Six important questions to ask when considering rooftop solar panels
Navigating the world of solar power systems can feel daunting. To help you on your journey, we’ve outlined some of the key things you should consider.
27 April 2022
Australia is leading the world when it comes to rooftop solar power adoption, with solar panels now installed on more than three million homes around the country.
As the cost of installing a rooftop solar (PV) system has reduced over time, more Australians are harnessing the power of the sun for their energy needs and reaping the rewards, both environmental and financial.
Installing rooftop solar panels can come with benefits like saving on energy bills and reducing your carbon footprint, but navigating the world of solar systems can feel daunting.
With our network of trusted tradies, we’ve helped over 80,000 Australians make the switch to solar energy since 2015. To help you on your journey, we’ve outlined some of the key things you should consider.
1. What size solar power system do I need?
To determine the right size system for your home, you will need to consider a number of factors including your household electricity usage, where you live, the size and shape of your roof, and any limitations imposed by your local council or electricity distributor (DNSP).
The size of a solar panel system is measured in kilowatts (kW), which reflects the maximum power a system can deliver in perfect conditions, while power over time is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh) - this is what you will see on your electricity bill.
While the orientation of your solar panels and any shade from surrounding trees or structures will play a role, households in sunnier climates can generally benefit from higher energy output. In Perth, for example, a 1kW solar PV system will produce 4.4kWh of energy per day on average, while the same size power system in Melbourne will produce around 3.6kWh, according to the Clean Energy Council.
Unless you have a way to store your excess energy (read more about solar batteries below), you can only use your solar energy to power your home while it’s being generated (i.e. when the sun is shining on your panels).
While north-facing solar panels will generally get the most direct sunlight, it’s also important to consider when you use electricity. If your energy usage is highest in the morning, for example, then east-facing panels that capture the morning sun could be a good option for you.
Be sure to think about your future needs, too. If you’re planning on purchasing an electric vehicle, growing your family or switching from gas to electric heating, your household’s electricity usage will likely increase. You can find the average annual electricity usage for households in your area here.
Each home is unique and every household has different needs, so it’s best to work with your local solar panel installer to find the right solution for you, but having a clear idea of your energy usage and when you use the most power will help steer you in the right direction.
2. Will installing rooftop solar panels save me money?
A solar power system suited to your household needs will generally pay off in the long run. According to the Australian Energy Foundation, a typical home will recoup the initial investment in three to five years.
There are finance options available to help make the cost of installing a solar system more manageable. With our 0% interest payment plan, you can purchase a solar panel system and pay us back over time with affordable, fortnightly repayments.
Using more of your self-generated solar energy to power your home could mean your system pays for itself faster. Running appliances during the day when the sun’s out, for example, can help you get the most out of your power system and break-even sooner.
If your solar panels are generating more power than you are consuming, the excess energy can be fed into the electricity grid. Many energy retailers pay feed-in tariffs for this energy. You can compare the amount paid by different retailers using the Australian Government’s Energy Made Easy comparison tool.
3. Is a solar battery right for me?
A solar battery allows you to store excess energy that you generate from your solar panels, meaning you can use more renewable energy to power your home. This can result in lower energy bills and fewer emissions - a win for you and the environment!
Battery adoption has increased in Australia over the past five years, helped along by state-based incentive schemes. While solar battery systems are still relatively expensive, if your household has particularly high electricity bills or you can access a rebate to help offset costs, installing a battery with your solar power system can pay off.
By reducing your reliance on the grid for your energy needs, a battery can also provide protection against rising electricity usage prices and power outages in some cases.
4. What government rebates are available?
There are federal and state government incentives available to help offset the cost of installing a solar PV system.
Under the Australian Government’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme, people who install an eligible solar panel system are entitled to small-scale technology certificates (STCs), which act as a form of currency. These certificates are typically sold by solar panel installers on behalf of homeowners in return for a lower purchase price. You can check with your vendor whether you are eligible for the scheme when discussing a quote.
Tip: Solar vendors will often apply the discount from the federal scheme in their quote.
Depending on where you live, you may also be able to access a state-based scheme:
- The ACT Government’s Sustainable Household Scheme offers a rebate of up to $2,500 and 0% interest loans of between $2,000 and $15,000 for eligible households through an exclusive partnership with Brighte. The ACT also offers a rebate for installing a new solar battery through their Next Gen program.
- In NSW, eligible low-income households can swap their energy rebate for a free 3kW solar panel system through the Energy Bill Buster scheme.
- The SA Government’s Home Battery Scheme gives South Australians access to subsidies and low-interest loans to install a home solar battery system.
- In the Northern Territory, homeowners can apply for a grant of up to $6,000 to buy and install a solar battery system.
5. Am I getting the best deal?
When it comes to rooftop solar panels, many are worried about paying too much or ending up with a power system not suited to their needs.
The Australian Energy Foundation estimates that you can expect to pay between $5,500 and $9,500 for a good quality 5kW solar panel system. Some of the factors that influence price are the brand, warranty terms, inverter type, where you live, installation difficulty, and included extras like apps to track your energy usage.
To help ensure you’re paying a fair price and installing the right panel system for your home, it’s wise to compare quotes from at least three different contractors before you commit. Our free solar quoting service helps put you in touch with independent local solar panel installers - you can request quotes from our network of vendors by answering a few simple questions here.
6. What warranties are included?
To safeguard yourself against any issues down the track, it’s important to look closely at the included warranties.
A product warranty, typically 10 years, covers any manufacturing or material defects, while a performance warranty guarantees a minimum power output over time, typically up to 25 years. A high-quality solar panel would be expected to produce at least 80% of its original output after 25 years, according to Solar Victoria.
A good quality inverter - the part of your system that converts power from your solar panels into electricity that can be used in your home - should last at least 10 years in the right conditions. Solar Victoria suggests purchasing a five-year inverter warranty at a minimum, adding that it is often possible to purchase an additional five-year warranty on top, which can offer peace of mind. There are also installation warranties, which cover the workmanship of the system installer.
Warranties may lapse if the company responsible closes down or becomes insolvent, so be sure to do your research and read the fine print.
A shift to a more sustainable home can benefit both your wallet and the planet. Arming yourself with some basic knowledge will help you ensure you end up with the right solar system for your home, so you can enjoy the benefits of renewable energy for years to come.
Page updated: 5 August 2022
At Brighte, we’re on a mission to make sustainable home solutions affordable and accessible to all Australians. To learn more about our 0% interest payment plans or request quotes for solar from our trusted partners, click here.