Solar Power Finder™:
Your comprehensive guide to going solar

Generate your own electricity the sustainable and environmentally friendly way with solar power.

Adding solar power to your home can help you save big on energy costs, but it can be a daunting investment. We break down the entire process for you here.

Essential facts about solar power

  • You'll need to make an upfront investment of between $3,500 and $10,000 to get started (though financing is an option).
  • Depending on household usage, your solar installation could reduce electricity bills enough to pay itself off in around four to seven years.
  • Always ensure your installer has Climate Energy Council (CEC) accreditation.
  • For most people, using electricity generated from solar will have a bigger impact than feeding electricity back into the grid.
  • Batteries are still expensive and may not pay for themselves in a reasonable time period.

In a country that gets as much sun as Australia, it's no wonder that household use of solar power is becoming increasingly popular. Though they were once seen as too expensive, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are now an affordable choice for Aussies who want to reduce their power bills and generate their own environmentally friendly electricity.

There are many benefits to installing a solar power system in your home. Australia has the highest solar radiation per square metre of any continent and solar power is a sustainable option that collects free energy from the sun and converts it into clean electricity. It's also a great way to reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding more-traditional forms of energy powered by fossil fuels.

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What you need for a solar power system

Every solar power system needs to be customised for the home it's being installed on, as well as the household's energy needs. While there are a lot of variables that need to be considered, there are three critical components to any solar PV system.

  • Photovoltaic panels: These are the panels that convert the sun's energy into electricity.
  • Inverter: This converts the panels' direct current (DC) into a 240V alternating current (AC), so you can use your solar energy to power your home's electricity.
  • Racking: This is the equipment used to attach the solar panels to your home's roof.

To make things a little more confusing, there are different types of panel technologies available and multiple types of inverters. Then there are additional elements like batteries and feed-in tariffs to consider. We'll break all this down for you on this page, but your solar installer should be able to guide you through the more difficult decisions.

Solar panels: Polycrystalline vs monocrystalline

Before we dive into what makes these two panel types different, it's worth noting that for most installations in Australia, this decision doesn't matter too much. Because of our climate, both polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels offer similar performance, though there are higher-quality products at a range of prices that should be considered.

To showcase the differences, we've put two similar Trina Solar panels side by side so you can see the differences in the technologies below.

Monocrystalline panel
Monocrystalline
(e.g. Trina Solar Honey Mono 300W)
Trina polycrystalline panel
Polycrystalline
(e.g. Trina Solar Honey Poly 280W)
Panel efficiency
17.1%
(Typically 15–20%)
17.1%
(Typically 13–16%)
Dimensions
1,640 x 992 x 35mm
1,640 x 992 x 35mm
Weight
18.6kg
18.6kg
Peak power (Watts)
300W
280W
Example price*
$157.28
$132.99

Solar inverters: String inverters vs micro-inverters

The second key component of your solar system is the inverter. Inverters are responsible for converting the DC produced by the solar panels into an AC that can be used by your appliances.

Again, there are two main technologies to consider for an inverter. Below are some pros and cons for each:

String inverter
String inverter
(e.g. SMA 2-MPPT 5000W)
micro inverter
Micro-inverter
(e.g. Enphase M250 240V)
Price One unit per system, generally cheaper Need one per solar panel, can add significant cost to a large solar system
Safety Single point of failure dealing with large voltages, so potential fire risk Current converted at each panel, so lower risk of overall failure
Extending Difficult to add additional panels Easy to add more panels over time
Performance System can only perform as well as its worst-performing panel Each panel outputs full potential to system, so more efficient power overall
Alignment All panels need to be aligned to maximise output Panels can face different directions because performance isn't tied together
Troubleshooting If one panel fails, can be difficult to determine which one Each panel can be monitored and issues identified easily
Replacement Easy to replace if it fails Can be difficult to replace given location on roof

Solar racking

If you're about to spend thousands of dollars attaching solar panels to your roof, you should pay attention to the racking that will be used to keep them secure.

While there are a number of products and manufacturers available, the most important things to be aware of are ensuring the racking is correctly wind rated for your area.

This means if you live in an area prone to cyclones, you want to make sure your racking is rated for cyclonic winds, otherwise your expensive solar system could blow away.

High-quality solar racking for Australian homes is generally rated for all wind types in Australia, but you should do your research and make sure anyway. While your installer will help guide you in this decision, know that some racking may not support both portrait and landscape installations, while others may only be appropriate for certain roof types.

