Solar Panels For Home – All You Need to Know About Solar Systems

Before considering the transition to solar energy and the installation of solar panels in your home, we recommend reading this guide to understand the fundamentals.

Solar Choice is an independent organization with no bias toward product brands or different types of solar systems.

The Basics: How does solar power work in Australia?

The majority of home solar systems in Australia without a battery are grid-connected. If you are starting from scratch, you can find a full explanation of the main system types below.

For those who prefer to watch rather than read, we have summarised this article into an easy-to-digest video that can be found at the top of this post.

house roof in the evening light

Grid-connected solar systems

Allows you to keep your connection to the grid to buy power at night times (and when it’s cloudy).

Your inverter will work with grid power to use all solar power first before drawing any power from the grid.

Grid-connected solar systems also enable you to sell power back to the grid.

Generally speaking, it is not feasible or economically viable to disconnect from the grid altogether.

Off-grid solar systems

off grid house in the woods with solar power on the roof

It is a standalone power source system.

They include solar panels and batteries to provide a 24-hour power solution and do not require any grid connection.

Remote properties may require expenditures exceeding $50,000 solely to establish a connection to the power grid.

These systems are most common in new construction projects in rural parts of Australia.

In these scenarios, it can be economically and environmentally a better choice to put in an off-grid system.

Whilst Off-grid systems have a much larger upfront cost (usually min. $25,000) the power bill savings will be 100% from day one.

Hybrid solar systems

building with the lights on at night

Grid-connected systems include a solar battery to store solar energy.

This energy can then be reused at times when there is no solar power (i.e. night-time).

Solar Batteries also provide an excellent backup power source and the ability to make greater use of your solar power.

You need to be aware that at their current pricing, they do not offer a great return on investment.

In fact, in 48 scenarios we recently modelled across every state in Australia. None provided a payback period under 8 years and most scenarios were over 20 years.

Given the typical lifetime of a modern battery is 10 years, you can see why less than 1 in 10 households are currently installing a battery with solar.

View solar system prices on an online quote comparison now

How Does Solar Power Save you Money?

First, it’s important to understand how installing solar panels will actively reduce your electricity bill in order to assess if it’s a worthwhile investment. For now, we will set aside the environmental benefits.

Offsetting your energy consumption

The primary way in which solar can help you tackle your energy costs is by reducing the amount of electricity you need to buy from your electricity retailer, which typically will cost between 15-40c per kWh.

A grid-connected solar system will prioritise solar energy and harmoniously supply any remaining energy needs from the grid.

A household can offset 30-70% of its energy usage with solar panels, based on the portion consumed during daylight hours.

This offset percentage can get closer to 100% by installing a battery storage system.

Feed-in tariff for excess energy

The sun determines the amount of energy generated by your solar panel system, not your energy consumption. During certain times, you can sell surplus energy back to the grid at a rate called a ‘feed-in tariff’.

These feed-in tariffs vary by state and which electricity retailer (e.g. AGL, Origin etc.) you are with. Typically you can find a feed in tariff between 3-12c per kWh.

Your ability to access a feed-in tariff is usually limited to a maximum solar system size – for a full explanation of what is possible state by state read this guide.

Installing solar will reduce the quantity of energy you buy, and you will notice an additional line item for the Feed-in credit on your electricity bill.

A screenshot of a power bill showing the excess solar power being sold back to the grid

Some options for increasing self-consumption

Increasing your self-consumption of solar energy will reduce your energy bills. To improve your return on investment you can consider applying a timer on common household appliances, such as:

  • Electric hot water system
  • Washing machine
  • Dishwasher
  • Swimming pool pump
  • Underfloor heating system

You can buy programable wall-socket timers from a hardware store for under $50 or an electrician can install one for you.

Compare quotes from up to 7 installers in your area now.

How much will I save on my electricity bill?

To determine your energy bill savings, first calculate the appropriate system size for your requirements.

Understanding your self-consumed solar energy is crucial for estimating your savings.

To save money, know how much solar energy you’ll use (self-consumed energy) and sell for a feed-in tariff.

Different rates apply when buying and selling energy, so estimating savings requires understanding self-consumption.

Solar choice solar savings calculator

Using the Solar Choice advanced calculator we have created the below 5 scenarios.

