Thinking about installing solar panels at home but not sure where to start?
First, take a look at your roof, and consider its orientation. Solar panels work by converting sunlight into electricity, so the more sunlight they're able to capture, the more solar power you can produce.
"A north-facing roof is best, but if you have an east or west-facing roof, that's also fine," said Michael Henderson, founder of Solar Calculator, an independent website for Australians to calculate their solar power needs and potential savings.
Next consider the size of your home and how much energy you need to power it.
"The most popular system in Australia at the moment is a 6.6-kilowatt system, which is generally large enough to power most Australian households," Henderson said.
"If you have something like a pool heater, it probably means that you're using a little bit more power than the average Australian household.
A north-facing roof is best...- Michael Henderson, founder, Solar Calculator
"Another consideration is electric vehicles. So if you're planning to buy an EV in the next few years, you probably want to go for a slightly larger solar system than what you might need right now."
If you're tossing up between two sizes, Henderson said it could be more economical to go for the slightly larger system, as installation costs between the two are likely similar. If you create more energy than you use, it can mean greater savings on your energy bill.
"Once the solar panels are on your roof, they're generating electricity, and any appliances that you're using at that time will be powered by solar energy. Any excess electricity then gets sent back to the grid, where you'll receive a feed-in tariff. But typically, the feed-in tariff is a lot smaller than what you pay for electricity, so you're far better off using the solar energy if you can during the day."
Installing solar panels at home involves a significant up-front expenditure, but Henderson said it's worth the money as an investment.
"In terms of payback, typically, in Australia, solar systems will pay themselves back within four to seven years. If you buy good quality solar panels, they're going to last 25 years. So, in terms of investment, it is really a good one," he said.
To help offset that initial cost, the federal government offers a solar rebate. To qualify, you need to ensure the solar panels you buy and the company you choose for installation are accredited by the Clean Energy Council.
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