News & Blog

Blog Post Friday 26 October 2018

Solar Energy: The Must-have Checklist for Getting Started

Solar Energy: The Must-have Checklist for Getting Started

Having a solar system installed is a lot different from getting your electricity straight from the grid. So if you're thinking about switching to solar, it's helpful to do some research beforehand to get it right.

Along with how having solar will affect your electricity rates to choosing the right size and type of solar panels, you'll want to consider all of your upfront expenses and take advantage of any government benefits. We've put together this handy checklist to help you get started.

1. Research how solar will affect your electricity rates

You'll probably still need to draw some of your power from the grid. However, if you don't end up using all of the power generated by your solar system, you might be able to sell it back to the grid through your electricity retailer (your power company). Consider how much power you use and whether you use it most during peak or off-peak times to find out if a solar system is worth it for you.

The rate at which this occurs is the feed-in tariff. So if you have excess electricity to feed back into the grid, you get a credit against the electricity you do draw from the grid. Ask your retailer about how or if your solar plan could affect your current rates.

2. Decide how many panels you’ll need

What are your household's energy needs and how much power are you looking to generate from your system? This gives you a good basis for working out how many panels you'll need. Consider when you're home, when you use power, the size of your household, and your recent energy bills. At this early stage, you can have a casual chat with installers to get a general estimate about how many panels you'll need to meet your energy-generation needs and whether a system will be with the cost.

3. Ensure your roof is the right size and can support solar panels

Is your roof right for solar and is it large enough to support the number of panels? If it's shaded most of the day and throughout the year, you might not get enough power out of a solar system to justify the outlay.

If your roof can generate the amount of power you want, the next question to ask is whether it's in good shape to support a solar system, which can last 25 years or more. If your roof will need repairs or upgrade soon, it might be a good idea to put off solar until the upgrades are done.

4. Research the different types of solar panels

Monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film are the three main types of solar cells used in commercial systems. Monocrystalline are slightly more efficient than polycrystalline cells, but polycrystalline cells are much cheaper. Thin film solar panels are the cheapest of all three options but they're much heavier and less efficient at capturing energy.

Generally the choice will be between monocrystalline and polycrystalline, and it could come down to your personal preference as to appearance. Monocrystalline panels are uniform in colour but have wider gaps in between. Polycrystalline panels are less uniform in colour but have smaller gaps in between.

5. Determine the cost of your solar power system

Solar systems cost thousands of dollars on average, if not more. You might already have the cash saved up or you might be financing your purchase with a loan. Either way, make sure you know how you'll be paying for it from the start.

Factor in any government benefits for solar power with your budgeting

The federal government's Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme offers a rebate - in the form of small-scale technology certificates (STCs) - to households for solar, wind, hydro, and other systems. Most people choose to claim this rebate as a deduction at the installation stage. This means you assign your STC to your installer in exchange for a deduction on the total cost. How much you get as a rebate depends on the current STC value and the size of your system, among other factors.

6. Find an installer

A solar system is a big purchase, so make sure you're working with a trustworthy installer. Get multiple quotes as prices can vary considerably from installer to installer. Check your installer's credentials and experience. Consider options, repairs, and extra costs and indirect costs.

7. Work out where you'll position your panels

Your installer can give you appropriate advice on where on your roof to position your panels. Your installation company will look at the best area of your roof and could even split your panels across different areas to enhance energy capture. Installers can also use things like tilt frames to maximise energy production.

8. Find out which way your panels should face

Your home's layout and any shading you have around your roof will determine which way your panels should face. Your installer can give you advice about the direction(s) your panels should be positioned to face. They might also be able to give you advice on things like cutting back trees to remove blockages.

9. Ask about warranties

As you're shopping around for an installer, don't forget to ask them about warranties and conditions. Your system could come with, say a 25-year-performance and 10-year-workmanship-manufacturer warranty. Ask about warranties for all equipment, including inverters.

10. Find out how you'll connect and apply for a connection

Ask your energy retailer about how your solar system will be connected, and check if you need to submit a formal application for connection. Your retailer will be happy to let you know about things like how long it will take to connect and when any extra electricity sold back into the grid will show up on your bill. Your retailer might need to install a bidirectional metre and they will work with your installer to ensure your new solar system is connected.

11. Access a feed-in tariff for any excess electricity

Contact your retailer about activating your account for their feed-in-tariff program. Your feed-in tariff will range depending on your state and retailer, and it's a value for each kilowatt hour you export back to the grid.

Installing your own solar system could help you save money over the long term, but you should check whether solar is right for your household needs. Ensure your roof can support the size of system you need, and make sure you work with a reputable installer. Once you contact your retailer about getting connected, you could be generating your own power and selling extra electricity back to the grid.

12. Make the switch

Click Energy is a 100% online energy provider that offers simple and cost effective energy. We provide solar plans with no lock-in contracts and pay on time discounts, so get a quote online now or switch to us today to experience the difference.