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Most Efficient Solar Panels Guide

Most Efficient Solar Panels Guide

Australia is one of the best places in the world for solar panels because of our sunny climate, and because of this, we have a great range of energy-efficient solar panels available to us.

However, this can be tricky because so much choice means that finding the right option for you can feel overwhelming.

We’ve put together a list of the most efficient solar panels, as well as some important things you need to think about when deciding on a solar panel system.

Most Efficient Solar Panels Guide

Efficiency by brand

There are two main numbers that you need to pay attention to when comparing brands of solar panels and that is output and efficiency. The output refers to the amount of energy that the system is capable of producing, and the efficiency is the percentage of the sun’s energy that the solar panel can convert into electricity.

Topping the list of energy-efficient solar panel brands is SunPower, with an output of 400W at an efficiency of 22.8%. Next on the list is LG, with an output of 380W and an efficiency of 21.7%. Third is Q Cells with an output of 340W and an efficiency of 20.3%. All three of these sit well above industry standards for both measures.

What is the industry standard efficiency of solar panels?

Average efficiency for solar panel systems sits around 15% to 20%, with only the top brands sitting at about that 20% level. This increase in efficiency will often come with a price increase, but the higher price will result in more energy produced, and the potential for savings down the line.

It’s important to note that efficiency is not only about the brand of solar panels, but can also be influenced by how and where the panels are placed, as well as the orientation and temperature.

How can I make the most of my solar panels?

Because of the cost difference between higher and lower efficiency solar panels, it’s important to get as much bang for your buck as possible. If your home has ample roof space, it may be more cost-effective for you to invest in more, lower-efficiency solar panels. High-efficiency solar panels are likely to be the right option for you if you have more limited roof space, or if you have a particularly high energy need in your home.

In addition to the efficiency of your solar panel brand, you can make the most of the energy you receive by being considerate of the other factors that impact efficiency. You can work with your installers to ensure you maximise the efficiency by placing your panels at the best angle and orientation, avoiding any shading that will prevent the sun from reaching your panels.

How can I make the most of my solar panels

Will solar panels get more efficient?

Scientists and manufacturers are constantly innovating and advancing the technology used in solar panels. This intense scientific attention means that advancements are happening all the time, and this trickles down into the commercial market.

Even just 10 years ago, the industry standard for efficiency was around 12%, and today’s efficiencies of up to 23% would have been completely unthought of. That almost 50% improvement in such a short time is an indication of where the industry is headed. Experts have suggested that in the coming years, solar panel efficiency could go as high as 30%-40%.

In addition to the increases in efficiency, scientists are continuously experimenting with new materials to create thinner and better panels. Recent developments such as the introduction of the new semiconducting material perovskites have allowed for huge advancements, and are now present in most solar panels you can purchase.

Why consider more efficient solar panels?

More efficient solar panels generally do cost more than their less efficient counterparts, so is it worth it to invest in them? The most impactful reason why you might choose more efficient solar panels is that they will simply produce more energy.

More energy produced means more savings for you in the long term, and there are a couple of scenarios in which this might be of major benefit.

Why consider less efficient solar panels

The second scenario is if you are a home that uses a high amount of power and is looking to cut your electricity bill substantially. If you own an electric car, or one or more family member works from home, your energy consumption is going to be higher and higher efficiency panels are likely going to get you closer to your goal of minimising your energy bill.

The first scenario is one we already touched on briefly, and that is if you have limited roof space on which to install solar panels. Higher efficiency panels are going to get you a lot closer to producing the amount of power that you use throughout your home during daylight hours.

Why consider less efficient solar panels?

The cost of highly efficient solar panels is undoubtedly daunting, and it’s a big reason why a lot of people end up choosing lower-efficiency solar panels. As previously discussed, lower-efficiency panels may be a more cost-effective option if you do have the roof space.

