Expert’s grim warning about solar energy

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Thousands of budget conscious Aussies have turned to solar energy this year in an effort to cut their power bills.

According to the Energy Council, there were more than 85,000 new solar installations to homes across the country in the first three months of this year and research from solar search engine bidmysolar found 75 per cent of Australians said they would install solar on their home to reduce the increasing cost of electricity.

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However, experts warn if you’ve invested in a cut price system you will need to constantly monitor your system usage or risk paying more than you need to for power.

Anthony Hughes-Borton, 49, decided to install solar and include a monitoring system in 2015.

“I was excited about installing solar and paid extra for an independent solar monitoring device to check precisely how much energy the panels generated and what actually reached my meter board to see what kind of savings I will get on my power bill,” the Brisbane-based IT professional said.

“Before the solar panels my power bills ranged from $800 to $900 per quarter, with solar they instantly went down to $130 to $140.

“However, after the installation, I noticed the panels weren’t performing as I thought they should. It turned out that one of the two isolator switches were never turned on. I never would have noticed this if I wasn’t monitoring the system myself.”

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Bernie Kelly, founder of bidmysolar.com.au advises solar panel owners to use or install a solar monitor to ensure they’re getting value for money and keeping their power bills down.

“Consumers should be wary of any solar company saying that they monitor your system 24 hours a day using a rudimentary inverter app. You will be very disappointed with the outcome,” he says.

“We see too many people losing out on their solar system simply because they don’t know how it is expected to perform. Particularly with cheaper systems as you simply cannot expect to pay budget price for solar and think you will beat the odds, you just can’t and you will join the growing number of homeowners out of pocket.”

For those unsure of what they should be looking for when it comes to monitoring solar panels, Mr Kelly has some pointers.

“Independent solar monitors are installed at your meter board to provide the most reliable real-time data.

“However, if you consider independent monitoring too costly, then ensure your inverter app is operational and is showing performance either plus or minus five per cent from what you were quoted as the linear performance warranty, and if it’s well below that number, get onto the installer immediately.

“A cursory checking of the solar inverter is also essential, if it is green then it’s functioning properly, however red or orange means there is generally a system event or fault and it should be checked by a solar technician.”

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FAQs: Household solar panels

Can you run electricity for your entire home on solar panels?

You can run your entire home with a solar panel system with the right combination of solar panels, inverters and battery packs.

How many households have solar panels?

According to the government’s Clean Energy Regulator, up to 2021, more than 2.65 million solar panel systems have been installed on rooftops in Australia.

How long before solar panels pay for themselves?

It takes anywhere from two to seven years for a solar system to pay for itself – after which time you will start making savings.

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