Best Solar Panel Installers
If you've just bought brand new solar panels for your home, you probably feel like you're walking on sunshine. But remember you also need to choose a solar panel installer to affix the panels to your rooftop, and wire your panels to your house’s electrical system using a solar inverter.
Where do you need Solar Panel Installers?
Is solar worth it?
While the costs of residential solar power were sky high as recent as 10 years ago, putting solar panels on your roof is much more affordable now. This is due in part to generous government rebates aimed at incentivising the use of renewable energy, as well as the increased demand for solar power in Australia. A 5kW system today is the same price as a 2kW system sold for prior to 2011, when the government introduced its Australian Renewable Energy Target.
The solar panel rebate
When you purchase solar panels from an accredited Clean Energy Council solar retailer, you’re eligible for a discount in the form of Small Scale Technology Certificates, or STCs. A certain dollar value is taken off the purchase price of your system per kilowatt.
The exact discount amount depends on three variables: your zone rating, the deeming period and market factors. The zone rating indicates how much clean renewable energy your panels can generate, according to your location and how much sunshine your part of the country receives. For example, Darwin and Townsville have a higher zone rating than Sydney and Brisbane. The deeming period refers to the number of years left remaining before the scheme's finish date. Since the scheme is due to be phased out by 2030, the closer we get to this time, the lower the discount you'll receive.
How do I avoid solar wastage?
If you spend most of your peak solar-generating times out of the house (for example if you work in an office full-time), you may be wondering if solar is still worth it. After all, since your solar system will automatically revert to on-grid electricity at night-time, what’s the point of solar if you're still paying for electricity bills. Here are two options to help you reap the rewards of clean energy.
Solar battery: Battery storage allows any solar power that’s not used immediately to be saved for later. This means you can use stored-up solar power when you're at home in the evenings - or even in a power outage. However, while solar batteries are resourceful, they can be expensive, with the solar battery price ranging from $2,000-$12,000, depending on the size of your system and the brand. For example, the retails for around $11, 700.
Feed-in tariff: A more affordable option is to sign up for a feed-in tariff with your electricity provider. This allows any unused solar energy to be fed back into the grid through a utility meter. Solar panel owners are compensated by way of a modest rebate. The exact amount varies depending on your electricity company, but often ranges from 7-16 cents per kW. However, it also means that you're contributing to clean energy in your neighbourhood - providing solar energy that would otherwise be sourced by coal or gas.
How much do solar panels cost?
The main determining factor of the total cost of your solar panel set-up is the total power output, measured in kilowatts or kW. As an average cost, here are some rough estimates:
- 3kW system: $3.5-$5K Sufficient for a household of 2-3 people
- 5kW system: $4.5-$8K Suitable for most households of 4-5 people, who spend a balance of time at home and out.
- 10kW: $8-12K This is the right size if you have a larger household, or for smaller households that spend the bulk of their time at home during the day, such as retired couples.
These estimates are inclusive of system installation, however you may choose to custom-select your installer, which may result in a variation in price. As these cost estimates demonstrate, it's hard to pin down an exact price of how much a solar power system will cost.
While a quote is still a price estimate, it's more specific to your unique needs. Comparing solar quotes is helpful, as all quotes take into account other factors besides the size of your system. These include:
- Your state in Australia: As your city or town's zone rating will affect the STC discount on solar panels you get from the government.
- Inclusion of a mounting system: A professional will consider whether you need a mounting system to tilt the panels on your roof towards the sun - especially if your have a flat roof, or your roof doesn't face north
- Your roof's condition: As older rooves will usually still be solar-panel friendly, but take more work to allow them to accommodate solar panels
- Seasonality: While autumn and early spring offer more affordable installation, summer is the peak time for solar panel installation. This means you'll be paying top dollar to install at this time of year.
- The quality of solar system components including the solar panels and the solar inverter. Although energy-efficient panels are more expensive initially, they'll last longer. The same is true of a durable panel build quality like crystalline silicon, which is estimated to last around 25 years.
With all this in mind, it's advisable to avoid flash deals by overzealous solar panel retailers or limited-time only sale offers - even if they're marketed using catchy phrases like 'Best solar deals!' A cheaper price today may involve the use of cheap, non-durable components, or an imminent price increase after installation. These can involve more money changing hands later.
Can I install a solar panel system myself?
The short answer is no. Even if you’re an electrician or an engineer, you should leave installation to the professionals. Solar installation is a niche market and the work involves high voltage electricity being handled from a height, so it can be dangerous.
There are also parts of the installation process that a lay person legally can’t do, such as wiring a solar panel to a 230-volt AC load. Since accredited solar installers have completed the training necessary to obtain their license, they install solar panels as part of their routine work – which can take whole lot of stress off your plate.
Hiring a solar panel installer might actually save you money
- Warranty protection: DIY solar panel installation will, in most cases, void a solar panel warranty. This is the case even if your installation goes according to plan and no problems are immediately visible.
- You can't get a discount with a DIY job: To be eligible for a discount Small Scale Technology Certificates as part of a government rebate, your solar panel system needs to be set up by a Clean Energy Council accredited installer. This makes you exempt from receiving a rebate if you embark on a DIY solar job - even if everything goes perfectly according to plan. Since the rebates can amount to thousands of dollars, you’ll often make back the money you spend on installation by opting for an accredited installer, anyway.
- Insurance reasons: Since an accredited solar panel installer will be insured, you won’t be left out of pocket to cover the cost of damage or other expenses if there is a fault with the installation process.
What do solar installation costs include?
A professional will prepare your roof by attaching racking/ scaffolding, installing mounts, laying the panels, and installing a solar inverter that converts the DC electricity generated by the solar panels into usable AC electricity via your home’s electrical system. The total cost will include the 'balance of system' - all the separate electrical parts that make up the system, like wires, isolators, breakers, switches, mounting brackets and the solar inverter. The cost of manual labour will also be factored in.
How to choose a solar panel installer
- First and foremost, look for Clean Energy Council accreditation - this ensures your installer will meet a certain level of quality. While installers need to be licensed electrical contractors as a minimum, each year, when installers renew they're accreditation, they're required to complete training to keep up-to-date with Australian standards. They're also required to have public liability insurance. Choosing CEC-approved also means you'll qualify for discounts. Ask your installer for proof of accreditation.
- Installers should provide an itemised list for a quote
- Warranty periods should be clearly stated - both product warranties (around 10 years) and performance warranties (usually around 25 years)
- A good reputation accompanied by a decent number of years in business is a requirement as well. Reading real-to-life reviews from solar panel owners in Australia is helpful - simply scroll up to begin your research today.