Five steps to buying a home solar setup - The Race to Zero
The Race to Zero:
Five steps to buying a home solar setup
With rising electricity prices, solar subsidies and more solar battery options than ever before – it’s no wonder that Australians will this year be racing to get a storage battery or solar setup for their home. But given the size of the investment, adding a setup should be seen as a marathon, not a sprint. After all, slow and steady wins the race.
Whether you’ve already got solar panels and are upsizing or you’re starting from scratch, we’ve created five steps to help you navigate through the marathon of buying a solar setup for your home.
Know the lingo
Know your home scenario
Do you want brains with that?
Start the conversation by comparing products with an accredited installer
Start shopping for a retailer.
1. Know the lingo
It’s jargon season in the energy space so refresh what you know about kilowatts and make sure you know your HEMS from your inverters.
What does a solar setup look like? The solar puzzle pieces include:
- Solar panels to create the energy.
- An inverter, which safely converts the solar power into the energy you use to power your appliances, and
- a solar battery to store the energy you need to get through the day and night
Who will you meet on your solar journey? The main solar players include:
- Solar installers, who are the people who set it all up for you.
- The solar and battery companies that make the hardware (your installer buys your hardware for you)
- The energy companies who you will need to connect to for your new solar electricity plan.
Infrastructure terms you’ll come across on your journey include:
- ‘The Grid’ – more formally known as the electricity grid, is the poles and wires that distribute electricity to your house.
- Electricity distributor - the companies that own parts of the grid. For example, In NSW there are three distributors; Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy.
- The new kid on the block: VPP. VPP is short for Virtual Power Plant, which effectively turns your battery into a mini powerplant. When it’s needed, your battery will synchronise with other solar batteries and add energy to the grid that will be sent to the community.
2. Know your home scenario
Have a crystal clear understanding of your energy usage and future needs, family comforts and home size. What you will need to consider
- Energy use: Grab your last four energy bills. Get an idea of what your energy is like across the year and especially during peak times – morning and night.
- Size: How big Is your home? You'll be asked to have this at hand.
- Visualise: What are your immediate and future energy needs like? Eg are you growing a family or soon to be empty nesters? Are you running or plan on running a business from home? Is an electric car on the cards? Do you have a pool or intend on getting one?
- Budget: What subsidies or loans are available in your state? And how much can you budget to spend? Generally speaking, if you’re looking at solar and battery set up, you will be looking at a $20,000 investment. Check for a list of all subsidies available at a federal / state level here.
- Consider: How deep is your family’s love for the environment? Are you only interested in lowering your bill? Or are you also interested in helping to stabilise the grid? There are times it desperately needs support. By pushing your solar power back to the grid you can help ensure your community suffers less from blackouts. Knowing this upfront matters – because only two products on the market enable you to be part of what is called a virtual power plant. If this is important to you-you have already helped narrow your solar setup options which can take out some of the hassle.
3. Do you want brains with that?
Most solar setups will do a decent job of powering your home and lowering your electricity bill. But, with very little visibility of what it’s doing, when and how. And certainly with no level of control or interaction on your part.
But if you want more control – like the ability to see your system working in real time and to identify your power hungry appliances and control when they’re used. Some monitoring will be needed to see how much power you have coming from your panels or stored and how much is sold to the grid.
This option is fantastic for families who are happy and flexible enough to change their lifestyle or couples who are heavy appliance users. It is also a great solution for those that have a home business, use a lot of tech and appliances, or are at home during the day. The better you managed your energy usage, the more you’re driving your bills down and the quicker you’ll reach your payback period!
4. Start researching and comparing products with an accredited installer
Armed with the information you need, and a clear idea of the kind of set up you’re looking for - you’re ready to start talking specifics with a trusted installer. Find a trusted installer in your local area, who has a proven track record in solar and battery installations. Genuine, quality installers will usually have the Clean Energy Council Accredited Installer accreditation so make sure you check their website! You should check they are a certified installer in here: https://www.solaraccreditation.com.au/consumers/find-an-installer.html
Your installer will help you work out what sized panels you need (If you don't already have solar), and what sized battery is best for storage and what brands/solutions deliver on your requirements. You want enough battery storage to power your house both day and night – as well as carry some excess when sunlight is low. They’ll also help you manage compatibility choices so that your system works best together. Especially if you already have panels.
Solar panels are usually low maintenance but it always pays to ask about warranties, any necessary maintenance and associated costs. And it never hurts to go through this step a couple of times with other installers to compare pricing and find out who will be around in the future to help if something goes wrong.
5. Start shopping for a retailer
Once you’ve made your decisions and paid your deposit, it’s time to start shopping for an energy company.
Yes, you still need an energy retailer. Why? Well firstly, if you have excess solar energy you can sell this back to the grid, this is known as a solar feed-in-tariff, secondly, there can still be times when you will need to top up your energy from the grid, and thirdly with added bonus of a battery you can get paid every time your battery participates in a VPP. And that happens through energy companies.
Jump on the phone and call around to different electricity companies to see what solar products they offer. Ask about their solar feed-in-tariffs and if they reward you for participating in a VPP. Ensure you do your research to see what reviews those products get from other customers too!