Solar power system guide for beginners

1 The three main components of a solar power system installation

Solar power systems are comprised of:

The panels, which can either be polycrystalline or monocrystalline.
The two main types of solar panel technology in use for residential homes – there’s also a third type, cast mono, that’s a hybrid of the two.
It doesn’t matter if you get a mono or a poly panel. What is important is you buy a good brand that will last 25+ years installed on your roof.
There are good budget brands and good premium brands. But there are also ‘no-name’ panels that are re-badged junk, and are unlikely to last more than 3-5 years on an Australian roof. Avoid installing those modules at all costs.

Pro-tip: Don’t stress over solar panel technology. Mono- and polycrystalline are both as good in Australian climates.
You can choose to install a budget (think Kia), regular (think Toyota) or premium (think BMW) solar panel brand. You generally get what you pay for.

You probably don’t know a good panel brand from a lemon, and why should you? Here’s a handy cheat sheet of most of the popular solar panel brands in Australia, so you can see where they sit in the market.
The list is not exhaustive – if you’re not sure about a brand, ask me – but the following chart represents over 90% of what’s being quoted in 2019 in Australia (and is more or less a safe bet):
The second main component of a solar power system installation is the inverter, which can be either a string inverter (around the size of a briefcase) or microinverters, which are approximately the size of a paperback book.

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A string inverter is installed on a wall and all the solar panels connect to it. A microinverter goes on the back of each solar panel.
There is also a third option, power optimisers, that are kind of a hybrid between the two. You can read about the pros and cons of each inverter choice in a detailed article here.

Pro-tip: Never mount a string inverter where it will be in full sun. Choose a shaded spot, a cool garage, or ask the installer to build a simple shade over the inverter. Direct intense sunlight kills inverters, because it cooks them – and Australia’s sun is particularly harsh.
The job of the inverter is to convert the DC electricity solar panels produce into 230V AC electricity, which is what everything in your home uses.

The inverter is the component most likely to fail in a solar power system installation in the first 10-15 years. This is because they work hard all day, and they do wear out.

So even if you are on a limited budget, I’d recommend considering a premium-end inverter.

Here’s a run-down of the popular inverter brands in Australia right now, and where they sit on in terms of price and quality (again – this list is not exhaustive, but any reputable installer has a 95% chance of quoting you one of the following brands):

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Pro Tip: You can, and should, install up to 33% more panels than the inverter is rated at. For example, I would recommend installing 4kW of panels with a 3kW inverter. You’ll get 33% more solar rebate and lots more power in winter, mornings and evenings. It’s a very efficient use of the inverter. Also, in many areas, the smaller the inverter, the easier it is to get permission to connect to the mains electricity grid.
The third main component of a solar power system installation is the racking/mounting. This is what is securely attached to your roof supports, and what your solar panels are mounted on.

There are a wide variety of racking brands out there. The difference between a budget end brand and a premium end brand is around $100 per kilowatt of solar power installed.

The chart below shows brands we’re familiar with, and where they sit in a spectrum of price:

2 The most important thing to measure before you get solar power: how much electricity you use in your home, and when you use it.

When solar electricity is generated by your panels, it will first be used by appliances in your home, with any surplus solar energy exported to the grid. Your electricity retailer will pay you a small amount (around 7-20c) for each kWh your installation exports to the grid.

It is better to use the solar power generated by your system than export it. Self-consumed electricity saves about 30c per kWh as you don’t have to buy that energy from the grid. Exported electricity earns a ‘feed in tariff’ of about 7-20c per kWh.

So self-consumed solar energy is about 2-3x more valuable than exported solar electricity.

Pro Tip: Shop around for feed-in tariffs. They can vary from 0c to 20c depending on the retailer.

This means Australian households using a lot of electricity during the day, or can set their appliances to run on timers, are a natural fit for solar panels and can see very short paybacks of 3-5 years (20-25% returns).
If you are at home during the day or have pool pumps that run all day, your self-consumption can be up to 65% (with exports only 35%) and a solar power system installation is likely to be a very good investment.
If you are not at home during the day, you will typically self-consume about 20% of the output of an appropriately sized solar power system installation, pushing the simple payback out to 6-8 years.

Bear in mind that this is still a 12-15% return on your investment.
Avoid any solar energy company that calculates your payback based on 100% self-consumption. Practically no-one has 100% self-consumption. The company is being dishonest in order to get your sale.
Pro Tip: Your electricity bill only tells you how much energy you use every month, or 3 months. If you live in Victoria, you can ask your retailer to give you a spreadsheet of your electricity use every half hour. If you live elsewhere, you can buy (and get an electrician to install) an energy monitor to collect this data for a few weeks before you get a quote. A good installer can use this data to more accurately size your solar system for optimum savings.

3 How many solar panels should you buy?

My answer to this question has changed considerably compared to just a few years ago.

This is because prices for solar installation have fallen considerably, electricity prices have risen, and feed-in tariffs (what you’re paid for exporting excess electricity generation) have also risen.

The only limitations now are your budget, what your roof can properly fit, and the amount your DNSP (Distributed Network Service Provider) allows you to install.

For most homes, the minimum you should consider is buying 6.6 kW of panels (approx. 22 in total) with a 5 kW inverter.

The biggest regret I’ve heard from solar power owners is they didn’t factor in how winter and overcast days limit their savings. They wish they’d installed more panels when they had the chance.
It’s expensive and complicated to add panels after the install, while adding solar panels to the initial quote can be surprisingly cheap.
I’ve written about this topic in more detail here.

4 The solar rebate: still very much alive and kicking – and generous.

The famous Australian federal ‘solar rebate’ (technically known as the ‘STC scheme’) acts as a point-of-sale discount off the final cost of a solar power system installation. The subsidy is worth about $600 per kW of solar panels installed, but this will vary depending on where you live.

As an example, a 6kW system attracts around $3,600 in rebates.
Anyone can claim the rebate, even if you’ve already bought solar power systems in the past and want to buy a new system.

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The only restrictions on claiming the rebate are:
• Your system installation must be less than 100kW in size.
• You get it installed and designed by a Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited professional (you can ask the installer on the day to provide proof of accreditation!)
• You use panels and solar inverters approved for use in Australia by the Clean Energy Council (such as the ones I mentioned in #1).

The federal solar rebate is slowly being phased out. It reduced by one tenth of today’s value every January until it goes to zero in 2031.
For Victorians, the Labor government introduced a state-level rebate that currently offers eligible recipients (up to) an extra $1,888 off the cost of a solar system.

Pro Tip: The federal rebate is based on the number of solar panels, not the size of the inverter in the installation. This often makes adding panels over and above the inverter rating very worthwhile. Don’t worry – it is safe and approved by the regulators (up to 133% of inverter capacity). Ask your installer about ‘oversizing’ your panel array. Any good installer will know exactly what you mean. Untrained commission-only sales people won’t.

