Disclaimer: Neither Auto & General Insurance Company Ltd nor its representatives necessarily endorse or recommend the views of these professionals and their companies or the companies/brands suggested in this article. Budget Direct recognises any costs, timelines and savings suggested by the contributors is subject to usage and dependent on the type of solar systems used.

Solar panel industry professionals

Aiden Wallace

Sales Manager
Solar Gain

Ben Lovell

Managing Director
Living Energy Solutions

Dan Spence

General Manager
Solar Wide

David Stevens

Nathan Gudsell

Director
SAE Group

Mike Trust

Director
The Sun Works

Lauren Marra

Mark Stevens

Senior Energy Consultant
Infinite Energy

Daniel Lanzetta

Director of Business Development
Smart Energy Answers

We asked them:

How do solar panels work?

Mike Trust

When sunlight hits a solar panel, photons (particles of light) dislodge electrons from atoms inside the solar cells and these dislodged electrons create a flow of direct current (DC) electricity.

The flow of electricity from each solar cell is transmitted via solar DC cable to your solar inverter, which converts the DC electricity generated by the solar panels into usable alternating current (AC) electricity.

The AC electricity from the solar inverter is then used to power your home. If you are producing more power than you need the surplus electricity is exported to the electricity grid to be used by other homes and businesses.

Lauren Marra

Solar panels use energy from the sun to convert DC electricity into usable AC electricity for your home. With a solar system, you create your own electricity for your household’s use and sell any excess power back to the grid.

Aiden Wallace

Solar panels collect DC energy which travels to a homes inverter. The inverter is responsible for converting the DC energy collected by the solar panels into usable AC energy for the property.

Mark Stevens

Without going into detail about photons, electrons, semiconductors and the photovoltaic effect, to put it simply, solar panels convert sunlight into electricity (and in Australia we have lots of it). The solar inverter converts the DC solar power into AC electricity which is then used by your home, thus reducing the amount of power purchased from the grid. Any excess solar power is sold to the grid which also helps to lower your electricity bills.

Nathan Gudsell

Simply put, solar powered homes and businesses are powered by the sun. The panels on the roof use photovoltaic cells to capture particles of light and convert them to a DC electrical current. The DC current then flows from the panels to the inverter – known as the heart of a solar system – which converts the electrical current to AC power. AC power is the most commonly used form of electricity. Once converted, the electricity is sent to the breaker box and is used to power electrical appliances - just as you would with electricity drawn from the grid.

David Stevens

They take the direct sunlight (not heat) and turn it into DC energy which can be converted into your household electricity using an inverter.

Daniel Lanzetta

In very simple words, Solar panels convert energy from the sun (sunlight) into electricity (Direct Current). An inverter mounted near the meter box will then convert the DC into AC and allow the electricity to flow into the house and power lights and appliances. Any excess electricity generated by the system will be sent back to the grid and a feed-in tariff credit is received by the electricity retailers. This is a standard grid-connected system with no storage, however batteries can be coupled to the system to store excess energy to be used at night time and in other situations of need, such as during blackouts. Batteries are becoming more popular with prices going down and State Government incentives due to the fact they also help to stabilise our electricity grid.

Ben Lovell

Solar panels work by converting light from the sun into energy which you can use in your home or export to the grid. Panels on your roof generate DC (Direct Current) Electricity, which is fed into an inverter which converts the DC electricity into 240 volt AC (Alternating Current) electricity which can be used in your home. There is obviously a bit more to it than that, relating to the chemical properties of the silicon wafer that allow passage of the electrons, but in short, sun shines, hits the panels and creates energy!

Dan Spence

A full solar system consists of the solar panels, which convert sunlight into electricity. They then send DC power to an inverter, which then converts it to AC power for supplying electricity to the property. From the inverter it goes to your switchboard which will then feed the electricity to the circuits requiring it.

