MAINTAINING A HOME
Should I get solar panels?
Many Australian households feel the crunch when it comes to energy bills. Although there are a lot of thrifty ways to lower your electricity use, many people turn to solar energy as a way to enjoy their current standard of living without continually breaking the bank.
That being said, there’s still a lot of confusion around solar panels. If you’re considering installing them at your home, it’s important to understand whether or not they could work for you.
What to know before buying solar panels
You’ll get the most benefit from your solar power during the day, when the sun is shining. That means using electrical appliances when it’s still daylight is likely to cut your energy bill the most.
But what about properties where no one is home until after work or on the weekends? If most of your electricity use occurs at night, then solar power might not have as high an impact for you. However, if it’s possible for you to switch some of your most energy-sapping habits to the daylight – such as using pool pumps, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers when you’re not there, potentially on a timer – it could still be possible to see some real savings.
Solar panels come in all different sizes, and the system you need will depend on your electricity usage. There are many calculators online that you can use to determine the size you’ll need, but as a rough guide:
- Small homes (1-2 people): 1.5kW system
- Medium homes (2-3 people): 3kW system
- Large homes (4 people): 5kW system
The larger the system that you install, the more space you’ll need on your roof to house it. Even the smallest system (1.5kW) will need approximately 10m2 of uninhibited space. For 3kW systems you’ll need up to 20m2, and for 5kW systems that number increases to around 32m2.
Although there are federal incentives to installing solar power that apply to homes nation-wide, feed-in tariffs are still managed state by state. That means you may be eligible for government subsidies on solar based on where you live. You may want to research your state or territory’s laws to determine how much you could benefit.
Your municipality may also charge utility fees for connecting a solar power system. And, finally, certain locations in Australia see more sunshine than others. So, for example, if you’re living in the sunshine state Queensland, you may see more of an advantage to solar power than if your home is in Tasmania.
Speaking of sunshine, is your home in the best position to see as much sun as possible? Partial shade isn’t as much of a problem as it used to be, so don’t worry if your roof isn’t fully bathed in sunlight at all times. With that being said, if your roof is completely shaded for most of the day, your solar panels might not work as effectively.
Current electricity usage
The main benefit of solar power is offseting the amount of power you use off the grid during the day. So if you’re not using much power off the grid to begin with, you’re less likely to see radical savings.
Generally, if your bills are under $250 per quarter, you’ll probably only save around $100 per quarter. That’s still a saving, of course, but the benefit isn’t as substantial as a household with higher bills.
Most households take 3-5 years to pay off their solar power system. That means that if you’re planning on moving soon, or completing renovations in the coming years, it might be worth holding off.
It’s usually recommended that people plan to stay in their home for at least 3 years after installing solar panels, longer if they want to get the greatest possible benefit.
Most of the time, you aren’t able to install solar panels if you have a shared roof. For example, if you have a townhouse or apartment, it can be an extra hurdle to get permission.
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This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.