Is Converting to Solar Power Really Worth It?

7 min read
Is Converting to Solar Power Really Worth It?

My last electricity bill was $1,434.56 — yep, you read that right!

In saying that, I do have a lot of computers running all day, I have a sewerage treatment plant which is constantly on the go, and because I’m not on town water, every time we use a drop of water, it has to be pumped up from the tanks. I also do two loads of washing a day, and am constantly using the dishwasher.

My husband says I never turn off the lights when I leave a room…

But still, it costs a fortune and it just seems to be getting more and more expensive every quarter.

I’ve considered solar panels in the past, but have heard mixed reviews about them. Of course, solar energy is greener and cleaner and cutting down on carbon emissions is always great for the environment, but as a homeowner, the cost is a huge consideration.

I’d love to install a solar power system if I knew it would severely reduce my electricity bill, and perhaps even make a few dollars back. I’m reluctant though as there have been numerous articles about dodgy solar installers that are scamming the public.

So is solar power really worth it? What are the alternatives? I’ve done some investigations into the matter to see!

1. Before you call anyone, know some details.

First things first. Before you pick up the phone to call anyone, you should know the following details:

  • What is the roof space of your home?
  • What direction does your home face?
  • Are you an owner or renter of the property? (if you are renting, you will need to seek permission from the owner)
  • Is your home in the shade or sun most of the day?
  • Do you live in an area prone to cyclones? (North Queensland residents may have additional installation costs to ensure they don’t fly away in a cyclone!)
  • Will your roof support the weight of a solar system? (If you have an old home, you might need to get this checked out!)

Plus, before spending a heap on solar power, can you do anything right now that will reduce the amount of electricity you use?

electricity bill1

2. How do you find a non-dodgy solar dealer?

Dodgy Alert! I always think word of mouth is the way to go!

Always ask family and friends if they have had a good experience with their solar installation and ask who they used and recommend! If no family or friends have a system, consider calling a local builder to see whom they recommend. Also, check that the dealer is certified and sells Australian-certified products only! You need Aussie-certified products to be able to claim a rebate.

I always recommend that you get at least three quotes for your property as prices and systems can vary widely between providers. Plus this is a good way to gauge how much an ‘average’ system will cost for your home.

If a salesperson contacts you and is applying intense pressure for you to buy buy buy, back right off! It is a big financial investment, so you need to go slow and make sure the job is done right, on time, on budget and you are getting the right system for you. Tell ’em to get nicked!

3. How will you determine if a solar power system is right for you?

If you are home all day and using loads of appliances (like me) – you will likely require a larger, most costly system. Alternatively, if you are only home at night, consider going smaller to save costs.

4. How much does the solar panel system cost?

The cost of installing a solar power system will vary significantly based on the solar company you choose to work with and the size of the system you install.

While installing cheap solar panels might first feel like the easiest way to make some savings, your long-term savings will be higher if you invest in a high-performance system.

It’s important to take some time and review your equipment options and determine the best price and quality combination for your home. Prices for solar panels in Australia have generally reduced by about 10% in 2017 compared to 2016. A typical solar power system for a standard home can cost anything from $2000 to $6000 for a five-kilowatt-hour system of about 15 to 20 panels.

5. How about the maintenance and operational costs of solar panels?

Once installed, your solar panels won’t need a lot of maintenance, but still, you will need to inspect them regularly and wash them every few months using a garden hose or hire a professional to do the cleaning for you. If you live in areas with extremely cold winters, you will need to inspect your panels more frequently to check for hail damage.

Other costs involved with solar power include insurance and performance monitoring, as well as occasionally replacing the solar inverter. Most solar companies in Australia offer a warranty of no less than 90% efficiency for the first 10 years and not below 80% efficiency for up to 25 years. The solar inverter has a separate warranty which is typically between 10 to 15 years for high end-brands.

6. Should you buy outright or finance your solar power system?

Whether you’re leasing or buying your solar power system, there will be an impact on how much you save. If you are able to purchase in cash, future savings will be significantly higher than with any other option.

However, the loan package should still be able to save you some good amount in the long run.

Generally, power purchase agreements and solar leases might allow you to acquire a solar power system even with $0 down payment; but your total savings on the utility bills might not be significant.

7. How quickly will it pay itself off?

This is important. If you are shelling out your hard-earned cash on a solar system, you want it to well and truly pay for itself, as soon as humanly possible. And there is a proper name for this period of time — ‘The Payback Period’. This period really depends on the amount spent on the solar power system, and unfortunately, where you live. If you have installed a battery for power storage, this can double the price of installing the solar panels themselves.

A ‘normal’ Payback Period is thought to be around the five-year mark, with a majority of solar systems lasting for up to 25 years. With a storage battery, that payback period can be up to ten years.

If you are shopping around for a good price, this is a good question to ask your supplier.

As earlier mentioned, there are various factors to be considered when deciding the type of solar power system to install. I suggest you visit an approved solar panel retailer who will be able to offer more accurate estimates of the cost and payback period. You will also get a better view of electricity consumption patterns in your local area.

It’s also important to visit a retailer that you trust or compare data from various retailers because most of them will always claim they are the best. If you opt for the storage battery, we recommend that you choose smaller storage batteries for now as this option has a faster payback and smaller capital outlay.

Other Questions To Ask Your Solar Panel Dealer

  • What is the payback period for this system?
  • Do the panels meet with the Australian Safety Standard IEC61730, IEC61215 and IEC61646?
  • What brand are the solar panels? (Never buy the CE Mark panels from Europe. Apparently, they are self-certified and don’t meet Australian standards).
  • What brand is the inverter? (Some companies give you high-quality solar panels, then scrimp on the inverter to make a dollar – so always check!)
  • Are all the components certified in Australia?
  • What is the warranty period? (Choose a provider that can offer a 25-year warranty)

More Reading:

Good luck with your purchase!

Is Converting to Solar Power Really Worth It? | Stay At Home Mum

Jody Allen
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Jody Allen

Jody Allen is the founder of Stay at Home Mum. Jody is a five-time published author with Penguin Random House and is the current Suzuki Queensland Amb...Read Moreassador. Read Less

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