Any excess electricity will be sold back to your electricity company for an agreed amount. This rate is normally a bit lower than what they sell it to you for, but it soon adds up and helps financially towards your night time usage. It is important to size the system correctly so you get the best return on investment. A quality solar installer will be able to look at your usage and be able to size a suitable solar power system for your needs.

Why should I consider moving over to solar panels?

Nathan Gudsell

Right now, solar energy just makes good sense on so many levels. Here’s 3 very good reasons why you should consider making the switch to solar now Make money while the sun shines - Did you know that solar energy actually delivers homes and business one of the highest ROI on any investment you can make? Right now, the average sized system for a home is 6.6kW, and the price has come down so much that it’s now cheaper than a 3kW system was five years ago. When you combine greater efficiency (which means a greater output) at a much more affordable price, the returns are very healthy. Depending on your electricity bill the average sized solar system will pay for itself in approx. 2-3 years in electricity savings alone. If you choose good quality products that’s potentially 23 years ahead of pure savings.

The STC initiative from the government - The Federal Government offers an incentive encouraging homeowners and businesses to make the switch to sustainable energy sources as part of its Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). When you install a solar system you can receive a rebate by claiming the STC’s (small scale technology certificates). As an example, you can save up to $4,000 on a 6.6Kw system based on today’s STC price. The STC annualises over time and will phase out in 2030, with each year that passes the rebate drops slightly, so to make the most of this rebate now is the time.

Leave only footprints - The environment is always a hot topic for all of us, so no matter which side of the debate you sit on, solar is a great option. We live in the hottest, sunniest country in the world and enjoy an abundance of sunshine every day. It’s an infinite renewable source that does not require mining and refining and therefore reduces our carbon footprint considerably when we harvest power from the sun.

Lauren Marra

Not only are solar panels better for the environment by reducing the demand for coal powered electricity, but they greatly reduce your power bill. By using electricity created from your own solar system, you are purchasing less power from your Energy Provider.

Mike Trust

A quality solar power system can be one of the best investments a home or business owner can make.

During the day your solar power system will provide your home or business with electricity, reducing your reliance on the energy grid and reducing your electricity bill. If your solar power system produces more power than you need, the surplus is exported to the electricity grid and you will be paid for the exported energy.

This is known as a “feed in tariff” and the amount you will receive per kilowatt hour (kWh) is different in each state or territory and can also vary depending on which electricity retailer you purchase electricity from.

Using the electricity you generate yourself, combined with feed in tariff payments, will significantly reduce - and in some cases even eliminate - your electricity bill.

Aiden Wallace

A solar system isn’t financially viable for every Australian homeowner however for a majority of Australian’s, the installation of a quality solar system can deliver clean energy whilst lowering household energy bills for many years.

Mark Stevens

To save money, of course. The average size solar panel system will deliver savings of approx. $1,000 - $2,000 per year and achieve a payback period of 3 – 6 years. This makes solar one of the most sensible investments a homeowner can make. There’s also the feel-good factor of reducing your carbon footprint and contributing to positive change.

David Stevens

Not just to save money from the extravagant electricity prices. Do your bit to help limit climate change.

Daniel Lanzetta

Going Solar is a no-brainer nowadays, if you have an adequate roof space. Electricity prices went up by over 63% over the last 15 years and people are using more and more electricity for heating, cooling, pools, etc. and it will only go up even further with the advent of Electric Vehicles. Feed-in tariffs from Electricity Retailers are very attractive and they provide extra savings to help homeowners achieve low bills.

In addition to that, the Federal Government is still financing incentives (STCs) which cover up to 1/3 of the total cost of the system.

Ben Lovell

The main reason why most people look at making the switch to solar panels, is simply to reduce energy consumption and save on electricity bills. With electricity prices continually on the rise, we are certainly living within a time where we hear the phrase – “you can’t afford to not have solar,’’ said a lot more than ever before.

The best part about this is that due to the fact that solar components have become so much more competitive in pricing over the years, we are truly in an era where solar can become a reality for just about anyone, with no upfront cost options and payoff periods of 2 - 3 years on residential solar, and 2 - 6 years on large commercial solar. In South Australia, now more than ever we have clients choosing solar, and in fact large solar systems while the government incentives are strong on solar.

