What Should I Know Before I Buy a PV System?

Information verified correct on October 26th, 2016

Do you know enough to confidently sign a contract to buy a PV (photovoltaic cell) system?

Read about solar PV systems and compare your options before signing a contract to equip your home with solar power. The information on this page can help you make an informed decision about which quoted PV system is the best for your home and lifestyle.

Answer these five questions before you buy a PV system:

1. How much electricity do I use now and when are my peak usage times?

How much electricity do you use now, and when do you use the most power at home? You should have an idea about your energy consumption to help you find the right solar PV system to suit you home or business.

Do you want to cover your daytime electricity consumption and sell any excess power back to the grid or do you want to store power in batteries to use at night. The amount of power you use, and when, as well as the capacity and efficiency of your grid-connected or stand alone PV system all contribute to your net electricity usage.

How to reduce your electricity consumption

Take steps to reduce your electricity consumption. Energy efficiency equals savings on your electricity bill. Cutting back on using household appliances like electric heaters, air conditioning and washers and dryers and using appliances at off-peak times can reduce your household electricity consumption by more than you’d think.

2. Does my electricity company have anything to say?

Make sure you know whether your electricity distributor will allow you to provide power back to the grid. A feed-in tariff may not be available to you. Speak to your power company and find out what affect installing solar power will have on your power bill before you buy a PV system. If a feed-in tariff is available for your connection, find out the rate for every kWh exported back to the grid.

3. What is the expected electricity output of your quoted PV solar system?

An accredited solar installer or certified solar retailer will quote a PV system tailored to meet your electricity consumption needs. The quote will include the expected output of the system. This is one way you can compare different solar PV systems.

4. What is the payback time for your quoted solar PV systems?

At what point does your solar PV system pay for itself? The payback time is the time it takes for the savings from your solar power system to surpass the cost of installing it. Different systems generate different amounts of electricity and have different payback times. There are also other environmental factors that affect a system’s payback time, like shading from trees.

The payback time can be a simple way to compare solar PV systems side by side, but it should only be an indication of a system’s value. Reduced panel performance, the cost of replacing different parts in the PV system and other expenses that account for a solar PV system’s total cost are left out of the payback time calculation.

5. What are the warranties for the solar system?

Guarantees and warranties are another good way to compare quotes from different solar installers and retailers. A longer warranty on parts and systems may be more attractive to you than a system with a shorter warranty.

Certified solar panels can stay under warranty for as long as 25 years; however, make sure you’re supplied with warranty terms and conditions before you buy a PV system. Also ensure that you’re supplied with details about the solar panel brand and the panel manufacturer before you buy. Make sure the company and the solar products are trustworthy.

A good rule of thumb is to go for a panel from a company you think will still be around in 30 years to continue to service your solar panels.

Frequently asked questions

Are solar quotes are full of hidden costs?

A quote from an accredited solar installer should be indicative of the total price, there are some costs which can be excluded from a quote:

    • Fees for connecting to the network or fees for configuring the meter to export energy.
    • The charge for upgrading your switchboard to support solar power.
    • Asbestos removal.
    • Tree pruning.
    • Roof repairs prior to installing the PV solar system.

How much can solar power save me on my electricity bill?

As a rough example, the average Australian home uses about 18kWh of electricity. A 1.5kW rooftop PV solar setup can provide about 1/3 of this amount as power to a household.

How long will my solar PV system last for?

Most certified solar PV systems last for a period of 30 years before they need to be replaced. This may be longer in some systems. Note that the output of solar panels drops every year. Over 40 years you can expect a drop in performance of 20-40%.

Shirley Liu

Shirley is's publisher for banking and investments. She is currently studying a Masters in Commerce (Finance) and is the author of hundreds of articles. She is passionate about helping Aussies make an informed decision, save money and find the best deal for their needs.

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