FAQs

If you’d like to know more about how solar works you can take a look at our handy solar guide. It explains the ins and outs of solar, including handy tips on what to look out for in terms of systems, providers and installation, along with how much you can expect to save on your electricity bills. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, then check out these FAQs. Otherwise, please call our ActewAGL Solar Team on 13 14 93 and they will be happy to help you.

Solar in general

 How does rooftop solar work? 

It’s a pretty simple process. Check out our handy solar guide for details.

 How much solar can I expect to generate. 

Our handy solar guide shows you how much solar you can expect to generate each year based on the orientation and tilt of your panels, along with your potential electricity bill savings based on various system sizes.

 How is solar metered or measured?

In Canberra, solar connections are net metered. Check out our handy solar guide for more information.

 What are Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs)?

STCs help subsidise the cost of your solar system. Check out our handy solar guide to find out what your approximate STC subsidy would be.

 Are there subsidies available to me if I get solar installed?

Yes, you will be entitled to a discount based on the number of STCs your system is entitled to generate. Check out our handy solar guide for information on STCs.

 What type of ongoing maintenance will I need to do?

For your panels, there really is no maintenance required, except making sure your panels are kept clean and free from shade. These are preventable by pruning trees when necessary and arranging an annual clean of your panels.

Your local network provider requires your inverter to undergo a mandatory anti-islanding safety test at 5 year intervals. We can arrange this safety test for you, at your request.

 Is there much point having solar when I’m not at home most of the day?

Yes. Even though you mightn’t be home during the sunniest part of the day when your solar panels are generating the most amount of energy, appliances like your fridge and freezer are still running. You can increase the amount of solar energy you use by setting other appliances like your dishwasher, or washing machine, to run during the day.

 How long will it take before my solar system is up and running?

We can provide you with a quote within a few hours. Then, from the day you accept the quote it will typically take 4-8 weeks until you’re up and running. This is because of all of the steps and parties involved in the process, including the meter upgrade, installation, safety inspection and system commissioning.

 Do I have to own the home to have solar installed?

Yes, in order to have solar installed you need to own the home. If you are renting and want to install solar, you will need to provide us with written permission from the home owner and a copy of the rates notice.

 I am on a rural property, can solar panels be installed on my shed?

Yes, solar panels can be installed on your shed provided you have the relevant approvals and your shed roof is capable of supporting the racking system. We would recommend a site visit to take a look first.

 Does it matter if my home is Heritage Listed or in a Heritage Conservation Area?

Yes, please let us know if this is the case. It will impact the position on your roof where your solar panels can be installed so that there is little or no impact on the appearance of your home from the street or another public area.

 Will installing solar affect my off-peak hot water tariff?

No, your off-peak hot water will continue to be separately metered as it is now.

 I'm a business customer, how much can I potentially save?

Business customers tend to save more than residential customers for the same sized system because as a business, you typically tend to use more electricity overall and in particular, during the day when your panels will be generating the most amount of energy.

Panels and inverters

 What is the best location on my roof for my solar panels?

Check out our handy solar guide. In Canberra to maximise the amount of energy your panels generate, your panels should be installed facing north and tilted at 30 degrees to the horizon (most homes in Canberra have a 30 degree roof pitch).

Here’s a comprehensive table outlining the generation you can expect if your panels are installed on a different orientation and tilt, taken from the Clean Energy Council’s Grid Connect Design Guidelines handbook.

Table of generation expectation

 How does shading affect the amount of solar I generate?

Panels should not be placed in shaded areas. Shade on just one panel can result in lots of panels losing power. Our handy solar guide contains more information on this.

 I’ve heard German manufacturers provide the best quality panels and inverters. Is that true?

No, many world-class panels and inverters are now manufactured in Asia, just like components and technology for other industries.

 Should I pay extra for ultra-efficient panels?

No, unless you don’t have a lot of roof space. Essentially, ultra-efficient panels are just physically smaller but generate the same output as a normal sized panel. Panels that come with 15% efficiency are more than sufficient. Read our handy solar guide for details.

 What does the panel’s power tolerance mean?

Most solar panels operate at 250 Watts (W). A manufacturer will provide a power tolerance rating for their panels, expressed as a plus or minus percentage (e.g. 250W +/- 10% means the manufacturer is saying that the panel could operate at 110% power = 275W, or 90% power = 225W, which is lower than you might have thought you were buying).

 Why is a positive power tolerance so important?

As mentioned above, you want to make sure you are getting the most power out of your panels. A positive power tolerance means the manufacturer guarantees the panel output will match or exceed the power rating provided. It also indicates the manufacturer has good quality control processes in place.

 What is a panel’s performance ratio?

The performance ratio is an indication of how your panels operate under “real world” conditions vs lab conditions quoted on the panel’s specification sheet. For example, a 250W panel that only produces 220W when tested under “real world” conditions has an 88% performance ratio (220 divided by 250). It’s important to look for panels that perform at over 90%.

 I’m confused by all of the warranties, what are they again?

Basically, you should make sure that your panels, inverter and installation are all covered by these warranties.

For panels, you should make sure you are covered by two warranties.

  1. The manufacturer’s product warranty (good quality panels come with a 10-year product warranty).
  2. The manufacturer’s performance warranty (good quality panels come with a 25-year linear performance warranty).

