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Before you sign a solar-related contract, carefully research the company name, products and potential rebates.
Solar panels, also called solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, use sunlight to generate renewable electricity. They can generate clean power, which can help reduce energy bills and benefit the environment.
To make the best choice, you need to understand what you are signing up to. Some systems can be expensive but cheaper panels may not offer better value. Any problems with installation or repairs can add significant extra cost. Rebates or feed-in tariffs may lower the cost of ownership.
The Victorian government offers a rebate to help with the up-front cost of installing solar panels. For details, see Solar panel rebate - Solar Victoria.
A typical 4kW (kilowatt) solar panel system can help most households pay a lot less for electricity. You will still need to draw the rest of your electricity from the state electricity grid.
The amount of electricity your system generates will depend on several factors. These include:
- number of panels
- size and quality of panels
- angle of panels (north-facing roofs are best)
- the weather.
Consider these factors when you estimate costs and benefits of installing solar panels.
Solar batteries can store energy from solar panels. You then use that energy when the sun is not shining. Batteries can reduce your energy bills.
Batteries are expensive but cheaper battery systems may not offer better value. The Victorian government offers a rebate to help with the upfront cost of a solar battery. For details, see Solar battery rebate - Solar Victoria.
Batteries store energy that would otherwise feed into the electricity grid. Unlike solar panels, batteries generally do not benefit the environment.
The financial and environmental benefits of batteries are likely to increase.
Power during blackouts
Some systems can use batteries to power your home during a blackout. If blackouts are common in your area, or the consequences would be severe, you should research this option. Confirm with the battery retailer whether the system you choose offers this function.
To decide what size battery is right for you, check the 'usable capacity'. This may be less than the total capacity of the battery.
Before you buy a solar energy system
Do some reading
- Decide what type of solar energy system you want and what system would suit your home.
- Get quotes from several Clean Energy Council-accredited installers. For help with this, visit Find an installer - Clean Energy Council.
- Read online reviews and feedback about the retailer.
- Ensure you are comparing quotes for the same type of solar energy system and features.
- Talk to your energy retailer. Ask about the rates for electricity drawn from, and fed back into, the grid.
Before signing a contract
- If you expect to claim a Solar Homes package rebate, confirm whether you are eligible. You must do this yourself, via Solar Victoria.
- Check that the contract's terms and conditions match everything the salesperson told you.
- Check that the contract specifies a completion date. It should also explain what happens if they miss the completion date.
- Read and understand the warranty conditions. Compare the length of warranty on products.
- Read and understand the supplier's policy on repairs.
- Negotiate the amount required as a deposit (usually 10 per cent).
Solar Homes package rebates
Eligible households and landlords can apply for solar rebates and interest-free loans. The Victorian Government offers rebates for solar:
- panels for homeowners
- panels for rental properties
- hot water.
For more information and to check your eligibility, visit Solar Victoria.
Do not rely on any statements that you will receive the rebate, unless Solar Victoria confirms it.
Beware of scammers pretending to be from the Victorian Government or Solar Victoria. They may ask for your bank account details, or pressure you to pay a deposit over the phone. For more information, view Rebate scam.
Before signing a contract for any solar installation, research the name and reputation of the business. Confirm eligibility to apply for a rebate before signing or paying a deposit.
Small-scale technology certificates are sometimes called 'solar credits' or 'solar rebates'. These are tradeable certificates from the Commonwealth Government. They are an incentive to install renewable energy products, such as solar panel systems.
The most common way to get these certificates is through a registered agent. If a solar panel company is registered, it may offer you:
- an up-front discount off the cost of the system, or
- a cash rebate.
The company uses your certificates to get the money back from the Government. It is possible to create and trade these certificates yourself, but it is complicated.
The discount or rebate will depend on:
- where you live, and
- how much electricity the system will generate by 2030.
One certificate equals one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity production by 2030. The panel installer should give you this information before you sign the contract.
For more information on solar certificates, visit Claiming small-scale technology certificates - Clean Energy Regulator.
A solar feed-in tariff is a payment you receive via your electricity retailer. It is a credit on your bill for the excess electricity your solar energy system feeds into the grid.
For example, at certain times of the day your panels may produce more electricity than you use. If it is sunny, the system generates electricity. If no one is home, energy consumption will be low. By feeding the excess electricity back into the grid, you can earn money from feed-in tariffs.
The feed-in tariff is a rate that is set per kilowatt hour (kWh).
All electricity retailers with more than 5,000 customers must offer consumers the option of a single rate tariff.
They may also offer different packages and terms and conditions - for example a 'time varying' tariff. This option gives customers a minimum credit rate that changes depending on the time of the day.
For the latest rates and more information, visit Minimum feed-in tariff - Essential Services Commission.
Problems with a solar product or installation
If you have a problem with a solar product, such as a faulty inverter, view Problems with a product.
If you have a problem with the installation, documentation, or with other services, view Problems with a service.
If you paid by credit card and can no longer contact the business, consider asking the card provider for a chargeback. For more information, view Chargeback.
For advice on dealing with a business that has become insolvent, view Insolvency.
You can pay an inspector to check for problems before they become noticeable. To find an inspector, visit Public registers - Energy Safe Victoria.
Problems with your energy retailer or distributor
Visit Energy and Water Ombudsman (EWOV) or call 1800 500 509, if an energy retailer or distributor:
- cannot resolve your problem or complaint
- is not applying feed-in tariffs to your bill.