This article covers the most commonly asked questions we have experienced since we started trading in April 2011.
There are helpful links throughout if you would like more information on any of the questions. If you would like to talk to any someone further about any of these topics please feel free to give us a call or send us an email.
How does the rebate work?
Government rebates are split into two main categories: Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) and Large Generator Certificates (LGCs).
For home systems and for small business systems you can get an upfront subsidy in the form of STCs. This can be anything from approximately $2,000 up to $60,000.
STCs are available for solar power systems that are 100kW or less. STCs are provided as an upfront subsidy and the number of certificates awarded per solar power system will depend on where your home or business is located, as well as how large the system is you choose to install. Australia is mapped into five different zones, with each zone receiving a differing amount of sunlight each day. Installations in zones that receive more sunlight will be eligible for more certificates. In addition, larger systems also receive more certificates and therefore a higher rebate.
Like STCs, LGCs are designed to help Australia reach its clean energy goals. Businesses who install a solar power system that is 100kW or larger, will eligible for LGCs. Unlike STCs that are available as an upfront subsidy, LGCs are provided as ongoing payments. For every 1MWh of renewable electricity generated, you’ll be eligible for one LGC.
You can use this handy Government Calculator to calculate your STCs for different system sizes in your post code.
How much will solar save me?
To calculate your savings, we have a Solar Calculator you can use. The following example may also help.
Let’s assume the energy you use costs $0.25 per kWh and the energy you sell back is worth $0.10 per kWh. These are fairly common averaged out rates.
Based on an assumed 6.6kW (6,600 watts) solar array an average production of solar energy is approximately 26kWh (kilo-watt hours) per day.
Lastly, we will assume you are using 50% of the solar energy produced and exported the remaining 50%.
Using those three assumptions, the calculation would look like this:
50% of 26kWh = 13kWh. So, for this exercise you will be using 13kWh of solar energy, and exporting the other 13kWh to the grid.
13kWh x $0.25 = $3.25 – This is the portion of solar you have consumed at home.
13kWh x $0.10 = $1.30 – This is the portion you have sold to the grid.
Total savings per day = $4.55
Annual savings = $1,660.75
If you would like to save more money, then you would try to use more of the solar power because it is more valuable to use it at $0.25 per kWh, compared to selling it back at $0.10 per kWh.
To further clarify, let’s take the same solar production as above – 26kWh of solar per day. But this time you use 80% of the solar and only sell back 20%. If that was the case your savings would work out this way:
80% of 26kWh = 20.8kWh. So, for this exercise you will be using 20.8kWh of solar energy and exporting the other 5.2kWh to the grid.
20.8kWh x $0.25 = $5.20 – This is the portion of solar you have consumed at home.
5.2kWh x $0.10 = $0.52 – This is the portion you have sold to the grid.
Total savings per day = $5.72
Annual savings = $2,087.80
As you can see the second saving example is quite a bit higher than the first. With the same amount of solar produced, the second example has saved $427.05 more in one year.
The key then is to try and use as much of the solar power created as possible. This can be done by using things like washing machines and dishwashers during solar energy hours or putting things like hot water systems or swimming pool pumps on a timer, so they run during the day when the solar panels are producing energy.
Click here to read our Solar Guide For Beginners.
Which solar panel manufacturer should I choose?
There are a lot of solar panel manufacturers selling into Australia. Unfortunately, most of these are quite few companies and most of them only manufacture solar panels. The problem with this is twofold: Solar panels have to offer a 25-year warranty on the efficiency of the cells to be accredited for installation in Australia. If a business has only been trading for 10 – 15 years, then you must question the value of this warranty. Secondly, the solar industry is currently booming globally, but it will not always be this way. So, if a business only manufacture solar panels and this is their sole revenue stream, what happens when the boom is over? It stands to reason that quite a few of the businesses manufacturing panels right now, will struggle in the future.
The Clean Energy Council (CEC) have an approved list of solar panels that can be sold in Australia and attract Government Rebates. If you compare the list from 2014 vs. 2020 you will find that almost 85% of the manufacturers on this list are either no longer in business or no longer sell into Australia.
So, how do you choose a good quality, bankable manufacturer that will stand by its warranties? In an ideal world, your solar panel manufacturer will tick the following boxes:
- Operating for over 30 years – Which means they have been trading longer than the warranty they offer.