The other important thing to consider is that solar panels’ efficiency rating doesn’t tell the whole story. Even the highest efficiency solar panels won’t produce electricity in the wrong environments. If you live in an area where the weather is frequently overcast or rainy, it will take you a lot longer to recoup your investment, so you may not want to choose the more costly option.

Can I increase the efficiency of my existing solar panel system?

The efficiency of your solar panel system will change over time and the right solar maintenance can help maintain the efficiency of your system over time. There are also a few gadgets you can invest in to increase the efficiency of your solar panels and ensure they capture as many of the sun’s rays as possible.

A solar tracker is a fantastic tool that rotates the panels throughout the day to follow the sun. This ensures that your panels stay at the most effective angle for capturing energy as the sun moves throughout the sky.

If a solar tracker isn’t right for you, you could instead consider adjusting the orientation of your solar panels to maximise their exposure to the sun. Here in Australia, facing your solar panels north could produce up to 20% more power as compared with other orientations.

Another tool that you can use to increase the efficiency of your solar panels is to use solar concentrators. There is a risk of overheating with concentrators, but they can increase the output by as much as 50%.

You can also increase your solar panel output with solar call glazing. This not only helps to protect your panels from the elements, but also reduces surface reflections and improves
performance.

Can I increase the efficiency of my existing solar panel system

In summary

The best way to maintain the performance and efficiency of your solar panel system over time is to have it maintained regularly by a professional. Ensuring that your system is clean and in good working order will ensure that you have the most energy-efficient solar panels you can for years to come.

Do Solar Panels Save You Money?

Do Solar Panels Save You Money?

Solar panels are fast becoming the standard for Australian homes, and you’re unlikely to see a new build or renovation without them. The benefits to our planet are undeniable, but the question of cost remains. Solar panels can come with a pretty hefty upfront price tag, but are they worth it in the long run?

The short answer to the question do solar panels save you money is yes, especially when you think about the 20+ year lifespan of most solar panel systems. They will pay themselves off within about 3 to 4 years, after which you are left with pure savings. Solar panels are also likely to increase the value of your home immediately, meaning you can sell or rent at a higher price.

Do Solar Panels Save You Money

How much money could I save?

How much money do solar panels save? The answer to this question depends on where in Australia you live. There are different policies affecting the price which vary state-to-state. The second factor which will impact your savings is how many panels you have since that determines how much energy your solar panel system produces.

If we average the savings out across the country, 6 panels will save you about $690 per year, 8 panels will save you $986 per year, and 12 panels could save you $1,478 per year. If you are investing in an even larger system, the savings continue to grow. At the largest end, 32 panels will save you an average of $3,952 per year, although of course that many panels is not realistic for most Australian homes.

The third factor that will impact your saving potential will be how much power you use in your home. If your home eats up a lot of energy, you are likely to save more than if your home is already energy efficient. Your home’s energy usage will also determine the size of the solar panel system that will work best for you.

How Does The Solar Saving Work

How does the solar saving work?

When we talk about saving money with solar panels, we are referring to paying less in utility costs, since you will be producing your electricity with your solar panel system. If you think about what you normally pay for electricity over the cost of a year and compare it with the savings outlined above.

What you are doing by using solar panels is cutting down on your home’s dependence on the power grid, creating your power either for direct use or by feeding power into the grid. There are a couple of different ways the savings could work in practice based on which of these options you go with.

If you are using the energy that you produce in your home then you will save money by not drawing from the power grid. Depending on how large your solar panel system is, you will likely not be able to cover all of your power using solar panels, but you should still see a significant saving.

If you are using feed-in tariffs, this means that you are selling the energy your home produces directly back to the grid, and your energy bill is reduced that way. Once again your bill is unlikely to be zero, depending on how good your home is at conserving energy, but you will still see significant savings.

When will I start to see savings?

Once your solar panel system is fully up and running, you will start to see savings right from your first power bill. It can be tricky to predict the exact saving that you should see, but a range of about 50 to 80% reduction is what you should be looking for.

