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Choosing A Solar Power System

Electricity prices in Australia are among the highest in the world and if you’re among the millions of Australians who are fed up with paying exorbitant prices from energy retailers, a solar system may be the answer.

Buying solar power for the first time can be a daunting experience, with advertising coming at you from all over the TV, internet and radio, most buyers don’t know where to start. Hopefully after reading this guide you will have a much better understanding of the products available, what’s the fair price to be paying and what makes a quality solar power system. 

Jumping into a long-term commitment like solar energy too quickly without doing the proper research can prove to be a costly mistake, as a huge percentage of buyers will unfortunately be able to attest to.  The market has been flooded with cheap, poorly installed systems that just aren’t doing the job they were sold to and on the other end of the scale many buyers find out they’ve paid far too much for their investment. 

The goal here is to help you choose a wise investment that will do its job for years to come.

I’ll cover 4 basic areas:


There are 2 key components of a grid connect solar power system.  These are the Solar Panels and the inverter.  There are literally hundreds of different panels and inverters available in Australia and it is crucial that you choose wisely.


There are two main types of solar panels available; Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline.  There are slight pros and cons to each of these, but essentially, the type isn’t that important. 

What is important, is buying a quality product, that has a proper warranty, a long-term history in the country, good financial backing, and quality manufacturing standards.

There are good entry level modules, mid-range modules and premium modules.  Unfortunately, there are also a huge number of extremely poor-quality modules, that have been rebranded or poorly manufactured and these are the ones you need to avoid.  If it seems too cheap, it probably is.

Another myth is that all Chinese products are bad, there are several very good Chinese products on the market that will make up the good entry level to mid-range below, however the more premium modules are generally made in Singapore, Korea and even Mexico.

Below is a bit of a range guide to see where certain brands fit, these are the most popular brands sold throughout SEQ and if a brand doesn’t appear below you should be somewhat sceptical.  These are based on my opinion having been in the industry for a decade selling, servicing, and replacing the products.

                             Entry Level             Mid-Range                   Premium                      Top End


As per the advice with solar panels, the same is true for inverters, there are good quality entry level right up to premium top end inverters. This selection is also crucial, and it would be wise to invest in a top-quality inverter.


Without getting super technical, inverters fit into three categories, string inverters, micro inverters, and optimised systems.

As per the advice with panels, there’s applications for all the above and none can equivocally be called better than the others.

Micro inverters

Micro inverters are small inverters mounted directly underneath each panel on the roof.  Typically, Enphase branded, these are particularly good in situations where the home has scattered shading throughout the day or obstacles on the roof that block certain panels.  They are also good if a job has multiple roof aspects.  Enphase systems offer great monitoring and features but can be quite costly.

String Inverters

String inverters are the most common in Australia, these are what you’ll find on almost every installation.  A string inverter works with several solar panels wired together in a long ‘string’ of panels, which come back to the inverter as DC power which is then converted to AC power and fed to the home or gird.  These are suitable for most installations.

Optimised Systems

Optimised systems combine the benefits of both of the above, typically SolarEdge branded systems these are a DC string inverter essentially, but with an ‘optimiser’ mounted underneath each solar panel to enhance and capture the best performance of each module.  These systems offer great monitoring, being able to record and view the data of every panel individually.  Optimised systems are perfect for shaded roofs or multiple roof aspects and make tricky designs much more achievable.  These systems are usually the most expensive but offer many benefits over your typical string inverter. It should also be mentioned that these systems are also considered much safer than others as they can quickly and easily reduce a system to a safe low voltage in an emergency with the flick of a switch.


Below is a bit of a range guide to see where certain brands fit, these are the most popular brands sold throughout SEQ and if a brand doesn’t appear below you should be somewhat sceptical.  These are based on my opinion having been in the industry for a decade selling, servicing, and replacing the products.


                                        Entry Level                                 Mid Range                                   Premium


Choosing the correct installer is probably the most important part of the process, you’ve got the products, you know what’s good quality, so lets just go and find the cheapest price for a Fronius inverter and LG panel right? Wrong.

If you wind your mind back to the pink bats insulation disaster a few years back, you’ll remember that every man and his dog was all the sudden selling bats because the government was funding them to do so, it led to horrible installations all throughout QLD and even a few deaths.

