An Introduction to Solar Power

An Introduction to Solar Power

The sun provides us with an abundance of energy each day, its powerful rays offering an energy solution that keeps high energy bills at bay and minimises the need for damaging fossil fuels. Solar powered systems are a popular yet worthwhile investment and to give us an introduction to solar power, we invited Brett from CQ Solar & Electrical to share his expert advice.

Solar energy is a renewable and powerful source of power, producing more energy in an hour than what is used across the world in a year. By harnessing the sun’s thermal energy and with the right power system, solar panels can generate enough energy to sustain a household’s electricity usage.

Solar power systems are comprised of panels, inverters, switch boards, electricity meters and in some instances, a power grid. When a grid is connected to a solar power system, it draws energy from an inverter to power household appliances and any leftover electricity is fed back into the grid. Stand alone power systems are disconnected from a public grid and rely on a battery to store surplus energy to supply electricity during overcast days or overnight use.

Stand alone systems with batteries aren’t as common as grid systems for homes but with improving battery technology and cheaper production, batteries are becoming more popular. The appropriate size and capacity of a battery will depend on the amount of power your household spends during the night.

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The number of panels you require to power your home will depend on the number of people residing and the frequency of use. Usually, a medium sized home for 2-3 people will require a 3kw system whereas a large home for four or more people will require a 5kw installation to power a fridge, 20 or more halogen lights, multiple air conditioners and approximately five or more loads of washing a week.

The size of an average panel ranges from 1660mm x 990mm with an output wattage of 250 watts. For residential properties, 1kw installations begin at $2500 but Brett notices that 5kw installations are the most common.

“If you are thinking of solar power for your home, invest sooner rather than later as the price of systems will get a lot higher once rebates are lost,” said Brett.

As solar systems only produce light from the sun, solar systems cannot generate energy during the night. Instead, solar panels collect and store energy in the grid during periods of strong daylight. Stand alone solar systems will rely on stored electricity on a battery or rely on long-life batteries to store energy to use at a later stage. Ideally, panels should also be installed in a north/west facing direction to optimise the amount of sunlight that is captured.

“It’s a myth that solar systems will supply power during a blackout or outage. This is a complete myth. If power was to go back out on the grid, this could present an electrical hazard and inverters don’t allow the system to run if grid supply is lost,” explains Brett.

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According to Brett, the most important thing about solar panels is its maintenance. Solar panels need to be cleaned, maintained and checked regularly to prevent potential electrical hazards and improve the efficiency of the system. Brett recommends check ups once a year to minimise future hassle and save money in the long run. Panels also need to be cleaned regularly with soapy water and a scrubbing brush as it is possible to lose up to 25% of efficiency due to the build-up of dirt.

The benefits of solar powered systems are plenty, offering a long term cost saving solution for homeowners and a sustainable alternative for the environment. The energy and cost savings of a solar powered system will be different for every household depending on the number of people, reliance of electricity over night and existing energy providers but when installed right, a solar power system will have an average payback period of 4-5 years. With an inexhaustible supply of energy, solar power is less vulnerable to rising electricity costs and when coupled with energy efficient bulbs, will cut extra costs.

Thinking of making the switch to solar powered systems? Get free quotes from solar panel experts in your area to understand the benefits, savings and right system for your home. To read more about how you can save, check out our Six Energy Saving Tips or our guide to Understanding LED Lights and Globes.