Buying solar products
Many Queensland homes have started using solar panels to generate their own power.
In most cases, solar panels:
- are mounted on top of the roof
- connect to the mains power grid supply through an inverter.
The inverter transforms solar power into electricity that you can use in your home. This becomes your first source of electricity—anything extra will come from the grid.
Solar panels are different from solar hot water systems.
Before you buy
Before you buy solar panels for your home, make sure you research products, suppliers, grants and rebates.
- the Solar Bonus Scheme (Queensland Governmment)
- the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. (Australian Government)
To be eligible for either scheme, you must use an accredited installer and approved products.
The Clean Energy Council is the body that:
- trains and accredits installers
- approves solar products.
Do not pay the full price up-front.
Some suppliers will ask for a deposit. This is fine, but try to pay:
- no more than 25% of the full price
- with your credit card.
Credit cards let you request a charge-back through your bank. This is helpful if your goods never arrive.
Your solar panel installer must have:
- Clean Energy Council accreditation
- one of the following:
- a relevant Queensland Building and Construction Commission (QBCC) licence
- an unrestricted electrical contractor licence.
Solar credits scheme
The federal government may offer you ‘solar credits’ when you buy solar panels. Check if you’re eligible before you buy.
The number of credits will depend on:
- what size your system is
- whether you are directly connected to mains power
- when you bought your system
- where you live.
Several factors can affect how much power you generate. These include:
- your system’s capacity (generally 1.5–4 kW)
- the average sunlight hours
- your panels’ position on the roof (usually facing north and angled to collect the most sunlight)
- the inverter’s rating in kilowatts (make sure this is equal to or more than the solar panels’ output).
Most consumers find that solar panels generate just over one-third of the electricity the household uses. This will change depending on your individual use.
The feed-in tariff
The Solar Bonus Scheme will pay you a ‘feed-in’ tariff if you contribute power back into the grid. This happens if your solar panels generate more power than your household uses.
You will need:
- to be connected directly to the grid supply
- a digital electricity meter (a ‘Smart Meter’).
Analogue meters will tick backwards when feeding power back into the grid. This means that your ‘payment’ for feeding power back into the grid is being calculated at the same general domestic use rate. The feed-in tariff is worth more than the general domestic tariff, so using an analogue meter means you are forgoing the difference between the two rates.
On average, most household solar panels:
- hold 1.5 kW of electricity
- generate an average of 6.3 kW.h of electricity per day (based on average sunlight between Brisbane and Cairns).
Most households use about 18 kW.h of power each day. This means that if you live between Brisbane and Cairns, you can expect your power bill to reduce by about 1/3. Inland households (near the Northern Territory border) tend to get more sunlight each day. They can therefore generate a little more power.
If you are having problems with your solar panels, or are not getting the benefits you expected:
- your household may be using too much power during the day (things like air conditioning or swimming pool pumps use lots of power)
- you may need to reset the system (check the user manual).
If you think there may be an installation problem, you should:
- contact your installer and ask them to come back and inspect the system
- call a licensed electrical contractor to inspect your system.
Never climb onto your roof to check your solar panels or wash them with your hose.
Solar PV systems are like any electrical equipment. Maintain them regularly to keep them safe and efficient. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.