For the inverter, you should make sure you are covered by the manufacturer’s product warranty (generally, most inverters come with a 5-year product warranty, so make sure you look for an inverter that has a reputable presence in the Australian market).

And for installation, you should make sure that your solar provider covers you with a workmanship warranty.

 Why is a linear performance warranty on my panels so important?

A linear performance warranty is important, as it provides you with a guarantee that your panels will perform at a higher output over the term of the warranty period, compared to a standard warranty. See the graph below for details.

Linear performance warranty graph

 Is it true that panel performance deteriorates over time?

Yes, the output of any solar system will gradually decrease over time. That’s why it’s important to make sure your panels are covered by a linear performance warranty, rather than a standard performance warranty.

 What is a “split array” and why would I have one?

Solar panels are generally installed all together on one area of your roof. This is called an array (for example, a 2kW system consisting of 8 panels would typically be installed on one section of your roof in the configuration of 4 panels across by 2 panels deep, called a ‘4 by 2’ array).

A split array is when your panels are installed as two or more separate groups. This may happen if your north-facing roof space isn’t large enough to accommodate all of the panels and a second array has to be installed on your west-facing roof. You may also need a split array if you opt for a large system and it’s not possible to fit all of the panels together on one part of your roof.

 What’s the difference between ‘poly’ and ‘mono’ crystalline panels?

‘Mono’ (monocrystalline) solar cells are manufactured from a single crystal of silicon and are typically black in colour. ‘Poly’ (polycrystalline) solar cells are made up of multiple crystals and their colour can vary from light to dark blue due to the different manufacturing processes involved. Choosing whether to go with mono or poly cells isn’t as important as choosing solar panels based on the quality and reliability of the manufacturer.

Mono and Poly solar pictures

 What does an inverter do?

An inverter converts the DC electricity generated by your solar panels into AC electricity that can be used in your home and fed back into the electricity grid. Read more in our handy solar guide.

 What’s the difference between Euro efficiency and peak/max efficiency when choosing an inverter?

It is important to look for an inverter with a higher ‘Euro efficiency’ rather than ‘peak efficiency’ because Euro efficiency measures efficiency over a broad range of load. See our handy solar guide for more info.

 What is an MPPT inverter and will I need a single or a dual MPPT?

MPPT is short for “maximum power tracking point”, which basically means the electrical operating point of your panels can be varied so that your panels deliver the maximum amount of power. Most solar installations only need a single tracker MPPT inverter. You will generally need a dual MPPT inverter when you have panels facing different directions. For example, if half of your installed panels face north and the other half face east. Read our handy solar guide for more information.

 Why is Clean Energy Council accreditation important?

It’s your guarantee that you are dealing with qualified installers and receiving quality products. Check out our handy solar guide for more.

 How can I check if my panels and inverter are accredited by the Clean Energy Council?

Go to www.solaraccreditation.com.au/products.html.

Installation

 Who is going to install my system?

ActewAGL Solar only uses experienced, local and qualified installers who are Clean Energy Council accredited. We also offer you a 5-year whole of system warranty including both workmanship and products for extra peace-of-mind.

*Please see section 9 of our terms and conditions for more details.

 Do I need to be at home when my system is installed?

Yes, you will need to be home when your installation is taking place so that our installer can run you through the basic operating details of your system and provide you with a copy of your installation manual. You will also need to sign some paperwork. Only the named owner can sign the paperwork – this cannot be done on your behalf by your spouse/partner, flatmate etc.

 What standards do your installers comply with?

Our installers comply with the following standards.

  • AS4777 Grid-connections of energy systems via inverters
  • AS/NZS 3000 Electrical wiring rules
  • AS 1768 Lightning protection
  • AS/NZS 1170.2 Wind loads
  • AS/NZS 5033 Installation of photovoltaic (PV) arrays.

Costs

 Are there any hidden costs?

When you’re comparing quotes, make sure you check the inclusions and exclusions. Is the solar meter upgrade and safety inspection fees included? Is the STC rate firm or indicative? Check our handy solar guide for more tips. In addition to the solar meter being installed, you actual meter board may also need to be upgraded which can be expensive. As part of the quote process, we ask you to send us a photo of your meter box so we can advise if this is the case.

 What things could make my system cost more than normal?

There are additional charges for non-standard systems and installations. These include if you have 3 phase power supply, terracotta roof tiles, a flat or steep roof, double storey house, require a split array, inverter upgrade or meter board upgrade.

 I’m on a budget, can I pay off the system?

Yes, you can select a payment option to suit your budget. 

 How long will you pay a buyback rate?

Our buyback rate is set annually each July to reflect the ordinary cost of purchasing wholesale electricity.

 Someone I know is getting a higher buyback rate, why is this?

There have been a number of government legislated feed-in-tariff schemes over the years, which have now expired, so this is why some people are receiving different buyback rates.

 Can I keep my STCs, rather than receive the STC rebate?

Yes, you can choose to pay the pre-STC price on your quote and keep your STCs if you’d like to.

 Is now a good time to buy solar or will prices keep coming down?

The cost of solar has reduced significantly over the past 5 years, but it’s unlikely that there will be such dramatic price drops in the future. In 2013, Choice advised that “Grid-connected solar systems are unlikely to cost any less than they are now”. So now is a good time to buy if you’re thinking about investing in solar.

Our handy solar guide has even more info

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