Power your home for less
With free energy readily available from the sun, installing solar power is a winner for your bank balance and the environment alike. Read our quick guide to making the most of solar power for a great home and lifestyle.
Investing in an energy-efficient home and installing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels doesn’t have to be a costly challenge. It can be as simple as getting some house design basics right, picking efficient appliances and investing in solar. Going solar can make you more aware of how you’re using power and help you learn new ways to reduce the costs of operating your home.
The basics of sustainable home design
Before taking on a major upgrade like solar PV installation, see how much you can reduce your overall energy consumption – you might be surprised at how much you can save.
Look at ways to use passive home design principles to make the most of natural heating and cooling, reducing the need to turn the A/C or heater on. Installing shutters or blinds to keep heat out or in, or opening windows or louvres to improve air circulation, can also help reduce energy consumption.
Being conscious of your consumption can make a big impact on your energy bills. Even small changes, like turning off appliances when you don’t need them (rather than leaving everything on standby) can add up and help you save.
Choosing a solar PV system
The most common type of solar PV system is grid-connected. Rooftop panels are installed with an inverter that converts solar power from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current). Your home uses the solar system as its primary power source, relying on the grid as a back up for when your system isn’t generating electricity (e.g. at night).
The number of panels and inverter size you’ll need depends on how much power you use and how much you want to spend. The height, materials and accessibility of your roof will also affect your installation costs. Be sure to understand the quality of the panels and inverter, as these will impact the system’s long-term efficiency and payback.
Leasing, rebates and incentives
As well as saving on household bills, you can actually make money back from your solar PV installation. A feed-in tariff is the amount you’ll receive for power that goes back into the grid from your system. Tariffs vary depending on your state government and electricity retailer, so it’s worth researching how much you can expect to receive when you’re deciding what system to buy.
Although government rebates for solar systems have reduced as installation costs have fallen, there are still incentives available to help with purchase and installation costs. And if you simply don’t have the cash to pay for everything upfront, you could use the equity in your mortgage to pay for the system. Any additional interest you incur should be more than covered by the amount you’ll save on your bills (but of course you should do your sums first). Many solar panel installers and electricity retailers also offer leasing plans, so you can install your system and pay it off through your energy bills, with a finance charge included.
Finding an installer
With all these figures to consider, it can be tricky to calculate how much you should be spending to get a system that will make you better off in the long term. Visiting the Clean Energy Council’s accredited installer website is a good place to start your research and planning. The Council’s information and guides can take you step-by-step through the budgeting and installation process. It can also help you find an accredited installer who will assess your property, explain the costs and long-term benefits of different systems, provide a detailed quote and arrange connection to the grid with your electricity supplier.
Planning for a fuel-free lifestyle
With the growing popularity of battery storage solutions for solar energy, households can look forward to a time when all their power comes from the sun. These battery units store power from solar PV systems to draw on at night, or when there is extra demand for electricity. By charging electric cars from these home units, the sun may even become the power for our transport, without the need to install expensive solar PV panels on vehicles.
There’s no doubt that solar and renewable power is the future – so put a solar system up, and watch your bills go down.
The information in this section has been prepared as general information only without consideration for your particular investment objectives, financial circumstances or particular needs. Read the full disclaimer.