- Minimum of $30 billion in turnover annually – Which means they are a large business who can facilitate warranties if necessary.
- Diverse range of products (they are not “solar-only” manufacturers) – Which means if the solar industry is not booming in the future, their business will still be safe and secure because of their diversity.
- Capable of completing warranty services – A large and diverse business is more likely to be able to look after warranty claims in the long term.
- Have offices in Australia – So if you need to talk to someone, you can easily contact the right person quickly.
- Appear on the Bloomberg Tier One list – Which shows they are a financially secure business and they manufacture a large volume of solar panels each year.
Where are solar panels made?
Most solar panels are made in China these days. There are very good quality solar panels made in China and also some poor quality ones. There are a few solar panels made in Germany, and one here in Australia! For more information about where solar panels are made, click here.
If I want to use solar PV to offset my hot water costs, do we need to remove the off-peak meter?
If you have an off-peak meter installed and your hot water is connected to it, there is an opportunity to move it onto the peak meter and use solar power to heat the water.
Solar PV will always only be connected to one meter, which is always the primary (peak) meter. So, in order to use your new solar system to heat your water, we need to move it to the peak meter as well.
Once it is moved to the peak meter, we can install a timer that makes sure the element comes on during hours where the solar is working really well. This is typically between 9am and 3pm and will run for a few hours depending on the size of the tank and a few other variables.
What this essentially means is that we have moved the hot water to a peak meter, which can be more expensive than an off-peak meter. However, because the appliance is now on a timer and will only run when your solar system is working, you will use solar energy instead of grid power to heat the water.
On cloudy days or days when the solar is not working at its best, you will draw grid power so you will still have hot water available. In Australia we are lucky enough to have adequate sun so that the solar will be capable of running this appliance most of the time.
Does the inverter need to be mounted inside or can it go outside (or where it can go in general)?
Inverters work best when they are cooler, and not in direct sunlight. Where possible we will always try to install the inverter either inside, or at least under an eve with protection from the sun.
We will also attempt to install the inverter as close to the main switchboard (MSB) as possible as long cable runs can create losses, which mean a less efficient system.
Your inverter warranty will cover the installation regardless of location as they are designed to be able to withstand the climate in Australia (when installed correctly).
Our Clean Energy Council (CEC) accredited design and install team will always comprehensively audit your home or business to make sure we are taking all the above into consideration. When we install your inverter the best placement for maximum long-term efficiency will always be chosen.
Does my solar come with Wi-Fi monitoring? If so, how does it work?
Most inverters come with Wi-Fi capability which is great for remote monitoring and tracking how your system is performing. It is a fantastic tool and we love being able to monitor our customers systems so we can help more in the future.
So we can address the pros and cons fairly while talking about Wi-Fi monitoring, let’s talk about the times it doesn’t work first. As with any Wi-Fi device, your inverter will rely on a signal being available at the inverter. If the inverter location is far away from the router, or in any area with no signal then the inverter will simply not be able to communicate. This is no different to taking your laptop too far away from your router and trying to connect to the internet – it won’t work unfortunately.
Having no signal at the inverter can be common on larger properties, or in situations where the inverter is installed on a shed or other building separate to the house.
For commercial premises where we are installing larger systems, we often use inverter agnostic monitoring which works using a 3G signal rather than Wi-Fi. This will mean we can monitor systems where inverters are in more remote locations regardless of Wi-Fi being available. This is not usually practical for homes though as it adds another layer of cost.
The above image shows an example of Wi-Fi monitoring with Fronius Solaweb software.
IMPORTANT: The GI Energy team are experienced and knowledgeable solar energy experts. We love solar and we are extremely good at installing great solar systems that stand the test of time. However, we are not Wi-Fi gurus so if there are issues with your W-Fi we may not be able to help. When we install for you, we will do our best to set up the Wi-Fi monitoring for you. If you have issues with your Wi-Fi signal, passwords or anything else related to your Wi-Fi not working properly we will not be able to connect your inverter. It is really important to have your password handy and check to see if you have a signal where the inverter is being installed. Our installers are friendly and helpful, and they will be able to show you where the inverter will go when they come to install.
Essentially, if you have working Wi-Fi and you have a good signal, we can get your inverter set up for you. If for some reason your Wi-Fi is not working, we are able to send you videos and instructions on how to set it up later when the Wi-Fi is working again.