5 Don’t get the ‘rebate’ and the ‘feed in tariff’ confused

We’ve already learned the ‘feed-in tariff’ is the rate you are paid for solar electricity you export into the grid.

Between 2009 and 2012, people signed up to generous feed-in tariffs that paid them anywhere between 20c per kWh and 66c per kWh of electricity exported. These generous tariffs were designed to kick-start the solar energy industry when solar power systems were much more expensive.

Solar energy systems have reduced in price by 80% in Australia since 2008, and the feed-in tariffs have reduced to 7c – 20c, depending on your retailer.

This reduction is why you see so many people screaming ‘solar power isn’t worth it anymore! The rebate has been massively reduced!’
They’re actually confusing the rebate with the feed-in tariff. The federal rebate is still alive and kicking and isn’t being reduced significantly anytime soon.

We’ve run the numbers, and even with these low feed in tariffs it’s not difficult to get a 5 year payback on your solar energy system.

Tips to understand solar power

Solar power is usable energy generated from the sun in the form of electric or thermal energy. Solar energy is captured in a variety of ways, the most common of which is with photovoltaic solar panels that convert the sun’s rays into usable electricity. Aside from using photovoltaics to generate electricity, solar energy is commonly used in thermal applications to heat indoor spaces or fluids. Residential and commercial property owners can install solar hot water systems and design their buildings with passive solar heating in mind to fully take advantage of the sun’s energy with solar technology.

Interested in benefiting from solar power? Solar panels are installed at three main scales: residential, commercial, and utility. Residential-scale solar is typically installed on rooftops of homes or in open land (ground-mounted) and is generally between 5 and 20 kilowatts (kW), depending on the size of a property. Commercial solar energy projects are generally installed at a greater scale than residential solar. Though individual installations can vary greatly in size, commercial-scale solar serves a consistent purpose: to provide on-site solar power to businesses and non-profits. Finally, utility-scale solar projects are typically large, several megawatt (MW) installations that provide solar energy to a large number of utility customers.

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For some solar shoppers who may not be able to install solar on their property, community solar is a viable solar option that more directly connects utility-scale solar energy projects to residential consumers. As such, community solar farms are typically built in a central location as opposed to on any single customer’s property. Residential consumers can subscribe to a community solar project to receive many of the benefits of solar power without installing solar panels on their property.

How does solar energy work?

A solar panel (also known as a solar module) consists of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass casing unit, and wiring to transfer electric current from the silicon. Silicon (atomic #14 on the periodic table) is a nonmetal with conductive properties that allow it to absorb and convert sunlight into usable electricity. When light hits a silicon cell, the light causes electrons in the silicon to be set in motion, initiating a flow of electric current. This is known as the “photovoltaic effect,” and it describes the general functionality of solar panel tech.

The science of generating electricity with solar panels boils down to this photovoltaic effect. It was first discovered in 1839 by Edmond Becquerel and can be thought of as a property of specific materials (known as semiconductors) that allows them to create an electric current when they are exposed to sunlight.

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The photovoltaic process works through the following broad steps:

  1. The silicon photovoltaic solar cell absorbs solar radiation
  2. When the sun’s rays interact with the silicon cell, electrons begin to move, creating a flow of electric current
  3. Wires capture and feed this direct current (DC) electricity to a solar inverter to be converted to alternating current (AC) electricity

A brief history of solar power

In 1954, Bell Labs developed the first silicon photovoltaic cell. Although solar energy had previously been captured and converted into usable energy through various methods,only after 1954 did solar power begin to become a viable source of electricity to power devices over extended periods of time. The first solar cells converted solar radiation to electricity at an efficiency of 4 percent – for reference, many widely available solar panels today can convert sunlight to solar power at above 20 percent efficiency, a number constantly on the rise.

Although adoption of solar energy was slow at first, a number of state and federal incentives and policies contributed to driving down the cost of solar panels far enough to become more widely adopted. At this point, solar power accounts for enough capacity to power 11 million of the 126 million households in the country.

The cost of solar energy

Concurrent with an increase in solar panel efficiency, the cost of solar energy has fallen substantially. In the last decade alone, the cost of a solar panel installation fell over 60 percent, and many industry experts predict that prices will continue to fall in the years to come:

Additionally, depending upon where you live, several rebates or incentives for solar power may contribute towards lowering the cost of solar energy even further. Nationwide, the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is one of the primary incentives available to anyone interested in solar energy, as it allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar system from your federal taxes. Many states and utilities offer further incentives (such as net metering) in addition to the federal ITC, dropping the cost of solar power even further.

Solar energy is a renewable power source

Solar energy is a clean, inexpensive, renewable power source that is harnessable nearly everywhere in the world – any point where sunlight hits the surface of the earth is a potential location to generate solar power. And since solar energy comes from the sun, it represents a limitless source of power. Renewable energy technologies generate electricity from resources that are infinite. Compare, for instance, producing electricity with renewable resources to doing so with fossil fuels. It took hundreds of thousands of years for oil, gas and coal to form, so every time one of those resources are burned to create electricity, that finite resource is moved marginally closer to depletion. Using a renewable resource – such as wind, solar and hydropower – to generate electricity, does not deplete that resource. There will always be consistent sunlight shining on Earth’s surface, and after turning sunlight into electricity, there is still an infinite amount of sunlight to turn into electricity in the future. That is what makes solar power, by nature, renewable energy.

While the current electricity mix in the United States is still made up largely of fossil fuels like oil and gas, renewable energy sources like solar are steadily becoming a larger part of the country’s energy profile. As the cost of solar and other renewable technologies continues to be competitive.

Solar energy + battery storage, electric vehicles and more
The rapid proliferation of solar power nationwide and globally has also led to parallel growth in several adjacent areas. Notably, energy storage systems and electric vehicles are two sectors poised to explode alongside solar power by augmenting the benefits of solar.

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Given that solar panels can only produce power when the sun is shining, storing produced but unused energy throughout the day for use at a later time has become increasingly important. For instance, solar batteries store electricity and can be drawn on during periods of low solar production. What’s more, solar-plus-storage solutions work for all scales of solar panel installations and provide many added benefits, from energy reliability to grid resiliency and lower-cost power.

Electric vehicles are a second product poised to ride the wave of solar energy adoption. With lower maintenance costs, lower fuel costs, and a lower environmental footprint than traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, electric vehicles are set to be an important piece of the automobile industry for years to come. With increasing electric vehicle adoption also comes a growing need for electricity to run the vehicles, a perfect fit for solar energy. Distributed solar installations provide cheap and reliable power for electric vehicles directly from the sun. In a world of increased electrification throughout the home, solar power is one of the most inexpensive, reliable, and cleanest ways to fuel our electrified future.

How to design Solar PV System ?

What is solar PV system?