The amount you save each month will fluctuate depending on environmental factors which impact your solar panel’s efficiency. During cloudy or rainy weather your solar panels won’t be able to absorb sunshine and will therefore produce far less power. This means that you can expect lower savings during winter or other overcast periods. Solar panels also struggle during high heat and are not able to work as efficiently. This means that your savings may also decrease during significant heatwaves.

Could I earn money with a solar panel system?

Using feed-in tariffs specifically could allow you to save money, but that would only happen if your home produces more power than you use, which is not the case for most homes with solar panels. It is also important to note that your contribution to the power grid won’t result in a cash payment. Instead, you will get a credit that is rolled over into your next month’s bill.

There is a more assured way to earn money through solar panels, and that is with the value bump your home is likely to see with solar panels. If you sell your home, your listing price will be higher, and if it is being rented, you will be able to charge more in rent because the savings will be passed on to your tenants.

Could I earn Money with a solar panel system3

How much does solar panel installation cost?

There are several factors to consider when trying to estimate the cost of a solar panel installation, including solar panel system size, type, and ease of installation. With all of those factors balanced out, you could be looking to pay anywhere from $2,500 for a 4-panel system, up to $13,000 for a 27-panel system. For a standard size home, the price is likely to sit around $3,500 – $6,000.

There are options for solar panel systems that sit below this price point, but with solar panels, it’s important to note that you do get what you pay for. Solar panel systems should run for around 20 – 25 years with proper maintenance, but that won’t be the case if the quality of your components is sub-par.

If $3,500 – $6,000 sounds like a lot of money to you, there are plenty of options to help you out. The first of these is the Solar Rebate Scheme, which allows you to get a subsidy for your installation.

For the rest of the outlay, there are several alternatives to paying out of pocket. You can add it to your mortgage at your current interest rates so you can pay it off over time. Depending on a few factors, you might even find that your solar panel system pays for itself immediately.

does the weather in my area impact my savings

Does the weather in my area impact my savings

We are lucky enough in Australia to live in a beautiful and sunny country, but some places certainly do get more sunlight than others. Solar panels only produce energy when they are exposed to direct, unobstructed sunlight.

If your area tends to be cloudier and rainier, then it may not produce energy every day of the year. The good news is that cloudier places tend to be cooler, and solar panels are more efficient in cooler weather. Above 25°C, solar panels become less efficient.

All types of weather in Australia have their pros and cons when it comes to solar panels. In a place like Queensland, where temperatures exceed 25°C most of the year, solar panels will still be a great investment because the consistent sunlight makes up for the loss of efficiency.

In the western states, where temperatures can be lower and weather can be more overcast, your solar panels may not capture as much sunlight but they will work more efficiently in the cooler weather.

If your solar panel system has a battery, you will also be able to store the energy produced for use during nighttime or overcast days. If you don’t have a battery you are likely to be utilising feed-in tariffs and because of that, you will still save money. The energy that you produce will be fed back into the power grid no matter the time of day. You will receive a larger discount when your solar panels produce energy during peak hours.

Regardless of the weather in your area, your solar panel system will pay for itself in the long run. It will just be a question of how long that takes.

Do Solar Panels Save You Money?

Without a doubt, solar panels will save you money in the long run. Your utility bill will immediately come down, and the initial outlay is likely to be repaid in around 3-4 years. Your solar panel system is likely to last up to 25 years, so after your investment is paid off, every utility bill from there will provide pure savings.

Not only will solar panels save you money, but they will also produce clean energy which has long-term positive impacts on the environment, and help make Australia a more eco-friendly place. Eco-friendly technologies are only becoming more popular, and it is likely that the value of your home will increase because of your investment.

Do Solar Panels Make Noise?

Do Solar Panels Make Noise?

