img

FAQs

Can I increase the size of my system in the future?

This depends on your roof space and the size of the inverter. If you have sufficient roof space and additional capacity in the inverter you could increase the size of your system. Or you could add a second system to your roof. Please note: At this time, the solar Feed-in Tariffs in each state have limits on the system size which to they apply. Increasing the size of an existing solar power system could affect your eligibility for a Feed-in Tariff. Please call us for further information.

Can I increase the size of my system in the future?

This depends on your roof space and the size of the inverter. If you have sufficient roof space and additional capacity in the inverter you could increase the size of your system. Or you could add a second system to your roof. Please note: At this time, the solar Feed-in Tariffs in each state have limits on the system size which to they apply. Increasing the size of an existing solar power system could affect your eligibility for a Feed-in Tariff. Please call us for further information.

What if I live in a heritage overlay, do I need extra approvals to install my solar system?

Yes, if you live in a home in Victoria with a heritage overlay you must apply for a planning permit prior to installing solar panels on your roof. This process can be done through your local council and usually takes around 10 business days.

The Planning department will decide based on if it can be seen from the street or any local parks. Our sustainability experts are experienced with this process and will gladly help you through the process.

What should I consider when buying a system?

Total energy usage, time of use, orientation of home and what appliances you use. What sort of system and installation warranties are available? Who is the manufacturer of the components? Are any rebates available for buying a solar system? How do I know my solar retailer is reputable?

You get what you pay for when purchasing a solar system for your home. Some solar system providers and retailers may offer you a cheap system but this end up costing you more in the long run.

How do I store solar energy instead of exporting it?

To store the solar energy that you generate from your solar system you can invest in a solar battery storage unit. There are many benefits for storage solar energy to energy efficiency and if chosen correctly your savings.

Without a solar battery storage unit, all the electricity you are using at night time is imported from the grid (which you are paying for). With a solar battery any of the excess energy that your solar system produces during the day that you do not use at the time will be stored in a battery unit instead of being exported to the grid. Not only could this save you money on your electricity bills it will decrease your overall reliance on the energy grid and fossil fuels.

Investing in solar storage unit has typically been uneconomical. However, more and more products are coming on the market making solar battery storage an option for many home owners with a solar system.

What if I have asbestos in my home?

If you are aware that there is asbestos in your home, please make sure you inform EnviroGroup as we will need to take special precautions when installing your solar system. Some of these precautions could involve an asbestos inspector assessing where the material is contaminated, and also removing all or parts of the asbestos to create a safe work area.

If you are unaware if there is asbestos in your home and on the day of install your installer identifies potential contamination, then work in that area will stop until a qualified asbestos inspector has tested the area and organized for its removal. Installers may also partially redesign some of the solar system to work around asbestos however, we recommend its removal.

The owner of the home is responsible for covering the cost of asbestos removal and we encourage that if you have any doubt, getting an asbestos analyst to check your home prior to the installation day.
If you’re concerned about asbestos in your home and you want to invest in solar power, our sustainability experts would gladly help you through the process.

I am building a new home, what should I consider if I want to install solar power?

Building a new home can be a long and arduous process. When you are adding systems to your lifestyle that lower your carbon footprint or increase your savings on your energy bill, it’s a good idea to consider solar for your new home. Technologies for energy efficiency are ever advancing and EnviroGroup works in consultation with builders, engineers, architects and industry experts to provide the best solar system for your home.

If you are thinking about installing a solar system in your new home build there are few things you should think about – panel location, pitch and orientation, inverter location, pre-wiring your home for solar and more. EnviroGroup can even help you work out roughly your ROI depending on your current energy consumption, taking into consideration any changes to your lifestyle or appliances in the home.

On the EnviroGroup end, it is important to notify your solar consultant and designer with a minimum one month lead-time if your planning on incorporating a pre-wire into the build for your installing solar panels.

Can I put panels on my shed?

Possibly. Your shed has to have a good solid structure like a hardwood frame or C-channel steel. It also needs to have power to it in the form of a sub-mains. You can tell if a shed has a sub-mains to it by looking for a small distribution board mounted inside. This is a little box with switches and circuit breakers. If it doesn’t have this it might just have a light and power coming from the house. This won’t do.

