The value of solar in uncertain times

Solar installers are still working – albeit with extra precautions.

Make your investments dependent on the strength of the sun – not the strength of the economy.

Last Updated: 23rd Jul 2020

By Finn Peacock – Chartered Electrical Engineer, Ex-CSIRO, Founder of SolarQuotes.com.au

Normally, the information that I give on this website gently guides consumers interested in solar towards relevant information (such as my solar 101 guide), to help them decide if solar is right for them.

With recent world events – I think it’s uncontroversial to say we’re not living in normal times!

So – in this article, I’m going to be a little more blunt.

Because I truly believe that solar is, and has always been, a fantastic investment for your home – and there’s never been a better time than now to get solar.

The value of solar is simply the security it gives you – Economic security from solar panels, and energy security from battery storage.

The peace of mind that, whatever happens, your bills will be much, much lower with solar than they would be without it.

Let’s start with the obvious:

When more members of your household are spending more time at home, energy use goes up

With self-isolation on the cards for a lot of households, both voluntary and mandatory, and many families keeping their children home from school – this means your home energy usage is naturally going to go up.

And you don’t need a Nobel Prize in Economics to recognise that when your energy usage goes up, your bills do too.

Solar reduces your bills from day 1 – and the savings are tax-free

The simple brilliance of solar power is that it offsets your home’s energy usage from day dot. Our calculator shows that a 6.6kW solar system (which is the typical size installed these days) conservatively delivers around $2000 a year in savings.

For example, the following are estimated simple payback periods and savings over ten years for a 6.6kW solar system costing $6,600 installed in the various capitals; using the calculator’s default settings:

  • Brisbane: 3 years (10 years savings: $22,696)
  • Sydney: 3 years (10 years savings: $22,131)
  • Canberra: 4 years (10 years savings: $17,482)
  • Melbourne: 3 years (10 years savings: $20,815)
  • Hobart: 5 years (10 years savings: $15,118)
  • Adelaide: 3 years (10 years savings: $25,173)
  • Perth: 5 years (10 years savings: $14,386)
  • Darwin: 3 years (10 years savings: $27,911)

The best part? Money you save through solar is tax-free – as it’s not considered income.

Savings from solar can be used to offset other household bills/expenses

When your solar system generates electricity, and you don’t have a battery, it can be used in one of two ways:

1) If your home is using electricity at the same time your system is generating it, the two cancel each other out.

For example, here in Adelaide I pay $0.36 per kWh for grid electricity. So if I get that kWh from solar instead of the grid – it’s saved me $0.36. The more of my usage I shift into daylight hours – the more this adds up.

2) If your solar system is generating more electricity than your home needs – the excess is sold to the grid for a “feed in tariff”

Feed in tariffs vary from retailer to retailer. Using Adelaide as an example – you can find retailers offering feed in tariffs ranging from 6.8c/kWh all the way up to 22c/kWh. 

Meaning – it pays to shop around. We even have a nifty tool here to help you find the best retailer for your household.

The bottom line is – every dollar your solar system saves you is a dollar you can spend elsewhere supporting your household.

Solar provides economic security, batteries provide energy security.

From an economic standpoint, the savings from solar are far superior to the savings from batteries.

But, for many, the savings from batteries don’t matter – what they want is energy security.

True blackout protection – where the grid goes down but the lights stay on, the beers stay cold, and your favourite TV show is uninterrupted.

finn's house in a blackout

Pictured – my house as the only one on the street with the lights on in a blackout!

Batteries can do this – but you need to make sure you’re on the same page with your installer.

You first need to be explicit (and realistic) about what circuits you want the battery to back up.

Do you want just the lights, TV and fridges to stay on in a blackout? Or do you want the whole house, aircon and all?

The latter is possible – but it does add a lot to costs!

You also want to make sure your backup is “apocalypse proof”. What this means is – your battery will still charge from your solar panels even when the grid goes down.

You’d think this would be a standard feature of a solar + battery installation – but it isn’t!

Make sure you say this to your installer when buying a solar + battery system: “I want my solar to charge my batteries when the grid goes down”

The stock market carries risk, and bank interest rates aren’t worth squat

It’s a brave person that takes on dueling trading algorithms in order to try and make a few bucks on the stock market during this crazy time. The ASX has been all over the place like a dog’s breakfast – not to mention international markets!

And – with the reserve bank cutting interest rates to 0.25% – you can be assured that spare money sitting in the bank is doing almost nothing for you.

To quote one of my recent customers who sees no better time than the present to upgrade:

“I have 7 solar panels and I want to add to them, as money in the bank is not worth having”

I couldn’t agree with him more!

We all need a cash buffer in tough times  – I’m not suggesting you eat into that. But if you are fortunate enough to have cash looking for a place to go, I truly believe solar is a great place to put it.

Social distancing and solar

Arranging the installation of solar power is not a contact sport, nor does it need to involve you getting up close and personal with anyone.

Much of the process can occur online or over the phone, and a site visit by a prospective installer doesn’t have to involve that person being inside your home.

The same situation applies on the day of installation – the installers will be on your rooftop for the most part, not in your lounge-room.

The companies SolarQuotes works with are very aware Australians are now sensitive to having others inside their home – and are more than happy to work within and over-and-above social-distancing guidelines.

Bear in mind that even in a worst-case scenario of all businesses being suddenly ordered to suspend operations, when things fire back up you’ll be ahead of the demand that will likely follow.

See what your next four bills will be with our nifty calculator

I’ve developed an easy-to-use solar calculator that can provide you with an estimate of your next four bills with solar and/or batteries – to show the real impact solar will have on your bills.

And I have to say – it’s pretty damn accurate, even for an estimate! This page has examples of predicted bills from the calculator vs bills in reality.

To use a home in Adelaide with a 6.6kW solar system as an example:

my calculator and 6.6kW of solar

Note the “before solar” and “after solar” difference!

You can see that it makes an impressive dent in each season’s bills.

We only work with the best

My philosophy for the service SolarQuotes provides is this: There’s a lot of installers out there. How can you know who to trust?

The other week, I vetted a list of over 100 installers in NSW who applied to join our network and only 28 made got through the first gate of vetting. 

And I can tell you – my second gate involves a 17-point checklist, and few applicants make it through that unscathed!

My mission with SolarQuotes is to connect you with quality, pre-vetted installers who treat you with respect, don’t go for the hard-sell, and provide a system that is installed with care – so it will last for decades.

If that’s something you want to explore for your own home – just hit the button below:

About Finn Peacock

I’m a Chartered Electrical Engineer, solar and energy efficiency nut, dad, and founder of SolarQuotes.com.au. My last “real job” was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division. Since 2009 over 350,000 Australians have used my site to get quotes for high quality PV systems from pre-vetted solar installers.

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