So You’ve Made the Big Decision & Are Getting Solar Installed …
Installing a Solar Power System is a big decision and investment in your home. To assist with the process after you have had your Solar installed, we have put together a guideline for you to make the most of your new investment on your home. This information is also available in a booklet (click here to download).
Meter change and connecting to the grid
With your solar install, your existing meter will need to be replaced by a new import/export meter before you can connect your new solar system to the grid. SAE Group notifies your energy distributor (Ergon, Energex, Ausgrid or Essential Energy depending on what state you live in) as soon as you are installed to organise for this meter change to occur. In QLD, Energex/Ergon takes up to 48 business days upon receipt of the relevant paperwork from SAE to come out and install the new meter. In NSW, a Level 2 Electrician needs to perform this meter change. At SAE Group we employ our own Level 2 electricians, so this service is included in the contract you sign with us and will occur within 14 business days of your solar installation. Once this has happened your system will be ready to be turned on, please follow the shutdown/start-up procedure explained by our installers or you can download this booklet for instructions on how to operate your system. If a Form 3 is left on your property after Energex have been out you will need to call our office on 1300 18 20 50.
A feed-in-tariff is the rate you are paid for electricity generated by your solar PV system that you export back to the grid. Almost all feed-in tariffs on offer are now ‘net’ feed-in tariffs. This means that the electricity produced by your solar panels will be used in your home first, and then any unused electricity will be exported to the grid. Under a net feed-in tariff, you may earn money on the electricity that is exported to the grid. The feed-in tariffs offered differ from state to state, and from retailer to retailer. In some states the Government regulates a minimum rate, and in other states where electricity has been deregulated, you can actually negotiate a deal with your electricity retailer. It is important to know, there is no state Government-regulated minimum retailer payment in New South Wales or South East Queensland. This means that because the retailer feed in tariff is less than the rate you pay for electricity per kWh, the goal is to use power throughout the day (not all at once) and ensure you send as little power back to the grid as possible. It is also recommended you shop around to find out which electricity retailers offer the best rates for solar customers.
Questions to ask your electricity retailer
Once you have your solar installed and switched on there are a couple of questions we recommend you ask your
- What price will they pay you for your electricity (in cents per kilowatt hours (kWh))?
- What is the cost of the electricity you purchase from them (in cents per kWh) and will you lose your off-peak rates once you install solar?
- Will you be charged a higher daily fixed charge component if you connect solar?
- Are there any penalty clauses (termination costs) or other administration fees?
- What will be the form of payment for electricity you produce? (For example will you receive cash or a credit on your electricity bill?)
As mentioned previously, having solar installed is an investment and adds value to your home. It is our recommendation that you contact your home insurance company to advise them of your new solar system so that the value of this system is covered in the unfortunate event that you should need to make a claim.
Reading Your Inverter
To monitor how much power (kWh) your solar panels have generated, please read the inverter display.
- E-Today – amount of kWh produced that day
- E-Total – amount of kWh produced since the inverter has been turned on
- Average daily production of a solar PV system
The power output of a solar PV system depends on its efficiency, size and location. The table below provided by the Clean Energy Council shows the average daily production of some common grid-connected systems throughout Australia. It is important to note that as the owner it is your responsibility to check the Inverter weekly to ensure the green light is on and is working during daylight hours.
Some Important Facts About Your Inverter Reading
- The rated output is that achieved in perfect laboratory conditions.
- The Clean Energy Council design summary software takes these de-ratings into account when predicting averages for any given system.
- Panels generate more electricity in summer than in winter. The table above reflects the electricity generated averaged across the whole year.
- A typical Australian house consumes around 18 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per day. This means that a 1-2 kW system could displace 25-40 per cent of your average electricity bill.
- By monitoring your E-Totals and E-Today you can keep track of your solar generation.
If you feel that your solar system is not performing as expected, please fill out the “Solar Generation Log” in the booklet (download here) and return to SAE Group for assessment. It is also essential that you record the weather conditions for each day for accurate assessment.)
It is also important to refer to your inverter manual for more details on your specific inverter model, as each is slightly different. Alternatively, there are monitors available to help you track your usage simply contact SAE Group for more information.
Maintaining Your Solar Power System
Like most major investments, maintenance is required for the efficient operation of your solar system. The panels should be kept clean of dust, leaves, and bird/bat droppings as this will have an effect on the efficiency of the solar system and could be a substantial financial loss over the lifespan of the solar system.
SAE Group can provide a maintenance service consisting of:
- Checking the brackets fixing the solar panels to make sure they remain secure.
- Cleaning the panels and removal of any dust, leaves, bird/bat droppings etc.
- Visually checking for signs of loose connections in wiring and cabling.
Solar modules (Check every 3 months):
The solar modules will usually stay clean from rain. During extended dry or dusty conditions, it may be necessary to hose the modules with water from the ground. They may also be cleaned with warm soapy water and a sponge. It is essential that the cleaning of the panels is performed when the sun is not shining directly overhead – early mornings or late in the day would be a suitable time. Note any changes or discolouration in the modules. Ensure they are firmly attached to the frames.
Inverter (Check every week)
Regularly check the inverter is operating by monitoring the display. Ensure the inverter is kept free of dirt and leaves to prevent heat build up. Check that the inverter is mechanically secured to the wall and all connections are secure. WARNING: The inverter may get hot during normal operation. Be careful when cleaning as the heatsink may reach 60oC.
Frames (Check every 12 months)
Check the frames are secure and there is no sign of rust or corrosion
Cabling (Check every 6 months)
Check all cables, conduits and fixings are mechanically secure.
Switches (Check every 6 months)
Check the switches operate correctly by switching them off then on (Always switch off SOLAR SUPPLY MAIN SWITCH first). Ensure they are mechanically secure.
Meters (Check every 3 months)
Check metering displays are operational. Important Note: Warranty claims will be void if unauthorised persons open or modify components. Cleaning the PV array should only be carried out by a CEC Accredited electrician who has been trained to work at heights and use the appropriate safety equipment and tools.
Upgrading your system
Your ability to upgrade your system in the future may depend on a number of factors, including receiving permission from your distributor, on suitable PV modules still being available, and on any upgrades meeting current Australian Standards. Upgrading your system may also result in losing your feed-in tariff. You will need to check with your electricity retailer and distributor to find out what the requirements are for upgrading your system. The requirements may differ from state to state.
Need further information or want to install solar or a battery storage system? Click below for one of our Solar Specialists to help you save money.