Now for the positives – which there are many! Once the monitoring is set up you will be able to access your solar performance from your desktop or smart device. You will be able to see exactly how much energy you are producing in real time, as well as over a set period of time.
Depending on the inverter you choose, the monitoring will differ slightly with some offering more comprehensive feedback than others. The mobile apps will also usually offer less data to the desktop partners but are handy to check on the move.
There is also an opportunity to monitor your power consumption as well as solar production. You will require an additional device (commonly referred to as a smart meter) to do this which will come at an extra cost. However, if you do install a smart meter you will be able to see exactly how much energy you are using at any time. This will help with working out where you are spending money and making changes to save more. For example, once the system is installed and running, you may be able to move appliances like hot water or pool pumps onto timers to run during the day while the solar is running. When you do this, you will be able to see how much energy these appliances are using, and whether your solar is covering all of the cost.
The other benefit of having a smart meter installed is being able to track your savings accurately. Monitoring the solar alone will let you know how much energy you are producing with your solar array, but it won’t know how much you are using or feeding back into the grid. If a smart meter is installed you will be able to see how much you are using, producing and also feeding back so you can paint a very clear picture of how your solar is working.
To summarise, we love solar monitoring.
The nature of the beast is that it requires Wi-Fi to work. If you have working Wi-Fi then you will love your solar monitoring.
How long until the system can be installed?
The process for having a solar system installed is:
- Place an order with the GI Energy team
- We will do your network application for approvals to install
- System is installed at a date that suits you
- The retailer and network owner arrange for your meter to be changed
- You now have a mini power station on your roof generating clean energy
The typical lead time for an installation will vary from two weeks up to eight weeks. Exactly how long will depend on how quickly the network owner will give us approvals to install and how busy our local install team is at that time. Getting network approvals is similar to getting Council approvals if you want to build an extension for your home. We need to apply, tell them exactly what we intend to install and then they will grant us approvals.
Are there any additional costs after the installation?
At GI Energy we always provide a full supply and installation cost for your solar system. This means that everything is included to get your system up and running and saving you money.
In older homes, other electrical work to switchboards will sometimes need to be quoted in order to meet current safety standards. However, these will always be identified and quoted prior to any work starting. The consultant helping you should ask for a photo of the meter box when they are talking to you to identify if there are any issues.
What is the warranty for panels, inverter and system installation?
There are a few things to consider here when purchasing solar power. The three main products you are purchasing are: solar panels, an inverter and racking to attach the panels to your roof.
The warranties for an inverter and the roof racking are quite simple as most inverters come with a 10-year warranty, this often covers the parts replacement, with a separate 5 year warranty for labour. Due diligence is recommended here, as some inverter manufacturers are small and relatively new to the industry. These types of companies are less likely to be able to help in the future if you do need to put in a warranty claim. To be safe, try and stick with the larger more established brands like Fronius, SMA, Enphase, FIMER, Huawei or Sungrow that have a proven track record. The majority of solar racking manufacturers offer a standard 10 year full warranty.
Panels are a bit more difficult as they have two warranty sets. Firstly, there is the product warranty, which basically covers any product failure for a set number of years (see individual warranty documents for specifics). And then secondly, there is an efficiency warranty, which covers the actual output of the cells.
The product warranty will range from 10 years right up to 25 years depending on the manufacturer.
The efficiency warranty will vary from 25 years up to 30 years depending on the manufacturer. Please note here every panel installed in Australia must supply this 25 year efficiency or ‘performance’ warranty regardless of their time in business.
However, these warranties are only as good as the manufacturer backing them – see question above about which manufacturer to choose for more information.
Does the system work with batteries?
When considering batteries in the future for residential solar systems there are two main types of inverters to choose from: Standard grid connect inverters and hybrid (battery ready) inverters.
The main difference here is that a standard grid connect inverter will not have any capacity to charge batteries. A hybrid inverter will have a battery charger built in.
If you know which type of battery you will install in the future, and have an idea of when it will be, then it could be worthwhile installing a hybrid inverter right now.
It is worth mentioning here that there are different types of batteries, some of which will work with a hybrid inverter and others that basically have chargers built in, so they do not need a battery charger in the inverter.
The battery market is changing very quickly and if you are considering a battery system in the future it is worthwhile getting in touch with one of our team to make sure you are getting up-to-date and relevant advice before purchasing solar.
The image above shows a Fronius GEN24 Hybrid inverter.
