Solar electricity- now it makes sense!

I’d been tossing up whether to install solar panels for years when I received a phone call from a solar company offering to send out one of their associates to give me a free, no-obligation quote.
I had received a call like this before but I liked the approach of this company- the operator seemed more inclined to engage in further conversation rather than sticking to their script.
Two days later a well presented man knocked on my door and I had signed up for a 3Kw system within an hour.
How do the solar panels system work? It was described to me like this..
  • The panels are attached to the most Northern or Western side of your house to make the most of direct sunlight (we’re obviously in the southern hemisphere).
  • The electricity that your solar panels make is fed directly into your house.
  • If your panels make more electricity than you are using, the excess is fed into the electricity grid and you are credited something like 8c per kw from  your electricity company.
  • When the sun goes down, you draw whatever electricity you need, back from the grid but you pay a higher rate of something like 16c per kw. (Yes, this is what the electricity companies get out of the arrangement).
  • At the end of you billing cycle, your electricity company charges you whatever you used from their grid, minus whatever they bought from you.
The sales guy looked at our bill and worked out that 3kw was more than enough for the amount of electricity that we required. Apparently there was some law that prevented him from selling us more than we need, otherwise the electricity companies would have to start paying us. (Ridiculous huh! This could very well be the answer to the greenhouse emission crisis!).
I was amazed at the amount of knowledge that the sales guy had. He seemed to know his stuff and seemed to have been doing this for a while which was a comfort.
Two weeks later a local electrician (and yes I know he is local-his son goes to  my kids school) arrived with the  panels and they took about 6 hours to install. An inverter, which is basically a meter box for the solar panels, was attached to the outside of the house next to the existing electricity meter box, and I was given an attachment that can be plugged into the inverter to tell me how much electricity I am generating and using.
Some things to consider:
  • To make the most of the free electricity we have changed the time of day that we use our dishwasher, washing machine, dryer and pool pump.
  •  Your roof needs to be relatively clear of trees and large buildings that will cast shadow over the panels.
  • During the winter, because the days are shorter and the sun sits lower, you can expect to generate less electricity via your solar panels. Hence, you can expect your bills to be a little higher in the winter.
  •  Rainy and overcast days will also effect the amount of electricity generated by your solar panels.
  • If you intend on paying off the system over a period of time, take note of how much administration costs and fees add to the final cost of your system.
  •  Solar panels potentially increase the market value of your home and may give your property an edge over other properties in your area.
  • You are giving something back to the environment. I think the amount of clean energy that you are generating, far outweighs the energy required to manufacture the panels.  Solar electricity is green, clean and renewable.
  • As our existing resources used in making electricity run out, we can expect our electricity costs to increase. Therefore, solar can protect you financially from rising electricity prices.
The cost……
We were quoted $6,500 (after Australian government rebates) for a 3kw, 12 solar panel system installed. We took the opportunity to pay it off over a period of time at the amount per week that our current electricity bills cost (ie $80 per fortnight). This means that our system will take a little over 3 years to pay off. Our bills will actually be higher for these first 3 years because we  are paying off the system as well as paying the electricity company what we use from the grid. I have not yet received my first bill. We wont see any monetary advantage until after this initial three years.
The pay off is that I’m doing something worthwhile for the environment and it reduces our ongoing energy costs. These panels have a 25 year performance guarantee. That’s not to say that they won’t last longer than 25 years. When I think about the amount of emissions that I’m preventing from entering our atmosphere  over 25 years, it makes me feel pretty good.
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