Solar photovoltaic system or Solar power system is one of renewable energy system which uses PV modules to convert sunlight into electricity. The electricity generated can be either stored or used directly, fed back into grid line or combined with one or more other electricity generators or more renewable energy source. Solar PV system is very reliable and clean source of electricity that can suit a wide range of applications such as residence, industry, agriculture, livestock, etc.

Major system components

Solar PV system includes different components that should be selected according to your system type, site location and applications. The major components for solar PV system are solar charge controller, inverter, battery bank, auxiliary energy sources and loads (appliances).
PV module converts sunlight into DC electricity.

Solar charge controller regulates the voltage and current coming from the PV panels going to

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Inverter converts DC output of PV panels or wind turbine into a clean AC current for AC
appliances or fed back into grid line.
Battery stores energy for supplying to electrical appliances when there is a demand.
Load is electrical appliances that connected to solar PV system such as lights, radio, TV, computer,
refrigerator, etc.
Auxiliary energy sources – is diesel generator or other renewable energy sources.

Solar PV system sizing

  1. Determine power consumption demands

The first step in designing a solar PV system is to find out the total power and energy consumption of all loads that need to be supplied by the solar PV system as follows:

 1.1 Calculate total Watt-hours per day for each appliance used. 
       Add the Watt-hours needed for all appliances together to get the total Watt-hours per day which 
       must be delivered to the appliances. 

 1.2 Calculate total Watt-hours per day needed from the PV modules. 
        Multiply the total appliances Watt-hours per day times 1.3 (the energy lost in the system) to get 
        the total Watt-hours per day which must be provided by the panels. 
  1. Size the PV modules

Different size of PV modules will produce different amount of power. To find out the sizing of PV module, the total peak watt produced needs. The peak watt (Wp) produced depends on size of the PV module and climate of site location. We have to consider panel generation factor which is different in each site location. For Thailand, the panel generation factor is 3.43. To determine the sizing of PV modules, calculate as follows:

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 2.1 Calculate the total Watt-peak rating needed for PV modules 
       Divide the total Watt-hours per day needed from the PV modules (from item 1.2) by 3.43 to get 
       the total Watt-peak rating needed for the PV panels needed to operate the appliances. 
 2.2 Calculate the number of PV panels for the system 
       Divide the answer obtained in item 2.1 by the rated output Watt-peak of the PV modules available 
       to you. Increase any fractional part of result to the next highest full number and that will be the 
       number of PV modules required. 

Result of the calculation is the minimum number of PV panels. If more PV modules are installed, the system will perform better and battery life will be improved. If fewer PV modules are used, the system may not work at all during cloudy periods and battery life will be shortened.

  1. Inverter sizing

An inverter is used in the system where AC power output is needed. The input rating of the inverter should never be lower than the total watt of appliances. The inverter must have the same nominal voltage as your battery.

For stand-alone systems, the inverter must be large enough to handle the total amount of Watts you will be using at one time. The inverter size should be 25-30% bigger than total Watts of appliances. In case of appliance type is motor or compressor then inverter size should be minimum 3 times the capacity of those appliances and must be added to the inverter capacity to handle surge current during starting.
For grid tie systems or grid connected systems, the input rating of the inverter should be same as PV array rating to allow for safe and efficient operation.

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  1. Battery sizing

The battery type recommended for using in solar PV system is deep cycle battery. Deep cycle battery is specifically designed for to be discharged to low energy level and rapid recharged or cycle charged and discharged day after day for years. The battery should be large enough to store sufficient energy to operate the appliances at night and cloudy days. To find out the size of battery, calculate as follows:
4.1 Calculate total Watt-hours per day used by appliances.
4.2 Divide the total Watt-hours per day used by 0.85 for battery loss.
4.3 Divide the answer obtained in item 4.2 by 0.6 for depth of discharge.
4.4 Divide the answer obtained in item 4.3 by the nominal battery voltage.
4.5 Multiply the answer obtained in item 4.4 with days of autonomy (the number of days that you
need the system to operate when there is no power produced by PV panels) to get the required
Ampere-hour capacity of deep-cycle battery.
Battery Capacity (Ah) = Total Watt-hours per day used by appliances x Days of autonomy
(0.85 x 0.6 x nominal battery voltage)

  1. Solar charge controller sizing

The solar charge controller is typically rated against Amperage and Voltage capacities. Select the solar charge controller to match the voltage of PV array and batteries and then identify which type of solar charge controller is right for your application. Make sure that solar charge controller has enough capacity to handle the current from PV array.

For the series charge controller type, the sizing of controller depends on the total PV input current which is delivered to the controller and also depends on PV panel configuration (series or parallel configuration).
According to standard practice, the sizing of solar charge controller is to take the short circuit current (Isc) of the PV array, and multiply it by 1.3
Solar charge controller rating = Total short circuit current of PV array x 1.3
Remark: For MPPT charge controller sizing will be different. (See Basics of MPPT Charge Controller)
Example: A house has the following electrical appliance usage:
• One 18 Watt fluorescent lamp with electronic ballast used 4 hours per day.
• One 60 Watt fan used for 2 hours per day.
• One 75 Watt refrigerator that runs 24 hours per day with compressor run 12 hours and off 12 hours.
The system will be powered by 12 Vdc, 110 Wp PV module.

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  1. Determine power consumption demands
    Total appliance use = (18 W x 4 hours) + (60 W x 2 hours) + (75 W x 24 x 0.5 hours)
    = 1,092 Wh/day
    Total PV panels energy needed = 1,092 x 1.3
    = 1,419.6 Wh/day.
  2. Size the PV panel
    2.1 Total Wp of PV panel capacity
    needed = 1,419.6 / 3.4
    = 413.9 Wp
    2.2 Number of PV panels needed = 413.9 / 110
    = 3.76 modules Actual requirement = 4 modules So this system should be powered by at least 4 modules of 110 Wp PV module.
  3. Inverter sizing
    Total Watt of all appliances = 18 + 60 + 75 = 153 W
    For safety, the inverter should be considered 25-30% bigger size.
    The inverter size should be about 190 W or greater.
  4. Battery sizing
    Total appliances use = (18 W x 4 hours) + (60 W x 2 hours) + (75 W x 12 hours)
    Nominal battery voltage = 12 V
    Days of autonomy = 3 days
    Battery capacity = [(18 W x 4 hours) + (60 W x 2 hours) + (75 W x 12 hours)] x 3
    (0.85 x 0.6 x 12)
    Total Ampere-hours required 535.29 Ah
    So the battery should be rated 12 V 600 Ah for 3 day autonomy.
  5. Solar charge controller sizing
    PV module specification
    Pm = 110 Wp
    Vm = 16.7 Vdc
    Im = 6.6 A
    Voc = 20.7 A
    Isc = 7.5 A
    Solar charge controller rating = (4 strings x 7.5 A) x 1.3 = 39 A

Guide to heating with solar panel

A solar water heating system uses solar thermal panels on your roof to heat water to use around your home. Fitting this type of water heating system isn’t cheap so, before you invest, you need to find out whether solar thermal panels are right for your home and your needs. Our expert advice will tell you how the system works, what you need to consider, and help make sure you get a good price from a reputable installer. Choose from the links below to jump straight to the section you want: How does solar water heating work? Types of solar thermal panels Solar water heating prices Can I save money with solar water heating? Are solar thermal panels right for my home? Pros and cons of solar water heating How to choose a solar water heating system How to find a good solar panel company What you need to know about solar thermal panel installation How to get the most from your solar thermal panels Do I need planning permission for solar thermal panels? If you’re looking to generate electricity, head to our guide on solar PV panels instead.

