After receiving an astronomical energy bill at the end of last winter, I threw a complete wobbly. Lost it. Had a meltdown. Had a Dad crisis. $1000 for the quarter?! Insane.
So it was time to bite bullet and do some research on solar. After a couple of months of intense research I was actually surprised how non-cost effective many of the solar solutions were for mainstream householders. I was initially interested in battery storage and going as close to off-grid as possible in a suburban environment. The cost was astounding unless you had the skills to do it yourself (I don’t). So we settled for the largest system our roof could hold and that only required a single inverter system using a standard set up. The whole ideal battery and off-grid set up will have to wait till the technology is cheaper I’m afraid.
We now have 32 panels on our roof with a 10.5 Kilowatt maximum output rating. The nice thing is that we cannot see the panels on our roof from the street as we are in a cul-de-sac on the high side. Solar panels can look quite ugly (IMO) and often detract terribly from the street appeal of the house. The only way I can see all of our panels is via a Google Earth visit.
We are facing North West and have 4 huge gables in our roof construction facing each point of the compass – challenging for placing solar panels. In the end we placed half the panels facing North East and the other half facing North West. This gives us a spread of sun capture from 7am – 7pm daily in summer. Not perfect, but as good as we could get it for our house. The real useful parts of the day for power generation are 9am – 4pm during summer. We are yet to see how we go in winter.
I have been pleasantly surprised how much sun is still captured on cloudy and rainy days too, certainly more than I imagined. Like most new installations the inverter comes with a WIFI phone app that lets us see in real time how much power is being generated by the panels. Our energy company also has a phone app that shows us daily billing, usage and grid feed in buy back kilowatts and prices too. With our installation, we use solar power as it is generated and only the excess solar power is sold back to the grid. We only buy power off the grid in the periods that the sun is not generating power (principally dusk till dawn). This means that we need to use our appliances during the day for the best use of our solar. This method is much different to how solar was set up years ago, but with some thought it still works well especially with solar feed-in tariffs being so much lower these days.
It is early days yet, however it looks like we could very well have a zero $ bill in some quarters (Spring and Autumn). What a relief. As more of our clan leave home we will eventually see credits appearing on our electricity bill as M and I are very low consumers of power.
The saving in electricity costs will ensure that the system has paid for itself in 2.6 years or sooner. So by the time we are both retired, the solar system will be running at a clear profit. There are lots of different offers and rebates out there at the moment and it quite nearly did my head in researching it all as offers are different from state to state. The company we went with were really good – no high pressure sales, did the math with us, answered my zillion questions, organized meter upgrades, did battle with the grid company on our behalf, kept us fully informed and also gave us some excellent advice on power company plans to churn across to once the system was installed. They recommended AGL Solar Savers based on the size of our system and our demographic area. We did churn across to AGL and this nearly doubled our solar feed in tariffs (what they pay you for feeding excess power back into the grid). Each year the installation company will send me a text with the best electricity plan provider based on our area and system size.
I’ve heard some horror stories out there about bad solar installations, however I can honestly say that our installation happened seamlessly and I am delighted with the early results.
I still go around turning off lights however – it’s a worthwhile tradition.
Take care and stay nice.