Moving house can be an exciting and sometimes stressful time for many people. So if you’re moving into a home with solar panels for the first time, it might feel a little daunting.
Well we’ve got good news – solar is simple, low maintenance and you’re about to see the solar savings on your energy bill!
To help you get up to speed quickly, we’ve put together the solar basics for beginners. From how solar works to how to get the most out of it, here’s everything you need to know.
How solar works
Let’s start with the basics. A solar system is made up of the solar panels and the inverter.
The panels convert sunlight to DC (direct current) power, however your home uses AC (alternating current) power. So the inverter then converts the DC power into AC power to be used in your home.
The electricity produced by your solar system will, in the first instance, be automatically used to run your home. If you have a solar battery, any excess solar power will then be used to charge your battery, storing the energy for use later on when the sun goes down. (See ‘how a battery works’ below.)
If you don’t have a battery (or if your battery is fully charged), your excess solar energy will be exported to the electricity grid and your power company will pay you a solar feed-in tariff (FiT) for that electricity.
Using your free solar power in your home
Most feed-in tariffs are lower than the rate you pay for energy (we’ll get into that shortly). So while you can make some money from the feed-in tariff you’ll receive for exporting your solar power, most of the savings come from using the solar electricity you generate at home instead of buying energy from your power company.
If you don’t have a solar battery, the best way to do this is to use as much electricity during the day as possible. For example, run appliances like your washing machine and dishwasher during the sunniest parts of the day – most appliances have timers you can use to set them to run at a certain time, even if you’re not home. If you have a pool, run the pump during these peak solar hours too.
If you do have a battery, you’re in a really great position to maximise the amount of solar power you’re using in your home. This is because your battery will store your excess solar power to use in the evening. Don’t worry, you won’t need to do anything. This happens automatically.
How a solar battery works
When the sun’s up, your solar system will supply electricity to power your home and then, with any excess electricity, charge your battery. When the sun goes down and your solar panels stop producing electricity, your battery will automatically kick in and start powering your home.
And if you use all the electricity stored in your battery, your home will automatically start pulling energy from the electricity grid. So there’s no need to worry, the lights won’t go out!
Solar maintenance and warranties
The great thing about solar systems is that they’re designed to last over the long term and require very little maintenance. That said, it’s worth getting the system checked when you first move in, just to make sure the system is working properly. Get in touch with the system’s original installer or find a local installer via the Clean Energy Council website.
In terms of ongoing maintenance, there won’t be much for you to worry about outside of getting an electrician to check in every couple of years (check the system manual if one is available).
Depending on where you live and how much of an angle your solar panels are on, dust, oils and bird poo can build up on your panels and affect solar production. If that’s the case, just give the panels a bit of a clean by spraying them with the hose or, if you can’t reach the panels, hire a professional to get on the roof and do it for you.
Your system may also still be under warranty, depending on how long ago it was installed. Different parts of the system come with different warranties, so make sure the previous owners give you all the paperwork. If they don’t give you this, contact the original installer of the system and they should be able to give you the information you need.
Energy plans for solar households
When it comes time to organise your energy plan, you’ll need to take into account a new rate that you haven’t had before: the solar feed-in tariff. This is the rate you’ll be paid for your excess solar energy that you export to the grid.
Most feed-in tariffs in Australia range from around 5c -10c per kWh of electricity you export. Some power companies offer higher feed-in tariffs but may also inflate the usage and daily rates of these plans to compensate, so it’s important to look at all the rates.
It’s also worth checking if the company offers any solar insights or tracking services to help you see your solar exports and energy usage. Your solar system might be set up with monitoring, but if not it can be tricky to know exactly when your solar system is generating energy and how much.
At DC Power Co we offer a suite of services designed to help solar households maximise their solar savings. These include a Solar Alert, to let you know anytime your solar exports look unusually low, personalised advice to help you maximise your solar savings and access to our great solar panel and battery offers. You can find out more about our energy services here.
Your feed-in tariff will be less than your energy rate
There’s something you’ll probably notice pretty quickly when you start looking into solar energy plans. The feed-in tariffs are all much lower than the energy rates (that is, the rate the company charges you to buy electricity.)
There are a couple of factors that contribute to this. Firstly, the value of solar energy in the market tends to be quite low these days and is decreasing. This is because there are millions of rooftop solar systems (along with more and more large scale solar projects) in Australia all feeding excess energy into the grid in the middle of the day. So at this time electricity from renewable sources pushes out more costly electricity generation, such as gas and coal, leading to lower wholesale electricity prices at that point in time.
The other factor here is that the price you pay for electricity at the point of consumption (ie. when you buy it) is made up of more than just the value of electricity.
The price of electricity is made up of a number of costs, from the cost of generating that electricity to the costs associated with transporting it to you.
These charges are always paid for at the point of consumption (that is, at your house or business) which means that when you buy (or consume) electricity you pay for all of these costs. However when you create and export your solar power, you only get paid for the value of the electricity in the wholesale market (in other words, the same price as any other form of generation.)
This is why the best way to maximise your solar savings is to focus on using as much solar power in your home as possible rather than exporting it. To maximise this, we also recommend looking into adding a battery to your solar system, if it makes sense for you, in order to decrease dependency from the grid overall and use more of your own power.
A cost-effective battery package
The Redback Smart Battery is a powerful yet simple and affordable battery solution that’s compatible with any existing solar system. A reliable brand, a great size for most solar households and in-built blackout protection included. Plus, affordable green loans are available for the cost of the battery package and installation via our preferred finance provider, Community First Credit Union.
Don’t have solar panels yet? Our solar and battery package is designed for people adding solar and a battery at the same time. It combines world leading solar panels, an Australian-designed battery system and local, experienced installers. Find out more here.