This helps you compare savings from different system sizes with some typical assumptions made on energy consumption. We suggest you have a play with one or both of our free-to-use calculators:

  1. Easy to use calculator
  2. Advanced calculator for more precise results
System SizeAve. Daily Solar Energy Created (kWh)Ave. Daily Electricity Usage (kWh)Annual savings from self-consumptionAnnual savings from Feed-in TariffAnnual Total Savings
3kW10.210$360$225$585
5kW1720$692$350$1,042
6.6kW22.525$876$472$1,348
8kW27.230$1,053$575$1,628
10kW34.140$1,384$700$2,084

Assumptions:

  • Solar panels are installed in Sydney at 30 30-degree slope to the north. See examples of output of systems from Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart or Darwin
  • Electricity price of $0.25 per kWh and a Solar Feed-in rate of $0.07 per kWh
  • Electricity usage is focused in the mornings (6 am to 8 am) and the evenings (4 pm til 10 pm) – under the ‘double peak’ profile

How much does home solar cost?

The price of solar depends on where you live, what type of system and products you select and which solar company you sign up with.

As part of our free compare-the-market service we collect live and up-to-date price information from 100s of solar installers around Australia and we publish average pricing by capital city on the Solar Price Index:

3kW4kW5kW6kW7kW10kW
Adelaide, SA$3,600$4,130$4,760$5,390$6,340$9,370
Brisbane, QLD$3,940$4,500$5,060$5,630$6,390$9,390
Canberra, ACT$4,700$4,910$5,180$5,850$6,860$8,920
Darwin, NT$5,300$7,210$8,240$9,920$11,270$14,060
Hobart, TAS$5,020$5,690$6,540$7,440$8,430$12,390
Melbourne, VIC$4,450$4,610$5,180$5,570$6,570$8,680
Sydney, NSW$3,970$4,340$4,760$4,940$6,040$8,180
Perth, WA$3,260$3,780$4,250$5,320$5,880$9,440
All$4,280$4,900$5,500$6,260$7,220$10,050

Note the average prices in the above table include:

  • A full turnkey system – all products, labour, equipment hire
  • The government STC rebate (more on this below)
  • GST

Compare quotes from up to 7 installers in your area now.

Over time the cost of solar has decreased dramatically mainly from the reduction in equipment costs through increased manufacturing scale and improved efficiency of products.

Beware of cheap solar panels!

Inevitably once you start looking into solar you will start to come across some ‘too good to be true’ prices for solar – One Time Offer $2,500 for 6.6kW!

We recommend treating these companies with caution as usually they are making major sacrifices on customer servicing, product quality and installation procedures.

See this ABC coverage which covers some examples of what can go wrong.

They may be offering a 10-year + warranty on their installs or products but that warranty is only valuable to you if the company is still around and there is a clear Australian warranty claim process.

We receive many phone calls from orphaned customers from years ago who are trying to contact Chinese factories to claim a warranty.

Ultimately if it looks too cheap, it probably is, and a too cheap solution will cost you more in the long run than a well-priced system.

Always do your research on the solar installation company and the products they are offering. See our 5 questions you should ask your installer or email us or call us on 1300 787 273 if you need any help.

What extra solar power system costs should I prepare for?

There are a range of additional costs that could apply to residential projects. Fortunately, as part of our online quote comparison service, we ask installers to advise what they would charge for the common extras that come up.

See the below table to see if any of these common items would apply to your home:

Extra CostRange based on our price databaseReason
2 Story Building$200 to $800Need to use edge protection and hire a scissor lift
Tile Roof$10-$50 per panelSpecialised non-penetrative clamps are required which are not required for other roof materials
Kliplok Roof Sheeting$10-$50 per panelUsually only required if your roof is south-facing or completely flat to correct tilt or prevent dirt build-up
Tilt Frames$25 to $50 per panelUsually only required if your roof is south-facing or completely flat to correct tilt or prevent dirt build up
Switchboard upgrade$1000+No electrical contractor can install solar on a switchboard that isn’t to code without replacing it first
3-phase properties$500+Properties with a 3-phase power supply require compatible solar inverters that are more expensive than single-phase inverters

Find out about Solar Panel Maintenance and Cleaning!

What about batteries?

Solar battery image with positive and negative anodes

The approximate cost of batteries currently stands at $1,000 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of installed capacity.

This means a typical home battery would cost around $10,000. As we’ve demonstrated in-depth, the economic case for solar batteries is not quite there yet.

We expect that batteries will become viable for homeowners in the next 2-5 years, but that depends on manufacturers significantly increasing their scale of production.

Understanding Australia’s solar rebate

Introduced in 2011, the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) was introduced to support the uptake of renewable energy in Australia.