How does solar water heating work? Solar thermal panels use heat from the sun to warm fluid passing through them, as the diagram below shows. This is then used to heat your water, which is stored in a hot water cylinder. An immersion heater/unvented hot water cylinder might be needed as a back-up heater or to get the water to the temperature you want. Solar Thermal Panels Types of solar thermal panels There are two main types of solar water heating panels – flat plate and evacuated tubes (referring to the way the water interacts with the panel). Evacuated tubes look like a bank of glass tubes fitted to your roof.

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Flat plate systems can either be fitted onto the roof or integrated into it. Evacuated tube systems are more efficient than flat-plate versions, so are often smaller but still generate the same amount of hot water. There are also drainback systems, which drain water from inside the solar panel when the pump is switched off. This prevents water from freezing or boiling inside the solar panel. Solar water heating prices Solar thermal panels typically cost between £4,000 and £5,000 to install, including VAT (at 5%). For comparison, a conventional gas boiler costs between £1,500 and £4,764 to install, although the cost will vary depending on how much work is required, parts needed, availability, where you live and who you employ to do the job. Find out more about how much a new boiler costs.

Once installed, additional costs are minimal. Most systems use a small amount of electricity to run the pump but, in most cases, the pumping costs cancel out only about 8% of savings, and newer technology can typically reduce this to 3% or even zero. You’ll need to bear in mind the cost of maintenance, although it’s generally very low for solar water heating systems. For example, a replacement pump costs around £90 to replace, while new anti-freeze costs around £100. Most systems come with a five or 10-year warranty.

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Can I save money with solar water heating? Savings with a solar water heating system are moderate. How much you can save depends on the type of water heating system you are replacing. Bear in mind that the system should be able to provide most of your hot water in summer, but much less in winter. As a general guide, you could save around £55 to £95 per year on your water bills with solar thermal panels. You’ll save most if you are currently using LPG (liquid petroleum gas) to heat your water – around £95 per year. If you are replacing gas central heating, savings are likely to be closer to £55 per year.

Bill savings with solar water heating Besides reducing your fuel costs, you may be able to get payments from the government for the heat you generate. This is called the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme and pays consumers for generating heat by using renewable energy, including using solar water heating. For a two-person household, you could earn an estimated £205 per year through the scheme. But to qualify for the RHI, your home will need to meet minimum energy-efficiency standards. Find out how much you could earn with the RHI. So we recommend that you first make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible, then think about which types of renewable energy technology, including solar panels, might suit you. And remember: the more energy efficient your house is, the less heat you’ll lose and, therefore, the less heat you’ll need to generate in the first place. This means that you should need a smaller heating system, which will be cheaper to buy and to run.

Are solar thermal panels right for my home? For maximum efficiency, you need to put your solar thermal panels on a south-facing roof at a 30-degree angle to the horizontal (up to 65 degrees will still work in the UK) and keep the panels away from shadows (trees, buildings, chimneys, etc). Solar panels can be heavy, so your roof must be strong enough to take their weight – especially if the panel is to be installed on top of existing tiles. Not all boilers are compatible with solar water heating – for example, if you have a combi boiler and you don’t have a hot water tank. So check what extra equipment you’ll need – and how much it will cost – if you are considering solar water heating. Some panels require regular checks of the unit and connections, or a wipe of the panel glass with mild detergent. Your installer should leave written details of any maintenance checks you should carry out from time to time. Bear in mind how difficult this can be when panels are up on your roof.

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Pros and cons of solar water heating Pros Solar water heating can provide you with about a third of your hot water needs You could save between £55 and £95 per year on your fuel bills Systems need little maintenance and the costs of it are very low Most solar water-heating systems come with a five to 10-year warranty Lowers your carbon footprint Cons You’ll still need a boiler or immersion heater to make the water hotter, or provide hot water when solar energy isn’t available Not all boilers are compatible with solar water heating Solar thermal panels cost more to install than conventional electric and gas-heating systems How to choose a solar water heating system When choosing a solar water-heating system, you’ll need to consider four major factors: your average hot water use the area of south-facing roof available your existing water heating system your budget.

You’ll need roughly one square metre of panel area per person in the household. Each metre of panel area will need between 30 and 60 litres of water-tank volume. If you use a less-efficient panel (such as flat-plate solar thermal panels), you’ll need to cover a larger area than if you use a more efficient one, such as evacuated tubes. You’ll also need to select system components – such as a hot water cylinder, controls and pipe work – and choose the location for your solar panels, considering shade, pipe runs, roof pitch and future access. Finding a good solar panel company — things to look out for You’ll need to hire a professional to install your solar water-heating system. There are plenty of solar panel installers out there, so we recommend that you always collect a range of quotes to compare. Watch out for dodgy sales tactics, salespeople putting you under pressure to buy on the spot, and exaggerated financial savings.

We recommend you do your own research before inviting a company into your home. You should only use installers and products that are certified by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), then compare the estimates of costs and savings you’re given by salespeople against other sources of advice. You can search for a certified installer on the Microgeneration Certification Scheme website. Your solar water heating system must be installed by an MCS-certified installer to be eligible for payments under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). You must also own the system. Which? Trusted Traders will help you find a trustworthy local solar panel installer. What you need to know about solar thermal panel installation A solar water-heating system involves pipe work, a thermostat and a hot water cylinder. Some also have a drainback system to drain water from inside the solar panel when the pump is switched off. You can add solar thermal panels to most existing hot-water systems. However, you’ll usually need to add an additional cylinder for pre-heated water or change your existing cylinder for one with a twin coil. It’s difficult to use a solar water-heating system with a combi boiler. This is because combi boilers heat water directly from the mains water supply and don’t have a tank; solar water-heating systems supply warm, low-pressure water. Some new combi boilers do accept pre-heated water, so check with the manufacturer. To find out which boilers are the most reliable, take a look at our boiler reviews.