We can’t connect solar to these circuits. Sometimes it is possible to cut a trench from the shed to the house and either install a sub-mains or run the solar cable back to the main meter box. This can vary in price depending on distance and whether there is any cement to cut through. Our consultants will be able to assess all this for you when they visit your house

What components are needed for a solar system?

Inverter, solar panels, electrical isolators, rail, inverters. In some systems other components may be installed such as micro inverters, DC optimizers or a solar battery unit.

What size solar system do I need?

Exactly how much solar you need depends on your electricity bills (or consumption), your roof space and your budget. We generally recommend a system that has the ability to provide at least 80% of your daily electrical use.

To choose a size of solar system it is important to be clear on what you would like the solar system to achieve. For those wanting fast financial paybacks smaller systems are sometimes preferred, whereas maximum environmental benefits are achieved with a larger solar power system. Most of our customers want a mixture of both these things. This chart serves as a guide only so please consult with one of our professional solar design staff to discuss your situation.

Should I get a technical inspection before I install solar?

A technical inspection is not always needed before installing your solar system. However, to avoid issues on the day of installation and added costs to your systems installation, EnviroGroup advise opting for a technical inspection prior to your install. The technical inspection most commonly involves:

  • Identifying the level of safety measures that must be implemented for installers to safely access and install the solar system
  • Identifying any access issues to the residential property and roof
  • Inspecting the switchboard and assessing if there is a need for an upgrade prior to installation
  • Assessing the roof condition for installers and solar system designer
  • Finding the best location for the inverter to best protect the product
  • Clearly defining cable routes for the solar system
  • Identifying if there is asbestos at the property

Do I need a switchboard upgrade?

Generally, during the process of designing your solar system our sustainability experts request a photo of your switchboard to identify any issues where you may need to get a switchboard upgrade in order to install solar. It is recommended that you get a technical inspection prior to install so you aren’t left with additional charges on the day on installation. Here are a few reasons why you may need a switchboard upgrade.

  • There is no space left in the switchboard to add a solar main switch in
  • There is no main switch for the homes power supply (typically old homes)
  • No safety switch (RCDs attributing to other circuits near them)
  • Your switchboard is an old federal or ceramic board
  • If the switchboard does not meet current safety regulations (may only need rewiring not necessarily a full upgrade)
  • If you have any cracks or visible degrading of the switch board more generally
  • If you think you might need a switchboard upgrade our sustainability consultants will likely be able to let you know (please supply a photo).

Monocrystal or Polycrystal?

The vast majority of solar panels are made from silicon crystal. Silicon ingots are made and then sliced into thin wafers or cells. In the past, there was a big difference in performance between mono and poly but over time so much development has gone into the manufacturing that there’s really no difference between them now. Mono crystal is almost black in colour and you can easily tell them because of the diamond shaped blank spaces between the corners of each cell. We call these ‘diamonds’ and they have no purpose.

Poly cells are blue and have a mottled effect. Poly panels have no diamonds because the ingots are rectangular so when you cut the wafers, they are square. There is a new type of panel arrangement called ‘shingles’ which are monocrystal and they don’t have diamonds either. Don’t lose too much sleep over any of this as really doesn’t matter. Since Envirogroup prefers to use the latest equipment like Sunpower and these are monocrystalline, most of our range is mono but we have used poly in the past and may again.

Do I need to clean or maintain the panels?

Most solar panels are ‘self-cleaning’ meaning that natural rain is enough to keep them clean. If your panels are soiled simply spraying them with water should be sufficient. But if your panels are heavily soiled or your system is over 3 years old – we offer a service inspection program where a technician will inspect the system to make sure it’s running as it should. We also offer a panel cleaning service.

Can I mount the panels on any roof, no matter which way it faces?

