Can I just add more solar panels to my roof to upgrade my existing solar system?

You’ve purchased a solar panel system that’s too small for your home. Either it’s not providing enough power for your home, or you want to be able to sell more energy to the grid. Can you add more solar panels to the roof to upgrade the existing system? 

The answer is a little complex, and you should consult with a professional before making any decisions. But here are the basics that you should be aware of first.

Did You Buy Your System from 2007 through 2012?

If you purchased your system during this period, it’s likely that you’ve been told you can add panels to your existing system. But that was something that people were told regarding the technology of the time. Instead of a complete installation, people were told that they could expand their existing infrastructure, and immediately start gathering solar energy.

It’s technically possible, but actually unlikely. Though it was true at the time, solar panel technology has improved since then. The solar panels that are available today aren’t going to be able to be integrated with older systems. So even though theoretically you can expand your installation this way, on a practical level it isn’t possible. 

You can create an entirely new system and then augment your older system, and that will work. But it isn’t going to be a single system, it’s going to be two systems creating the same pool of energy. That’s still useful and usable, it’s just something that you’re going to need to consider, in terms of the installation cost. Usually you’re better off getting a right-sized solar panel system from the beginning.

Australian Standards for Solar Panel Installations Have Changed

Consider the fact that Australian standards for solar panel installations have changed over time. Though you may be able to add more solar panels to your installation, the new panels may make it so that your installation isn’t up to code. Your entire installation would need to be updated.

In general, these issues are “grandfathered in” for people who already have installations. If your current installation doesn’t meet code, it’s not going to be an issue until you try to modify it. But once you modify it, you are going to need to concern yourself with the new codes. Your solar panel company can help you explore the changes that you might need to make to your existing installation.

You Will Need to Get Another Inverter

Inverters are able to oversize at approximately 133% of their original rating, but no more. If your inverter can’t support the new panels, you’re going to need to replace it. This is expensive, usually prohibitively so.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t change your installation, it just means that you’re going to need to find another way. The better thing to do is install another inverter and a completely separate system, and then tie those systems together. 

Malfunctioning Systems Can Be Changed Out

What if your current system has stopped working? Can you add new panels then? If your system has stopped working, you can exchange a like-for-like product. If your inverter or panels need to be replaced, they can be exchanged. This is a better solution than trying to add onto a damaged network, and an expert in solar panel technology can help.

Are you wondering how you can upgrade your existing solar installation? You don’t necessarily need to replace the entirety of the installation, but it’s also not as simple as just adding on new solar panels. Because new solar panels are unlikely to be compatible with the system that you have now, and because it may blow you past peak capacity, it’s better to create a secondary system that will connect to the original system.

In general, creating and tying in a second solar panel system is going to be the ideal solution, because it allows both panel systems to work together to create a single pool of usable energy, which can either power your home or be sold elsewhere.

If you’re looking to add more solar panels, we can help. Contact us today to find out more about how to improve your energy output.

Does installing solar power reduce my electricity bills?

Solar power doesn’t just help the environment. There are a lot of ways that it can reduce your costs, too. If you want to reduce your energy usage and your electricity bills, read on.

Making Money With Excess Energy

A solar energy array will sometimes produce more energy than your household actually needs. Feed-in tariffs will turn this extra energy into future energy credits. When you produce excess energy, you have no way of storing it on your own, unless you have a battery installed. Instead, it’s fed into the grid. This offsets your power bill, and it’s very useful.

Let’s say you produce more energy on Monday than you need, but on Tuesday you produce less energy than you needed. You sell back those energy units on Monday and purchase them back on Tuesday, which comes out as a draw for you. The system ensures that your energy is “banked” until you need it.

On the other hand, let’s say you produce more energy than you need on Monday and Tuesday. You get credits for both days, and that offsets the ultimate cost of your energy bill.

Government Rebates

Through small-scale technology certificates, Australian citizens can get a government rebate just for getting a solar power installation. This is cash in hand, and it’s something that can help you pay your electricity bills, even if it isn’t directly for your electricity bills.

Government rebates can be sizeable, but they also change from year to year. Make sure to check with your solar installation company; they’ll be able to tell you what’s available now.

The Pay-Back Period

There’s a certain point at which your savings are greater than the price of the system. This is also known as your break even point. When you first install a solar power system, you’re going to need to invest some cash right away. And that means you’re going to be “underwater” on your system, but this doesn’t last for very long.