Solar panels are becoming a more and more common feature of Australian homes, and they bring with them enormous benefits. They save their users money on their electricity bills, and they reduce emissions, helping all of us to create a more eco-friendly country.

Not only are solar panels great for the environment and your wallet, but they’re also very quiet. Solar panels do not contain any moving parts, and because of this, you can expect them to run and produce electricity without a lot of noise.

Do solar panels make noise when they are not running correctly? If you are noticing that your solar panel system is making noise, it could be a sign that something is going wrong. Read on to find out some of the likely causes of solar panel noise, and how you can easily fix it.

Do Solar Panels Make Noise

Loose Racking

Unless your home has a shingled or tiled roof, installers attach solar panels by placing racking directly onto the roof and installing the panels over these. They will then install inverter power kits, and run the cables through the roof into your home.

If this racking is not installed correctly or is not screwed in tight enough, this could cause noise as the system moves around more than it’s supposed to on windy days. If you’re hearing rattling or scraping noises, it’s likely this is the culprit.

The fix for this problem is easy. Give your installer a call and ask them to come back and tighten the racking on your roof.

Loose Cabling

With any solar panel system, cables running across your roof is very normal. These cables should be tightly secured so they don’t flap around and bang on the roof. If they come loose or are not installed correctly, these cables can become pretty frustrating and produce a lot of noise when the wind picks up. 

If you are hearing your solar panels making a banging noise, you could have loose cables. As with loose racking, the solution is to get in touch with your installer and let them know about the problem so they can fix it.

Solar inverters

Do solar inverters make noise? Solar inverters are the one part of solar panel systems that you can expect to produce a bit of noise. A solar inverter is the piece of the system that converts the direct power captured by solar panels into alternating current electricity that your home runs on.

If you’ve ever asked: do solar panels make a humming noise, the answer is yes. The process of converting power will see your inverter producing a humming noise, that will be audible only during the day when your solar panel system is actively capturing and producing energy. Different inverter types and brands will produce different levels of noise, but these noises should never exceed a whisper.

The two types of fan cooling systems might also be contributing to the noise. Inverters that use fans tend to be noisier, as the fans run faster as the inverter heats up. If you find the noise of the fan annoys you, it might be worth considering a heat sink inverter instead.

Are Solar Inverters Noisy?

For this reason, it’s important to consider the placement of your inverter. If it’s too close to living and sleeping areas, it may become a nuisance to those who are very noise-sensitive. Consider placing it or moving it as far from the commonly used areas of your home as you can. The garage is the perfect place to have an inverter if possible.

Differently shaped roofs

Roofs typically fall into one of three shapes, all of which can easily support solar panels. If your home is older or has a more unique roof shape, you may run into problems.

Some roof shapes push wind through the space underneath and around the solar panels. This can create a whistling or howling noise that can be loud and annoying. If the noise is unbearable, solar panels can be shifted on your roof, or potentially laid flat rather than sitting raised on racking.

Noise during rainfall

Solar panels should not make any additional noise when it rains, because they are raised slightly by the racking and don’t sit flush with your roof. The noise from rainfall may therefore even be reduced, but it should never increase.

When it hails, you may hear more noise, which is normal for solid objects like hailstones hitting your roof and your solar panels. If you a hearing more noise than is normal during rain or hail, contact your installer.

Noise during night time

Noise during nighttime

Solar panel systems don’t operate at nighttime because of the lack of sunlight, so inverter noise should be nonexistent. If your inverter is still humming or making other noises at nighttime, that is a sign of potential problems. 

You may still hear noises coming from the panels themselves at nighttime, whether from wind, hail, or animals moving around your roof. These noises should never be enough to wake you from your sleep. The only noise that may be able to do this is extremely high winds that cause a tunnel whistling effect. This should only ever happen during rare weather, and if it is happening frequently, that could be a sign your panels need to be adjusted.

