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  • Writer's pictureLeila Souza

Solar Installation Services for Newbies: The Complete and Practical Step-By-Step Guide on How to Build, Design and Install Solar Panels

Updated: Jun 26

Explore solar energy below the surface. In this guide, you will find everything you need about solar installation services.



The definitive guide to solar installation services in Sydney

Over the last decade, the expenses of solar installation services in Sydney have significantly dropped, thanks to notable advancements in technical efficiencies. As a result, an increasing number of Australians are adopting a solar energy lifestyle. According to a report from the Clean Energy Regulator, an impressive two million Australian households now boast solar installations.


Despite this commendable progress, it's crucial to acknowledge that fossil fuels still contribute to 91% of primary energy consumption in Australia (Source: energy.gov.au). Not only do fossil fuels have adverse effects on the environment, but research also highlights their association with various illnesses due to combustion.


The reality is that embracing a renewable energy lifestyle transcends safeguarding the environment for future generations; it is a pressing need for our immediate well-being. While the predominant focus often revolves around climate change and global warming as consequences of environmental pollution, it's essential to recognize the direct impact on our health, influenced by pollution and climate alterations.


In response to these concerns, Sydney homeowners are taking proactive steps by integrating solar panels into their homes. This approach allows them to conserve energy and diminish their environmental footprint. Our purpose in crafting this guide is to provide comprehensive insights into the vital aspects of solar energy adoption, empowering individuals to make informed choices for a sustainable future.



The Definitive Guide to Solar Energy - Content Table


What is Solar Energy: An Overview

Solar energy, derived from the sun's light and heat, is a sustainable and environmentally friendly method of electricity generation. As a clean energy source, it plays a crucial role in reducing carbon footprint and promoting green living. The sun, functioning as a natural nuclear reactor, emits photons—tiny packets of energy. Remarkably, in just one hour, the sun releases a theoretically abundant number of photons capable of generating solar energy equivalent to meeting global energy demands for an entire year.


Solar Photovoltaic (commonly referred to as solar PV) and Solar Thermal stand out as the primary solar power technologies. These systems harness natural sunlight to produce practical energy solutions. Solar PV systems leverage solar energy for electricity generation, while solar thermal systems focus on heating water and/or air. Exploring the nuances of these solar technologies is essential for anyone interested in harnessing the power of the sun for sustainable energy practices.


Why Choose a Solar Energy System

Selecting a solar energy system is the optimal choice for cutting down on electricity expenses, minimizing pollution, and enhancing the value of your home.

learn about the benefits of solar panels installation

Having a solar system implies ownership of a significant portion of the electricity you use, diminishing dependence on the electricity grid and retailers. This enhances control over your future electricity requirements, with many households recouping the investment in solar energy within approximately five to six years.


Beyond the financial benefits, solar power contributes positively to the environment, offering a means to reduce your carbon footprint. Opting for a solar energy system, particularly through the installation of solar panels on your roof, represents a secure and straightforward commitment to fostering a sustainable future.


Composition of a Solar System

So, what constitutes a solar system? A solar system is a combination of essential components working together to generate electricity. These components not only regulate and control the flow of electricity but also connect and mount the solar system to your building.


According to the LG Solar Guide for Beginners,

A grid-connected solar system comprises panels, a string inverter or micro-inverters or optimizers, a roof mounting system, and electrical accessories, including circuit breakers and wires. It is crucial that each component functions seamlessly, with no compromise to the performance, safety, or life expectancy of any other component.


How Does Solar Energy Produce Electricity?

Solar PV panels consist of smaller units known as photovoltaic cells. These cells collectively form a solar panel, and multiple panels (modules) can be interconnected to create a solar array. Positioned on the roof of a home or business, these panels convert sunlight into usable electricity, contributing to clean energy generation.


How do solar panels work?

In simple terms, solar panels allow particles of light (photons) to strike a solar cell, releasing electrons from atoms. Conductors attached to the positive and negative sides of a cell create an electrical circuit. When electrons flow through this circuit, they generate electricity.


Energy Culture collaborates with top-tier solar product brands, selecting them based on after-service care, product quality, longevity, and environmental considerations.


Solar Inverters

Among the critical components of a solar system, inverters play a vital role. They convert the variable direct current (DC) output from a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel into a utility frequency alternating current (AC). This AC can be fed into a commercial electrical grid or used by a local off-grid electrical network (Solar inverter, From Wikipedia).


Unused electricity can be directed back into the grid via a digital meter or stored in batteries, depending on your system setup. Modern hybrid inverters feature an integrated battery management system.


Given the Australian climate's demands, Energy Culture collaborates with Enphase microinverters for residences, Selectronic smart inverter chargers, and Fronius for commercial systems.


