A simple guide to home solar

These days everyone seems to be getting home solar. 

If you want to learn about the basics but have zero interest in talking about inverters at a BBQ, then boy are you in the right place. 

The purpose of this guide is to help you feel confident in navigating the Australian home solar landscape, and perhaps even convince you that this is the year to go solar. If you have an apartment check our our guide to getting solar for apartments.

Home solar today is a ridiculously good deal. 

In Australia, we have access to the cheapest energy in the world – rooftop solar. We’re not even exaggerating. 

Thanks to our unique climate conditions and how good we are at connecting solar-powered homes to the grid, we pay half as much as Kiwis do for solar energy and a quarter of what they pay in the US.

Combine this with historically low costs for solar panels and surging electricity prices – the economics really start to look quite attractive (not to mention the climate benefits). 

For many households, you might pay back the cost of your entire solar system in as little as 3 years from the electricity savings. 

Home solar is such a good deal that one third of households already have it.

How does home solar work?

The basic concept is pretty simple:

  1. Someone installs solar panels on your roof (takes about a day)
  2. These panels generate electricity during the day, which is fed to your home
  3. You buy less energy from the grid (and automatically sell back any excess you don’t need)

The hard part is how to do all of that efficiently. That’s where you get into all the discussions about the best panels, inverters, system designs, optimal system size, etc. 

Luckily, solar nerds & quality solar providers love arguing about this stuff so if you find the right provider, they will take care of that for you. 

What’s the point of a battery?

Solar panels only produce energy during the day when the sun is shining, so they don’t work very well at night. A battery lets you store excess energy produced in the daytime, so you can use it later. They’re great if you use most of your energy at night. Find our more about batteries here.

Modern solar panels are pretty high tech

Solar technology is improving about as fast as computers are. 

Modern solar panels generate electricity year round, even in winter, in the rain, and on cloudy days, and most homes can now get solar.

They start generating meaningful amounts of electricity at 6am, well before noon. Shade can still be a problem, but they can compensate to a degree. 

They’re also self-cleaning in the rain (if your roof is on an angle) which is great for all of us who don’t like cleaning solar panels for fun. 

Naturally, output will be the highest when it’s sunnier. You’re still connected to the grid, so you always have your regular electricity supply as a backup. 

Black home solar panels on a roof.
Modern home solar panels generate electricity year round, and they can even come in different colours. This photo shows black solar panels.

How much could you save with home solar?

The short answer is, you could wipe out your entire electricity bill. 

The long answer is, it depends on a bunch of things like:

  • How much energy you currently use
  • What times you use electricity throughout the day
  • How many solar panels you get
  • Whether you get a battery
  • Your local climate

Savings come from two places:

  1. You buy less energy from the grid because you’re using the energy that you produce yourself. This will be where most of your savings come from
  2. You automatically sell excess energy back to the grid. You’re paid at what’s called the “feed-in tariff”, which is much lower than what you pay to buy electricity, and will probably continue to decrease.

As a really rough rule of thumb, you might cut your electricity bill in half with a high quality solar system without a battery, and with a battery you might cut out most of it.

If you switch your gas appliances to efficient electric appliances, you’ll cut out your gas bill too. 

Use our solar calculator to get an instant savings estimate for your household.

Environmental impact

Australia has committed to reaching emission levels of 43% below 2005 level by the year 2030. A big part of this is planned to come from transitioning to clean energy generated by home solar. 

According to projections by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, we’re not currently on track to meet these targets, which means that we need to install home solar faster. 

As an individual, this is one of the most impactful things you can do to help combat climate change.

Government rebates

Home solar is important and it is effective. Federal, state, and local council governments all offer significant rebates for installing a solar system.

The exact amount of the rebate depends on the size of the system installed and where you live, but you can expect to save at least $2000 on your solar system.

Most of the time, your installer will process the rebate on your behalf and deduct it from the purchase price. 

Use our solar calculator to get an instant rebates estimate for your household.

What are the steps to getting home solar?

Here’s what we normally recommend:

Step 1: Savings estimate

See if solar is worth it for you by getting an estimate of how much you will save, and the rebates you qualify for. 

You can do this using our solar calculator.

Step 2: Cost estimate

Get an estimate of how much it will cost to install solar, including to cover your current energy needs and any future needs if you buy an EV or want to get off gas. This will also show you how long it will take for the system to pay itself back. 

You can do this using our instant cost estimate.

If you get multiple quotes with different prices, and you aren’t sure what the difference is, be sure to check out our article on cheap vs expensive solar.

Step 3: Inspection

Book a free inspection with a solar installer to get a formal quote. 

Some providers will do an inspection by just looking at satellite pictures of your roof, while others will visit your home and personally inspect your roof, electricity metre and wiring to confirm the system can be installed, and see if there is anything that will impact the cost. 

Make sure you book with an installer that is Clean Energy Council Accredited. You can book a free inspection online with our vetted partner installers here.

Sometimes an installer will say that you can’t get solar, or solar wouldn’t be worth it, due to a specific reason such as shade, roof shape, heritage listing, or wiring – but this isn’t always true. 

Step 4: Quote

Review the quote the installer sends you, and decide if you want to go ahead. 

Keep in mind that there are important differences between cheap and expensive home solar, and very cheap systems do have some downsides.

Depending on where you get your quotes from, you might also be fighting off calls & emails from a bunch of solar salespeople for a few weeks.

Step 5: Installation

Book your installation. It usually takes a day, but sometimes 2. You will start seeing savings immediately once it’s installed and connected to the grid.

Step 6: Show off to your neighbours

Remember to look smug. Enjoy your bill savings, and feel good about doing your part to combat climate change.

Need help getting home solar?

We’re a social enterprise helping Australians transition their home to clean energy. Book a free virtual consultation and we’ll help you make a plan, find quality installers, and get it done.