The Australian solar panel buying guide
The complete guide of what to look for when buying solar panels.
Buying solar panels can be an excellent investment – for both your family and the environment. But it is a substantial investment – so it’s beneficial to do your research before committing.
Our complete guide to buying solar panels covers – the cost, system size, selecting a reputable installer, warranties, and choosing a quality panel.
If you wish to know more about solar power before investigating panels, read our solar power for home and business guide here.
System size:How many panels youneed for your house
The size is calculated based on how much electricity you use, and when you consume it. If you’re considering solar panels, your daylight electricity usage is critical to the system size. If you’re looking to install a battery with the system, then the system size is best calculated based on your average daily electricity usage as opposed to daylight usage.
Size dimensions of solar panels
In terms of physical size, a 3kW system can consist of 12 x 250W (Watt) panels or 9 x 335W panels. The dimensions of each panel, regardless of the system, will be roughly 1.0 x 1.7m2. The 9 module system features fewer panels and takes up less roof space.
This system size calculator will help you select the right system size for your property.
The cost ofsolar panels
The below table indicates the average industry cost of solar panels of different system sizes. These prices are a good starting point before delving further into comparing the quality of different solar panel brands and installers.
|3kW||$4,000 – $5,500|
|5kW||$5,500 – $7,000|
|6.6kW||$6,500 – $8,500|
|10kW||$12,000 – $15,000|
The prices above include the solar panel rebate which varies according to how much power is produced by a solar power system.
The differences between Australian states
The cost of solar panels varies across major Australian cities, as does the energy output based on their location. For example, a 5kW system in Melbourne will, on average generate 18kWh per day, while in sunnier Brisbane, the same size system will generate 21.8 kWh per day. The below table indicates the different costs of installing a 5kW system across different Australian cities.
The cost of panels is important, but you should consider the annual and lifetime savings that your investment in solar panels can potentially bring; our solar power calculator can help you calculate your possible savings and results.
Ready for your quotes?
Solar panel installation:obtaining quotes
The installation of your solar panels is the most important step in the process. Finding and selecting a reputable installer company is critical to the safety and ongoing performance of your system. We recommend getting several quotes from installer companies before committing to a purchase. All suppliers you approach should be fully accredited by the Clean Energy Council.
Why our quotes are different
We do the hard work for you. The companies we refer customers to all engage CEC accredited installers and provide above-average install warranties and after-sales service. They are in the business for the long haul. We believe in only working with the best quality solar installers who provide quality professional service.
To obtain three free quotations, complete the form below:
Solar panel quotecomparison
What should be on your quotation
When you see prices quoted for solar panels, this quote should include the panels, inverter, your applicable solar rebate, GST and the cost of installation. State rebates may be separate to your quote.
It doesn’t just come down to price
Comparing solar quotes is not strictly a price comparison exercise; you are comparing: different products, warranties, reputation, accreditation and the quality of the craft of install.
The price of each quote will likely differ depending on:
- The quality and number of panels
- The quality and size of the inverter
- Type and quality of other components, i.e. mounting, cabling, etc.
- Height and accessibility of the rooftop
- The type of roof, i.e. tiled, tin, slate etc.
- Performance, product, service and entire system warranties
- After sales service and code of conduct
Best value for money
When comparing solar quotes, you will need to factor in the price, but more importantly, you should consider value for money. A cheap system may have a faster payback, but the risk of it failing within five years may be far greater, and; it is likely to deteriorate faster. Better value for money is likely in the long term with a good quality system installed by a reputable company.
An accredited solar PV installer
The solar company you select to supply and install your solar power system is just as important as the system itself. You should ensure the Clean Energy Council accredits the people installing your system. If you don’t use CEC accredited installers, you won’t be entitled to a government solar rebate.
Consider the system warranty
When comparing solar quotes, you must pay careful attention to the different warranties within the quotation. What is the process if the system stops functioning as it should? The solar company should also provide you with some comfort as to the longevity and sustainability of their own business; if they’re no longer around, your system warranty will become null and void.
Solar panel warranties and consumer law
There are all sorts of different warranties to consider when it comes to comparing solar power systems. These include:
- Solar panel performance warranty (25 years)
- Solar panel product warranty (10 – 25 years)
- Inverter warranty (5 – 10 years)
- Installation (quality) warranty
- Whole system warranty
Performance vs product warranty
Most solar panel warranties come with a 25-year performance warranty from the manufacturer. Don’t confuse this with the product warranty, as this is one indicator that can separate better quality panels from lower grade modules. The product warranty guarantees that the product will continue working, while the performance warranty provides that the system will deliver 80% of its rated output after 25 years.
Entire system warranty
The inverter will also come with a warranty, but perhaps more important than these warranties is the entire system installation warranty. A reputable solar company will guarantee the installation of the whole system for a period of up to at least five years.
Australian Consumer Law
You should also be aware of your rights as a consumer under Australian law. Australian Consumer Law covers solar products and, provides that the product will function, work and last as it has been advertised/promised. If it doesn’t, then you have consumer rights for:
- Repair or replacement
- Cancellation of contract
- Compensation for damages or loss
Your rights for the repair, cancellation and compensation under Consumer law may be at the discretion of the installer or manufacturer. It is a good idea to consult a solicitor in this instance.
We certainly do not recommend you purchase a solar panel system from a door-to-door salesperson or a telemarketer, but if you do, you’re entitled to a 10-day cooling off period after signing a contract.
The types of solar panels
The two most common solar panels are monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. Their colour typically differentiates them. Polycrystalline are bluer while monocrystalline panels take on a darker, almost black appearance. Both of these common panel types have their virtues and choosing one of the other is not as important as selecting a better quality panel with excellent performance and product warranties.
Solar panel lifespan
Importantly, all solar panels are expected to have a lifespan of 25+ years; however, the inverter, components used and the quality of the install can seriously impact on the performance of the panels.
Solar panel comparison: Which panels to choose
There is a myriad of options when it comes to selecting a solar panel brand. To complicate the process further, even once you decide on a manufacturer, each has different panels. The best solar panels usually are Tier 1 panels, although the term is often misused and misunderstood. When comparing solar panels, you should consider:
- Performance warranty
- Product warranty
- Temperature coefficient
- Manufacturer’s efficiency
Simply selecting high-quality panels isn’t enough. It’s also essential to choose a good quality inverter, and consider other system components like cabling and mounting brackets. Inverters are commonly the first component of a solar system to malfunction. If solar panels seem cheap, it’s more likely that a more economical system includes a lower grade inverter and shorter product and installation warranties. Quality cables are also an essential component of an efficient solar panel system.
Dirt and grime on your solar panels will lead to efficiency losses, so it’s important to clean your solar panels if they can be easily accessed. The more direct sunlight can easily reach the cells within each module, the better. Fortunately, mother nature does a pretty good job of cleaning them for us when it rains, but it may pay to clean and check them yourself every 6 – 12 months or get a professional company in to do so.
Solar panels will experience a level of deterioration over time. That is, all else being equal, they’ll perform better in earlier years than later years. The degradation is only natural really when you consider that solar panels have a projected lifespan of 25 years. The level of degradation varies between brands and is an indicator as to the quality of the panel.