After a few years, you’ll have paid of your system. From there (barring maintenance and repairs), any additional solar energy that you collect only saves you money. It can even make you money if you’re feeding back to the grid consistently.

Don’t want to pay for the solar system upfront? That’s not necessarily a problem either. There are many financing options that make it possible to pay for your solar panel system over time.

Making More from Your Solar Power 

Solar systems are complex. There are peak times, off peak times, seasonal times, and so forth. If you want to increase the amount of energy that you’re able to save, you need to look into your usage patterns first. Identify the times that you’re most likely to use energy, and identify the times that you can avoid energy use altogether.

The energy consumption of your house and the size of your solar installation is going to impact how much electricity you produce. Consequently, it’s also going to alter how much energy you have for your home, and how much you sell back to the grid. If you really want to save money, a larger system is generally better. You also want to save money on the cost of installation.

However, be aware: going with the cheapest bidder for a solar system is usually not a good idea. Not all bidders are made equal. For a solar installation, you should consider the upfront cost of installation.

Reducing Your Bills through Solar

Are you able to reduce your energy bills through solar power? Absolutely. Reduced energy bills is the primary reason most people switch to solar, and once it’s installed, it requires virtually no work from you. 

Not only are you going to be able to save money on your energy bills, but you’ll also be able to sell money off to the grid, or use it yourself later. If you want true energy independence, you can try to produce all your energy needs through your solar system, and invest in a battery to store your excess energy for future use.

The larger and cheaper your solar system is, the better your results — but within reason. You still don’t want to sign up with a company that is the “cheapest in the business” or that doesn’t produce high quality panels.

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I Want to Install Solar But I Don’t Know How Much to Spend

It’s hard to know how much to spend for a solar installation. There’s a huge spectrum between the cheapest systems and the most expensive systems. How do you know that you’re not paying too much? When should you be scared of paying too little?

Quality Solar Components vs. Cheap Solar

First: there are always going to be deals that look like fantastic options. There’s a lot of cheap solar out there. But most cheap solar systems are cutting a lot of corners. They aren’t necessarily safe, and the installation isn’t always handled properly. With a cheap solar system, you might not have the maintenance or support that you need.

While you can save money on the initial system and installation, this will likely cost you money long-term. You may need to replace the technology and equipment more frequently, or you could even experience something dangerous and dramatic… like a house fire.

Thus, when comparing solar, you shouldn’t necessarily go with the lowest bid. But how can you know what’s too low?

What Does the Solar Industry Recommend Spending?

Here’s the easiest way to find out what the “going rate” for a solar system in your area is: get a few quotes. Call some solar system companies up and compare different amounts. You’ll likely have some very low bids, but also a lot of bids that are clustered fairly close together. That “cluster” is probably going to be the general, reasonable rates in your area.

When it comes to solar, you get what you pay for. The more you spend, the more care is likely to go into installation and maintenance. A cheaper system may not have any included maintenance: you might need to pay quite a lot every time you need troubleshooting or repairs. The costs of a solar system is only partly the solar panels themselves; it’s also the labor and the services provided.

So, the cost of your system is going to vary, depending on what the company can offer. The company may have higher quality parts and expert technicians who are on call 24/7 to answer your questions. That’s going to be on the more expensive side. On the other hand, a company may have high quality parts, but you may need to pay for all your service calls. That could be more moderately priced.

Average solar power costs for a 3kw system in Australia ranges between $3,000 to $8,000, so you can see that there’s a significant range. And you may add to those costs by doing things like adding batteries, which can store unused power and make your solar system more effective and functional overall. But you can talk with your solar company about your budget and figure out a way to create a system that works best for you.

And don’t forget that there are a lot of tax credits available for both commercial and residential solar power installations. It’s possible that your final cost could be impacted by these tax benefits.

How Can You Pay for Solar?

So, what if the solar system costs in your area are high? You know that solar installations will save you money over time, but you still need to pay the cost of the system to begin with. With housing prices increasing in Australia, that’s not trivial.

But there are ways. Many solar panel companies offer financing, and there are also home equity loans that are open for renovations. It’s often fairly easy to get financing for solar systems, so you don’t need to pay the entire cost upfront.

Don’t assume that you can’t afford a solar panel system. It may be less expensive than you think, and it is going to save you money over time. Instead, get some quotes, compare, and figure out whether your budget will allow for it. You may be able to get an easy payment plan.

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