Solar panels are a big investment, and many of us can feel bamboozled by the variety of installers, technologies and prices. To help cut through the confusion, ReEnergise Geelong is gathering solar stories from our community to get the tips from people who’ve already taken the plunge.
This week we visited Tasch and Dan in West Geelong, who are very happy with the 4kw photovoltaic (PV) system they installed 18 months ago. We asked them about how they decided on their system, and how their investment stacks up now that the big feed in tariffs have dried up...
Q: Why was PV a big priority for your household?
Dan: “We’ve got little kids, so looking after their planet is a primary driver for us. We try to be sustainable in all of our consumption choices. But now that we’ve moved down this path it also makes complete sense from a financial perspective. First we saved a lot of power by using energy efficiency to drive down our consumption. Once we’d picked the low hanging fruit it was time for PV.
Q: Which changes did you make in energy efficiency?
Dan: In the lead up to buying solar panels we did a lot of energy efficiency upgrades and behaviour change so that we didn’t need to buy a big PV system. It’s basic stuff really, like switching things off when we walk out of a room. Every time we needed to buy an appliance we’d buy the most efficient model. We don’t have a dryer. We managed to get our daily usage down to 6-9kwh/d, which is equivalent of an average 1 person household.
Tasch: And now that we’ve got the panels we’ve changed how we use power in our house. Our panels face west, so after 11am we start producing a lot of energy. I’m generally home during the day, so I’ve been able to shift a lot of our appliance use to the times when our panels are producing the most energy. It’s pretty simple, I just set the dishwasher and washing machine to run just after lunch. We have an in-home display so we can track exactly what our panels are producing at any point in time.
Q: You said you’re not using a lot of power – how did you decide to install a 4kw system?
Dan: Our system is a bit oversized and we export around 20kwh onto the grid most days. With our 7c feed in tariff that doesn’t translate to much of an income for the energy we’re feeding in, but that’s our altruistic gift to the energy system. It’s never been about the feed in tariff anyway, it was about offsetting our consumption.
Q: How did you choose your PV installer?
Dan: There was a big variety in price and, initially, the bargain hunter in me was drawn to the cheapest quote. But I researched products obsessively and in the end we went with Energy Matters because it seems to be really well regarded in the online communities. I liked them because they made a big point of committing to quality but acknowledging that it wasn’t as cheap as other products out there.
Q: Which energy retailer did you choose, and why?
Dan: When you have solar panels, it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of choice in the retailer space. We’re still with Origin but will probably switch to Powershop soon. Most of the retailers are bad, and most are the same in terms of their environmental credentials. We’re keen to try Powershop because they’re not lobbying to wind back renewables, and I think they might offer a slightly more competitive feed in tariff than what we’re on.
Q: What difference has your PV system made to your bills?
Dan: Since we installed our panels our summer bills are down to around $15 a month. Our winter bills are between $15-$30 a month. We’re saving between $200-$300 every 2 months, and if we keep going at this rate our system will pay itself off over 4 years.
Q: What’s the next step in your family’s energy transition?
Dan: We hope to go off-grid and off-gas, so we want to get battery storage at some point and switch to all-electric appliances. We installed a gas hydronic system a few years ago which, at the time, was the best decision to make. But these days you’d be better off using a split system powered by solar energy. Energy storage like the Tesla Power Wall will make going off-grid possible for our family.
Q: Stats and Specs...
System size: 4kw
Array: 16 x Daqo panels
Inverter: Fronius IG 40 HV (Austrian company)
Mounting system: Sunlock (Australian made)
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