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How to get the most from your solar thermal panels Before you install solar water heating, try to reduce the amount of hot water you use, to see if you can reduce costs without it. Or make the most from your solar hot-water system by following these tips: Use as much hot water as possible from the solar-heated supply, rather than heating up in an appliance using electricity. For example, fit a mixer shower (rather than electric) and check whether any ‘hot-fill’ appliances (which could include your washing machine) can take water from your solar system. Consider changing your behaviour to use more hot water in the evenings – in showers, baths and washing-up. This is when water will be hottest, as it’s had most time to heat up. Ensure your back-up system is set up to switch on at the right time. Before you installed solar water heating, it was probably set to give you a full tank of hot water in the morning. But if you don’t change it, your panels will have nothing to heat during the day. Insulate your pipes and water tank to make your system more efficient. Follow your installer’s advice on how to set the hot water controls to get the most from your system. You should also make sure that you carry out any maintenance checks from time to time to make sure the system is working efficiently.

Your installer should leave written details of these. The most important thing to check for is leaks. If your system leaks antifreeze, you will probably be able to smell it – contact your installer. During the lifespan of your panels, the anti-freeze may need replacing or topping up. This costs around £100. Your installer may specify that your system needs checking by an accredited professional every few years. They will also check the pump. These last for around 10 years and cost around £90 to replace. Do I need planning permission for solar thermal panels? You don’t need planning permission for most domestic solar water-heating systems in the UK, as long as they aren’t too big. But exceptions apply for listed buildings, buildings in conservation areas and World Heritage Sites. If this applies to you, contact your council to see whether you need to apply for planning permission for your solar panels.

Best tips to connect solar system to the grid

Because solar power systems can impact the performance of the electricity grid, you need to have approval from your electricity distributor to connect your system to the grid.

Network connection agreements

A network connection agreement must be lodged and approved by your electricity distributor before you have solar installed.

If you live:
• in South East Queensland your electricity distributor is Energex
• outside South East Queensland your electricity distributor is Ergon Energy or Origin Energy if you’re connected to the Essential Energy.

Although this form is usually lodged on your behalf by your solar power installer, you should understand your electricity distributor’s process, and read Small-scale grid connection process for Queensland.

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The agreement sets out the terms and conditions of your connection to the grid, including the size and type of system approved by your electricity distributor (and technical requirements that must be met).
Although this content is primarily for first-time solar power installers, if you currently have solar and are considering upgrading your inverter or increasing the number of solar panels on your roof, you should contact your electricity distributor about your network connection agreement. This should be done before making any changes to your current set up.

How your electricity meter operates

You will also need to have a new digital meter installed to measure the solar power you export to the grid. This is required before you connect to the grid.

This may mean you need to have your existing meter modified or a new meter installed.

The following explains how your new meter works with a solar power system:
• electricity generated by the solar power system helps to power your home first
• any excess electricity can be fed instantaneously into the grid
• the meter records the amount of electricity you have exported to the grid, rather than the total amount of electricity generated by the solar power system
• power comes from the electricity grid when the solar power system is not generating enough power.

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Get started with solar

There’s a lot to consider when installing solar power in your home for the first time:
• learn how solar power works
• choose the best solar power system for your needs
• decide how to pay for it
• find an accredited solar power installer
• connect to the electricity grid
• access a feed-in tariff for any excess electricity you export to the grid.

Solar definition

‘Solar energy is energy created by the heat and light of the sun. Solar power is produced when this energy is converted into electricity or used to heat air, water, or other substances.’

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The technology that converts sunlight into electricity is called photovoltaic (PV) cells, commonly known as solar power systems or solar panels.

Source: Australian Renewable Energy Agency, Solar energy.
Checklist
This checklist steps you through the process of purchasing and installing solar power systems.

Step 1: Do your research
• Read the Guide to installing solar PV for households from the Clean Energy Council. This sets out different types of solar power systems, estimated costs, installation process, the subsidies available and what to look for when planning your system.
Step 2: Contact your electricity retailer
• You can purchase solar power from various sources (e.g. your electricity retailer or solar companies).
• Find out how solar will affect your current electricity tariff (electricity you buy from the grid) and what feed-in tariff you’ll receive (for excess electricity exported back to the grid).
• For questions to ask your electricity retailer, see page 9 of the Guide to installing solar PV for households.
Step 3: Find a solar installer and plan your system
• To help you find suitable solar installers, consider the information on pages 11 and 12 of the Guide to installing solar PV for households.
• Before choosing a system, talk to different solar retailers. You should discuss options, warranties and repair process, and get several quotes.
• Be aware that if your retailer subcontracts the design or installation of the system to another business, the contractor must have the appropriate electrical licence.
• Be aware that extra expenses can include a new electricity meter, cabling, roof repairs, or indirect costs.
• You may find the Clean Energy Council’s approved solar retailer tool helpful.
Step 4: Final checks (before buying or installing solar power)
• Check whether you or your solar power installer will be completing a network connection application to connect your system to the electricity grid. This application must be lodged with, and approved by, your electricity distributor before installation. Read Small-scale grid connection process for Queensland for further information.

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If you live:
o in South East Queensland your electricity distributor is Energex
o outside South East Queensland your electricity distributor is Ergon Energy or Origin Energy if you’re connected to the Essential Energy network.
• Seek approval from your landlord, park manager or body corporate to install a system (if applicable).
• Check with your local council before buying a large system (more than 5kW) to ensure you’re complying with their requirements.
• Contact your home and contents insurance provider to make sure you have adequate coverage for a solar power system.
Step 5: Sign the contract
• Consider the guidance on page 15 of the Guide to installing solar PV for households.
Step 6: Installation of your system and connection to the grid
• Check the licence of any electrical contractor involved in the installation of your system. Work must be conducted by a licensed electrical contractor.
• Make sure you have received all solar documentation (from the solar power installer) at the time of installation.
• Make sure your solar power installer has lodged appropriate paperwork with your electricity distributor to organise grid connection.
Step 7: Use and maintain your solar power system
• Consider the advice on page 21 of the Guide to installing solar PV for households.

Guide to go with solar

Taking the first step to going solar is exciting! Once complete, you will first know what your best options are when choosing a solar energy system. Second, you will be able to competently size your system and identify whether it will be a roof-top or ground mounted system. Third, you will identify and choose whether you need a grid-tie, off-gird or hybrid with battery back-up. Finally, you will decide if you will choose your own systems components, or let Solaris design a system for you.
Four Simple Steps

Our guide will help walk you through all the steps you will need to take in surveying, evaluating, planning and installing the best photovoltaic system that will best suit your needs.

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Is solar right for you? – Let’s identify the spaces you are working with and the availability of solar yields in your area. Analyzing your electricity bill is key, and lowering your usage where possible will prove worthwhile. Deciding whether the system will be a roof-top or ground mount is important for different cost and maintenance concerns. It will also be important learn and understand your local, state, and federal incentives/rebates available, and how they might affect your installation.