How big should your solar system be?

Now you know what's required for your solar system, the next step is to determine what type of system you want and how much energy it will produce.

Naturally there are lots of elements that can impact this decision, like your budget, your retailer and even the size of your home. Let's break it down, step by step.

Choose your system

For most Australians, there are three main types of solar systems to consider:

Grid-connected PV system

The most common type of system. Your home will use electricity from your PV system before it uses it from the grid. When your system isn't generating electricity at night, your home will get electricity from the grid.

Hybrid PV system

As solar batteries become more affordable, hybrid PV systems with a battery backup become more popular. Your home will use electricity from your PV panels first, your battery second and the grid third.

Off-grid PV system

Off-grid homes are usually limited to remote locations where there's limited connectivity to the grid. These homes must have batteries or back-up generation (like a diesel or petrol generator) for power at night.

Most Australian homes with a solar PV system currently have a grid-connected system, though hybrid systems with a battery backup are becoming more popular as the price of solar batteries comes down.

Off-grid systems really are limited to remote locations. Even if you invest in a large hybrid solar system with a view to stop using grid-electricity, it will likely still be connected to the grid in the majority of cases.

How much does installing solar cost?

Now you have a bit of an idea about the type of solar photovoltaic system you want to install, it's time to budget. It's important to know there's no fixed price for any solar system installation. The costs you're quoted will depend on the size and capacity of the system being designed, the quality and brand of the products used and the difficulty of the install.

Then there are potential additional costs, like upgrading your meter or your electricity switchboard.

As such, it's important to get multiple quotes from CEC-accredited installers.

But to give you a general outline of potential price ranges for a standard grid-connected PV system, Solar Choice has compiled its list of average install prices across Australia for different solar system sizes.

For February 2019, the average out-of-pocket install price (deducting any relevant government solar rebates) looked like this:

Capacity
Price
1.5kW
$3,313
2kW
$3,670
3kW
$4,260
4kW
$4,960
5kW
$5,530
7kW
$7,840
10kW
$10,750

Importantly, these numbers are averaged across all of Australia. Some states don't offer any type of rebate on a solar system install, so those prices could be higher, depending on your location.

How long will it take for my solar PV system to pay for itself?

Naturally, the time it takes for your solar system to pay for itself from reduced electricity costs depends on everything from the size of your system and the price you paid to your energy usage habits and consumption, plus your electricity plan's rates for both consumption and production.

It's also significantly impacted by where you live, as that can have a big impact on the typical amount of energy your panels will produce, as well as the rebates available and the feed-in tariff options.

According to the Australian Energy Council's January 2019 Solar Report (pdf), these are the expected time frames for a solar PV system to pay back its upfront cost across Australian capital cities:

City
2kW
3kW
4kW
5kW
Adelaide
4 years
3 years
3 years
3 years
Brisbane
6 years
4 years
4 years
3 years
Canberra
10 years
7 years
6 years
6 years
Darwin
6 years
4 years
3 years
3 years
Hobart
13 years
10 years
9 years
9 years
Melbourne
11 years
8 years
7 years
7 years
Sydney
6 years
5 years
4 years
4 years
Perth
5 years
4 years
4 years
4 years

Feed-in tariff plans

Once you've had your solar panels installed, one of the first things to do is to take a good look at your energy plan. Chances are the plan you were on before adding solar panels isn't the best plan for you now you're generating your own electricity. One of the most important features of an energy plan to consider once you have solar panels is the feed-in tariff, sometimes referred to as the "FiT".

This refers to the amount of money your energy company will pay you for the excess electricity you create that's fed back into the grid.

FiTs can vary quite dramatically, depending on where you live and the retailer you choose. Some retailers offer relatively generous FiTs, but also charge higher rates for any electricity you use from the grid, while others offer lower FiTs (or no FiTs at all).

Understanding your usage is important when selecting the right electricity plan with a FiT, because as we mentioned above, the cost of electricity from the grid is almost always more than the amount energy companies will pay you.


