Want to go solar and unsure where to start?
Here is a 10 minute read, which should help you get going. As always, contact us if you get stuck on a question...
What size should I choose?
Here is what you need to know about solar system size: as your solar system gets bigger, every additional panel gets cheaper. The $/kW price drops by roughly 10-15% for every additional kW, as you go from (say) 2-10 kW.
But a bigger solar system means more energy exported to the grid, for which you are paid a “feed in tariff”. Feed in tariffs are usually (much) lower than what you pay for electricity from the grid. So a bigger system is proportionally cheaper, but the value of the energy you generate might be lower. So, what's the right size for you? Try our calculator and find out which system matches you needs.
How to design your system?
Whether north, east, west, flat or pitched, just about any roof can handle some level of solar. Before you say “yes” to a solar system design, here is what you need to know:
Solar panels produce up to four times as much energy in summer as in winter. You want your panels in clear summer sun. However, a bit of winter shading is not the end of the world.
East-west panels typically produce 10-15% less energy per year than panels facing north. But this energy will be more spread out over the day, which might better align with your consumption (i.e. mornings and evenings). Even electricity production from south-facing panels are only 25% less than north, so worth considering if you're short on roof space, or going for the biggest system possible.
“Never buy a solar system without seeing a design first.”.
Inverters sit between your solar panels and the grid, ensuring sure power flows the right way without causing problems for your home, or the grid.
Meaning the inverter is the weak link in your solar system. If it fails, your system goes down. Or the strongest link, if you buy a good quality one! We always recommend going for a ten-year parts and labour warranty on your inverter.
Our go-to recommendation is Fronius. A solid product, with reliable local support (even the best inverters can fail). SMA, SolarEdge and Enphase are also excellent options, with the latter two being particularly suited to roofs with shading or complex layouts.
Monitor your solar performance
Ask your solar supplier for a monitoring system, so you can easily track performance and identify any issues.
These are often free to install and setup. They come with the inverter, and can be programmed to provide automatic alerts when a fault is detected. Some have add-ons to monitor consumption as well. This comes in handy when trying to make your home more efficient, and aligning usage with times of maximum solar electricity generation, so you can save even more!
If you expect some shading on your solar system (particularly in summer), it could be worth considering "optimisers" or "microinverters". If an individual panel is shaded, this can affect all the other panels connected in the same string. Think of a kinked garden hose, one small obstruction and the flow is limited along the whole length.
As far as brands, Tigo Optimisers are a good option when just a couple of panels have shading. They are about $80/panel, as an add-on to a standard string inverter like Fronius. SolarEdge is another good optimiser option, where an optimiser is installed on every panel, while Enphase is the market leader in microinverters - expect an overall price premium of 25% for these.
Choosing a solar panel brand
When it comes to solar panel brands, it is hard to know where to start. Chinese brands dominate, and while there are a few suspect brands, the larger players can generally be relied upon. The following are the biggest manufacturers, which we are happy to recommend (contact us to discuss).
- JA Solar
- Canadian Solar
There are a few premium brands worth considering, albeit they can be up to double the cost. They tend to offer longer warranties and higher efficiencies. These include LONGi, Winaico, REC, LG and SunPower.
Choosing a solar retailer
There are 400+ solar retailers in Australia. How do you pick a decent one? While there are constantly new players in the solar industry, it's safest to choose a company with an established track record. We only pre-qualify companies with a robust financial position, diligent compliance obligations (e.g. insurance) and demonstrated commitment to quality, and customer service.
Companies with pushy sales people, who dodge questions, are often a warning sign. At BOOM! we conduct extensive due diligence on the suppliers we work with to ensure they'll deliver on their promises.