Birds and other animals running over the roof

Animals running over your roof can create quite a racket, and if they cause your solar panels to hit your roof and make a crashing noise, it may even get you up from bed. This is a fairly common problem depending on where you live, and the great news is that there is a fairly simple solution.

Installing rubber or other soft pads between the solar panels and the roof will help absorb impact and significantly reduce the noise, not only of animals climbing on your roof but of many different kinds of movement.

Birds over the roof with solar panels

What if my solar panels get noisier over time?

Solar panel systems, depending on the type, generally have a lifespan of around 30 years. If you are noticing that your solar panel is getting noisier as it ages, this could be a sign of normal wear and tear. 

Wind and other environmental factors will wear at your solar panel system over time, which means that screws may come loose and noise might begin to increase. If this does happen, you can get your installer to come and tighten and fix things as needed.

For the lifespan of your solar panel system, you may opt for a maintenance plan so that these potential issues are fixed long before they become frustrating. You can chat with your installer about your options.

Fix solar panels with a qualified solar installer

How to fix solar panel noise

If your roof is making loud banging or scraping noises that lead you to think something has come loose, you should get in touch with your installer as soon as possible. The sooner you can get the issue seen to, the less likely it is to become a larger problem over time. 

If you are finding your inverter making noise, it’s possible that the noise you’re hearing is normal running noise. If your inverter cools itself using a fan, it will naturally create more noise as the fan works during sunlight hours.

If you’re finding that your inverter is making excessive noise, your inverter may need to be replaced. Solar inverters have a lifespan of around 10 years and generally will need to be replaced long before the 30-year lifespan of the whole system.

Solar panel farm noises

The major exception to solar panel systems not making any noise is solar farms or large solar panel systems. This is often due to the use of much larger inverters which, because of their size and the amount of energy that needs to pass through them.

The noise produced by these types of solar panel systems will always be far greater than any noise your at-home system will make, as these systems will generally be louder as they get larger.

In summary

Solar panel systems should be silent since there are no moving mechanical parts. With heavy winds or movement, there may be some sound but it should never be disturbingly loud. The only part of your solar panel system that may make some noise as it’s running is the inverter, which will hum quietly as it converts power into usable energy for your home.

How Do Solar Feed In Tariffs Work?

How Do Solar Feed In Tariffs Work?

Feed-in tariffs are a fantastic way that solar panel users can save even more money on their electric bills, and are an alternative to capturing and storing additional energy with a battery. They are an initiative that has been adopted by many countries around the world as a way to encourage the uptake of solar panels.

What are feed-in tariffs?

A feed-in Tariff is a financial incentive that comes from utility companies, paid to solar panel users when those panels produce more energy than the household is using. The excess energy produced is then fed back into the grid, essentially being “bought” by your utility company.

Feed-in Tariffs are most common for household solar panel systems, but they can also be applied to wind, hydro, or biomass energy. In every case, the function and purpose are essentially the same.

How Do Solar Feed In Tariffs Work

The specific rates that you will be paid per kWh depend greatly on your utility provider and the state you live in. All of this information is available through research, so it’s a good idea to research which energy provider can give you the best deal in your area before installation.

The purpose of feed-in Tariffs is to encourage the use of solar, and other renewable energy sources in a bid to reduce climate change and emissions. As a user of solar panels, it has created a fantastic opportunity to reduce your energy bill, while also reducing your footprint on the earth.

In Australia, feed-in Tariffs only apply to residential users of solar panels and does not apply to commercial users. You might also hear feed-in Tariffs referred to as solar bonus schemes or solar buyback rates. It all refers to the same thing.

How do solar feed-in tariffs work?

When you install solar panels, your home becomes a little power station. It generally will produce large amounts of energy during the day, and then cease production at nighttime. Most homes, however, are using very little energy during the daytime, with lights, appliances, and heating getting the most use when everyone is home in the evening. Your solar panel system, without a powerful battery, cannot store the excess energy being produced during the day.