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20 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    AndrewJanuary 31, 2019

    We live in SW Sydney and looking to install solar panels as we have a pool and ducted A/C. Can you point us in the right direction on provider comparison/s or is it best to speak with an energy broker, and if so, can you suggest any? We are currently with Red Energy but could/would change. Want to choose a reputable form for the panels as anecdotal evidence suggests many are here today and gone tomorrow – which is a major concern for after-sales service etc.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JeniFebruary 2, 2019Staff

      Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Kindly check out this page to start comparing your energy plan options in NSW. You may click on the green go to site button or enquire now to be redirected to the provider’s official page to learn more on what they offer to new consumers like you.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

  2. Default Gravatar
    MarkJanuary 10, 2018

    I have a residential home in Western Suburbs of South Australia and looking to install a ~5kw solar system. Could you send me a list of solar installation companies who may be able to assist. Also looking into the storage/battery side of things as well. Want to spend between $5000 – $10000

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      JoanneJanuary 11, 2018Staff

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      You may go ahead and click on “more info” on the supplier above if you need additional details. Most of the suppliers may be able to take care of the installation but you may need to speak with their solar experts to get specialised advised.

      You may also view this guide so you can get more information on how you can choose the solar suppliers and installers.

      Cheers,
      Joanne

  3. Default Gravatar
    BelindaJuly 11, 2017

    I am getting cold calls from companies wanting to instal solar panels on my leased business property, on a “rent to own” basis, with the overall costs purportedly slightly lower than my current energy bills. Generally overseas call centres. How do I find reputable local suppliers to quote?

    • Default Gravatar
      JonathanJuly 13, 2017

      Hello Belinda!

      Thanks for your inquiry. :)

      On this page, left part you’d see the list of providers we have per state under “Can I switch?”.
      We recommend that you click which applies on your location. Afterwards, it will direct you to the page where we have listed the distributors on that state. You can click “Enquire Now” green button of your chosen provider.

      Alternatively, you can also send an inquiry to an energy broker.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

  4. Default Gravatar
    LuisJune 28, 2017

    How do I compare my existing provider to a potential provider?

    • Default Gravatar
      JonathanJune 28, 2017

      Hi Luis!

      You may go to this page and click “Need assistance? Request a callback from an energy broker and compare plans” green button.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

  5. Default Gravatar
    GailJune 27, 2017

    How as a renter can they access solar power?

    • Default Gravatar
      JonathanJune 28, 2017

      Hi Gail!

      You can check our full-guide for renters on this page and how they can access energy deals.

      Hope this helps.

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

      H

  6. Default Gravatar
    MalMay 26, 2017

    Can you supply a solar application form for Victoria?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      HaroldMay 26, 2017Staff

      Hi Mal,

      Thank you for your inquiry.

      To check the available energy options in Victoria you may need to visit this page for the list of providers.

      I hope this information has helped.

      Cheers,
      Harold

  7. Default Gravatar
    DIANAJanuary 11, 2017

    hi i am looking for an electricity provider who has a great solar rebate scheme and cheaper prices than what i am paying at lumo cheers

  8. Default Gravatar
    BruceDecember 27, 2016

    In 2012 I installed a small 1.5 kilowatt system for a two storey townhouse. I have been receiving a 68 cent rebate for FIT. I am now being told by my supplier that I should only be receiving 10 cents FIT. Where can I find out if this is correct. Also, if I install a new larger system, what would the current Rebate for feed in be? Thanks for your time.

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MayDecember 27, 2016Staff

      Hi Bruce,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Solar rebates tend to change more frequently and the amount will vary according to your energy provider and your state location. I suggest that you contact your local government for the current rate of the rebates in your state. Furthermore, if you will change to a larger energy system, there will be a difference in the rebate you will receive. Whichever program permit you get, you will receive a credit through gross or net metering.

      Gross metering – all of the solar electricity a home’s system generates is sent into the grid. You receive reimbursement based on every kWh of solar electricity your system produces.

      Net metering – you receive funds according to the difference between the home’s usage and the solar electricity produced.

      Cheers,
      May

  9. Default Gravatar
    freshNovember 1, 2016

    Hi

    With the solar rebate ending are you doing a group deal with those coming off the rebate?

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      HaroldNovember 2, 2016Staff

      Hello Fresh,

      Thanks for your question.

      The rebates that may be available to you depending on your state and solar setup. Solar rebates are a tricky thing, and they tend to change quite frequently, so we’ve devoted an entire article to help you understand and get the most out of them.

      I hope that helps.

      Cheers,
      Harold

  10. Default Gravatar
    johnJune 23, 2016

    I would like a quote to install Tesla solar power to my home

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      ShirleyJune 28, 2016Staff

      Hi John,

      Thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately this is beyond the scope of our advice. I’ve emailed you some links to find a quote for installing a Tesla Powerwall.

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