What type of system do you need? – Every application is different, and the variables of one installation site may differ greatly from another. Understanding what type of system you need is important in gathering information on accurate hard and soft cost estimates. Grid-tied, off-grid, and battery back-up systems are the three main types of solar energy systems. Your installation site will need one of these to best suit your needs.

Sizing your solar energy system – Now that you have identified your solar availability, energy usage, and decided on the type of system you will need. The next step is sizing your photovoltaic system so it will accurately address your overall energy needs, as well as your anticipated future energy requirements.

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Design your system – Pick your components or let Solaris design your solar energy system

Before we begin designing, sizing, and preparing your site location for a solar energy system. You will need to evaluate your total power use now, as well as find opportunities where you can conserve and save.
There are many ways you can minimize and eliminate wasteful electric spending, which translates into savings when purchasing your system.

First, gather your energy bills and calculate your annual average Kilowatt Hours (KWh) usage, (make sure to note your highest usage and lowest if you’d like). You can do this several ways, one is to take twelve monthly statements and adding all KWh use together, then dividing that sum by 12 – this will show your average annual usage. You may also have an indicator of your total annual usage on your bill, online account, or you can always call your electric company customer service line and have them tell you your annual usage. This part is critical as you will need to know energy demands before sizing a system.

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Reduce Wasteful Energy Consumption

Now that you have your annual energy usage, you can consider what is drawing your total monthly KWh use. Every residence or commercial building is different, and utilizes different appliances, lights and energy using equipment for their total electric demand.

You may either use our approximate Power Chart Usage Table for typical usage percentages and hourly watts of appliances. You can also try to use our Load Evaluation Chart to calculate daily energy usage.
Another way to monitor and help reduce energy spending is by installing a home (or commercial) energy monitoring device such as Neurio. The sophisticated yet simple and inexpensive energy monitoring solution that reports real energy usage and helps inform users with intelligent data to make smarter energy decisions.

Alternatively, you can try contacting your utility or local government to find out about any energy saving plans. They may have free or low-cost programs for evaluating your energy usage and you can find out where your location may be losing energy through ducting, walls, windows and more.

Once you have completed analyzing and understanding your annual average KWh usage, you can begin evaluating the potential for solar at the residential, commercial or utility grade site for installation. Start by getting an aerial image of the proposed location through Google Maps or a map tool of your choice. You may also have blueprints or schematics showing layouts, area sizes including land, and directional designs showing where all parts of the site are facing in relation to North, South, East and West. Overall shading issues should also be mapped out if they may exist on your installation site.

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Alternately, you can also try Google’s Project Sunroof which will show you your roof-top solar potential for select areas.

• Space – Will there be enough square footage either on roof or land to accommodate the total anticipated solar energy system? You will also need to meet code and regulations set forth by the local fire department on municipalities to adhere to their rules and regulations for a roof-mount photovoltaic array. *If space is limited, we can supply you with higher-efficiency, higher-watt solar panels and other options to meet your energy demands.

• Roof and Land – Does your roof or land have the proposed integrity to handle a solar energy system? This is especially true for roof-top arrays, to be sure you may want to contact your roofer to ensure you do not void the roof’s warranty and that the roof will be able to handle the load of the solar array. Furthermore, the ideal orientation for your array will be true south, although west and east facing roof space can also be utilized. *Solar can be installed on many different roof types including; Composite Shingle, Flat Tile, Spanish S Tile, Flat and Metal Roofs.

• Shading – Anything that can cause an obstruction at any point during day light hours (both summer and winter), can affect the performance of your solar array. Trees, chimneys, or anything that will cause shadows to be present on top of the face of the panels will hinder performance. We can solve this issue by utilizing micro-inverters for your array if necessary.

How the solar panels work?

Welcome! In the video below you can get an animated and simplified look at how solar panels convert sunlight into usable electricity, to learn in more debth read below.

Light from the sun travels 93 million miles before it gets to earth. Sunlight lands on your roof and is magically transformed into electricity. The generated power works your TV, heats water and lights your way at night. The key to this modern miracle is the photovoltaic cell that takes that renewable energy and sustainable supply and generates electricity.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Let’s start with the basic components of your average solar panel system – the sort you see on the roof of a house or out in the country as part of a solar farm. The main constituent of an effective solar power system is the photovoltaic cell.

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Photovoltaic Cells

Photovoltaics has been around for a good few years now. Back in the late 1950s PV cells were almost exclusively used to power things like satellites. And many of us remember having calculators at school that didn’t need a battery because they were powered by the sun. The desire to harness that energy has been the Holy Grail of renewables for the last 30 to 40 years.

The great thing about solar cells is that they don’t need bright sunshine to work. They just require light and can produce electricity even on a cloudy day – which is great news here in the UK. There are several types of photovoltaic cell used in solar panels. They are made from silicon, an excellent semi-conductor. These different cells vary in the efficiency of their electricity production, their purity and their cost.

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Put simply, the cells absorb the light from the sun and convert it to electricity. By placing a connection either end of the cell you can then collect that current and use it to power all your energy needs.

The Solar Panels

The photovoltaic cells are bunched together into modules that make up a panel. In a typical solar panel, you will have two thin layers of silicon that have been treated in slightly different ways. The top layer, facing the sun, has atoms that are unstable so that when an energy source hits them, electrons fly off.

The lower layer has a number of ‘gaps’ in the atoms that are in dire need of an electron or two. What happens when sunlight hits the top layer is that the unstable electrons get excited and are attracted down to the bottom layer. This movement of electrons causes a current. If you add two metal contacts above and below, you have a circuit and a system that produces electricity.

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Types of Solar Panel

We are all familiar with the glass style solar panels we see on roofs around town. There are a number of different varieties now available, including ones that look like normal tiles.

Find out more about the different types of solar panels on the specific page dedicated to this answer.

Converting the Electricity

The current created in the solar panels by the excitation of electrons is called direct current or DC current. DC electricity is not suitable for running our household appliances or feeding into the National Grid. To be of any use at all, a conversion to AC electricity or alternating current is necessary. For this you need a box called an inverter. This usually sits outside your panel array, somewhere like the attic. The DC current enters it and emerges as AC and can be fed into your house. More on inverters here.

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Efficiency of Solar Panels

If you are thinking of having a solar PV system installed, then there are a number of considerations to make that will have an effect on the efficiency of electricity production including the location and type of array.

Efficiency of the photovoltaic cells: There are different types of cell that produce more or less energy depending on their size, thickness and purity. The purer kind tend to be more efficient and hence more expensive.

A South facing roof: To get the optimum energy production you need a South facing roof. This will ensure the panels catch more of the direct sunshine.

Potential shade: Do you have trees surrounding your roof? Then you need to consider how much it will be in shade over the summer months. An oak tree may seem fine in winter when the branches are bare, but when it is in full bloom that may have an adverse effect on the amount of electricity you can produce.