So how do solar feed-in tariffs work? The additional energy that your solar panel system produces can, under a feed-in Tariff, be sold back into the grid. This means that your neighbours and your community get to benefit from the clean energy your home produces, and you get to benefit from a reduction in your energy bill.

What is the best electricity company for feed-in tariff?

The rates for feed-in Tariffs vary by state and company, so this information will be broad and general. It may give you a starting point for doing your research and figuring out the highest solar feed-in tariff in your area.

When considering your options for electricity providers solar feed-in tariff, rates are likely to be a big consideration for more than 20% of Australian homes with solar panel systems. There are some big players nationwide for great feed-in rates, including Energy Australia, AGL, and Origin Energy, but that is certainly not where your search should end.

Jacana energy, for example, provides the most competitive feed-in Tariff rates in the NT. Jacana is a much smaller energy company but offers competitive rates nationwide, as do many other smaller energy providers.

As an aggregate, the highest rates nationwide are offered by Origin Energy, under their Solar Boost Plus plan. It’s most competitive for those living in New South Wales and Victoria and pays up to 25 cents per kWh.

The other thing to consider when considering rates is the difference between your earning potential during peak vs. non-peak hours. Not every provider makes this distinction, but it’s an important thing to look out for because a drop in rates during non-peak hours can significantly cut your saving potential.

What Are Feed In Tariffs

Can I claim feed-in tariffs forever?

Unfortunately, feed-in Tariffs are a somewhat limited time offer. They are currently scheduled to end on December 31st, 2030. Feed-in Tariffs are not a government initiative, but instead something that is offered by energy companies directly. Because of the enormous success of feed-in Tariffs, this date will likely be extended.

Feed-in Tariffs are also beneficial for energy companies, which is another reason they are likely to not want to get rid of them. The company is buying electricity from you at a wholesale price and then selling it back at retail price. This means they are making a profit, even if it is a smaller one.

Energy companies also don’t need to burn coal or spend the outlay to create new power sources when they are getting power directly from people’s homes. It helps them keep costs down, as well as helping you do the same, which is another reason they may be extended past the currently set end date.

Who pays your feed-in tariff?

How do solar feed-in tariffs work in terms of payment? Your feed-in tariff is paid for by your energy provider directly. The government has no involvement in feed-in tariffs, other than paying the rebate. Different energy providers have different terms and conditions, but in general, feed-in tariffs are direct trades between you and your utility company.

Companies will generally pay higher rates during peak hours, and lower rates during off-peak hours. This is because the energy that you’re producing will be more valuable during the hours when people are using power the most. This may cause fluctuations in the amount you can get paid.

The amount that feed-in Tariffs will pay can also fluctuate depending on the cost of electricity on the main grid. If and when energy companies adjust their feed-in Tariff rates, they are required to communicate that to their customers, so changes will never happen without your knowledge.

What is the eligibility criteria for feed-in Tariffs?

There are a few criteria that you need to meet to qualify for feed-in Tariffs, the first and most significant of which is that only private homes are eligible. Business locations currently do not qualify.

The second important criterion is that your system needs to be connected to the power grid. If your power system operates entirely off-the-grid, then there is no way for the power to be fed back into the system and be redirected.

The final significant criterion is that your solar panel system needs to meet Australian safety standards. So long as you have gone through an accredited solar installer, you will meet this criterion without a problem.

Depending on which energy company you are with, you may also face restrictions around using single-phase or three-phase connectors, depending on the capacity of your system. The rules are not consistent across providers, however.

Are feed-in Tariffs the same as solar rebates?

Solar rebates are another initiative designed to encourage the uptake of residential and small business solar panel users. A solar rebate is a discount that is paid upfront to help reduce the cost of installing a solar panel system.

The solar rebate initiative is a government initiative, meaning that your rebate comes directly from the government. The amount you can get varies from state to state, but it is another fantastic initiative to look into to help reduce the initial cost of installing a solar panel system.

