Solar power is a great way to cut your carbon footprint and your energy bill, but there are a few secrets along the way that will really help you get the most from those things on your roof.
Here are the six most important ones.
We know what you’re thinking: I’m doing something good for the environment by going solar, why do I need to cut my energy use as well? But, the fact is the best way to reduce your CO2 emissions is by not using unnecessary energy in your day-to-day life.
Doing little things like turning off lights and powerpoints when you aren’t using them, and investing in high star-rated energy efficient appliances can help make a big difference to your power bill. And if you’re using less energy, you can save money by opting for a smaller solar energy system.
There are some financial incentives provided by the Australian and state governments which help reduce the cost of your solar panels, such as Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs), a “tradable commodity” that reduces the cost of installing solar panels, as well as a compensation scheme called a feed-in tariff, which is an ongoing payment for the excess electricity you generate by having solar panels.
The way you use electricity and your particular circumstances will impact what size of solar power system is right for you. Look at your electricity bills from the last year to help with understanding how much electricity you’ll want/need your solar system to generate. Paying for the biggest solar system available may not be the best option, particularly if you are not at home during the day. Also think about your future needs. Are there things like new household members, a renovation, swimming pool in your future that could increase your energy use? Or are the kids likely to be moving out and your electricity needs will decrease?
For your solar panels to perform at their best, they should be mounted on a north-facing roof, and in direct sunlight during daylight hours. So, if you have big trees or power lines which create shadows on your roof, you might want to think about whether solar panels are right for you, or see if there is another place on your roof the solar panels could fit.
Have your solar power system installed by a company accredited with the Clean Energy Council. Not only will it mean you are dealing with an installer who has signed a code of conduct committing themselves to best practice installation, but only solar power systems from an accredited installer are eligible for STCs.
The initial outlay for solar panels is roughly $4,000 for a 2.0kW system, according to the Alternative Energy Association. In addition to the system cost you might also need to upgrade or reprogramme your existing meter. And depending on what plan and agreement you have with your energy retailer you might also have changes to your energy tariff.
Some solar power system providers do offer users the option to lease a solar system, which will generally involve monthly repayments over a contracted period of five to ten years. However, buyer beware: a recent Choice report revealed that interest rates on solar energy repayments can rival those on credit cards so if you are thinking about this option you might also want to review your personal loan options as it could be a cheaper option.