Unfortunately, the same type of people have been drawn to solar, they sell a system, then hire the very cheapest sub-contractor to go and whack it on your roof, wipe their hands with the customer and count their money.  The companies then close their doors after 12 months and the poor customer is left high and dry with no warranties or after sales service.

When buying a solar power system, it is crucial to check the installers history and experience.  Ideally choose a company that uses their own well trained, full time staff to do the installations, as they’re able to maintain their quality of workmanship in house.  Using sub-contractors can be a lucky dip for the customer, sometimes you’ll get a good one, but if you get a bad one, it could be too late before you realise.

You can perform a few checks before going ahead that are simple to do:

If you can tick all the above boxes, that’s a pretty good start.


What you need for your home

Deciding what you need can be very broad and hard to cover, so I will focus on what you should have prepared before receiving quotes, to arm you against people selling you something you don’t need.

Firstly, your current electricity usage.  Have your most recent electricity bill handy and on the front page there should be a guide to your daily usage, measured in KwH.  This is generally a figure between 10 and 40.  A salesperson when attending your home should be able to look at this figure and project a system size that suits and an expected payback period and quarterly saving.  You should also have a very realistic idea of how much power you can use during the day and how much power you will use during the evening.  This is crucial to getting an accurate savings estimate.  Think of things such as pool pumps (which can run all day), if people are home during the day, can your washing be done on the weekend and any other potential day time usage.  Be honest with the sales staff about when you can use your power.  Using power during the day can be 2 to 3 times more cost effective once your solar is installed. 

Secondly, your roof space, this is often the big deciding factor on how big or small a system you can have.  A company should either physically measure your roof or have a satellite image with panel placement ready to go.  Your roof space should ideally be North, East or West facing, with as little shade as possible, however even partially shaded or South facing roofs, can be made to work, through good design and realistic expectations.  If someone is selling something without seeing the roof, then be sceptical.

Third, you should be aware if you have single or 3 phase power.  It is a myth that you can only have a maximum of 5kw of solar installed on your home.  In QLD, you are eligible to install 5kw per phase, so a 3-phase dwelling can have up to 15kw of inverter capacity.  Even a single-phase dwelling can have up to 10kw, provided they use an export limiting device on the system to export only 5kw to the grid.  If you are using the power to justify a larger system, these can be very cost effective and quick to pay off, so don’t let someone tell you 5kw is the best they can do!


Price and Rebates

Now that you have picked a good quality product, a reputable installer and you’re armed with the information about your own home, you need to know what to pay and what rebate you’re eligible for.

The big myth in solar is that the rebates are all gone, the feed in tariffs are all gone, so it’s not worth it anymore.  Don’t worry, that is well and truly a myth and the rebate is still well and truly available.

The STC rebate, is a federal government funded rebate based on the size of the system you are purchasing, you receive a certain amount of credits for every watt of solar you install, generally the solar company will claim this rebate on your behalf and provide it as a discount on the price of the system.  On a standard 6.5kw installation (the most popular choice in QLD) you will receive around $4000 of funding from the government toward the cost of your system.

Feed in tariffs are also still around, although the days of the 44c rebate in QLD are gone, solar was far more expensive back then, so proportionately the 8-18c rebates now available are still a great saving and can help pay the system back far more quickly than if there were none.

With regards to price AFTER the rebate has been included, your out of pocket cost should be somewhere within the guidelines below.  The old saying of ‘if it sounds too cheap, it probably is’ is truer in solar than anywhere, these companies advertising a 6kW system for $3800.00 certainly won’t be ticking the 4 boxes in the installer section I can assure you.  Probably 0 from 4.

Panels and inverters in the entry to mid range - $1 per watt

Panels and inverter in the premium to top area - $1.40 per watt

This means a good solid 6.5kW System, installed by a good installer should cost you are $6500, using something in my mid-range from the product tables.

If you want a premium inverter, top of the range inverter and a top-quality install by a company that will be around to back their warranties and provide quality service, expect to pay around $9000 for your 6.5kW system.

Hopefully now you’re ready to go ahead and get some quotes, if you’d like one from us, please feel free to contact us any time.