Solar Power Feed In Tariff Contract

What is the application process for feed-in Tariffs?

Before applying for feed-in Tariffs, you will need to have your solar panel system installed and operational. You will then apply to your utility company. Have a look at your chosen energy company’s website or get in touch with them for an application form that you can easily fill out and submit.

If your solar panel system is deemed to meet all of the criteria that we discussed above, then you will enter into a contract with your energy company. The contract generally will remain valid as long as you stay with the same energy supplier, and in the same house.

Once your contract has begun, you will be unable to make any changes to your solar panel system without these changes potentially impacting your contract.

How will battery storage affect my feed-in tariff rates?

Battery storage is another way to make the most of the excess power your solar panels produce. Instead of feeding that power back into the grid, you can store the power yourself for use when the sun isn’t shining, or when you have particularly high electricity needs.

In summary

Once again, rules vary significantly from state to state. In Victoria, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, most types of batteries won’t impact your ability to take advantage of feed-in Tariffs. In the ACT and SA, you cannot use them in conjunction. The one state where this rule is not specified and varies from provider to provider.

How Does Solar Work?

How Does Solar Work?

Solar energy is the most abundant energy source we have. If we count up all of the solar energy that hits the earth’s surface, we could power the world 10,000 times over.

This energy abundance is why solar is fast becoming one of the most popular energy sources for homes and businesses alike.

Not only is solar power abundant, but it is also key in combatting climate change. It provides a clean, affordable, and environmentally friendly energy alternative to legacy power sources such as coal-burning and gas.

So how does solar work?

How Does Solar Work

What is Solar Energy?

When people refer to “solar energy”, they are referring to power from the sun that is converted into electricity using solar panels and other technology. Solar can produce both heat and electricity, depending on the technology being used.

Australia in particular, has the highest solar radiation of any continent, making it one of the most fruitful places to employ solar energy. Despite this, Australia has a long way to go to fully embrace this underutilised resource of ours.

Solar energy can power our homes and our businesses with ease. Many solar panel systems can even store excess energy production on sunny days that can be used at nighttime, or on overcast days.

How does solar energy work?

The sun is essentially a giant nuclear reactor that produces energy called photons. These photons travel through space and many eventually reach earth. Enough photons reach the earth’s surface every day that we could meet our energy needs for a year if we captured them all.

You may have heard of PV when it comes to solar panels before, but most people don’t know what it stands for. When photons reach the earth, some are collected by photovoltaic (PV) cells in our solar panels. The energy that this produces creates the electricity that we can then use in the electricity grid.

When photons meet with PV solar cells, they knock electrons away from their atoms. Conductors are attached to both the positive and negative sides of a cell which creates an electric field that is similar to a battery.

There has been, in recent years, a significant rise in the uptake of solar energy, but even with that, PV power accounts for only a fraction of a per cent of the energy consumed in Australia. As solar becomes more affordable and accessible, usage is predicted to increase. Solar energy is the fastest-growing source of power globally and continues to break growth records.

Solar Energy Use Increasing

How does a solar panel produce energy?

PV solar panels produce energy that flows in one direction around the circuit, known as direct current or DC energy. In the same way a battery works, electrons move from the negative side to the positive side, and then back around to the positive side. This movement generates electricity.

There is also a second type of energy production that a solar panel system may be performing, depending on the type. This is called alternating current (AC) electricity. With AC, electrons are sent in reversing directions, always being pushed and pulled to the positive and negative sides of the circuit.

Systems create AC power by spinning a coil of wire beside a magnet. The spinning coil is being turned by solar electricity, which is how it produces power. Several larger-scale solar systems use AC because it is easier to transmit over long distances. Most home solar panel systems, however, produce DC electricity.

What does a solar inverter do?

