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The Top 7 Things to Know When Buying a Solar System

Congratulations! You’ve made the first step in purchasing a Solar System, the decision to research Solar Systems. You have a lot of choices to make in regards to what type, who from, with or without batteries, which rebate offer, what size system and where it is going on the roof. Sounds a lot, I know, but here at Adelaide Solar Safe we promise to provide you with accurate and honest information to assist you with all these questions and any others that you have. To help start you off, here is a list of what we believe are the top 7 things you need to know or look out for.

1 – Stop waiting for the prices of batteries to drop!

The current payoff for some battery systems is around 7 years but some are up to 15 years. With warranties up to 10 years this doesn’t seem like a good idea.
However, all systems can have a battery added later, either through a method called A/C coupling or a Hybrid Inverter. With this knowledge and the rising costs of electricity, it makes no sense to wait for battery prices to drop. Get a well-designed solar system now and through your reduced costs of electricity, you will be able to save for and add a battery sooner.
Be aware though that an A/C coupled system will not provide back-up power as the inverter will still shut down when the grid fails. We recommend the installation of a Hybrid Inverter that will stay “on-line” when the grid goes down. These type of inverters will then direct either Solar PV power or stored battery power to operate essential circuits within your home. To clarify, there are two terms used here – Battery Ready and Battery Back-Up.
Battery Ready – Is a general term relating to the addition of batteries at a later stage. This does not mean that the batteries will provide power to the home when the grid fails.
Battery Back-Up – This term relates to a Hybrid Inverter that remains on line when the grid fails and it automatically chooses to supply power either from the Solar Panels or Battery Storage to your home when the grid fails. This type of inverter has a substantial cost addition to most standard “grid-connected” inverters currently being installed in Australia.
To give you a price comparison, at Adelaide SolarSafe in 2010, we were installing 5kw premium Solar Installations, for around $15,000 including GST. In 2017 Adelaide Solar safe can supply and install 5kw Solar and include 6.5kWh LG Chem RESU LV Lithium Battery storage with Hybrid inverter for around the cost.

2 – Get Multiple Quotes

To make sure that you get the best price for the quality you are after it is absolutely necessary to get multiple quotes. Not only will you avoid the unscrupulous installer who is charging three times more than they should but you can gain an understanding of which solar system is right for you and your budget.

3 – Ask Questions to Determine if your Solar Installer is the Read Deal

Know your stuff before the installer comes out to give you a quote. If they are the real deal, they will be happy to answer and give you the answers you already know. If they are not a proper installer or someone trying to rip you off they will make a mistake or realise they can’t fool you. In any case, verify the information with an independent source if you can. If another salesman can’t corroborate the information, try Googling it.

4 – Overhanging Trees or your Roof Isn’t on the Best Angle should not be a Deterrent

The latest panels are so efficient that any loss of direct sunlight is hardly noticeable. Current estimates put it at about a 10-15% loss if your panels are not facing north. Depending on the time of day you use your electricity, it may be a better option if your panels do face east (for morning use) or west (for afternoon use).
Overhanging trees can cause shadow but as the sun progresses through the sky that shadow will move. Depending on the shadow cast by the tree you may only be in the shadow for an hour. In an overall sense, your loss for that hour would be hardly noticeable at all.

5 – Know What Size System is Best for Your Needs

Most installers/salespeople will sit down and discuss with you what your electricity habits are or ask to see previous bills to determine what sort of usage you have before they provide a quote. They should then ask what outcome you are hoping for and what you are willing to spend to get that outcome.

6 – Become Aware Of How The ‘Rebate’ Works and/or How To Calculate The Paybacks From Feed-In Tariffs

Let’s define these terms first.
Rebate – a Federal Government financial incentive, upfront reduction in your cost to purchase a Solar System.
Feed-In Tariff – a State Government financial incentive, any excess solar energy (not used in your home) that is exported into the grid earns a payback by your electricity provider.
How does the Rebate work?
It’s not actually called a rebate but the STC program. The Small-scale Technology Certificate price varies depending on the demand of Solar Systems at that time. The higher the demand the lower the ‘rebate’. In August 2017 the STC was around $31 which equates to a rebate roughly equal to $600 per kW installed. The other thing to be aware of here is that the STC program is now being reduced every year, from Jan 2017, until it ends in 2032. With that in mind, you will get a better rebate now, (depending on the current STC prices) than if you wait. By the way, the STC price will be locked into any quotes you get.
You don’t need to worry about paperwork for this as the installers are the ones who claim the rebate on your behalf.
The only criteria for claiming it are:

  1. Your system is less than 100kW in size.
  2. You get it installed and designed by a Clean Energy Council accredited professional.
  3. You use panels and inverters that are approved for use in Australia by the Clean Energy Council.

