Frequently Asked Questions for First Time Solar Users

As Australia has a higher solar radiation density than all other continents, solar power systems in Australia produce more power than anywhere else in the world. The optimum placement for solar panels on Australian homes is a north-facing roof pitched at an angle of 20-30 degrees, however, lower or higher pitched roofs can be used to great effect, as can east or west-facing panels, though these typically generate 15-17% less than panels which face north.

Eastern panels generate power early in the day as the sun rises overhead, with the north and western panels generating more of the power as the sun heads westward and the day draws to an end. You might like to consider placing a section of panels on the western aspect to improve production in the afternoon and early evening when more household appliances and digital devices are in use. Despite lower production rates, this option offers financial advantages as you’re using the power you’re producing, thus reducing the amount of grid electricity drawn.

Solar panels produce energy from sunlight, not heat, with hotter days producing more sunshine for the panels to convert into electricity. Something that many homeowners may not realise, is that heat actually has a negative effect on solar panels. What’s more, as solar panels are tested in conditions that are unable to be replicated even in countries like Australia, these panels will never actually perform at their peak power output and will reach around 85% of their peak power output in the middle of a perfect summer’s day.

For this reason, estimated energy yields are given in kWh (units) per day, because this is how you buy electricity from your energy retailer, and if you’re eligible, it’s also how you sell them your excess power. To make the most informed decisions about your system’s performance, focus on the energy (kWh) yield.

Yes, however, it may prove to be a very expensive project if you don’t make the right provisions. Almost any system can have an AC or DC coupled system retrofitted to it, but as this requires additional components in addition to batteries, and different batteries require different components, you’re advised to look for more cost-effective ways to add batteries to your system. Whether you’re looking to add batteries now or in the future, our consultants can help you understand the options you have available to achieve the battery solution you desire.

Yes, it can actually make a significant effect on the performance of panels, so shading from trees and structures such as flue vents should be avoided, which is possible to a great extent by taking shading into account during the design process.

Be sure to take into account future shading issues, such as tree growth and future construction, and also take care not to place panels directly under TV antennas, as birds tend to perch on these and you could find your panels covered in excrement. Ideally, north-facing panels should be in direct sunlight from 9am to 3pm to produce maximum power, which changes to 7.30am to 1.30pm for eastern-facing panels, and 11.30am to 5.30pm for western-facing panels.

The inverter is one of the most important components in a solar power system and it performs a variety of functions in addition its primary function, which is converting the DC power produced by the panels into AC power for the house to use. Its other main function is using its maximum power point trackers (MPPTs) to regulate the voltage of the solar panels to maximise power. Selecting an inverter with two MPPTs gives you greater design flexibility, and it also has the advantage of shaded panels on one tracker not affecting the panels on the other.

To show you how much energy your system has produced, inverters feature a counter or screen, with top quality inverters providing more comprehensive monitoring and features in addition to delivering better performance and greater reliability. Additionally, as better quality inverters have higher DC to AC efficiency and more refined algorithms, they also tend to produce more power, and they come with longer warranties and better customer support, which is also important.

While most inverters offer great connectivity and online monitoring options, the top inverters on the market now enable homeowners to monitor energy consumption in real-time, which is an excellent benefit for energy-conscious homeowners.

To select the best inverter for your energy needs, a number of factors need to be taken into consideration, so please consult one of our renewable energy consultants to select the best inverter for your situation from the wide range of inverters Solar Hot Water Repairs Wollongong has to offer. With our comprehensive range that includes string, micro and panel-optimised inverters, and our consultants’ expert advice, we’ll help you select the perfect inverter for your solar project.

It’s essential to research solar panels, for not only do they all look very similar, but every solar provider will undoubtedly tell you that their panels are the best on the market. Furthermore, panels of a low quality are prone to manufacturing defects, they tend to degrade quickly, and the 25-year warranty period is only as reliable as the company that provides it. This means you have to research panels as well as manufacturers, so there’s quite a lot to take into account. Here are a few tips to get you started:

For long-term investments of three years of more, it’s advisable to select a ‘tier one’ panel, as these panels account for the top two percent of the solar panel market. The manufacturers that produce these panels have been producing solar panels for a minimum of five years, use automated production (this reduces defects), and as they’re vertically integrated they exert control over the supply chain in its entirety. These factors make their products an excellent investment.