Mounting

Photovoltaic mounting systems serve as structures to secure solar panels to roofs, building facades, or the ground. Typically made of aluminium with stainless steel hardware, these systems accommodate various solar modules and roof types. Most mounting systems facilitate retrofitting solar panels onto roofs or integrating them into the building structure.


A robust and well-engineered mounting system is crucial to safeguard the investment in your solar system. While the standard warranty for a mounting frame is 10 years, it's advisable to ensure that the warranties align with or surpass those of your solar panels and inverters.


Batteries: Enhancing Solar Power Storage for Your Home

Solar batteries play a crucial role in storing surplus solar energy for future use, offering an effective solution to optimise your solar power system. When incorporating a battery, the unused solar energy generated during the day is harnessed to charge the battery, ensuring a reserve for consumption during nighttime or early morning hours.


At Energy Culture, we prioritise safety and flexibility in solar battery storage solutions, collaborating with leading brands such as Enphase Solar and Tesla Powerwall. Enphase Solar and Storage is a state-of-the-art energy storage system known for its long lifespan and top-notch quality, providing users with an optimal energy solution. On the other hand, the Tesla Powerwall solar battery, equipped with a built-in battery inverter, stands out for its compact design and seamless integration into your home.


Metering: A Vital Component in Solar System Optimisation

Metering is critical to managing your solar system, allowing for precise measurement of both solar generation and energy consumption. The two prevalent types of metering in Australia are Net and Gross Metering.


image explaining how NET and Gross meters works
How Gross and Net Meters Works

Net meters, also referred to as advanced meters, empower you to utilise the energy your solar system produces and even sell any excess electricity back to the grid. This dynamic system enables you to balance your energy consumption, seamlessly importing any additional energy needed from the grid if your solar system generates less than what you consume. As we delve deeper into solar metering in our upcoming article, discover how net meters contribute to the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your solar power setup.


Gross Metering

Within systems employing gross meters, all the solar energy generated by your system is exported to the grid at a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Consequently, all the energy utilised within your household is imported at the prevailing rate set by the energy retailer.


Since 2017, smart meters have become the standard installation for all new homes or replacements in New South Wales. This transition to smart meters reflects a commitment to modern and efficient energy management practices, enhancing the accuracy and flexibility of energy consumption measurements.


Measuring performance

Now that your solar system is installed, it's essential to assess the performance of its components. According to the Clean Energy Council Guidelines, solar systems in each Australian capital should achieve at least 90% of the specified daily kilowatt-hour (kWh) outputs per kilowatt (kW) installed, averaged over a year:


- Adelaide: 4.2 kWh

- Brisbane: 4.2 kWh

- Canberra: 4.3 kWh

- Darwin: 4.4 kWh

- Hobart: 3.5 kWh

- Melbourne: 3.6 kWh

- Perth: 4.4 kWh

- Sydney: 3.9 kWh


For instance, if you have a 4 kW system in Sydney, it should ideally produce an average of 15.6 kWh per day over a year.


It's important to note that these figures represent the standard performance of your solar panels. For more precise data that accounts for variations in seasons and temperatures, considering a smart monitor is advisable. Energy Culture collaborates with Solar Analytics' Smart Monitors, providing the capability to swiftly detect and diagnose any faults, failures, or underperformance, offering a more comprehensive understanding of your solar system's efficiency.


Understand the Solar Rating System

Solar panels are equipped with a power rating tag that specifies the amount of power generated under standardised test conditions in the industry. The rating is determined based on the number of watts the panel can produce, calculated by multiplying the panel's peak power voltage by its peak power amperage (Pmax = Vmpp x Impp or Watts = Volts x Amps).


How the Grid System Works


image explaining how the grid system works
How The Grid System Works

An electric grid system comprises a network of interconnected power providers and consumers linked by transmission and distribution lines, overseen by one or more operational centres. Essentially, the grid serves as the transmission system for electricity.


Power is generated at the power plant, and the grid distribution system facilitates the transfer of energy from these plants to residences and businesses. Australia's grid is intricate, characterized by its increased reliance on renewable sources, decentralization, and the disruption of conventional industry norms.




Solar Power Financial Incentives in Australia

The Clean Energy Regulator (CER) wants to encourage people to use clean energy, like solar panels, to help the environment. They give a special reward called Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) to those who install these clean energy systems. This reward can pay for almost one-third of the cost of putting up solar panels. Anyone, whether they're a person, a family, or a business, can get this reward if they install the right kind of clean energy system.


What solar panel rebates for homeowners are there in Sydney?

The NSW Government has set a goal for achieving net-zero emissions by 2030, signaling a commitment to address climate change in the region. Installing solar PV systems at home aligns with this goal, and there are various funding incentives to support these efforts.