Mostly, yes. In the southern hemisphere panels facing due north receive sunlight at the optimum angle in the middle of the day so north facing systems produce the most power. BUT! If the goal is for your solar energy to offset as much of your bill as possible then north facing panels might not be the best option. If nobody is home throughout the day then your solar is not being consumed and goes back to the grid where it is worth much less than what you are being billed. Most households use more power in the afternoon and the sun is in the west in the afternoon so for most people, putting panels on the west is a better option even though you will lose a few percent in peak generation.

It’s better to have 80% of something when you need it than 100% when you don’t. East facing panels are less desirable because household loads are minimum in the morning when the sun is powering these systems but if you have a pool or you can run equipment in the morning then sometimes it’s a good option.

We can even put panels on the south in certain circumstances. It is certainly the least desirable option and in Victoria, the winter generation will be terrible but if you have very high summer bills from air-conditioners or you are just plain desperate to reduce your bill even with an inefficient system and the only option on the roof is south, then we can consider it but it is really a last resort in Melbourne. If you are in Brisbane or Darwin where the winter sun is much higher in the sky then south is far less lossy.

If I sell my house, can I take the solar system with me?

Yes, it is possible.

However, the process is difficult and it is likely to end up costing more to uninstall and install again the system than it is to get a new one. Why not add to the value of your old home, leaving the solar system for the new owners or occupants to use and participate in the renewable energy movement.

What sort of roof can solar be installed on?

Solar can be installed on most roofs, normally tin, tile or kliplock. Some materials like slate can be problematic and asbestos is basically a no-go zone. There is a rare occasion where a roof may be made of a new or alternative material other than those mentioned. It is important that EnviroGroup is informed prior to installation to best understand the roof and the design of the solar system. EnviroGroup works with architects and engineers in understanding the best possibilities of installing solar on new roof materials. Ask our sustainability consultants if installing on your roof is possible.

If you have identified that your roof is over 40 years old with terracotta tiles or of poor-condition make sure you have at least 30-40 spare tiles to ensure that the installers can replace tiles if they are cracked or damaged during installation.

What sort of warranties does the system have? And why are they important?

EnviroGroup has been in operation since 2004, longer than many solar retailers in the market. EnviroGroup has a 10 year warranty on the installation of the system. For the products and components stocked by EnviroGroup, the warranties range from 5 – 25 years with the lowest solar panel warranty being 10 years.

When choosing your system components consider this; warranties should exist for at least the time of the company’s operation so that they are around if anything goes wrong.

What sort of roof can solar be installed on?

Solar can be installed on most roofs, normally tin, tile or kliplock. Some materials like slate can be problematic and asbestos is basically a no-go zone. There is a rare occasion where a roof may be made of a new or alternative material other than those mentioned. It is important that EnviroGroup is informed prior to installation to best understand the roof and the design of the solar system. EnviroGroup works with architects and engineers in understanding the best possibilities of installing solar on new roof materials. Ask our sustainability consultants if installing on your roof is possible.

If you have identified that your roof is over 40 years old with terracotta tiles or of poor-condition make sure you have at least 30-40 spare tiles to ensure that the installers can replace tiles if they are cracked or damaged during installation.

Are the panels fragile?

Yes and No. The panels are specifically designed and certified to withstand impacts from harsh weather such as hailstones. The aluminium frames are anodized for extra durability and long life. A direct lightning strike or extreme hail event is about the only weather likely to create significant damage to a solar power system. However, micro-fracturing of the silicon crystal is common when panels are incorrectly installed. Manufacturers specify the correct clamping zones on panels for maximum protection against wind loading effects and if these are not adhered to then a panel can vibrate with the wind, stressing the crystal and living a very short life. Sunpower panels are built with back-of-cell tracks and are therefore able to withstand incredible punishment whilst still producing energy.

Will the installation involve any significant alterations to my house?

All hardware is installed with virtually no alterations to your house. For tin roofs the frames are mounted directly to the roof and for tile roofs, a few tiles are removed, the frame is mounted into the rafters and then the tiles are replaced. The cables are normally installed inside the roof, walls, or underfloor, sometimes inside of conduit depending on the system type, and only as a last resort on an external wall. We strive to ensure minimal aesthetic impact to your home. But we have to operate within the rules and if we have to run d.c. cable inside a wall then it has to be inside metal conduit and this may simply not be possible to do so an external conduit might be required. We try to inform you of these things well before your installation date so you know what you are getting.