Although there are many tier one brands for you to choose from, we advise choosing a manufacturer with a strong presence in Australia, as having local support makes warranty claims much easier to manage. Something else to consider is the number of panels the supplier has installed for the manufacturer. Whether tier one or not, this is an excellent way to determine the quality of solar panels and the honouring of warranties, as most suppliers would have started using another manufacturer’s products if they consistently experienced problems. However, it also pays to be aware that some suppliers switch between panel manufacturers regularly because they’re not shopping around for the best quality panels, but the lowest priced panels in that quality category.

Premium quality panels offer a wealth of benefits, including a slightly higher yield (kWh per kW), better performance in extreme heat and lower light, a more aesthetically pleasing appearance, a longer lifespan, and they usually also feature better customer support from the manufacturer. Naturally, there is greater financial outlay involved which takes longer to recuperate, but if you’re looking at an investment of five years or more they’re a great choice. While many manufacturers claim their panels are premium quality, it’s difficult to determine this until many years later, so look for panels that have performed well in independent tests and have been proven to withstand degradation and sustain that performance for many years.

It still makes sense to research solar panels for short to medium-term investments of one to three years, with ‘tier two’ solar panels a good choice for projects of this nature due to their cost-effective qualities. Tier two manufacturers are in the top 10-15% of the market and have been producing panels for at least two years, so they’re still of a high quality.

There are two reasons why panel output is often higher than the maximum inverter capacity. The first is that solar panels will never perform at their peak output because they’re tested in conditions which are unrealistic. In standard test conditions (STC), solar panels are hit with light intensity of 1000wm2, which rarely happens even in the middle of a clear Australian summer’s day, plus the tests occur in a temperature controlled environment of 25 degrees, which is significantly lower than the temperature at which they would operate in optimum conditions.

Furthermore, flash tests are conducted on panels with much shorter cable lengths than panels in the field, the tests don’t take into account degradation and the dirt that panels accumulate over time, and the panels are perfectly perpendicular to the rays when tested, which isn’t the case when mounted on a pitched roof as the sun’s rays will never be perpendicular to the solar panels, even in summer.

Due to these reasons, it’s rare for 6kW panels installed in optimum conditions to output more than 5kW, which means there’s absolutely benefit to selecting an inverter that has the same or higher output capacity than your panels. If you’re worried about the safety of your inverters, don’t be, as quality inverters are designed to cope with much higher input capacities, like Fronius’ inverters, which are warrantied to manage DC input capacity twice that of their AC output capacity. If installed correctly, an inverter with 5kW AC output could manage 10kW DC input without jeopardising the warranty or putting your system at risk.

The second reason for the difference between panel output and inverter capacity is that you will actually generate more overall yield (kWh), even though the inverter will never output more than its maximum AC output. On rare occasions, panel capacity may exceed the output capacity, however, the inverter is able to operate at maximum output capacity for a short while. In such situations, the inverter slows panel output and converts only as much power as it can. This is referred to as ‘clipping’, which is when a portion of the potential power generated by the panels is lost because panel output has exceeded the inverter’s capacity to convert it into AC power for the home to use. Although this seems like a waste of power, not only does it rarely occur, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages because the system turns on earlier, turns off later, and produces more power overall.

This is one reason why we recommend 5kW inverters, because if you were to increase the capacity of your inverter beyond this point it’s unlikely that you would be able to sell the surplus power your system produces back to the grid.

Yes, however, the costs involved vary between energy providers and states, plus homeowners that don’t have a smart meter will need to have their energy provider install one for them, which will be an extra expense. Having said that, most energy providers include the costs in their billing, so there’s little chance of you having to pay a lump sum for your new meter.