Tips for Purchasing Solar Panels: What You Need to Know

Solar energy comes from the sun and is clean and easy to use. It’s all about capturing the sun’s energy and turning it into electricity. You can use this electricity to power lots of things like your phone, washing machine, toaster, and even your electric car. A full solar power system has different parts like solar panels, stands to hold them, casing, and wires. It might also have a battery to store extra electricity.

In Australia, solar energy has become more popular because the price of solar systems has dropped a lot in the past six years. Lots of Australians are getting solar panels installed – about six every minute! Around two million homes in Australia now have solar panels, with places like Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia having lots of homes using solar power.

If you’re thinking about getting a solar system, you’ll want to learn the basics. This guide will cover everything you need to know, from how solar works to the costs and savings you could expect.

How does solar energy work?

Solar energy is all about taking the sun’s energy and turning it into electricity we can use in our homes, businesses, and other places. Solar panels, which are made up of layers of silicon cells, a metal frame, and a glass cover, are the tools we use to capture this energy. These panels are usually put on roofs, but they can also go on the ground or other sunny spots on your property.

It’s important to think about where you put your solar panels to make sure they get as much sunlight as possible. That way, they can work their best and generate more electricity for you to use.

How do solar panels get electricity into your home?

When sunlight hits the solar panels, special cells called photovoltaic (PV) cells absorb the sun’s energy and turn it into electricity. These cells are made of silicon and are designed to grab onto the sun’s energy. This process knocks electrons loose from atoms in the silicon cells. Conductive plates on the sides of the cells collect these electrons and send them into wires. This creates an electrical circuit, which is how electricity is made.

The electricity produced is called direct current (DC) power. You can either store this power in a battery or use an inverter to change it into alternating current (AC) power. AC power is what most homes and businesses use, as well as most appliances.

Solar panels and grid connection

In Australia, most solar-power systems are connected to the main electricity grid. This means they’re linked to the big system that provides power to homes and businesses. Being connected to the grid is handy because it means you’re not completely dependent on your solar panels for electricity. But in rural areas where there’s no grid, people use off-grid systems.

If your property is connected to the grid, any extra electricity your solar panels make can be sent back into the grid. And your energy company might pay you for this extra electricity, which can lower your electricity bill. It’s like getting credit for the extra power you generate.

Advantages and disadvantages of solar energy

Using solar panels to generate electricity from sunlight is a clean and eco-friendly process that doesn’t produce carbon emissions or pollution. Unlike some other methods of generating power, solar energy doesn’t require a lot of water or rely on fossil fuels, which can harm the environment.

Here are some additional benefits of solar energy:

  • Long-lasting: Good-quality solar panels can keep working efficiently for up to 20 to 25 years, and sometimes even longer if you take care of them properly.
  • Renewable: Solar energy comes from the sun, which is an endless and sustainable source of power available almost everywhere in the world.
  • Save money: Whether you use solar power for all your energy needs or just some of them, it’s likely that you’ll see savings on your electricity bills or business expenses.
  • Low maintenance: Solar panel systems have very few moving parts, so they don’t wear out quickly. The inverter, which converts the electricity, might need to be replaced every five to 10 years, and some cables may need occasional maintenance.
  • Versatile: Solar power isn’t just for generating electricity for homes and businesses; it’s also used in various other applications, like powering satellites in space.

How many solar panels do I need?

When you’re deciding on the size of your solar panel system, think about what you want to achieve, like reducing your carbon footprint, saving money, or getting a good return on your investment. Consider your situation too, like how much energy you use, how much space you have for solar panels, how much sunlight your area gets, and how efficient your panels are.

Solar panel systems are measured in kilowatts (kW) instead of the number of panels. In Australia, a typical household might use about 20 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy each day, which means they’d need a 5 kW system. As a general rule, 1 kW of solar panels produces roughly 4 kWh of electricity daily. To figure out what size system you need, just check your electricity bill and divide the total usage by four. That gives you an idea of the capacity your solar system should have.

Solar battery

Solar batteries let you save extra power from your solar panels for later. You don’t have to get a battery with your solar system, but it can be helpful. With a battery, you can store extra electricity for when it’s dark or cloudy.

If your property isn’t connected to the main power grid, a solar battery is a good idea. Even if you’re connected to the grid, you can still use a battery to store extra power instead of sending it back. You can set it up so you sell power to the grid only when your battery is full, or you use grid power only when your battery is empty.

