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Understanding solar for your home or business

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If you have looked at getting solar for your home or business in Australia, chances are you have received calls a million times already, and your news feed is going wild with ads for different solar companies. Everyone’s products are the ‘best,’ and trying to decipher what you need and the benefits to you feel nearly impossible. Plus, that is before you have even worked out exactly how it saves you money. 

When around 25% of all residential dwellings in Australia have solar, it should come as no surprise the benefits are vast, and it isn’t as hard to get as you think. 

How does solar work?

Solar works by taking the most abundant energy source we have available, the sun, and turning it into energy that you can use in your home or business. 

When the sunshine hits your solar panels, they excite the cells inside the panels and create power known as the Photovoltaic Effect. This power is DC power, and your home uses AC. So, the DC power runs from your solar panels down into an inverter which converts the DC power into AC power that your home or business can consume. 

You will use all of the solar you need first and send any excess power to the grid. The best part is, you don’t have to do anything! The system, inverter, and your metre all do it on their own. 

How does it save you money?

Firstly, the way solar saves you money for a residential home or small business is much the same. The savings come in two key channels. Self-consuming the power you generate and feed-in tariffs. 

Electricity in Australia is expensive. Australia has some of the highest electricity prices in the world, which can be quite confronting when you have lived just about anywhere else! The first savings channel, self-consumption, is the most valuable. For every kWh (kilowatt-hour) of power that you can use from your very own solar system, it is a kWh of power you don’t need to buy from the grid! If you use the average price of a kW of, say, $0.30c, that means you save 30c for every single kW, and they add up very quickly. The average home uses around 20 – 25kWh’s per day. 

The second channel, which is an exciting one, is ‘feed-in tariffs’. These are often confused as solar rebates, but that is not the case. Feed-in tariffs are a credit that is applied to your energy bill for the power you send back to the grid. It is nearly impossible to consume all of the energy you generate from your solar system, so all that excess means money in the bank for you! 

Are there government rebates or incentives? 

The short answer here is yes. 

The biggest out there is run by the federal government and called STC’s (Small-scale technology certificates). These are what are often referred to as “The Solar Rebate”. Technically they aren’t a rebate, but the result is you getting money from the government for just installing solar, so they sure feel like a rebate. 

STC’s are generally factored into a quote when you are looking at solar and vary based on the size of the system you are installing. The bigger the system, the more STC’s you get. For example, a 6.6kw system is quite common in Australia, and you will get around $3,500.00 from the government as a financial incentive to install it. 

The program is around till 2030 and reduces a small amount each year until it will become $0.00. 

Additionally, there are lots of state-backed incentives depending on the state in which you live. The best thing to do is, google for yourself based on where you live before you sign up. A good solar company should explore every option for you anyway but doing the due diligence yourself is always a good idea. 

How do you pick a good solar company?

Once you have your head around how it all works and the incentives you can get, finding a good retailer can be extremely hard. A few key things to check and look out for are:

  • What do you think of their online reviews? Do they look legitimate? 

Buying fake reviews is unfortunately common practice in the online world. It doesn’t take long before you can work out the good from the bad. Don’t get caught up in the star rating. Read some recent reviews and see what real people are saying. 

  • Do they have a physical presence in Australia? 

Some less reputable solar companies will have virtual offices and no physical presence to save money. Unfortunately, the savings aren’t passed onto consumers positively. They are just used to sell cheap, poorly installed systems. 

  • It is all over the phone. 

Solar is a very site-specific product. Every home is unique, and the way you use energy is different. Some retailers will cut costs and not have “boots on the ground”; however, it means they don’t have an accurate understanding of your home or business. Such lack of understanding can lead to problems when the install rolls around, such as quote ‘variations’ where you will be asked to foot the bill. 

Do you get solar?

In a lot of cases, solar has fantastic benefits for your home or business. It can often be paid back very quickly and can even be cash-flow positive from day one. Plus, every little bit of power you use is power that is not being made from fossil fuels. The best thing is, do your research, crunch your numbers, and don’t overthink it. If it makes sense, it makes sense. 

Feature image by akashf7 PxHere

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