Everybody loves the idea of getting free electricity from the sun — and solar power has strong economic benefits. But how practical is solar technology, what are the costs, and what’s the deal with all those subsidies?

This wide brown land has no shortage of sun. Many of our homes are exposed to the sun’s rays for long hours every day, even in winter.

This incredible resource is free so it makes sense to harness it to power your home but installing solar power isn’t completely straightforward.

Find out if solar energy is right for your home with some information and advice from an expert.

What is residential solar power?

You have no doubt seen those shiny solar panels on the rooftops of homes and businesses.

These flat panels are made of photovoltaic cells, which convert light into electricity. As the sun shines on the panels, they generate direct current (DC) electricity. This is converted to alternating current (AC) electricity, which is what we use to power appliances in our homes.

If you have solar panels powering your house, you won’t notice a difference in the way your toaster, kettle or lights work. Modern systems are set up so that your house will automatically switch to the electricity grid after dark or if there is a lot of cloud cover (solar panels still work in light cloud cover). This means you can still have a hot shower, even if it’s grey and raining outside!

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The benefits of installing residential solar power

Because the sun costs nothing to use, you should hopefully notice a difference to your electricity bill after you have installed residential solar power.

What’s more, if your home generates more solar power than it uses, it is possible to feed this electricity back to the wider network. You will be paid for this, either through a discount on your energy bill or, in a few cases, money in your pocket.

Some experts say a well-designed and installed solar power system should start to pay off in a period of four years. What’s more, having panels installed will add to the value of your home, as future buyers will be aware of the savings they will make on energy costs.

Solar panels are durable and do not need a great deal of servicing beyond a regular clean and health check. They do not make noise as they operate and they don’t impact the interior of your home.

What’s more, when you install solar power, you are doing the planet a favour. This way of producing energy creates zero emissions and does not draw from non-renewable resources. There is no limit to the amount of solar power any home can use.

The drawbacks

Getting solar power will cost you around $3000 – $5000. Many people install a system hoping to see large reductions in their power bills. However, one thing to remember is often you use the most power in your home after dark. For this reason, the difference may not be as significant as you expected.

You could potentially invest in a battery to store the energy you draw from the sun but this will cost you even more. Alternatively, you can figure out ways to do chores like laundry during the day.

People who work from home have better potential to benefit from solar power as their overall electricity usage is more evenly spread between day and night.

Is your home suitable for solar power?

Solar power isn’t appropriate for every property. It will suit your home best if your roof faces north and if you have roof that is ‘pitched’ or angled at around 30 degrees. If your roof is not pitched, your solar technicians may be able to mount the panels on a frame to capture more sunlight.

Before you install solar panels, a specialist will come to your home to conduct an analysis of how much shade it receives each day. They may not recommend a system for your home if your roof is under a canopy of trees, as your panels need to receive as much sunlight as possible between the hours of 9am and 3pm.

Your specialist will also help you figure out what size system to install, depending on the size of your roof and your energy requirements. They will then provide a detailed quote based on your requirements and property size.

Finding a solar power provider

To have solar power installed on your roof, your first step is to contact a supplier.

There are many companies which service the Parramatta area but it is important to select the right provider as some companies offer inferior systems which are more likely to fail and need repairs. Check that:

  • Your retailer has Clean Energy Council approval (click here to view approved retailers) and has been in existence for at least five years
  • You have enlisted the help of a Clean Energy Council Accredited Installer (click here to view accredited installers in your area)
  • Your new solar power system uses approved modules and inverters which meet industry standards
    The system you are sold is not surprisingly cheap (you may not be getting a good system)
  • You are offered a warranty of at least five years
  • Your provider is able to confidently speak with you about what’s involved with solar power and how it will benefit you

Avoid companies which push the ‘hard sell’ or who tell you to act now so you don’t miss out on the rebate. And if possible, use a provider who a friend or contact has had a good experience with.

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Claiming a solar power ‘rebate’

In some cases, you may be able to get some money back to help cover the cost of installing your system.

This ‘rebate’ (the experts don’t like this word) is quite complex and depends on your system and a few other factors but it can serve to reduce the price you pay for installation. To find out more, it is best to speak with an accredited provider who can clearly explain where you can save on costs.

To solar power or not to solar power?

Solar power for homes and offices is increasingly popular, Sydney-wide.

Installing quality solar panels can help improve the value of your home and can serve to reduce your electricity bill, however it does require an upfront financial outlay.

By choosing this option, you will be minimising your long-term electricity bill and helping reduce your home’s environmental footprint. To decide if solar power is right for you, speak to an accredited expert.

Reach out for real estate advice

Specific to Parramatta, Westmead, Carlingford and surrounds.