of the solar system and it’s monitoring platform. Appropriate documentation should be left with post installation. Be sure that you keep all documentation, in the unlikely event you require warranty assistance in the future.
Now your system has been installed…
The final step is the electricity meter. There are 3 scenario’s that may occur here depending on your situation.
1. You will be up and running straight away.
2. Your meter may be replaced or
3. Your meter may be re-configured.
This step is probably the most important. If you are upgrading your solar system then no need to worry it is likely your meter is already configured for solar and no additional works required. If it is your first time installing solar power on your property it will depend on the compatibility of your existing meter. Your electricity retailer will decide if it can be re-configured or replaced.
Post solar installation you should receive a reference number for the ‘solar meter request’ this is dependent on the state or territory you live in. We typically suggest if you have not heard from your electricity retailer within 7 – 10 business days of the installation you should call to follow up on the progress of the installation or configuration. Unfortunately, confidentiality laws prevent anyone but the account holder from discussing account sensitive information.
Any fee or charge associated with replacing or re-configuring your meter should be addressed with you by your electricity retailer. We encourage you to check the first quarterly bill diligently after your solar power system is installed to verify you are in fact exporting power back to the grid when it is not being consumed. This is reflected as a solar feed in tariff (FIT) on your utility bill. Should there have been a charge incurred by the solar meter upgrade this will also be reflected on the first bill received after the solar installation has taken place.
Maintenance, Servicing and Warranties
System performance can be safeguarded through preventative maintenance routines. Regular health checks ensure your solar panel system is operating safely, correctly and efficiently through-out its life span.
Just like any vehicle, to run efficiently; annual servicing is consistently carried out. Your solar system should be treated like you would your car. Regular tune ups promote longevity of the product and its function.
Maintenance and servicing is offered by a range of companies with varying skill sets. We recommend using an approved Clean Energy Council Solar Technician or your original installer. A thorough service will include the following:
- No visible defective switches.
- Fittings and cables are secured.
- No signs of heat stress or water ingress.
- No parts have deteriorated or corroded.
- Panels are clean, secure and free of defects.
- Inverter display panel is working and displaying no faults.
- Emergency procedures for shutdown and isolation are clearly displayed.
- Electrical checks confirming all components are operating as intended.
In the unlikely event of a product failing under warranty. Your first point of contact is your original installation company. They will inspect and test and ascertain if the product can be repaired or replaced. Should they not be contactable for any reason please contact the manufacturer for assistance.
Further industry action can be taken should you not be happy with any service provided. Formal complaints can be lodged with relevant state authorities; Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs. Workmanship and or installation complaints should be made online with the Clean Energy Council.
Best wishes on your solar journey from the team at 4shore Solar.