An Open Letter
More than 1.5 million Australian homeowners have made investment in rooftop solar. In August, another 6,260 solar power systems were installed across the country. Everyone had one goal in his or her mind – save money on power bill (and reduce their dependence on dirty coal power).
May be for weeks, months, or even years you have been thinking about getting solar panels as well. However, the decision seems high risk and you don’t quite know where to start.
Faulty panels, shoddy solar companies, leaky roof, whatever that it may be at the root of your hesitation, you know that problems usually manifest later; months or even years after the installation. Solar company goes out of business and you have junk stuck in your roof.
Getting solar can be an overwhelming task. There are hundreds of solar retailers and at least a thousand different kinds of solar panels to choose from.
If you had all the time in the world, this wouldn’t be an issue, right? But, the sad reality is, you don’t.
“How do I get a solar power system for my home without falling in the trap?”
To some extent, my entire website is dedicated to answering this question for you.
And, don’t get me wrong, this is a very legit question to ask.
However, I will also say this: ‘How to avoid the trap’, I believe is the wrong first question to ask if you’re just starting out.
My point is this: Before you start to worry too much about the products, brands, and solar companies, there is something more important to consider.
There is something you should know before anything else…..
Given your situation, how do you know if solar is for you?
Here is the thing: If you want an unbiased answer to this question, you should answer this question by yourself.
Luckily for you, I’ve come up with a step by step guide. These are list of questions; answering them will help you determine if solar fits your current situation. I call it a litmus test for homeowners.
These questions may have crossed your mind at one point or another, but I am going to break it down one at a time, all in one place. I will also tell you why it’s important to ask that question.
Here are five questions…in no particular order..
Is your roof relatively new?
This one may catch you off-guard. Nonetheless, it is a critical question to ask. Solar panels come with 25 years of warranty. So, you can expect them to be on your roof for a loooong time. While you shouldn’t worry about your roof condition on a brand new house, it is important particularly if you have an older house. Labor cost accounts for more than 50% on new solar installations today. If you have to remove solar panels so you can reroof or repaint, expect a significant expense.
If you have plans for roof replacement within the next five years, halt your decision on solar until that gets done.
Are you staying in the house another five years?
What happens if you decide to sell your home or relocate?
It is more true now than ever that home buyers see solar panels as added value to the house. And, if you are lucky, you’ll find someone who is willing to pay for the hardware for whatever it is worth.
Leased or financed solar systems can get a bit tricky if you still have time on the contract or still owe payments to the bank when you want to move.
Five years might be too far to see into the future, but it can take five to ten years for your system to payback. Plan on being in the house for at least five years.
Do you use enough power during the day?
This is what many homeowners fail to understand….
Solar panels work only when the sun is shining. Most people who install solar are home or have someone in the house during the day. The need for power at daytime, in such cases, can be generated by solar panels.
Solar electricity beats conventional grid electricity price by huge margin only if used directly. You can use solar power at night but that requires expensive batteries for storage, which eventually makes solar more expensive than grid. Batteries don’t save you money at today’s price.
Look at your most recent electricity bill and find out your daily kWh usage. Then, ask yourself, how much of that daily usage comes between 9-5pm. Dividing that kWh value by 4 roughly gives you an estimate of your system size in Kilowatts (or kW).
Smallest system installed is usually 1.5 kilowatts. Most residential systems are between 3-5 kilowatts. Solar companies will help you figure this out.
My point is: Know how much energy you use on a daily basis, and how much of that comes between 9-5. If you are not home during day time, you will save little on your power bill.
Do you have north-facing roof with open space?
Sun comes up in the east and moves west tilted north most of the year. North roof is exposed to sunlight more than any other roof orientation.
Don’t have north facing roof? East/West roofs also produce electricity, but (i) 10-15% less than north roof (ii) most generation happens in the morning/evening hours.
I recommend reading the following blog posts to learn in detail about East, West, or South roofs.
Can you afford the price?
With solar, it’s like paying your electricity bill in advance for the next five years.
Solar panels are cheaper than ever before. With generous help from rebates , you can still expect to spend between $4k-$8k out of pocket for a 3-5 kilowatt system. And, your search for bargain makes you a target prey.
There is no magic to producing cheaper system without compromising product, service, installation, or all of the above. This delicate balance between price and quality is the sweet spot for a successful project.
There you have it…
How did you do?
If you had a lot of answers in grey area, do not rush until things change for good and you feel more confident about your position.
If you answered yes to all my questions, you are well positioned to take benefits from solar energy system. The good news is; there is plenty of material on this site that will help you prepare for your solar journey.
Do you have any question that I didn’t cover in this post? Please contact me and I will try to answer.
If you’re prepared and want to start shopping, click in the link below to request for solar power quotes. The service is free, and provided by the best Australian Solar Quotation service provider, SolarQuotes.