How does the Feed-In Tariff work?

Let’s explain this in an example. Over a 24 hour period, you might use 30% of the solar energy that is stored during the daylight hours. The other 70% is exported back into the grid. Your electricity provider will tell you what your feed-in tariff is (usually between 6-12c per kWh). If we say it was a 10 hour day of sunlight, then 70% would be 7 hours of energy storage which has been saved. If your system is a 5kW of power system then you can produce up to 5kWh of energy per hour on a really sunny day. So, 7 hours at 5kW would equal 35kWh for the day. If your feed-in tariff is 10c then you earned $3.50 for that day. For a 30 day month, if that happened every day, it would be $105 you earned. That’s roughly $315 per quarter. Your electricity provider will take this off whatever energy you had to buy from the grid, for example, you buy $500 worth, receive a $300 feed-in tariff reduction, your end cost to pay to the provider is $200.

This means the bigger the solar system you get the more energy you can put back into the grid but it doesn’t mean you won’t get a bill ever again. The feed-in tariffs today are much smaller than 4 or 5 years ago. You will get reductions in your bills but probably won’t get a cheque instead.

At the moment the standard Feed-In Tariff (Aug 2017) is around 6c/kWh for exported energy. Some Energy retailers are offering around 16c/kWh. We would advise consumers to “tread carefully” when looking at these types of offers. The main kicker is how much the Energy Retailer is charging for “Imported Power” and what contract period are they attempting to lock you into. We strongly recommend seeking advice from those of us who are at the coalface. By that, I mean when Adelaide SolarSafe is providing a solar quotation, we need to complete an energy assessment. This allows us to calculate the proposed return on your investment. We see many of our client’s power bills and there is a massive variation between Energy Retailers current rates, pardon the pun.

As a general rule, with the new introduced energy charges (as from July 1st 2017) we see a range of 32c/kWh – 40c/kWh for imported energy. AFTER PAY ON TIME DISCOUNTS! The best I have seen recently (

AFTER PAY ON TIME DISCOUNTS! The best I have seen recently (post-July 1st this year) was Simply Energy, with a combined discount given to RAA members only.
Please note – We are not affiliated with any Energy retailer, it’s what we have seen in the client’s home.

7 – The Law: Australian Consumer Law and the Protections you are Entitled Too

While there are several basic protections the main ones that you will be concerned with are the warranties and what the installer/salesperson tells you.
Warranties – There should be four warranties with your solar system: the Performance Warranty, the Inverter’s Warranty, The Solar Panels Warranty and the Workmanship Warranty.
The Performance Warranty is on the performance of the whole Solar System, not the individual parts. Parts have their own warranties, the Inverter and the Solar Panels, both of which you should look for 10 years of coverage. The Workmanship warranty is obviously on the workmanship carried out by the Installer. Look for a 5 year warranty for Workmanship.

Check that the parts are covered by an Australian Entity. It has occurred that some Chinese made panels needed to be sent back to China at the customer’s expense to get them tested.
Be aware also that good quality systems will only need to be service once every 5 years and cleaned once per year. If an installer tries to tell you that it needs to happen every two years it’s either a poorer quality unit or the installer is not being honest. If they tell you to pay a maintenance fee to keep the panels in warranty, ask them to leave as that is a complete falsehood.


Hopefully, this knowledge has prepared you for the next stage, getting quotes and asking all the right questions. If you enter into your quest for a Solar System with the knowledge we have armed you with, you are likely to succeed and come out on top.

For a free in-home solar quotation and Energy Profile Assessment click here, send us a general enquiry here or call us on 08 8296 4145.