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Ever since you installed a solar PV system on the roof, you’ve been supplying your home with renewable energy every day. That system has worked perfectly, and you have been saving money off your electricity bills… until now. You may have increased your consumption with the addition of new family members or different appliances. You may have lost a premium feed-in tariff. The stress is evident in the higher monthly bills and some scary news in the media – increasing electricity prices will inevitably hit all residents; you must do something!

Fortunately, your roof is spacious enough to fit in a few more panels, and you are wondering, “Can you upgrade an existing solar system?”

Yes, you can upgrade an existing solar system. In many cases, that’s exactly what people do when they are using more electricity than they generate. As a matter of fact, various reasons can lead to this decision, for example if you’re looking to produce more energy so you can charge a battery for night-time consumption. No matter the reasoning, it is important to understand that you still need to meet the standards outlined by the policies of your state and network provider.

Solar panels have been available in the Australian market for decades, and more popular than ever thanks to the advances in technology that have made them more affordable and reliable. Ever increasing electricity bills really make expanding your rooftop system an option to consider. Fortunately, you have a few options available for adding more solar panels to your home.

 

 

Keep the same inverter, just add more panels

There are different ways you can expand your solar generation. The easiest option is to have your original installer add more of the same solar panels that you already have to your existing system and inverter.

Many people don’t know this, but a solar inverter can be connected to a system of panels that exceeds the inverter’s rated peak power up to 133% – this is because of the natural power lost in transference from the panels into the inverter. For example, you can safely have a 6.6kW array of panels connected to a 5kW inverter.

This option is possible only if you can hire your original installer to add the exact same panels to the existing system, and you still have some wiggle room in the existing inverter.

Inverters

 

Replace your inverter with a larger one, then add more panels

Practically every year, there is newer and more efficient solar technology hitting the market. There’s the chance that your system may be due for an upgrade, especially if your system is older than 7 years. In that case, you can replace your existing inverter with a bigger, more reliable one, which in turn will also allow you to add more panels, combining an array of new panels with your existing one and having them connected to the same inverter.

Replacing your old inverter can do wonders at increasing the overall efficiency of your system. Keep that in mind!

Install a completely new separate system to your existing one

Probably the most straightforward option to expand your solar energy generation. You could add a completely new inverter and solar panels as a new system, independent from your existing one. Both your old and new solar PV systems can then work together to feed into a battery for example, further reducing your reliance on grid electricity.

The new system can either use a string inverter system or a micro inverter system. The advantage of this approach is that it doesn’t alter your original system, which means you can leave the old system running, without it being brought up to current standards. This is a good approach if your existing system is working well.

There is the possibility that this option is limited by your electricity distributor (the ones in charge of the poles and wires), maybe even export restricted, which then means you wouldn’t be eligible for a feed-in tariff for any excess generated. It is best to check your individual circumstances to gauge the pros and cons of doing this.

I want to expand my system. What’s next?

If you’re interested in any of the options described above for expanding your PV system at home, you’ve arrived to the right place!

Whatever your energy needs, we will give you an appropriate, budget-friendly solution to allow you to escape the grid’s electricity prices as much as possible. Stop giving away your hard earned money to the major energy companies. Have a conversation with our team and allow us to help you. Please contact Solar Battery Group on 1300 223 224 or send us a message.

 

 

Solar batteries have been available in the Australian market for decades, and reality is battery storage has never been as affordable, safe, and accessible as it is today. Solar batteries are the future for thousands of suburban households across the country and with ever increasing electricity bills, solar batteries are a no brainer if you want to save.

A rooftop PV installation allows you to generate free electricity from the sun. However, there are times when your rooftop PV installation won’t be producing energy and saving you money – like at night. It is at those times that you can experience high charges from grid consumption.

 

Without a solar battery

Without a solar battery

 

Adding a Solar battery to your original Rooftop PV system makes sense, especially in Australia, since we pay some of the highest rates to buy electricity from the grid in the world. Simply put, any power you use at home that comes from your solar and not from the grid will provide savings in your energy bills – and a battery will allow you to extend the benefits of your solar, storing the energy generated throughout the day so you can use at times like at night.

 

With a solar battery

With a solar battery

 

 

You’re better off utilising your FREE solar power rather than selling it for a standard feed-in tariff and then having to buy your electricity back at a much higher rate to power your home at night. The combination of rooftop solar system and battery will help lower your energy bills dramatically and lead the way to a more renewable future, while reducing your carbon footprint.