What maintenance is needed?
An overall solar system is quite low maintenance as the inverters do not need servicing by an electrician, and the solar panels have a very long lifespan. However, it will help to keep your panels clean and if you are in a harsh environment with excessive dirt or debris then you should allow for a frequent clean and check.
If, for example you live in a rural location that is very dusty then you may want to schedule a panel clean every 12 months. However, if you live in a suburban area and your roof is not subject to excessive dirt then you may be able to leave it longer before cleaning your panels.
Ultimately, your system will not just stop working if you do not clean the panels. The efficiency will drop over time if there is stubborn dirt or debris coating the panels.
Will it damage my roof?
We use cyclone rated, solar specific roof racking systems when installing solar panels. Our experienced CEC accredited installation teams have been installing solar panels for many years and understand how to treat any roof material to limit the risk of damage.
It is very rare we experience any damage when installing solar panels. However, if the roof is not in good condition prior to the solar installation, then it is possible the roof can be compromised.
Tin roof sheets are much less likely to cause issues when compared to concrete tiles. Decramastic tiles or terracotta tiles are more vulnerable again.
If you have concrete or terracotta tiles we always recommend having some spare tiles available on the day of installation. Our installation teams can then replace tiles that look delicate when they are installing the solar for you.
A great deal of care is taken when we are installing for you, and on the very rare occasion where we have experienced minor damage to roof areas, we have always let the customer know right away and repaired the damage. We have been trading since 2011 and we have never had a roof issue unresolved with any customers.
Our installation teams treat the homes they are working on as their own.
What about hail damage?
Reputable solar panel manufacturers will test their panels against hail as part of the quality control in the factory.
The test involves a ball bearing being forced through a glass tub and repeatedly bouncing from the panel to simulate hail. The better-quality manufacturers make this test more stringent and results can be made available to customers who enquire specifically. Most manufacturers will provide a warranty to 25mm hail.
Having said this, if your panel was broken by large hail, or by any other foreign object, then it would not usually be covered by warranty. The same would apply if someone walked past your house and threw a rock against a solar panel. This would technically not be a product fault and therefore would not usually be covered by warranty.
Solar panels are typically manufactured using 3.2mm tempered (toughened) glass. This glass is tough enough for a fully grown human to walk on, so the hail would need to be extremely large and heavy to cause damage.
We always recommend letting your home insurance company know you have solar panels installed just in case something does happen and you end up with hail or any other accidental damage.
How long have you been in business?
GI Energy is one of Australia’s longest serving energy reduction specialists. We first opened in April 2011 and we were the 57th company in Australia to become a Clean Energy Council Approved Retailer. We are 100% Australian Owned and operated and operate as an Australian Certified Business.
Do you use your own installers?
GI Energy is a national solar retailer and we cover nearly every inch of Australia with our installer network.
Our installation teams will always be local to you and we also have maintenance teams set up so if we need to get someone to help you quickly, we are not just relying on the primary installation teams.
We use a network of qualified CEC sub-contractors to carry out the physical installation of your solar panels. Most of these teams have been working with us for a minimum of 5 years and we enjoy a great relationship with all of them.
GI Energy is always your first and last point of contact for having your solar panels installed. If you have any questions about your installation before or after the solar panels are on your roof, our office staff will help.
GI Energy is the primary and only contract holder for your installation. This means we are fully responsible for everything to do with your solar panels. All of our customers have a lifetime service guarantee and our team is always here to help with questions about your installation, or the products we have installed.
We also employ electrical engineers and CEC Accredited Designers who oversee all solar panel designs and installations.
Do you have finance options?
We have several finance partners we use for both residential and commercial solar. The offerings range from green loans to chattel mortgages and leases for businesses.
In most cases, we can design a package so you can use the money you are saving on your power bill to pay for your solar panels over the term of the loan. Setting it up this way means you will not have to find a deposit for the solar, and you will also not have to pay any more than your current ongoing electricity spend.
For businesses, we can almost always offer cash flow positive solutions with no capital required.
What do we do in the event of an issue, who do we contact?
GI Energy are a full-service company. This means we look after everything from paperwork and approvals to getting the system approved on the network, right the way through to installation and after care support.
Our friendly team pride themselves on being available for you and we will gladly help with any enquiries after the system has been paid for. If you ever have any issues you can contact us directly.
For some useful tips, check out these links: