Deciding whether or not to get solar panels for your home is not a small decision. High-quality panels will generate electricity, offering a reliable and renewable source of energy. Today, more than 30% of households in Australia have rooftop solar PV systems.
There are many variables to take into consideration to ensure that this is a smart and sustainable investment. Today, finding the right system to suit your home’s needs can be a daunting task.
So, we’ve created a guide to take you through all the basics. This will help you find the best solar panels on the market today, to meet your home, budget and energy goals.
What Are Solar Panels?
Solar panels, also known as solar PV panels, convert sunlight into electricity that you can use to power electrical circuits or loads. These systems consist of panels and an inverter that generates electricity for your home. If your home doesn’t use all the power generated, you can store the excess in a battery system and use it later!
Types of Solar Panels
Before selecting a specific type of solar panel system, it’s important to consider what type of panel will be best for your home. Consider factors such as cost, aesthetics, high efficiency, your home’s layout as well as your goals for your solar power energy. All these factors will help you decide which type of solar energy generation is best for you!
In Australia, there are three main types of solar panels available. These are:
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are considered top of the range when it comes to solar energy. While these panels are slightly more expensive than others, they offer some of the best efficiency rates.
Monocrystalline systems are made with a pure silicon crystal or ingot. This silicon ingot is sliced into thin wafers and assembled into a solar cell. The thin silver lines running through the panels and cells act as the conduit and carry the electrical current through.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Polycrystalline (or multi-crystalline) PV solar cells are similar to Monocrystalline cells but use multiple silicon crystals instead of one. The silicon crystals are cast into square blocks and mounted onto a frame, forming a solar panel. As a result of the square shape, these panels provide more surface area to catch the sun.
A thin-film solar panel is considerably different to the abovementioned. They are created by spraying a thin layer of a photovoltaic substance onto glass or a solid surface. This leaves a thin film on the framework and makes up the solar panel.
The method of manufacturing for these panels is significantly more efficient, requiring less energy to complete the process. These systems do weigh more, therefore requiring more effort and time installing them.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar power works by using the photovoltaic effect, which is a reaction where specific materials generate electrical currents when they’re exposed to direct sunlight. Silicon is a common material known for these properties and is used in almost all solar panels across Australia.
First, the solar panels will capture photons from the sunlight. Thereafter, the silicon and conductors in the panels turn this into energy. This energy is then sent to an inverter, converting it into electricity. You can then use this electricity to power your home and appliances. Any excess energy generated by the system gets sent back to the grid or battery storage, to be used at a later stage.
Are Solar Panels Right For Your Home?
While many people feel that solar power may be too expensive, there are many reasons why more and more people are investing in them. Finding the right system to meet your household’s needs is the only way to guarantee your system continues to function well into the future.
Before deciding which system is right for you, we suggest you consider the following factors:
The most important factor to consider when investing in solar energy is your climate. Lucky for you, Australia is known for its sunny summers, with an average of around 7-8 hours of sunshine per day in the summer season.
The angle of your solar panels should be the same as the latitude of your location. For example, if you live at a latitude of 40°, you need to mount your panels at 40°. Additionally, the direction of your roof is pretty important, too. North-facing roofs are preferable, with West or East facing roofs being slightly less effective.
Most roof material is fine for solar power, excluding slate, which is fragile so solar panel installers prefer not to work on it. Most importantly, these panels will weigh a lot (between 10-20kg per square metre) so your roof needs to be in good condition.
Keep in mind that you will need space for solar energy. Each solar panel is generally around 1.6m tall x 1m wide. The more common systems (5 kW) will generally consist of around 15-20 panels. This will require an area of about 5 to 35m2. For those of you who don’t have this kind of space, you can always consider a smaller system installation.
Since sunlight is crucial when using solar energy systems, you need access to a lot of sunshine. Households that have trees or buildings surrounding them may have limited access to sunlight. Keep a lookout for chimneys, TV antennas, trees or other buildings which can possibly cast shade on your roof.
While there are ways to install solar panels even if the sunlight is semi-blocked, we recommend that you avoid installing your system around any shady areas.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Solar Panels
There are a wide variety of factors to consider when selecting the right system for installation. While factors like cost and durability are usually top of the list, we’ve created a list of all the factors to keep in consideration when switching to solar energy. These include but are not limited to:
The first thing to keep in mind is the size of the panels and their suitability for your home. You need to ask yourself how many solar panels you need and how you are planning on placing them.
In Australia, we suggest you install all panels facing North. For this reason, ensure you pick a size that fits your roof and this requirement. For those who have East or West facing panels, your dimensions should fit the side of the roof where you plan on installing it.
Mono- or Poly-Crystalline
Both these types of solar power do pretty much the same thing, using different silicon. As mentioned, mono-crystalline is known to be more efficient but can be more expensive than poly-crystalline. Both options are great and the choice will come down to your own personal preference, budget and space constraints.
Efficiency is key with any long-term investment. The most efficient systems have panel efficiency of around 17-22%. We recommend focusing on efficiency especially if you have limited roof space or large electrical energy bills.
A more efficient solar panel will charge solar power batteries faster due to its higher output levels. Increased efficiency brings you more power even when there’s not much sunlight, giving you more output from your panels.
Durability And Quality
Australia is known for having some windy areas. Because of this, it’s crucial to find panels that are durable and have high wind load and hail protection. Some systems offer high snow loads, which can withstand high forces and weights.
Be sure to find a manufacturer and installer that is ISO-9000 compliant. This indicates that they meet industry standards and will give you an indication of how well your system will hold up over time after wear and tear.
You want to pick a system that has a product warranty that covers you for the foreseeable future. Most manufacturers offer a 10-year warranty. However, 12-year warranties are now becoming more popular. Some systems come with 20+ year warranties but these are scarce.
There are many factors that impact solar panels‘ cost. Factors such as brand, quality, size, location and solar panel installation costs will have direct implications on the overall cost of your system. In Australia, a solar PV system can cost anywhere between $3,000 and $10,000. This solar panel cost can be reduced if government schemes and other solar rebates are applied.
The cost also depends on the area you reside in. In Western Australia, for example, you can expect to pay around:
- 1.5kW: $2,500
- 2kW: $2,700
- 3kW: $3,000
- 5kW: $3,700
- 6kW: $4,500
Investing in a solar system is a big step and you want to get it right the first time. With so many options and variables to consider, it’s hard to know which system is best for your home and your energy needs.
With thousands of solar panel installations happening across Australia, Renew Energy is a name you can trust. Not sure what the best solar panels for your home are? Contact us and we’ll help you find the perfect solar system for your needs.