A solar battery can store excess solar generation instead of sending it straight to the grid. Once the battery is charged, you will still get a feed-in tariff. (Are you shopping for a better feed-in tariff?)

 

SBG-AddBattery

 

Use your own solar power at night, reduce your reliance on grid prices

As we mentioned before, you’re better off utilising your solar energy rather than selling it for a standard feed-in tariff and then having to pay your electricity retailer a much higher rate to power your home at night.

Keep your home powered even when the grid fails, if you choose a model that offers blackout protection. Since this is not a part of a standard installation, we recommend you talking to our solar superheroes about blackout protection at the time of quoting. If you already have a battery that supports blackout protection that hasn’t been wired, we can help you organise for an installer to come and enable it.

It is important to remember choosing the right-sized battery will maximise these benefits.

Want to learn more about how much money you can save by adding a solar battery?

Then talk to our Solar consultants at Solar Battery Group on 1300 223 224 and let us help you.

 

 

If you’re a solar homeowner and you’re connected to the grid, you may be very familiar with the concept of feed-in tariffs. While you are still charged for your energy consumption from the grid and a daily supply charge, most electricity retailers offer a feed-in tariff, or FiT, as the payment that you receive in exchange for any excess energy you feed back into the grid. Consider it an incentive for generating clean energy and allowing others to use it.

However, as solar becomes more popular, FiT’s have been steadily decreasing. More than 10 years ago, FiT’s that residential households were eligible to receive were a lot higher than what’s offered today. Take the state of Victoria for example, where this tariff has gone from 60 c/kWh back in 2009 to 5.20 c/kWh starting 1 July 2022 – a reduction of over 91%!

We have talked before about solar batteries being a great way of maximising your PV generation, as they allow you to store some of that excess energy and use it when you need it most, like at night.

 

 

Even so, especially with a big enough solar system, you might be able to charge your storage AND still send some excess energy to the grid. When it comes to clawing back from rising electricity costs, every single cent counts.

 

Who sets the feed-in tariff you get paid?

Minimum feed-in tariffs are updated every year by governmental bodies or independent regulators depending on your place of residence – like the IPART in NSW or the ESC in VIC.

However, the entity that ultimately pays you a FiT is the one that also sends you a bill: your electricity retailer. Electricity retailers must offer the minimum FiT mandated but can offer any amount above that if they choose to do so.

Therefore, the feed-in tariff you get paid can vary from retailer to retailer, and in some instances, from plan to plan even within the same retailer. There is a myriad of options out there, with some rates tied directly to the wholesale market spot price, time-varying vs flat or plans that require the household to have a solar battery or electric vehicle. So how do you go about choosing what’s best for you?

Fortunately, there are tools to help you navigate these complexities and compare between retailers’ offers like the Victorian Energy Compare and the Energy Made Easy websites (for VIC and non-VIC residents respectively). You usually enter information about your address and current energy usage, and in exchange will get a list of different energy plans available to you.

If you identify a more suitable plan for you, you simply need to contact your new chosen retailer and arrange for your electricity service to be switched over.

 

FiT

 

So, a plan with higher feed-in tariffs is better?

Not quite. Some retailers may offer a high feed-in tariff in a plan that has higher electricity rates too. Before switching it is important you analyse the rate plan as a whole, taking into account:

  1. Electricity rates and your usage times (especially important for time-of-use plans)
  2. Any limits to export at certain feed-in tariff rates. There are plans in the market that offer a tempting FiT that is limited to a capped amount of kWh’s a day
  3. Daily supply charge, which you pay regardless of the amount of electricity you consume from the grid
  4. Any conditional discounts (like ‘pay on time’ or ‘bundled’ plans)
  5. Early termination, late payment or disconnection fees
  6. Other relevant terms and conditions

 

FiT

 

Is there an easier solution?

No matter how hard you look, feed-in tariffs are designed to be lower than the electricity rates you pay to your retailer. That is why using as much of that free energy you already generate at home is a more straightforward way to save on rising living costs.

By using your own solar power, there are no overheads, no transmission costs, no tricky sales conditions. Solar PV requires little maintenance and is an investment you can maximise for decades.

Even better, solar batteries allow you to squeeze the most out of your solar, gain independence from the grid (and those pesky electricity retailers), as well as providing other bonuses like protecting your home from blackouts and added monitoring capabilities that put you behind the steering wheel of your life once again.

