Where to start with solar

“Given energy prices on the rise while the cost of solar power systems declines, it’s little wonder that almost one in four Australian households are using some form of solar power,” says CHOICE spokesperson Nicky Breen.

“Interest in solar is growing with more than 750,000 solar power systems installed across the country in the last five years. Although many of us are considering making the switch it can be difficult to know where to start. We’re helping you cut through the confusion with our top solar tips.”

Crunch the numbers.

If you’re considering solar the first thing you need to do is work out how much a system will set you back, how much you will save and what the payback time is. While the cost of a photovoltaic (or solar power) system has dropped by almost 60 percent in the last six years, working out your payback time is trickier.

“As a rough rule of thumb, if you’re spending a few hundred dollars a quarter and have a roof that can take the panels, signing up to solar is a no brainer.

“However there’s no one size fits all when it comes to calculating your payback times. Available sunlight hours, feed in tariffs and the positioning of panels are just some of the factors that you’ll need to consider before committing to solar.”

Read more about solar panel payback times

Will it work at my place?

In general solar will work anywhere but some places in Australia get more sunlight than others. You will also need to consider the direction of your roof and any shade from trees or powerlines that could affect the performance of the panels.

“While Tasmania will get less sunlight than Darwin and north facing panels are more productive than south, solar does generally work anywhere. You can even benefit from solar power if you are renting, or live in an apartment, as there are a growing number of community energy projects making solar accessible for more people.”

Read more about community energy projects

How do I get the right equipment for my home?  

While a solar power system may seem incredibly complicated, in reality there are only two key components – the panels and the inverter. You may also want to install a battery to store energy.

“When it comes to panels, consider more than the price alone. A high end brand may work better in the long term, but you may be able to mount more of the cheaper panels on your roof. You will need to do your homework when it comes to the inverter, as it is the part of the system most prone to failure.”

Read CHOICE’s Buying Guide

Make sure you use an accredited, reliable installer

Finding a reputable installer is possibly the most important part of signing up to solar. Look for an installer that is CEC accredited, has been in business for around 5 years and has its technical and sales support in Australia.

How to find a good installer

Solar tips:

•    Crunch the numbers
•    Check whether it will work at your home
•    Make sure you get a decent inverter
•    Be sure to use an accredited installer

For more information go to choice.com.au/solar