Investing in solar energy in 2024 is particularly advantageous, given the array of rebates, schemes, and loan options available. These opportunities significantly lower the costs associated with solar installations.


The Rebate Scheme stands out as the primary incentive offered by the NSW Government, providing a point-of-sale discount on the expenses related to solar PV systems, with a maximum claim amount of $2000.


Additional government solar panel rebates for homeowners are accessible in New South Wales (NSW), including Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs), Feed-in Tariff (FiT), Empowering Homes – Solar Battery Loan Program, and Solar For Low-Income Households.

In this case, you don't have to worry about claiming or trading the STCs – a registered agent takes care of it for you. It's a quicker and simpler way. But if you want, after your system is installed, you can still choose to deal with the STCs yourself.


If your system isn't installed yet, you can ask the seller if they have a plan where you give them the right to claim the STCs, and you get a discount in return. It's a way to make things easier for you!


How to choose a solar installer

Selecting the right solar installer is crucial for a successful solar system. Follow these steps to make an informed decision:


1. Check Accreditation: Ensure the solar designer/installer is accredited by the Clean Energy Council. Accreditation ensures the installer meets industry standards.

2. Local Expertise: Choose a local installer who evaluates your specific needs, assesses roof space, considers orientation, and shading impact, and ensures compliance with building codes and electrical standards.

3. Experience Matters: Look into the installer's background and experience. Some contractors may lack expertise in solar installations, so research their reviews and track records.

4. Customer Reviews: Investigate customer reviews to gauge the company's reputation. A highly rated company, like Energy Culture, demonstrates customer satisfaction and reliability.


How to Avoid Unreliable Solar Companies

The rise of Australia’s residential solar industry brought an upsurge in complaints about solar companies. The Clean Energy Regulator reported that about 16% of units installed in Australia are underperforming or not configured correctly and 4% are unsafe. These stats are alarming, without proper advice, investing in solar can be stressful and confusing.


So, how to avoid dodgy solar companies and buy a quality solar PV? Even if the path to renewable energy seems daunting and confusing, there is always a solution and it’s called accreditation. The solar industry has more credentials programs than ever to protect consumers and diminish scams.


Look for solar companies accredited by the Clean Energy Council - CEC. In their website, you can search for accredited solar installers; they also list the categories of accreditation - be aware that there are three types of grid-connect accreditation. Off-grid systems need separate CEC accreditation.


Be sure the components for the system quoted are clearly specified by make, size and model, and are CEC approved. Also, check if the list of CEC Approved Solar Retailers to verify if a supplier is actually approved. Energy Culture is a CEC’s approved solar retailer and our CEO Jonathan Edginton is an approved solar installer.


The other things to check before committing to a solar company is the years of operation, ideally, the company has been in the market for more than 5 years; they have an office in Australia and does not offer a one-size-fits-all system.


Always avoid offers that seem too good to be true; companies that use aggressive sales pitch, make exaggerated claims and gives unrealistic investment payback times.


Even if the retailer, installer, solar panel and inverter is accredited by CEC, there is no guarantee that you’re picking a quality solar system. However, it’s always good practice buying well-known brand-name panels and inverters from companies that have a history operating in Australia. This way, if the retailer or installer goes out of business, you can easily contact the importer or manufacturer to make a claim.


To avoid unreliable solar companies, follow these tips:
1. Accreditation: Choose companies accredited by the Clean Energy Council. Check their website for accredited solar installers and approved solar retailers.
2. Detailed Quotation: Ensure the system components are clearly specified. Check for CEC-approved components and verify if the supplier is on the list of CEC Approved Solar Retailers.
3. Company Background: Check the company's years of operation, office location, and system customization. Avoid one-size-fits-all approaches.
4. Be Cautious: Be wary of offers that seem too good to be true, aggressive sales pitches, exaggerated claims, and unrealistic payback times.

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Questions to ask before you buy

Once you've identified a solar company, ask these questions to make an informed decision:

1. System Production: Inquire about the estimated monthly and annual production in kWh.

2. Best and Worst Months: Ask about solar electricity production estimates for the best and worst months.

3. Responsibility: Clarify the responsibilities of the manufacturer, installer, and consumer.

4. Grid Connection: Determine who is responsible for connecting the solar PV system to the electricity grid and the timeline for this.

5. Solar Rebate (STCs): Understand how the installer will credit your solar rebate (STCs).

6. Service and Maintenance: Identify the professional responsible for servicing and maintaining your solar system.


Those are a few essential inquiries that you should ask to understand the service and benefits you will receive.


Adopt a solar energy lifestyle

Embracing a solar energy lifestyle is a valuable process. While the path may seem confusing, it's a worthwhile investment that reduces energy bills and carbon footprint.


Buy your solar panel system today! Schedule a call with our solar experts to kickstart your journey toward cleaner and more sustainable energy.





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