 

 

Installing solar panels on the roof is arguably one of the best investments any homeowner can make. One of their best features is that solar PV systems are not difficult to maintain, mainly because they have been designed and built to withstand all kinds of weather, remaining outdoors throughout most of their product life.

However, to get the most value out of your solar panels and ensure they last you for the next 25-30 years*, it’s important to understand your PV system’s required regular maintenance needs. So, whether you are thinking of adding new panels to your home or have had them for a while, read on and we’ll explain what you need to keep everything in tip top shape.

 

Your step-by-step guide on solar panel maintenance

 

Step # 1: Keep your panels in full sun

Sounds obvious, no? Technically, this is not related to the maintenance of the panels themselves, but it should come as no surprise that ensuring your panels receive as much sunlight as possible is very important for maximum energy generation.

For this one, keep an eye out on trees and other structures that may partially block your PV system. Remember: if you don’t have microinverters (and most systems don’t), the efficiency of the whole array will be reduced to the weakest performing panel!

microFX

 

Step # 2: Clean up your panels at least yearly

Your panels are exposed to the elements day and night; as you can imagine then, dust, bird droppings, leaves and all kinds of debris can build up quickly and obstruct the surface of the panels – blocking sunlight which will impact your system’s performance.

A golden rule is that once a year, you need to get on your roof or pay for your panels to be cleaned. This will vary depending on the climate, the tilt of your panels, etc. For example, if the solar panels are completely horizontal, they’ll need cleaning more often than when they’re angled.

If you decide to do it yourself, we recommend you doing some prior research on solar cleaning kits, as some domestic cleaning products can be too harsh or leave scratches on the panel’s surface that will have the opposite intended effect of maximising your solar output. Also, stay away from pressure washers or walking on top of the panels!

If you prefer to organise for your solar panels to be cleaned by a professional, simply search for reputable companies near you and get a few quotes in. Professional cleaning can cost you up to $20 per panel, but that cost should be easily covered with the electricity savings you enjoy throughout the life of your PV system.

 

Solar-panels

 

 

Step # 3: Pay attention to your monitoring app

We know it is not possible to be on the roof looking at your panels every day – enter your solar monitoring app. Keeping a regular eye on the app of your solar (and battery) will serve as a good first indicator there could be an issue with your system.  Be on the lookout for any drops in production or other irregularities for no apparent reason – this is a common signal your solar may need some maintaining. It is a good idea to check on the panels themselves, search for cracks or scratches, or perhaps it may be time for a clean. In very rare cases, you could identify a technical issue with your panels; your solar installer will need to be contacted to arrange a home visit.

 

MonitoringAPP

 

Step # 4: Organise a regular inspection of the system

We recommend you hiring a professional to inspect your system once a year. Essentially, during a solar panel inspection, someone – could be your solar installer, a licenced electrician or a Clean Energy Council-accredited entity, will come to your home and ensure every component of your PV system is working properly. You can even ask to combine an inspection with the annual recommended clean to save in travel costs.

An annual inspection should ensure:

  • Panels are clean, free of defects and secure on the roof
  • Switches and wiring have no defects and are securely attached
  • Electrical checks are passed for safe operation
  • There is no corrosion or deteriorated parts
  • Any recorded faults in the inverter display panel are reviewed
  • Access to the isolator switch is maintained
  • Emergency procedures for shutdown and isolation are clearly displayed

It is important to note that most solar panel warranties require proper maintenance of the panels for full coverage.

 

Panels-Maintenance

 

The bottom line

Solar panels require very little maintenance since they are designed for outdoor use and have no moving parts. In most cases, your PV system won’t need much outside of an annual inspection and cleaning. It is also a good idea to trim trees around the house that may be shading your panels.

The best indicator that your system is in need of some additional maintenance is a sudden drop in energy output. Your app – and even your bill, can help you identify a problem early on, in which case you should schedule a service appointment with a professional.

Depending on your solar panel installer, you may have a number of maintenance visits included in your purchase, or discounts that cover regular maintenance and cleaning. The cost of these regular visits will be minimal, and in turn ensure your system lasts you for a long, long time.

 

 

* 25-30 years is an indicative average product life for solar panels, but this will ultimately depend on the brand, quality of installation and harshness of the elements where you live. Please refer to your solar installer for specifics regarding your PV system.