Myth Busted – The truth behind “free home solar”
Can solar panels really be free?
Written by Daniel McCabe. Project Management Director.
Photo above shows a recent 6.6kW installation in Rockhampton, QLD, using Phono TwinPlus 330w panels.
I have been riding the solar coaster for well over a decade now. In that time there have been many sharp twists and turns, jolts back and forth and plenty of sudden ups and downs. Much like riding a roller coaster, I have also occasionally had a sick feeling in my stomach.
At GI Energy we have been operating in the solar coaster space since 2011. We are seasoned pros. We are tall enough to ride the ride safely and we know to keep our arms and legs inside the moving vehicle at all times.
Unfortunately, in this transient industry, we have also seen a plethora of dodgy marketing messages which are often followed by appalling installs. As an industry insider observing these tactics unfold, it sometimes feels like you are watching potential solar customers about to ride the loop-da-loop, with a defective seatbelt.
Why are adverts promoting free solar panels?
Recently, there have been an abundance of ads circulating on social media, Google searches and banner ads across the internet with the promise of “free solar panels”. Sometimes accompanied by a picture of a political figure announcing a “new solar rebate” or a “exclusive solar rebate” for the area you happen to live in! These ads promise brand new financial solar incentives and the opportunity to have solar panels installed for free.
So, can solar really be free? Well, no. But kinda yes. But also, no…
Firstly, let’s clarify something, these ads are a menace to the industry as they are misleading at best, and bordering on absolute nonsense. The current Government rebates available for solar have been in place for many years. New solar rebates do pop up from time to time but recently these have typically been state wide and targeted for battery storage installations. There are exceptions to this, but basically, there have been very few new financial incentives for solar PV specially for a long time. Certainly not to make it free.
However, you can install solar energy at home, never be out of pocket, and end up with solar panels on your roof, without spending any more money than you would have without going solar.
That’s sounds free to me, what’s the catch?
We are very lucky to live in a country with an abundance of sun, very large genuine Government solar rebates and access to low interest and really affordable solar payment plans. When you combine these incredible forces together, you can create the “free” solar scenario for your home.
Let’s take an example of a metro home with access to good grid infrastructure. This would usually mean we can install a decent size solar array and be able to export our excess solar back to grid and receive credits for the energy we sell back. So, in this hypothetical home let’s also say we have a swimming pool, electric hot water, and a family of four chewing up electricity day and night.
A house like this would usually use around 30kWs of energy per day. If the roof area was available, we could install a 7.9kW system here, and put as many household appliances on timers to run during peak solar energy hours (swimming pool and hot water for sure!).
Our 7.9kW system will produce around 33kWs of energy per day, on average, across the whole year. If we use half of this and sell the rest back at $0.12 to our lucky energy retailer, then we will save approximately $2,200 per year*.
“Now, this all well and good, but I still have to get the solar panels on my roof don’t I? And how I am going to do that and not be out of pocket?”
It’s pretty simple, we organise a payment plan for you, and you use the savings on your power bill to pay the system off over time.
So, to finish this example of a 7.9kW system using really good quality gear, can cost as little as $123 per month, which is only $1,476 per year**.
Which means…you can take $2,200 that you would usually give to your energy company, give $1,476 of this to your solar payment plan, keep the other $724 for beers and pizza and at the end of it all you will have solar panels on your roof for as long as you live in the home.
So, this is how you get “free” solar.
Despite what these dodgy ads say, there is no new magic solar rebate specifically for your post code that gives you exclusive access to a brand-new incentives that gets you free solar. They are very misleading and frankly give our industry a bad name.
However, you can install solar panels at home using rebates that have been in place for years, and use a low-cost payment plan, to make it “pay for itself”, which is still pretty darn good in my opinion.
Please note, the examples of solar savings have purposely been calculated at a very basic level to illustrate the point of this article. They are not meant to be accurate. To calculate your solar savings for your home specifically try our solar calculator here. You may also find these links useful if you want some more information on:
*This is based on a very basic calculation of 4.2 x 1kW of solar installed. This calculation can be used to very roughly work out how much solar you can produce. Please keep in mind every house is different and you may produce a fair bit more than this, and you could also produce a bit less depending on all the variables. Your feed in tariff will also vary depending on where you are located and what offers retailer currently have on. And lastly, we have worked out the savings based on a rate of $0.25 per kWh of energy used.
**Please note, this is based on a 7-year payment plan and an average cost for a good quality 7.9kWsolar installation. There are lots of variables here so please use this as a guide only. As with all payment plans, everything would be subject to approvals as well.