Although not entirely a main driving force for most people to get solar, there is still a degree of environmental reasons at play here which aids in the decision making process. Installing a solar system today will still significantly reduce your overall carbon footprint, and will help in doing your part in the reduction of coal fired power generation in Australia.

Lastly, the energy market is undergoing a market driven transition to more renewables and distributed energy (lots of small energy generators in the form of solar and battery storage at many homes and businesses, as opposed to the old model of less points of distribution with larger distribution assets). We have already seen energy retailers and smaller players like Living Energy offering VPPs (Virtual Power Plants) which utilise new or existing solar and batteries and smart metering technology to start to cut out some of the layers in the value chain and hence driving pricing down for all!

Dan Spence

Most people buy solar to save money, but also it is a major benefit for the environment.

From a financial point of view, solar power systems generally pay for themselves in 3-5 years depending upon the quality of the system that you choose and your power usage profile. Cheaper systems will pay for themselves in about 2 years but with solar you generally get what you pay for, and cheap solar can often work out to be far more expensive due to ongoing issues and failures with low grade product.

How do I know I am purchasing the right solar panels for my home?

Mark Stevens

Like any product, the quality of solar panels and inverters can vary greatly, not to mention the quality of the installation workmanship. Choose wisely, and your solar panels will continue to deliver stress-free savings for decades to come.

On the other hand, cheap low-quality solar panels often show signs of failure at around the 5-year mark, with problems such as delamination, cell micro-cracks, water ingress, hot spots, junction box and electrical connector failures.

Coincidentally (or not), there’s already been over 700 failed solar companies exit the Australian solar industry, often to avoid these snowballing warranty claims.

First research which local solar companies have a positive reputation built over several years. If a solar company has been in business for 5+ years and avoided excessive negative reviews, they must be doing something right.

Once you’ve determined which local solar companies can be trusted, contact them directly, organise a site-assessment, research the products offered, and choose the best quality system your budget allows.

“Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten”

Lauren Marra

Be sure to do your research! Not only do you want to purchase a system from an experienced and reputable supplier but ensure the warranties and bank-ability of your panel and inverter manufacturers are strong.

Mike Trust

This is a tricky question as there are hundreds of different brands to choose from and every solar company will say their panels are the best.

If you are considering purchasing a solar power system then do your research. Enter the phrase “best solar panel Australia” into a search engine and you will get hundreds of results. Ignore all the paid ads and make a list of the brands recommended and you will soon see names such as REC, LG and Sunpower appearing consistently.

You should ignore terms such as “Tier 1” and “CEC approved” as these are meaningless sales spiel. Tier 1 is a term used by Bloomberg New Energy Finance Corporation to financially rate solar manufacturers and is not a certification of quality. CEC approved is meaningless, as all solar panels, regardless of quality, must be CEC approved.

Once you have a short list of solar panels then do the same research on solar inverters.

Stick with quality brands for both solar panels and solar inverters and you are almost there. However, you also need to consider installation quality as well. Above all else, remember this phrase: “Cheap solar isn’t quality and quality solar isn’t cheap”.

Aiden Wallace

Research is crucial when deciding to purchase a solar system. Home owners are always best to receive quotations from reputable local installers. A visit at the customers home providing options based on the customers budget and needs is a sign of an experienced installer.

Nathan Gudsell

That’s where we come in! We understand that no two rooftops are the same, so we provide tailored solutions to meet the individual needs of our customers. We also understand the range of products available in the market right now is varied far and wide based on features, benefits and price tag, so there’s a few key things we ask our customers to help them make the right decision for their home.

Is this your ‘forever home’? If the answer is yes then make the investment in a good quality solar panel with a 25 year product warranty and you’ll only have to buy your panels once. If you think you will possibly upsize or downgrade in the future, ensure the system size is suited to the house size. You can also get a good quality panel that easier on the hip pocket that will deliver you solar savings for 10 years as opposed to 25.