The SRES works by issuing Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) to homes & businesses that install systems under 100 kilowatts (kW) in terms of the DC Solar Panel capacity.

The STCs are officially created once a Clean Energy Council accredited Solar Installer has commissioned the system.

The Solar Installer sells the STCs either on the market themselves or via a broker/aggregator, meaning the end customer only needs to pay the difference.

How are STCs calculated?

The STCs are based on the amount of renewable energy your system will generate before the end of 2030. You should note that STCs are calculated based on your postcode, the solar panel capacity of your system and the time left until 2030.

The length of time before 2030 changes annually on the 1st of January, so there will be a slight difference in the rebate value if you install your system after each new year.

Roughly speaking the rebate equates to around 30-35% of the total system cost.

Solar Payback Periods

Now you have the pieces to work out your return on investment (Upfront cost of solar, the amount of electricity bill you can offset and earnings from selling solar electricity at a solar feed-in rate)

As a quick guide, we have created the below table using some conservative assumptions for a typical residential scenario with a 5kW solar PV system:

 Average price for 5kW solar system (after rebate)Price of electricity
($/kWh)
Solar feed-in tariff 
($/kWh)
Payback period
(years)
Internal rate of return 
Adelaide$3,730$0.34$0.113.430%
Brisbane$5,120$0.23$0.154.223%
Canberra$4,540$0.21$0.086.015%
Darwin$9,510$0.26$0.244.721%
Hobart$5,600$0.26$0.097.213%
Melbourne$4,870$0.25$0.125.318%
Perth$3,120$0.27$0.073.727%
Sydney$4,510$0.25$0.114.920%
Average$6,523$0.25$0.125.818%

Assumptions:

  • Electricity rates & feed-in tariffs are based on the middle ground of what’s available
  • Assumed that 50% of Solar Energy is used by the home (self-consumption rate)
  • Panels are tilted to the North at 30% pitch
  • Inflation at 2.5% and a 5% discount rate

You can calculate your own circumstances with our Free Solar Payback Calculator (also see our advanced version)

Selecting good quality solar equipment

Good quality solar equipment logo stamp

By now you’re likely a bit anxious about how to choose solar panels for your home. 

As with many purchases, there are high-quality products, cost-effective products and cheap and nasty products that will cause more problems than benefits.

Solar is a long-term investment and given it requires accredited electricians to fix issues and replace equipment, our advice is to stick with the good brands.

While there is no substitute for good old-fashioned research, we have identified three easy tests to determine if a solar panel brand is ‘good’. Firstly you can look at Bloomberg NEF’s tier 1 ranking.

This ranking highlights the most financially secure solar panel manufacturers which is an indicator of whether they are likely to be around if you need to claim a warranty.

To further assess, you can verify if the solar panel brand is highlighted as a PV Evolution Labs’ annual ‘top performer’ in their independent tests.

Finally, through some googling, you should be able to establish whether the manufacturer has an Australian office and contact number. If your installer is no longer around this will be crucial if you need to claim a warranty directly.

To see a list of brands that meet these tests – head to our Solar Panels Comparison Page. We have also independently written a review on almost all Solar Panels, Inverters and Batteries on our Product Reviews Page.

Selecting a ‘good’ solar installer

Selecting a good solar installer is more difficult.

Over the last 12 years, we have vetted over 1,000 solar installation companies to be part of our comparison service.

You can click the link below to instantly compare quotes from good solar installers.

Compare quotes from up to 7 installers in your area now.

Solar Choice’s Due Diligence Process:

ProcessMinimum Requirements
1.      Verify company trading history via ABN Lookup 1 year trading history (ideally 5 years +)
2.      Check publicly listed reviews (Google reviews, Product Review, Trust pilot etc.)Minimum of 20 five-star reviews and over four-star average
3.      Check Clean Energy Council accreditation, Energy Contractors Licence and Masters Electrician membership5.      Request feedback from each customer 6 months after the installation is completed
4.      Check products they are putting as their standard offers on the Solar Choice comparison portalNo ‘cheap and nasty’ products
Customer-reported issues are very rare. Any identified customer issues are resolved promptly and fairly.Customer reported issues are very rare. Any identified customer issues are resolved promptly and fairly.

Get in touch with us

Still have questions. Feel free to browse through the hundreds of useful articles on our site and blog or get in touch with us directly:

Call on Monday to Friday (9 am to 5 pm) on 1300 787 273

or

Email us anytime at sales@solarchoice.net.au

Jeff Sykes