Roof angle: Most installers of solar panels recommend an inclination of between 22 and 75 degrees to get the most out of the sunlight. The ideal angle will also depend where in the UK your house located. For a house in London the ideal roof or solar panel array angle is 51 degrees, while in Aberdeen that is 57. There are also changes throughout the seasons. You may want to consider a solar panel installation that can be adjusted. Adjustable panels will get the optimum amount of sunshine.

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Size and number of panels: Of course, you will need to have enough room on your roof to cope with the right number of panels. There will need to be enough to provide all your energy needs. You will want to be able to produce a surplus for selling onto the National Grid. As a rule, higher purity, more expensive photovoltaic cells need less space than cheaper alternatives. It’s a question of getting the right balance between cost and efficiency and the space you must devote to the installation.

Finding the Right Solar Panels for your House

There are several things you must think about when getting solar panels installed. That’s why it’s always a good idea to get some advice from the experts. Check out our database of reputable installers who can assess your property and come up with the right solutions for your energy needs.

Working procedures of solar panel

You’ve probably seen calculators with solar cells — devices that never need batteries and in some cases, don’t even have an off button. As long as there’s enough light, they seem to work forever. You may also have seen larger solar panels, perhaps on emergency road signs, call boxes, buoys and even in parking lots to power the lights.

Although these larger panels aren’t as common as solar-powered calculators, they’re out there and not that hard to spot if you know where to look. In fact, photovoltaics — which were once used almost exclusively in space, powering satellites’ electrical systems as far back as 1958 — are being used more and more in less exotic ways. The technology continues to pop up in new devices all the time, from sunglasses to electric vehicle charging stations.

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The hope for a “solar revolution” has been floating around for decades — the idea that one day we’ll all use free electricity fro¬m the sun. This is a seductive promise, because on a bright, sunny day, the sun’s rays give off approximately 1,000 watts of energy per square meter of the planet’s surface. If we could collect all of that energy, we could easily power our homes and offices for free.

In this article¬, we will examine solar cells to learn how they convert the sun’s energy directly into electricity. In the process, you will learn why we’re getting closer to using the sun’s energy on a daily basis, and why we still have more research to ¬do before the process becomes cost-effective.

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The solar cells that you see on calculators and satellites are also called photovoltaic (PV) cells, which as the name implies (photo meaning “light” and voltaic meaning “electricity”), convert sunlight directly into electricity. A module is a group of cells connected electrically and packaged into a frame (more commonly known as a solar panel), which can then be grouped into larger solar arrays, like the one operating at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

¬Photovoltaic cells are made of special materials called semiconductors such as silicon, which is currently used most commonly. Basically, when light strikes the cell, a certain portion of it is absorbed within the semiconductor material. This means that the energy of the absorbed light is transferred to the semiconductor. The energy knocks electrons loose, allowing them to flow freely.

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PV cells also all have one or more electric field that acts to force electrons freed by light absorption to flow in a certain direction. This flow of electrons is a current, and by placing metal contacts on the top and bottom of the PV cell, we can draw that current off for external use, say, to power a calculator. This current, together with the cell’s voltage (which is a result of its built-in electric field or fields), defines the power (or wattage) that the solar cell can produce.

That’s the basic process, but there’s really much more to it. On the next page, let’s take a deeper look into one example of a PV cell: the single-crystal silicon cell.

Silicon has some special chemical properties, especially in its crystalline form. An atom of sili-con has 14 electrons, arranged in three different shells. The first two shells — which hold two and eight electrons respectively — are completely full. The outer shell, however, is only half full with just four electrons. A silicon atom will always look for ways to fill up its last shell, and to do this, it will share electrons with four nearby atoms. It’s like each atom holds hands with its neighbors, except that in this case, each atom has four hands joined to four neighbors. That’s what forms the crystalline structure, and that structure turns out to be important to this type of PV cell.

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The only problem is that pure crystalline silicon is a poor conductor of electricity because none of its electrons are free to move about, unlike the electrons in more optimum conductors like copper. To address this issue, the silicon in a solar cell has impurities — other atoms purposefully mixed in with the silicon atoms — which changes the way things work a bit. We usually think of impurities as something undesirable, but in this case, our cell wouldn’t work without them. Consider silicon with an atom of phosphorous here and there, maybe one for every million silicon atoms. Phosphorous has five electrons in its outer shell, not four. It still bonds with its silicon neighbor atoms, but in a sense, the phosphorous has one electron that doesn’t have anyone to hold hands with. It doesn’t form part of a bond, but there is a positive proton in the phosphorous nucleus holding it in place.

When energy is added to pure silicon, in the form of heat for example, it can cause a few electrons to break free of their bonds and leave their atoms. A hole is left behind in each case. These electrons, called free carriers, then wander randomly around the crystalline lattice looking for another hole to fall into and carrying an electrical current. However, there are so few of them in pure silicon, that they aren’t very useful.

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But our impure silicon with phosphorous atoms mixed in is a different story. It takes a lot less energy to knock loose one of our “extra” phosphorous electrons because they aren’t tied up in a bond with any neighboring atoms. As a result, most of these electrons do break free, and we have a lot more free carriers than we would have in pure silicon. The process of adding impurities on purpose is called doping, and when doped with phosphorous, the resulting silicon is called N-type (“n” for negative) because of the prevalence of free electrons. N-type doped silicon is a much better conductor than pure silicon.

The other part of a typical solar cell is doped with the element boron, which has only three electrons in its outer shell instead of four, to become P-type silicon. Instead of having free electrons, P-type (“p” for positive) has free openings and carries the opposite (positive) charge.
On the next page, we’ll take a closer look at what happens when these two substances start to interact.

Best solar panel buying guide

Solar panels are increasingly being installed by homeowners who are worried by rising electricity costs, and who want a system that both cuts their bills and produces greener energy. We explain what you need to know before installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system on your roof.

What size solar panel system do I need?

To size your solar panel system you need to work out how much electricity you use and when you use it.

As a guide, a typical home uses 20kWh of energy a day. A 5kW solar system would meet most of the daytime power needs of such a home.

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How do solar panels work?

• Some materials can be made to produce electricity when light falls on them; this is called the photovoltaic effect. Solar panels use this to convert energy from sunlight into direct current (DC) electrical energy.
• An inverter unit then changes this into alternating current (AC) for your home’s electrical circuits.
• Any excess energy can be fed back to the electricity grid or to your own battery storage system.
What are solar panels made of?
Most solar cells are made of silicon. Solar panels, also called modules, are each made of several solar cells (most in our test have 60 cells), connected together and sandwiched between protective glass and a backing plate. The whole panel is usually surrounded with an aluminium frame. A typical installation includes several panels connected together in an array.

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Types of solar panels

Almost all panels used in home solar systems are mono- or multi-crystalline. While there are technical differences between these types, don’t put too much consideration into this; it’s much more important to consider other aspects such as price, rated power output, and warranties.

