Why Your Home Solar Energy System Isn’t Saving You More Money

 

As much as we receive frequent success stories and case studies from people who have reduced their bills dramatically since installing a solar power system, we also have feedback trickle in from people who don’t understand why they aren’t saving more, like their peers who have installed.

lost solar savings

Whilst there are cases where a faulty solar system could have been installed (in which case you should be speaking to your installer and claiming through your warranties) in many instances we’ve found there is a simple fix or just a misunderstanding of how a solar system works.

So if you’ve installed a solar power system and don’t feel as if you’re reaping the benefits that you installed for, see if you can pin-point the reason through the below scenarios.

Increased power usage

If your notion has been, “I have free energy, I can use as much as I want” since installing your solar power system, then this is going to be the biggest contributor to why you aren’t saving much money and reducing your electricity bills. Solar power systems generate electricity to use during the day, meaning to maximise on this free electricity you need to run the majority of your appliances during the day.

The best practice after installing is to adjust your energy habits by setting timers on large appliances like your washing machine or dishwasher, so they run during the day, to minimise usage at night. This enables you to make the most out of your freely generated solar energy and lower the amount you’ll be charged for using grid power. Read our Top Tips On Maximising Your Solar Energy here!

shaded solar panels

Too much shade on your panels

If your solar panels are shaded for a large portion of the day it can bring down the entire output of the solar power system. This under-producing due to shade will have a knock-on effect to how much free energy your household is consuming and how much you need to pull from the electricity grid, which then reflects on your electricity bills. A good solar installer will always recommend a home visit prior to the installation to assess your roof and should be able to recommend the best way to have panels installed to minimise the possibility of shade.

If this has not been the case or shade has only recently become an issue you may want to consider micro-inverters or reducing the shade if possible e.g. trimming back an overgrown tree.

Inverter issues

If the output of your solar power system started off in good form and you noticed a sudden drop, then it’s possible you’re experiencing an inverter failure.

solar inverter

Your inverter is the brain of the solar system and has the vital task of converting the energy received from your solar panels into AC electricity for your household to use. The power continuously pumping through the inverter makes it the most likely component of a solar system to encounter failure due to overheating.

The location that your inverter is installed can heavily affect the lifespan and efficiency, so it’s important to ensure prior to installation you read up on Where To Install Your Inverter To Improve Efficiency And Lifespan.

To identify whether the inverter is the problem, read our Troubleshoot your solar PV system’s output and if you find it is the issue then you may be able to claim a replacement with the manufacturer if your inverter is still in warranty.

Damage due to external factors

Over a solar systems lifetime, there are some external factors that may contribute to a systems sudden drop in output. These may include but are not limited to;

cable damage

  • System parts that are exposed filling with rain
  • Animals (birds, rats) chewing or damaging cables
  • Micro-cracks on your panels or damage from natural disasters, such as earthquakes, bushfires and storms
  • Damage from home renovations
  • Cables deteriorating overtime
  • Components failing

If you’ve noticed a drop in output suddenly after a big storm, unusual weather or renovations it’s more than likely there has been some damage caused to your panels. How easily this can be fixed will require some expert advice from a CEC Accredited Installer.

Misreading your power bill

Your electricity bill does not display the amount of the money you’ve saved by using your solar system. It does, however, show your FIT return which is where people get confused. Many people comment “Solar isn’t worth it anymore” or “I’ve only made $x this quarter” when they are referring to their FIT return. But this is not a true representation of the money saved through having less reliance on the grid.

average electric bill with solar panels

A more suitable way to determine whether you are saving money with your solar system is to compare a recent electricity bill with an old bill prior to installing solar. Make sure they are bills from the same time of year or quarter e.g. Jan-March 2018 vs. Jan-March 2019.

Not using enough power during the day

As a solar system can only generate electricity when the sun is out, the reduction of your bills can be heavily dependent on when and how you use your household energy.

For this reason, it is best practice to adjust your energy habits so that you utilise the majority of your energy during the day and minimise usage at night. This enables you to make the most out of your freely generated solar energy and lower the amount you’ll be charged for using grid power. Read our Top Tips On Maximising Your Solar Energy here!

electricity grid

Energy retailers changing your electricity tariffs

If you’ve remained with the same energy retailer that you had prior to installing solar, there is a possibility they have changed the rates that you are charged for using electricity from the grid. As your energy retailer will be losing out on profits from you no longer requiring as much energy from them, some retailers will charge different rates to customers who have a solar power system to try and make up this loss. If this is the case, it’s time to shop around to other energy retailers who won’t penalise you for generating your own energy. View some different retailers and rates here.

If you’re still unsure whether solar is benefiting you, read our Common solar mistakes- pre & post-installation or if you think it might be time to upgrade or replace your solar system request obligation-free quotes from local installers!

 

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Understanding Batteries

Off-Grid Systems

For some households a battery system can be of great benefit and minimise a home’s reliance on the grid. However, it’s important to understand for a battery to be useful your solar system needs to be generating excess energy for the battery to store, which you can then use at night or when the sun is not out.

When selecting a battery, you’ll want to invest in a system that is most suited to your home and can drive the best return on investment (ROI). Despite a larger upfront cost, a higher quality battery may significantly increase your ROI.

    Battery systems start from $6,000 and costs can vary greatly based on the following factors:

  1. Cycle Life-Time

    The number of times a battery can fully charge and discharge.

  2. Battery Power (kW)

    How fast it can be charged or discharged.

  3. Storage Capacity (kWh)

    The maximum amount of energy a battery system can store.

  4. Battery Management System (BMS)

    An electronic ‘smart’ system that gathers data and manages the battery ensuring it does not overload or operate outside of its safe functioning zone..

  5. Inverter

    Battery systems require their own inverter if your solar system does not have a hybrid inverter.

  6. 'All-In-One Unit’

    A system which includes the battery, BMS and an inverter all in one unit.

  7. Warranty

    Length of time or cycles the battery system is under guarantee.

  8. Blackout Protection/Backup

    It’s important to note this is not a common feature of a battery system and could cost thousands of dollars to include. Blackout protection not only requires additional components but also a specialised installation and rewiring. For grid-connected homes, the cost for blackout protection can outweigh the benefit.

Additionally, if your purpose for adding battery is to go Off-Grid and become completely independent from the grid you will need to ensure your solar system can generate enough energy to power your home and your battery system is large enough to store this energy. For homes in metro areas going Off-grid is not cost effective and is only recommended for those in remote areas with limited access to the grid. Off-grid solar systems with battery start at approximately $30,000.
 

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