Is solar worth it

We are over 65 and no family. We are thinking about installing Solar to reduce our electricity bills which are about $ 275 a quarter. Origin is our provider at the moment.

Welcome to the forum.

Here is a reliable opinion from somebody who is well thought of hereabouts. Read the reviews, buy the book and study it, it isn’t expensive and is well written for the non-technical person. If you think you are going to benefit then get the free quotes provided.

You will need to do some sums to work out when (if) you will get your money back before you accept one. That will depend to a degree if you have the capital to buy a system or would have to borrow.

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Choice also has information on its website about buying solar:

One important thing to know is when you use electricity. Installing solar becomes cost effective when it is used to reduce the amount of grid electricity used - which occurs during the day. It isn’t cost effective if one exports most of the electricity generated by the solar system to the grid (being paid feed in tariffs).

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This is because feed-in tariffs are tiny these days. You might get 8-12c/kWh if you’re lucky.

You should plan to make your home all-electric if it isn’t already, so you can get the most benefit from the solar power generated.

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… which might best suit a retiree who has greater flexibility to schedule consumption for during the day.

But also works for those who are WFH.

Your first priority should be to reduce consumption (not that that bill is at all on the high side - before I got solar my bill was about 3x that!). You can save money without initially worrying about solar.

For example, if you have some crappy ancient fridge on its last legs, it may be consuming much more than a new fridge today, particularly if chosen for efficiency. If you have two fridges, well, do you really need two fridges? Are all the lights in your house already replaced with LED / CFL? If you have airco, is it set to cool to an unnecessarily low temperature? Are you wasting hot water (and the heat therein) by not having low-flow shower heads? etc. etc. etc. …

But let’s say that you’ve done that, or you don’t want to …

If you want to do the figuring yourself then for starters you need to separate your bill out into

  • the fixed daily charge (which is largely unavoidable, but which can be higher or lower if you don’t / do shop around), and
  • the charge attributable to consumption - so you want to know how many kWh per day you consume on average, on a month by month basis or failing that on a quarter by quarter basis

Then you need to look at your pattern of consumption i.e. when during the 24 hour period do you consume electricity? and for any consumption that is not at peak generation time (middle of the day) can you shift it to peak generation time?

Another consideration is how long you plan to stay in your current property.

For sure there is no “one size fits all” answer to “Is solar worth it?”

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Origin and AGL have been offering Solar packages. They are one way of spreading the cost. Note they lock you in to the one retailer. I’m not recommending either.

Both options provide an indication of what it would cost to go Solar, which you can compare to your current bill. They will more than likely increase your total cost rather than reduce it. I approached both in the past, and the assessment from the sales reps using our true consumption - it was going to cost more and not less than we were currently paying once the cost of financing over 5 years was added to the bill. Our consumption at home was relatively low (2 adults not working). Our percentage exported was forecast to be relatively high. Possibly similar to your situation?

CanStar reviewed Origin’s offering.

Also a financing plan option for AGL customers.

SolarQuotes already linked in a prior post has been my go to for informed advice. They have a calculator as does the Choice link.

What we have also found is Retailer’s electricity plans for Solar PV customers can have significantly different tariffs and charges when compared to the best everyday plans. AGL and Origin for instance may offer for the best everyday plans a lower daily connection fee and lower flat tariff for consumption. The solar feed-in tariff will also be typically very low (3-5cents). Any plans (Solar specific) offering a better solar feed-in tariff (up to 15c/kWh in our zone) typically have a higher daily connection charge and consumption tariffs. It’s also important to look at what is specific to your state/territory and distributor - zone, plus any government offers.

P.S.
We do have Solar PV. We financed it out of our home equity. It was a long term decision, assuming we would still be in the same home in 5-10 years time. The system is now into its 6th year. We may have just managed to save in electricity bills the initial cost of the system. Noting feed-in tariffs have progressively decreased over that time, increasing the payback period.

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The cost of the upgrades/conversion can be greater than the cost of adding Solar PV. Also to consider is how electricity demand changes, and increases.

Worth having a look at.

