Would you love to power your home with solar energy but feel a little in the dark about where the technology is at? It is something I have looked at over the years whilst renovating, but have always been a bit overwhelmed by the literature, wary of installation costs, unsure of ongoing maintenance requirements and how to monitor its overall effectiveness. But as my electricity bills continue to soar each year and another renovation on the cards in the near future, it is something I am revisiting in much more finite detail.
There’s a lot to love about solar energy. Generating clean and green electricity from the big fiery ball in the sky to run all the energy sucking appliances in my house is so appealing. But it is not a simple matter of purchasing a few panels and sticking them on your roof. Panel size, site orientation, set up cost, daily energy consumption and length of warranties are all important considerations to get the most out of the system you invest in. And you want your system to start paying for itself as quickly as possible.
So where do you start? Looking back through your energy bills over the past 12 months will give you a good indication of your average daily electricity use. If you are shocked after analysing your energy consumption, you are not alone. We can all pick up our act. But it is this data that will help you and your solar provider work out the size of the solar panel system you require.
The next step is to look at your home’s orientation to the sun. In the southern hemisphere, placing panels onto a north facing roof without overshadowing from surrounding trees or buildings gains optimal performance. You can place panels on other orientations, however the effectiveness drops with reduced daily sun exposure.
When it comes to choosing your solar panels, you need to weigh up their performance, aesthetics and warranty periods against your budget. Solar power technology for residential homes has improved in leaps and bounds over the past ten years. Gone are the days of big clunky solar panels that take over entire roof spaces. Latest technology panels are black, sleek, more discreet and can store more power per square metre than previous models. They can be also added onto as your household grows and requirements change. Warranty periods have increased too so it is worth shopping around. A strong warranty program covering up to 25 years ensures you get the most bang for your buck.
And in an era where many of us own tablet devices, you can even closely monitor how your solar is performing. Products such as Enphase enable you to download software onto your desktop, tablets or phone to keep a watchful eye on your home’s energy storage and consumption. It is this kind of technology that is a game changer. Knowing how your household consumes energy encourages users to adopt better energy saving habits including turning off lights not in use, running the washing machine and dishwasher only when full and identifying which appliances drain the most energy. It creates a conscious mind shift from being a passive energy consumer to one that is active and aware. And I am sure the competitive streak inside many of us will kick into gear as we strive to reduce our reliance on the grid, and watch our energy bills drop from month to month.
The Clean Energy Council provides an excellent consumer guide to installing solar, including the nitty gritty of individual State guidelines for connection and lists accredited installers. If you have converted your household to solar we would love you to share your story in the comments field below.