We Went Solar

 



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.


The panels are hardly visible from the street


 

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.


The WIFI app that shows us
real time power production


 

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.


The AGL app that shows us daily
power credits and debits


 

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.

 

Phil

 

 

Comments

  1. Awesome! Yes, I am waiting too, for the battery prices to come down. Maybe electric vehicles will be the first?

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    1. Yes. One of our daughters recently purchased an electric Toyota and drove it from Sydney to Adelaide for $63! Electric vehicles are certainly becoming far more affordable already.

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  2. Sounds like a great plan...my electricity years ago was with Origin Energy and was ricidulous and I switched to Alinta Energy [in Qld] a few years and my bills are halved because they give you a 28% discount to pay on time. So on a $500 power bill at 28% it's $140 so it comes down to $360.00 as an example. I think the plan has changed since I got mine so I'm still on it. I remember years ago a friend spent $18,000 on putting solar on her roof...that was probably about 10 years ago. Paying for itself in 2.6 years sounds great. Kathy, Brisbane

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    1. So that probably proves that the cost of installing solar is slowly reducing as we paid less than 1/2 that figure for our large system. I agree it is important to not be loyal to power companies, just churn to whoever has the best deal at the time is my approach too.

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  3. i have solar hot water & it's great! power bill went down by several 100 $$$s
    i would love to be off grid but apparently you can't be legally once the electricity is hooked up but am sure there are ways around it (big fines apparently)
    what is churning?
    great post
    thanx for sharing

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    Replies
    1. Churning is where you leave one power company and go to another usually for a better price.

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  4. Wonderful! We have had solar power for 2 years now and been in credit, as any small bills we've paid have been cancelled out or exceeded by the next credit bill, even in Winter. Approximate saving of $2500/yr and that's including much use of hubby's power tools (3 phase electricity) and my sewing machines and preserving/drying food. Currently searching for a better plan so there is more of a "cushion" if Winter this year returns to it's normal overcast rainy weather now the drought here (and copious sunny weather) is gone.
    Enjoy your future savings!

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    1. I am so looking forward to experiencing a full 12 month cycle just to see the entire savings. It's been such a wet summer over here in the Eastern states too, so that will be interesting to see the net result.
      Your results sound excellent.
      In our area AGL solar savers are offering 17 cents feed-in which was nearly double that of Energy Australia, so I churned across as the other charges were equivalent

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