74 (almost) here… I went through all this a few years back. I wanted to do the best I could for both the environment and myself. In the end, I decided that the cost to convert at this property was just far too great, and I then set about replacing appliances (some of which are needing replacement again!!). The one thing I didnt replace was the gas stove because I was dithering about going electric. After getting a couple of quotes I realised it would just be cheaper o get a newer gas stove which should be more efficient, and having a flue put in which should deal with atmospheric contamination in the house!

I’ve been using a microwave oven and an electric skillet for most of my cooking. This summer though, I think its going to be cold cuts and salads. Gas and electric bills are both acceptable, at under $200 a quarter after rebates etc. I’ve also replaced most of my lights with LIFX smart bulbs which are LED and controlled through Apple Home.

Keeping the gas for cooking even though I rarely use it, because during blackouts… my stove is not affected, it has no electrical connections. I’ll be replacing it with the same.

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Definitely worth it. You do have to change your electricity consumption habit though, e.g. use dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, even vacuum cleaning, when the sun is out.

Also, with summers now getting hotter than ever, chances are you’ll want to turn on air-conditioning more often - that’s assuming you have aircon. Having solar power will lower your power bill there.

Of course it helps even further if you install a battery at the same time, but if that is one step too far in terms of cost, then just install solar panels for now and add the batery later. You should aim for at least a 5.5 kW system otherwise if you add a battery later, your system will be too small to charge the battery - assuming your battery will be around the 13.5 kWh capacity (e.g. Tesla Powerwall).

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Can you light your gas stove without electricity? (I mean sure if you can find a packet of matches, that will do the trick but I am raising the issue of using the built-in lighter. Maybe there are different technologies around so that some will light and some won’t.)

PS In most cases, you would want to have solar hot water, if you don’t already, before worrying about PV.

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It was described as having no electrical connections so it will still light with the power off. Piezoelectric ignition is one way to do that.

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There are two relevant technologies of which I am aware. One can be lit without electricity regardless of using a match or igniter flame whether or not the piezo/electric ignition spark is operative. Think relighting a gas water heater as the operational model. The other has self lighting and relighting (if a burner flames out) burners that will not operate without power. Is there another?

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A interesting prospect. When and why would this be a better choice?
The demographics say 37% of Aussie homes have Solar PV (7% of these have batteries). 15% have solar HWS. Decision making can reflect climate/location and Govt policy (subsidies/grants)and …?

SolarQuotes suggests,
https://www.solarquotes.com.au/good-solar-guide/solar-hot-water-options/

What would a comparison of the financial outcomes suggest? IE for each scenario and how they scale with Solar PV included for a low carbon household. Note there will likely be different outcomes if one lives in a Hobart or Mt Isa, Melbourne or Canberra.

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At the very least, if you don’t already have solar hot water, it should be “on the table”. Unfortunately the OP provided very limited information.

Some of the considerations are as mentioned in the link.

  • If you are bumping up against the panel/inverter limit imposed by the electricity network operator then solar hot water is in addition to that limit.
  • If you are bumping up against the limit of usable roof space, solar hot water is more efficient in use of roof space.
  • Solar hot water becomes more efficient in a warmer climate (whereas PV becomes less efficient).

In a colder climate where you would not want to have the hot water tank on the roof then I would recommend against solar hot water because, as the link mentions, with the hot water system split in this way there is the complexity of pumps and controllers (which, apart from the cost, will inevitably fail).

A minor consideration could be that not having solar hot water means that all your eggs are in one basket if you experience a PV system failure.

On the other hand, panels are inherently more flexible since the electricity can be used for other things besides heating water.

As you say, government subsidies / rebates / grants could alter (distort) the result.

It’s hard to know what to make of that because it doesn’t clearly (at a quick read) mention what kind of dwelling we are talking about. The trend towards more medium density living, and more rental living, and more battery hen living in dodgy-builder high rise means that choices are not what they used to be as far as a straight comparison of percentage of households with PV with percentage of households with solar hot water i.e. where the choice may be taken out of the hands of the householder (and in the case of rental living where there is a likely conflict between the interests of the owner and the interests of the occupier).

And that’s without even considering the effect of subsidies.

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Piezo ignition. I only have it in the grill and oven, top burners I just use a standard long lighter.

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