Can I increase my system size in the future?

Generally, yes, if you have enough room but there are many limitations. Many Network Providers limit the size of a system to 5kW per phase so if you already have been approved for 5kW on a single phase house then it may not be possible to go any larger. Also, if you have an older smaller system, you probably won’t be able to buy the same panels and adding newer panels to an old system is highly problematic. Your inverter might also not be able to take more panels and will have to be replaced. If you have a micro-inverter system such as Enphase, then adding extra system size is far easier provided you can fit it on the roof.

Can you estimate my power output and financial savings if I want to invest solar system?

Yes, we can. Based on how many panels you install as well as the inverter.

We also need to see your bills. The bill tells us what rate plan you are on and also your consumption each month. Some of the better bills also tell us when you are using electricity and this makes analysis much more accurate. We can also tell you whether you are paying too much for power and we might recommend shopping around for a better plan. This, plus adding solar power, will help smash that dreaded power bill.

What is interval data?

Interval data is the data recorded by your smart meter. The meter takes a snapshot of your power level at 15 or 30 minute increments around the clock all year round. You can request this from your retailer and it is usually emailed to you as a .csv file which you can open in Excel. When our designers have this file they can do very accurate modelling of how a solar project will perform and proved an accurate financial calculation based on actual historical figures. We generally do this for larger commercial projects rather than residential but if you have the file we would be happy to do the modelling for you as part of your quote.

Is my property single-phase or three-phase?

You can identify whether your property is a single-phase or three-phase by taking a look in your main switchboard. The circuit breaker which controls your main power supply for the house is essentially the type of phase that you have. One circuit breaker (or pole) is a single-phase property, the most common for residential properties.

However, if you have a large home needing more supply you may have a three-phase property. This is identified in the same way as a single-phase by looking at how many circuit breakers control your main power supply. At a three-phase properties switchboard there will be three circuit breakers controlling the power mains power supply.

What is battery ready?

Battery ready is a marketing phrase that can often be meaningless. All solar systems are battery ready since there are battery systems like Tesla that are ac coupled and can go onto any existing system. However, if you wanted a dc coupled system like Delta or LG Chem then the inverter on the existing system must be a type known as a hybrid which can not only take the solar array but also control the batteries.

These hybrids are like having a PV inverter and battery inverter in the one box. The Tesla and similar have the battery inverter built into the battery case. Battery systems require a good deal of consultation to ensure you have the appropriate system for your needs. They are NOT all the same. For more detailed explanation on battery deployment and “battery readiness” please call our consultants.

How long does it take to be grid-connected and start receiving my feed-in tariffs?

There is much variation in the industry for the amount of time that it takes to be connected to the grid. It relies on the processing time of all paperwork supplied to the solar retailer (EnviroGroup) and your energy retailer (eg. AGL).

Here at EnviroGroup we generally see a 2 – 5 weeks turn around for solar feed-in tariffs to start (sometimes even as fast as 1 week!). We pride ourselves on getting you connected quickly so you can start receiving your export discounts on energy bills. This is due to our quality internal processes and our strong commitment to service excellence.

What are grid-voltage issues?

If you are experiencing problems with your inverter, we advise calling EnviroGroup directly to resolve the problem as it could be a number of issues. However, we have noticed a common problem with inverters in Victoria where they are periodically shutting down due to grid-voltage issues.

The energy grid is not always stable, it is subject to supply and demand of electrical energy. Grid-voltage issues are generally caused by a large amount of solar production during the day, whilst a low amount of consumer consumption of the energy. When grid-voltage issues occur with your solar system the factory safety fault settings of your inverter shut down the system, this can lead to efficiency and solar energy production issues.

The issue is often resolved by one of EnviroGroup’s solar technicians adjusting your inverter’s settings. However, in some cases where the issue has persisted, the energy distributor is contacted as the energy supply may need adjustments or upgrades.

Many companies stress they have Tier 1 panels. What does that mean?

