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Solar panels on a rooftop

Your guide to knowing if solar is right for you!

Over 2 million Australian homeowners have made the switch to solar (CEC, 2018), but how do you know if installing solar panels is right for you? By answering a few key questions, you will feel more informed and better equipped to make the decision. So, let’s get started…

By Carly Nichols

12 March 2019

1. How much energy are you using?

If you’re thinking about installing solar panels, a great place to start is with your current electricity bill to determine your daily energy requirements.

For every 1kW of solar panels, you can generate on average 4kWh of electricity per day. So if your household is currently using 20kWh per day on the grid, as a rule of thumb, a 5kW solar system should keep things running nicely.

The Clean Energy Council has created a handy table which shows the average amount of solar-generated by location and household size.

2. When are you using your energy?

Once you know how much energy you are using, the next step is to understand when you are using it. Start by reflecting on your daily routine and cross-checking it against your electricity bill, focusing on these two pieces of information:

Average daily use: On your electricity bill you will see a bar graph representing your electricity usage in kilowatt hours (kWh). If you are on a time of use tariff, you can see your average energy usage during peak, shoulder and off-peak periods.

The usage charge: This will be shown as cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh).

If you have a time of use tariff, you may observe that your 'peak' usage is high, this may include the use of your TV, air conditioner, dishwasher etc are all running. In such cases, you may consider installing west-facing solar panels to maximise your solar energy production during busy afternoon periods. You could also consider installing a battery to ensure coverage into the evenings and to avoid expensive peak tariffs from your energy provider.

3. Is your property suitable for solar panels?  

The location of your property and the type of roof over your head is another key factor when considering if solar is right for you.

As Australia is south of the equator, it is optimal to install solar panels on a tilted, north facing roof.  In homes without a north-facing roof, solar installers can use a strategy called 'follow the sun', whereby panels are placed on the eastern, and western sides of your roof to ensure a portion of your solar panels are always facing the sun, and providing generation from earlier in the morning, and later into the evening. South-facing panels are generally not recommended as their efficiency will be significantly reduced, especially in winter.

Roof orientation and sunlight hours

  • A North facing roof will receive the most sunlight throughout the day
  • An East facing roof will receive the most sunlight during the morning.
  • A West facing roof will receive the most sunlight in the afternoon.

You should also consider how much shade is cast onto your roof by trees and surrounding structures. Shade can drastically reduce your system’s efficiency, so it’s a good idea to remove or minimise it as much as possible. Don’t forget to consider sharing at different times of the day, as well as when the sun is lower in winter! Your installer may also recommend the use of microinverters or optimisers to maximise the efficiency of solar system where shading is an issue.

Finally, it’s important not to compromise the effectiveness of your solar panels by ‘hiding’ them in areas of your home with reduced sunshine.  The design of solar panels is ever-improving, so if aesthetics are your number one priority, then for a price, some companies have started offering solar roof tiles.

Did you know that sunny Australia is one of the best places on earth to install solar panels!