Having a battery gives you some independence from the grid. So, if there’s a power outage, you’ll still have electricity. But having a battery might not save you money on your bill because you might not earn as much from selling extra power. However, if your energy company doesn’t pay you for extra power or charges a lot for power during busy times, a battery could save you money.

The best battery depends on what you need. Lithium-ion batteries are often a good choice. There are different options available, like the Tesla Powerwall 2 or the BYD B-Box RES, which can store different amounts of electricity. When you see “kWh,” it means kilowatt-hour, which measures how much electricity you use.

Solar inverter

Solar inverters are important in solar panel systems because they change the electricity from the panels into a type that your appliances can use. It’s important to get the right size inverter for your system – if you have a 5 kW solar system, you’ll need a 5 kW inverter or one that’s at least 75% of the system’s capacity.

Inverters are usually put outside, but they shouldn’t be in super hot places because that can damage them. They’re best installed on a shady wall close to your home’s main switchboard, and it’s best to have a professional electrician do the installation. Inverters can wear out over time, usually within 10 to 15 years, so you might need to replace them at some point.

Some inverters let you see how much electricity your system is making each day and month. You can also use them to check if your solar system is working well and how much charge your battery has. If you have a solar monitoring service, professionals can use the inverter to keep an eye on your system and make sure it’s working as efficiently as possible.

Choosing solar panels: what to consider before buying

When choosing the right solar panels, there are several things to think about:

  • Efficiency: Panels with higher efficiency can produce more electricity. Look for panels that are over 15% efficient.
  • Quality: Better quality panels might last longer and work better. Most panels are made from polycrystalline or monocrystalline materials, which perform similarly in Australia.
  • Warranty: A good warranty can give you peace of mind. Look for panels with a 25-year performance warranty and a 10-12 year manufacturer’s warranty.
  • Manufacturer: Some manufacturers make better panels than others. Look for reputable brands like LG Electronics, Sunpower, REC, Fronius, SMA, and SolarEdge.
  • Specifications: Pay attention to details like rated power output, power tolerance, and temperature coefficient.
  • Aesthetics: Consider how the panels will look on your property, especially if you plan to sell it in the future.
  • CEC Approval: Make sure the panels are approved by the Clean Energy Council (CEC). This ensures they meet safety standards and qualify for government schemes.

Considering these factors can help you choose the best solar panels for your needs.

How much do solar panels cost?

When you’re shopping for a solar system, you might notice that quotes can vary a lot. This is because of differences in quality, brands, and other factors.

As a general idea, a good quality 3 kW system, including a good inverter and installation costs, could cost you between $4,000 to $6,000 after rebates and incentives. For a bigger system like a 5 kW one, it could be between $5,000 to $9,000. And for a larger 10 kW system, you might be looking at paying $12,000 to $16,000. But for exact prices, it’s best to talk to a professional installer who can consider your needs and goals.

In Victoria, you can take off up to $2,250 in rebates. If you choose a cheaper inverter, you might save another $800. Microinverters could cost around 20% more than a regular inverter. You might also have to pay extra for upgrades to your electrical switchboard and other electrical work.

Normally, a solar system without batteries pays for itself in about four to seven years, with an average of five years across Australia. But this can change a lot depending on how much energy you use, the size of your system, and where you live. A good quality system should last around 25 years, with warranties of 20 to 25 years. Cheaper systems might end up costing you more in the long run because of repairs and lower electricity output.

Looking for an expert installer for your solar panel system?

Solar energy is a great way to power your home or business because it’s clean, abundant, and getting cheaper all the time. There are lots of benefits to using solar power, and they usually outweigh any downsides. Understanding the different parts of a solar system, like inverters and batteries, can help you make a good choice when you’re setting it up.

These days, it doesn’t take as long to make back the money you spend on solar panels. While how much you save will depend on your situation, you’ll probably be able to lower your electricity bills and help the environment at the same time.

If you decide to go solar with a company like Go Solar Go Green, you can trust that we won’t try to sell you more than you need. Our team will give you the right advice and service to save you money while making sure your solar system works well for your home or business. Get in touch with us now to learn more about how our local teams can help you get a great solar system that fits your budget and energy needs.