In short, not a lot. A Tier 1 ranking was a metric devised by Bloomberg, a finance reporting and news service, to classify solar companies by their current bankability. Even by Bloomberg’s own admission, it was never meant as a measure of a company’s quality or their products so you absolutely cannot use this term as a classification of solar panel quality. It’s not even a ranking as there is no Tier 2 or 3. It only refers to a company’s stability as lender for large scale projects as a metric to assess lending risk. Since the solar industry has had some very volatile times over the last ten years, plenty of respected manufacturers have popped in and out of the Tier 1 list as they adjust to global cycles. The problem with the term in our industry is that so many companies market heavily around the idea that they have Tier 1 panels that it has become a shorthand for the panel quality. However, there is a correlation between a highly bankable and stable manufacturer and the quality of the panels they produce but this not the result of being awarded a Tier 1 status and there have been many Tier 1 listed companies who have gone into bankruptcy and who have had global panel failures. So, if you are getting a quote from a company that doesn’t disclose the panels they plan to use but keep telling you they are Tier 1 quality, then avoid them.

Why should I choose an accredited and solar approved retailer?

A solar power generator is not like buying a new television or an air-conditioner. You are putting a tiny power station on the roof of your house and connecting it up to the energy grid. This is not a job for beginners or the unqualified. To even have a grid connection approved your designer must be certified by the Clean Energy Council and the installer must be as well. Your installer must also comply with the ever expanding OH&S requirements such as fall arrest harnesses and guard rails. Once installed, your system must be assigned a Certificate of Electrical Safety (CES) which guarantees proper compliance.

Then an inspector will come out and check the system. Many low-cost systems are defected at this point and then you will have to have the installer return to fix the problem. Being approved and accredited is still no guarantee of quality however, but it does ensure that the installer is trying to operate within the rules.

How do I know that I am getting a good quality system?

For most customers, buying a solar system is a new experience and unlike buying a car, computer or television, you will come across brands you’ve never heard of. Some of these are gigantic companies with very long pedigrees and others are new start-ups. Any solar installer with a good reputation will carry products that are known performers. These companies make choices in panels and inverters that suit their business needs but in general they will choose products in the top 5 of the best available.

Brands like Fronius, SMA, ABB, Delta and Sungrow are common inverters and panels like Trina, Yingli, Jinko, Canadian Solar, SunPower and Winaico with a couple of others are the most frequently seen. We choose these products because we are confident they will last and perform as claimed and because we have confidence in the support from those companies. The last thing we want is ongoing warranty issues that can wreck our business and your support.

However, more importantly than panels and inverters, the really important part of a solar system is what we call the balance of system (BoS). This is the cabling, conduits, isolators and railing that form the infrastructure of the entire system and it’s here that low cost operators cut corners. Isolators are for protection and cheap isolators start fires. Cheap rail and mounting systems fail in wind or weather and panels start coming off roofs. Roof penetrations must be correctly sealed and conduit must be compliant and properly finished. A good solar company will have a great reputation with customers, government and business and will do everything to protect that reputation. Ask about this when you get your quote.

When will my solar system pay itself off? Payback periods?

For many people, a solar system is an asset with a financial benefit. Payback periods are a metric people often uses as an indicator of value but it’s not always so. A perfect payback scenario is when the energy load of a building perfectly coincides with solar generation. This means that all the load of that building is supplied by the solar system and nothing is imported from the grid.
Businesses with 9-5 operations and schools fall neatly into this type of situation and can have payback periods under 2 years but most households have a high percentage of their energy usage at night when the solar is not working. Learning to load shift by running things like washing machines and dishwasher in the day helps reduce the payback time.

In general, a typical household with 2 or more people would have a payback time between 4 and 7 years depending on the level of equipment being used. If your return on investment ROI is over 9%, a solar system beats almost every other type of investment you can think of. International shares can have average returns of 12-14% but with the risk of loss. There is no risk of loss with solar and there are plenty of installations returning 20-30% ROI or more.

So, the real question isn’t how good your payback period is, it’s whether you want to keep giving your money to the energy retailer or do you want to keep it for yourself. Not installing solar ensures you never keep that money and you are always at the mercy of the energy market.