AC and DC power are not compatible with the same systems, and yet they somehow have to coexist on the same power grids. This is where solar inverters became essential. A solar inverter takes DC electricity produced by most home solar panel systems and converts it into AC power for use on the grid.

These are essential if your energy production is being fed back into the grid, which it often will be. Especially if you are using that feed-in to reduce your energy bills, a solar inverter is one of the most critical parts of your solar panel system.

Solar inverters also provide safety defence, such as ground fault protection. Additionally, they give essential system stats around voltage, current, energy production, and maximum power point tracking.

There are two main types of inverters:

Central inverters

Central inverters have long been the more present type of inverter because home solar panel systems have become more popular.

Micro-invertors

Micro-inverters can optimise each panel, rather than covering an entire solar panel system.

Having each solar panel optimised with an inverter allows each panel to perform at its maximum potential, allowing it to produce more energy. Central inverters, by contrast, can be impacted by a problem in one panel. This impacts the efficiency of the entire system.

Central and Micro Inverters

Can solar panels store energy?

Many modern solar panel systems can store energy using solar batteries. These allow solar panel users to store the excess power on-site. Solar panels will generally produce more than enough power on sunny days, which a battery will then store for use at night or in overcast ways.

This is a great option for people who want to get more ‘off-the-grid’, however, depending on your energy usage and the size of your solar panel system, you may not be able to produce enough power for your whole home all the time.

Most homes with solar panels are still connected to the grid to draw power from when they need it. There is another reason that you might want to remain hooked up to the grid, and that is to sell the energy that your solar panels produce back to the grid.

Net metering allows you to send energy that your solar panel system creates, but that you don’t immediately need back to the grid to be used by other homes and buildings. This is an alternative to having a battery connected to your system and can mean that you save a significant amount of money on your power bills. In some cases, depending on your energy usage and the amount of sun, you may even get a small payment from your energy provider.

Does the weather impact solar panels?

Solar panels rely entirely on photons produced by the sun to create energy, so how does solar work when the sun is hidden by clouds?

Lack of sun does impede a solar panel system’s ability to produce power, but it may not completely stop it. If there is still some light cutting through, solar panels will still capture that and create power. It will just be at a significantly lower output level.

The weather can also affect solar panels in a surprising way. If you think that the perfect weather for solar energy is a warm, sunny summer’s day, you’d be wrong. Solar panels do work best in unobstructed sunshine, but they also operate most effectively in colder weather. As temperatures rise, solar panel efficiency dips, and panels will produce less electricity from the photons hitting the panel’s surface.

On average, solar panels will still produce more power in summer than in winter, despite the heat. Summer tends to have more sunny days, and despite the drop in efficiency, solar panels will still produce more power over the season than in winter.

Will solar panels save you money?

Many factors will impact the amount you can save with solar panels. The first is the weather in your area. How much sun you get throughout a season and a year will impact how many photons your solar panel system can capture and turn into energy. Similarly, how warm it gets will impact how efficiently your system can perform that process.

Whether you choose to use net metering or store your excess energy in a battery is also likely to have an impact on how much money you can save. With either system, you are still likely to need to draw power from the grid on occasion, so your energy bill will be significantly lower, but probably not zero every season.

Will Solar Save You Money

Solar panel systems also require regular maintenance, which will keep them running at a higher capacity for longer. Your solar panel provider should be able to discuss with you your options for a maintenance plan to help ensure periodic checks are being carried out.

The type of inverter you choose to use will also have a significant effect on how efficient your solar panels will be. A central inverter may mean that your whole system loses efficiency when there’s a problem with one panel, whereas micro-inverters can ensure top efficiency for all panels without issues.

In summary

Solar panels are a fantastic investment, and over the long term they will not only save a lot of emissions from energy production, but they can also save you a lot of money. With enough sun, a good maintenance plan, and great solar equipment, you can ensure your solar panel system is always running at high efficiency, producing power, and bringing your energy bill down.