If you like to know how things work, then look at an inverter that has great monitoring capabilities. With great monitoring you can see what your generating on your roof from day to day, what your consuming in your home, what you’re sending back to the grid and also what you’re drawing from the grid. Having this visibility means we can shape our energy use to fall within the solar curve and maximise our savings. Little things like timing the dishwasher coming on, or the pool pump etc can make all the difference. Knowledge really is power.

Because no two rooftops are the same, we also need to consider your homes orientation to the sun, your roof type, and any shading caused by surrounding trees and /or buildings. How you configure your panels on the roof is important to ensure you maximise your energy production. With an abundance of solar companies around these days, it’s important to seek advice from well-established and accredited companies. To help you rest easy at night, we suggest working with Accredited Master Electricians and a Clean Energy Council Approved Retailer.

David Stevens

If you are planning to live in your home for 20 years plus, select a panel with a longer warranty, if you just want a quick return on investment, use a panel with a shorter warranty which will be cheaper.

Never sacrifice the quality of your inverter, this is the heart of your system. Suggest sticking to Fronius or SolarEdge. Both come with long warranty’s and low failure rates.

Daniel Lanzetta

We strongly advise homeowners to ask for in-house consultation from a professional solar installation company who treats solar as a complex electrical install; there are a lot of variables like system size, products, site specifics and workmanship which will affect the final price.

At Smart Energy Answers, we’re setting high standards for the solar industry. As a CEC approved retailer, we are committed to providing customers with high quality products, tailored solutions, quality installations and outstanding customer service. We go above and beyond to ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction.

Ben Lovell

Purchasing the right solar panels for your home can certainly be a daunting task for any newcomer to the marketplace. There are hundreds of different options when it comes to products, and for a lot of people who are shopping around, they really don’t know where to start.

Having been a successful solar company in SA since 2010, we can tell you that the two biggest things to consider when purchasing a solar system for your home is – Quality and Trust.

Our recommendation is to always go for quality components from reputable providers, as you need to think of this as a long term purchase, which if done properly from the beginning, will certainly have a great impact on the ROI over the lifespan of the system.

In addition, you should always do your research on the company who you are wanting to purchase from. Having been in the industry for such a long time, we can tell you that trust is a huge factor for our customers next to the product choice. They want the peace of mind that we will still be here in another decade to service the warranties we sell, and given that over 700 solar companies have folded in Australia over the past 6 years, we are more than proud to still be here doing what we love for our customers.

Dan Spence

Making the right decision in solar does take a bit of shopping around and involve you doing research into the products that you have been quoted. We always recommend getting 2 – 3 quotes from reputable long standing solar specialists and then researching further what you have been quoted.

Although solar panels have been around for many years, the Australian market has seen a lot of new players enter the industry trying to make a quick buck. This has been good with helping reduce the price of solar due to increased competition but it has also been a negative in that some manufacturers have been selling cheaper low grade products that have been unsuitable for the harsh Australian conditions.

We recommend using quality products from manufacturers that have been around a long time so that you have protection should an issue occur. It is also important that the manufacturers have a local Australian office. If there is an issue you want someone with an office here so that you can sort the problem quickly and efficiently. There are very few household names in the solar industry but there are a few that have excelled. LG is a prime example of a household name that has excelled in solar. To protect their brand they only make quality products. They operate in the premium end of solar which makes it a bit more expensive than the lower quality brands, but they also back themselves with a full 25 year product and performance warranty which means that you are protected by a solid trustworthy brand if anything goes wrong with the panels.

As well as product choice it is important to also look at installation quality. A fantastic product installed badly can soon become a terrible product. Bad installation can also void warranties so it is important that you choose an installer that has a good history in the solar business with a proven track record. It is also an issue with liability. If the company that sells you the system is also the company that installs the system then there is only one place to go if something does go wrong.

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