Solar panel buying guide checklist
• Assess what energy you currently use and the system capacity you need (and can afford).
• Check if your roof faces the right direction. Only north-facing panels will produce their full capacity.
• Ensure there are no trees, power lines or other structures shading your roof.
• Find out what local council approval is needed. Increasingly, local councils have staff on hand to help people make the best decisions on solar.
• Try to figure out your system’s payback time.
• The inverter (which converts DC power from the panels into AC power for your home) is a key part of the system. See our guide to buying a solar inverter for all the details.
• If you’re considering adding a battery, see our buying guide to solar storage batteries to understand the pros and cons of these.
• Get multiple quotes from installers to ensure you’re getting a good deal, and make sure your installer is CEC-accredited (see below).
• Make sure your solar panels meet the required standards (see below).
• Check your solar panels’ product and performance warranties; see below for what these are.

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Installation, standards and warranties

If you want to be eligible for small-scale technology certificates (STCs), your system must be installed by a CEC-accredited installer. The Clean Energy Council (CEC) is Australia’s peak body representing the clean energy sector. It accredits both installers and systems that meet certain standards.

Look for a CEC-accredited company:

• that is a signatory to the CEC’s code of conduct
• has been in business for a while
• has an established track record
• relevant experience
• specialist expertise, and
• a good reputation.
Retailers can also sign up to the CEC’s voluntary code of conduct, which demonstrates a commitment to best-practice installation.

How many solar panels do I need?

• The power output of your whole solar system matters more than the size or number of panels.
• The higher each panel’s nominal power rating (and actual power output), the fewer panels you’ll need (or the more power you’ll generate).
• If you have plenty of roof space, you might find it more economical to buy cheaper panels with lower efficiency and just use more of them.
• The panels in our solar panel reviews are each about 1.6 square metres in area, but they vary in length, width and power output.

CHOICE tip: Fewer panels can mean a quicker installation.

An example: You could use four 250W Jinko panels, taking up 6.5m2 of roof space, to make a 1000W array. But four 327W Sunpower panels would take up the same overall area and form a more powerful 1308W array (although the Sunpower panels would cost you more).

How much do solar panels cost?

The average price across Australian capital cities for a 5kW system is $5100, and solar technology is only getting cheaper.

CHOICE tip: Compare prices for whole systems, not just individual panels.

How much money will I save using solar power?

It takes anywhere from two to seven years for a solar system to pay for itself – after that is when you can start counting the savings.
Payback times vary depending on where you live in Australia. The infographic below shows averages for capital cities.

can i buy solar panels and install myself
https://www.solarafter.com/can-i-buy-solar-panels-and-install-myself

Do I need a solar storage battery?

A home storage battery lets you store the electricity generated by your solar panels to use at night or on a cloudy day.

You may want to consider a system that includes battery storage; the Tesla Powerwall is the best-known solar battery but there are many other brands in the market. But generally, storage batteries don’t make full economic sense yet for most homes.

About solar power system guide

You have many options available to you when it comes to investing in solar power for your household. You can choose between four different system types:

• Solar panels
• Panel and battery system
• Off-grid solar system
• Battery ready system

Costs and payback periods vary considerably depending on which you select, so we recommend using our solar power calculator to evaluate different options before committing to buy.

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A grid-connect solar panel system is the most common unit installed in Australia. The system includes solar panels and an inverter. A 5kW solar system costs between $5,500 – $8,000 and is typically enough to power the average Australian household. Any excess energy is exported back to the grid where you will receive a feed-in tariff credit. With the lower cost of solar panels and higher feed-in tariffs, grid-connect systems can pay back within five years. If you buy good solar panels, they will last 25 years.

Hybrid systems, also called, panel and battery systems, are grid-connect units that include solar panels, an inverter and a battery. Excess energy charges the battery so that it can supply electricity to your property when the sun is not shining.

Hybrid systems are far more expensive

Hybrid systems are far more expensive due to the high cost of solar battery storage in comparison to solar panels. As a guide, a 6.6kW solar system with a 10kWh battery may cost between $15,000 – $20,000. Payback on panel and battery systems is often around the 10-year mark; longer than for solar panels and payback time varies significantly depending on how much electricity you consume when you use it. Bear in mind, the battery storage component of the system will likely only last ten years.

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Back up power

Hybrid systems can provide back-up power in the event of a blackout. Back-up capability typically adds to the cost of a panel and battery system.

Adding a battery

If you already own solar panels, you can convert your system to become a hybrid system by simply adding a storage solution to it. We have developed a tool to calculate the energy and financial effectiveness of adding a solar battery to your existing system.
If you like the idea of battery storage but want to wait for prices to come down, you can purchase a battery ready solar power system. Also connected to the grid, a battery ready system includes solar panels and a hybrid inverter. The hybrid inverter will add to the cost of the system, but it means a battery can easily be fitted to the system in the future. If you do not plan to add a battery to your system within three years, you are probably worth going for a solar panel system instead.

An off-grid system is a stand-alone unit that does not have a connection to the electricity grid. Typically, off-grid systems involve solar panels and a large amount of battery storage, as they need to power your entire home in even during winter seasons. Off-grid systems are significantly more expensive, and we only recommend you go off-the-grid if you the cost of connecting your property to the grid is prohibitive. As a guide, for it may cost anywhere between $30 – $50,000 for an off-grid system to power the average household.

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In the current climate of reasonable feed-in tariffs, we recommend buying a solar panel system. We list when you should consider buying each of the different system types:

• Solar panels: recommended, good savings and fast payback
• Panel and battery system: high energy user with budget in excess of $15,000
• Off-grid solar system: only if you have no other option
• Battery ready system: If you plan to add a battery within 3 years

If you want to add battery storage, you can do so at any point in the future when prices are more competitive. If you are a high-power user that consumes most of your electricity at night and, you have a budget in excess of $15,000, a hybrid system may be economical. As for going off-the-grid, only do this if you have to. You may think they are more environmentally friendly, but a lot of energy goes to waste that could be used by someone.

One of the reasons why we recommend solar panel systems over any other is because of the government rebates available that reduce the upfront cost. The rebate does not increase if you purchase a hybrid system.

State government rebates

The situation is different in a state like South Australia, where the government provides a battery storage rebate. The SA Home Battery Scheme makes panel and battery systems more affordable and reduces the payback time significantly.

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https://www.solarafter.com/can-i-buy-solar-panels-and-install-myself

While in Victoria, the Solar Victoria rebate applies to panels, though they also offer an incentive that reduces the cost of adding a battery to a solar power system.

Once you have selected the type of solar power system you want, you need to figure out what size system you need. We have a calculator that can tell you the right system size for your property. If your daily electricity use averages out between 12 – 25kWh, we recommend opting for either a 5kW system or a 6.6kW solar power system. If you don’t have the budget or roof space, then a calculation of your daylight electricity use is the best way to work out the best system size.

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