Frequently asked questions by Darren Chung, owner of Shoalhaven Solar Energy Solutions

For when customers are doing solar power research, Finn Peacock and the Solar Quotes website is an excellent source of entry-level information for consumers.

From the countless reviews on solar panels and inverters to articles that help with potential design issues you may come across. The most significant benefit though is that it gives the consumer enough confidence to take the leap and begin asking for quotes.

Within a couple of months of joining the Solar Quotes installer program, I started to wonder why most of the customers I was speaking to had the same questions. Low and behold, there is a list of items recommended by Finn Peacock to ask potential installers! My answers to these are below.

Darren of Shoalhaven Solar Energy Solutions
Who designs my solar power system?

The accredited designer at Shoalhaven Solar Energy Solutions is myself. I personally review all solar designs to ensure the highest efficiencies from the proposed solar power system.

Is the designer accredited by the Clean Energy Council (not just the installer)?

Yes, my licence is a design and install solar licence.

If the panels are installed on different roof areas facing slightly different directions, will you use an inverter with separate inputs for each string of panels or DC optimisers or micro-inverters?

If we need to install panels on more than two different orientations, we will always use Tigo Optimizers. In most cases, however, we can usually offer a very suitable design without having to go to this expense.

If it is more beneficial to use optimizers over the long term, we will certainly install them with our customer’s permission.

Is there any shade on my roof? How much will it affect my output? What techniques are you using to mitigate shade?

The reason we insist on a site visit before proposing any design is that I want to confirm whether or not there will be any shading issues.

If shading is an issue, we need to discuss whether or not the affected array will benefit from optimisers or if the whole system needs to be reduced in size to avoid the problem.

There is not a straightforward answer to this question as every house has possible complexities.

How much of my solar energy do you expect me to self consume, and how much will be exported?

Lifestyle plays a big part in this equation. If the occupants of the home leave for work at 7 am and return at 6 pm, the amount of self-consumed energy will be far less than someone that works from home. Pool pumps and spas with timers, also play a large part in energy consumption.

With each proposal, we assess our customer’s lifestyle, and then the self-consumption percentage is adjusted accordingly. Educating our customers and offering ideas on how to self consume as much of the solar power as possible is an important part of our process.

Have you designed the system to maximise self-consumption. e.g. by considering East/West arays?

An East/West facing roof is the ideal roof location to install a solar power system. No matter the roof faces; however, we will always design a system to maximize self-consumption.

Have you considered energy management to increase self-consumption? e.g. diverting excess solar to my hot water system?

This is a question I get asked at least once per week. Here in the Shoalhaven, an off-peak hot water tariff with Origin is charged at 9 cents per kWh, which equates to the cheapest electricity you will get.

The solar power that is generated from your solar array is worth what you pay for peak time electricity (usually around 28 cents per kWh).

The feed-in tariff from Origin can be up to 20 cents per kWh, so if you’re installing solar power for financial reasons, you are far better off keeping your hot water on an off-peak tariff and feeding the excess to the grid.

Have you considered DC optimisers or micro inverters to improve energy yield?

We use Tigo Optimisers as our preferred optimising option. I do believe, however, that there is no real need to add optimisers to the panels if there are no shading issues. It is more beneficial upgrading the whole system to a larger array that has a higher yield.

Can I monitor my solar system performance?

Yes, you can monitor any solar power system. Most inverters have a monitoring platform that can be an addition to the system. Solar Analytics is also another excellent monitoring system to track your production.

Can I monitor my household consumption? (really useful for energy efficiency and self consumption)

Yes, self-consumption monitoring is certainly an option with any system. It does, however, come with an additional cost due to the extra hardware and time needed to install.

It is definitely beneficial to have this type of monitoring, as it gives a clear understanding to our customers of how much power each individual household appliance is consuming in real-time.

What brand of solar panels do you use? Premium or budget?

I believe that this is the most contestable area of discussion.

We have chosen to use QCELLS & LG Solar as our preferred solar brands – both of these brands are premium quality and regarded as the best performing solar technology on the market.

The price point of QCELLS panels suits most of our customers, and the quality of these panels, in my opinion, is as high in quality as you will get.

I believe that as an installer, you must be confident in the product you offer to ensure long jeopardy and maximum energy production for your customers.

What brand of inverter are you using? Is it a premium brand or budget?

There are only four inverter brands that I strongly recommend and they are all premium, two of which we install. They are Fronius, SMA, SolarEdge, and Enphase. We choose to install Fronius and SMA.

Will you include a stainless steel/aluminium rooftop isolator cover to protect the isolator from the sun?

This question is a little redundant these days, as it is mandatory to do so. If your installer isn’t using a $5 part, then this will be the least of your worries.

If I have to deal with the panel or inverter manufacturer in the future, do they have an Australian office?

When choosing which products to use, there will be installers that make their decision purely on price with no regard for warranty or manufacturing location.

The great thing about premium solar brands is that they generally have offices in Australia. All of our brands have a smooth customer service process and carry out repairs within Australia.

Shoalhaven Solar prides itself on aftercare and customer service so we will, of course, take care of any liaising with manufacturers.

How do I know what size system I need?

We can help you work that out with our Solar Savings Calculator, just fill the form and we'll email you back with an estimated size and savings/return on investment calculation. But as a rough indicator, see the following guidance:

  • 5.28 kW – Small-sized homes with 1-2 people and daily energy usage of (approx) 10-20 kWh per day

  • 6.6 kW – Small to average-sized homes 2-4 people, with a daily energy usage of (approx) 20-25 kWh per day

  • 9.9 kW – Average to large-sized homes with 4-5+ people and daily energy usage of (approx) 20-30 kWh per day

  • 12.87 kW – Large-sized homes with 5+ people and daily energy usage of (approx) 30-40 kWh per day

Can I buy a system outright?

Yes, you can and most people do. Depending on your requirements, a system may be $5000 or $15,000, but you have the choice to purchase up front if you have the capital.

How long will the system last?

The components in our systems come with long warranties (12 years). We also guarantee our workmanship for 10 years. However, it's not unusual that a system will last 20-25 years with very few problems.

What is the repayment period?

If you are buying outright, you can expect to have returned your investment within 3-5 years. If you will get finance, loan terms vary with each provider and financial product so you need to consult with the lender. However, typically these are around 3-6 years to repay.

What panels, inverters and batteries do you recommend?

We only install the best quality components. Check our products page to see which we recommend.

What happens if something goes wrong with the system?

All of our brands have a smooth customer service process and carry out repairs within Australia.

Shoalhaven Solar prides itself on our aftercare and customer service so we will, of course, take care of any liaising with manufacturers.

Are batteries worth it?

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