For Australians considering a greener future by switching to solar energy for their home or business, understanding the energy market can be confusing—from the costs, regulations and contracts involved in switching, to what it takes to get solar panels installed.
With so much competing advice, there are plenty of commonly held misconceptions about solar energy—and it’s hard to get a clear picture. So, in this article, we debunk 9 common myths about changing energy providers and installing solar panels—so you’re in the know when it comes to ditching fossil fuels and going green.
A quick background on the Australian energy market
Before we get into the misconceptions about solar panels, it helps to know where a lot of the myths come from.
Back in 2006, the West Australian energy market was deregulated, which was designed to allow more competition and contestability.
This regulation change was the catalyst for many challenges associated with changing energy providers, but namely, that it meant only larger businesses that use more than 50MWh of energy each year—roughly the same as nine average households—are able to switch.
So, let’s start by breaking that down.
1) You can’t switch energy providers when you’re under contract
By agreeing to the terms and conditions of your energy provider during sign up—you’re technically under contract with that company. However, that doesn’t leave you out of options.
In fact, switching is still possible, and in most cases, you can do this simply by paying an exit fee.
While it’s not ideal—nobody likes getting stung by exit and admin fees—consider it a necessary evil. The savings you achieve on your electricity bills after you install solar panels often outweigh the cost of switching energy providers—so at least there’s a silver lining.
2) Changing energy provider takes a lot of leg work
While it can seem like a lot of hassle, the actual process involved in switching your energy supplier doesn’t have to be difficult. Most of the work is in your research—finding out which energy provider has the best rates, feed-in tariffs, and any promotional deals for your solar power—while the actual process of switching can be done in as little as ten minutes.
Most companies want to make the onboarding process hassle-free for new customers, so when you’re ready to switch, your new electricity retailer will often guide you through the process—and take on some of the leg work, like contacting your old retailer and handling the exit process for you.
3) Installing solar panels will damage my roof
This is a common concern for prospective solar power customers—and for good reason. Nobody wants to switch to renewable energy, only for property damage to outweigh their energy costs.
But, rest assured, it’s incredibly rare for solar panels to damage your roof—especially when you choose a reputable solar panel provider. With over thirty years of experience in the solar industry, our team of expert installers at Renew Energy go above and beyond with every installation, ensuring your home is always protected.
By only working with the highest quality solar panels—and to the manufacturer’s installation guidelines—both you and your home should be risk-free. And, if your roof is still under warranty, that warranty will remain unchanged with proper installation.
We do, however, advise customers that if your roof is already damaged—or is coming to the end of its lifespan and is in need of replacement within the next few years—adding a solar power system should wait until you’ve replaced or repaired your roof.
4) The more solar panels I have, the cheaper it will be
A key part of switching to solar is to understand how much power you currently use, so you can plan your solar panel array to meet that energy production.
As the theory goes, the more solar panels you install, the more solar energy you will produce. But, in reality, by covering every inch of your roof you may end up producing too much solar for your needs—and in return, feeding energy back into the grid. The risk here is that if your feed-in tariff drops, you may get a lower rebate for the energy than it costs you to produce, leaving you out of pocket.
The second thing to note is that the more panels you have, the higher your upfront cost—which of course, will take longer to pay for.
Now, you could argue that choosing cheap solar panels means you can get more for your money, but in reality, going for the cheapest option almost always ends up costing you more in the long run. Let’s find out why.
5) A cheap solar system will pay for itself quicker
In our experience with solar panels, you get what you pay for—and there are significant differences between the different industry price points.
At Renew Energy, we advise our customers to pay for mid to premium-quality solar energy systems—which pay for themselves in as little as three to four years.
By trying to make your money back faster than that, you end up pricing yourself into choosing a cheaper solar system from a budget provider—and that’s a risky game.
The cheaper end of the solar industry is plagued with issues, from poor quality panels that require expensive maintenance to no-name manufacturers who go bust (and take your warranty with them), and unprofessional installers that don’t respond to service requests.
In contrast, a mid-tier or premium system will generate plenty of solar energy with absolutely minimal maintenance, last on average seven years longer, and come with better aftercare and a far longer warranty.
6) Any unused solar energy just goes back into the grid
This is another misconception that’s easily debunked by knowing how much energy you use—and how solar panels work.
Each solar panel works by converting the sun’s energy—its light radiation—into electricity, via solar cells. If you use less electricity than your solar panels generate, then yes, your energy will go back into the grid—but you get paid for it through a rebate from your electricity provider. The rebate amount is calculated based on your feed-in tariff rate, which you agree with your provider before the solar panel installation process.
On the other hand, solar batteries give you the option of storing your unused solar energy in your home. So, if you need to draw more energy—perhaps on a grey or overcast day, or during particularly energy-demanding seasons (like in summer, for example), you don’t have to pay for as much energy from the grid for making up the difference.
7) My solar panels won’t produce energy on overcast days
Another common misconception is that solar panels work only on warm days when the sun’s shining.
Again, this isn’t true. Advances in technology have made the energy efficiency of today’s solar panels incredibly high, and even in cloudy weather, they still produce electricity. While their solar production does drop slightly, it’s not as drastic as you may think—and the reason for that is what we call the ‘temperature coefficient’.
In basic terms, the temperature coefficient is the rate at which your solar panels lose efficiency for every degree warmer the weather is. This means your solar panels are slightly less efficient in warm weather (e.g. during summer), but make up for that performance gap through extended light exposure during the longer daylight hours.
So, on a cloudy day—and even in cold climates—your solar panels aren’t negatively affected by heat, and can still produce energy, despite having less sunlight exposure.
For customers in Western Australia, the good news is that Perth enjoys the second most sunlight of any city in the world, making it ideal for solar systems—and not having to solely rely on the electricity grid for your energy needs. This leads us to the next misconception…
8) I can go fully off-grid with solar panels
Switching to solar is the most accessible, cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly way of taking back control of your power—while relying less on expensive, traditional energy suppliers.
But, while solar is a great option for transitioning to renewable energy, in most cases you will still need a connection to the grid, for a couple of reasons.
The first is for reasons we’ve already mentioned—if you produce more electricity than you use, you need a connection to the grid to receive your feed-in tariff rebate for that excess energy. And, the converse applies too—should you need more power than you can produce, and you don’t have battery storage, you may need to draw more electricity from the grid as a backup.
The second reason is because of emergencies. Depending on your solar installation, it may automatically stop working when there’s a power blackout on the grid—stopping power flowing back into the grid and protecting the safety of workers and equipment.
9) Solar panels require lots of maintenance
Modern solar panels are incredibly durable and weather resistant, with their electrical components protected beneath industrial-grade glass.
As a result, a solar panel requires very little day to day maintenance. But, to keep your solar panels performing at their best, we suggest customers stay aware of their ongoing performance—making sure your solar inverter is working properly, and that your solar panels are kept clean.
Rainwater generally does a good job, but dust and dirt can still build up. If this happens, contact a professional to have them cleaned. Your solar energy system is still a live electrical system—and most panels sit on a rooftop, high above the ground.
At Renew Energy, we only procure the highest quality solar panels, which are constructed to last for decades—with longer warranty periods and extensive customer care.
Go solar with Renew Energy today
While there are plenty of misconceptions about solar energy, especially around the process of switching energy providers and how solar panels work. But, with the right due diligence, making the change is easily possible.
And, with thousands of solar panel installations happening across Australia, Renew Energy is a name you can trust. Not sure of the best solar panel for your home? Contact us today and we’ll help you find the perfect system for your needs.