[AMA] I am a Former Solar Salesman

Hey guys,

long time user but just registered today because I've been seeing a lot of solar related posts.
Sold Solar Systems for one of the biggest energy players in Australia.

Would love to answer any queries regarding panels/inverters and system to go for

closed Comments

  • +3


    • +7

      strong first reply. I'm bored at work.

      • +1

        What are you selling now?

        • +21

          Diesel generators.

        • +7

          nothing. Interning as a business analyst. :)

        • +11


          Any specials on eneloops?

      • +3

        Will man ever walk on the sun?

        • +36

          if they go there at night time.

        • +29

          Yes, but the dream is to Moonwalk on the Sun.

        • +2
        • +1

          When its raining

        • In just one week, reportedly

  • +7

    Would you suggest people install solar now?

    • +18

      Depends on a lot of factors such as:

      1. Orientation of the roof. North is the best, followed by west and east. South could be used if you're desperate for panels but they won't produce optimal performance.

      2. If there is no one at home during the day, then you should look for a battery ready system otherwise it is pointless. It was worth it back in the day with feed in tariffs as high as 60c/kWh but now the best rate you get is about 20c/kWh in SA.

      3. Return on Investment. Bills as low as $200-$300 a quarter might as well stick with the grid or opt for a 2-3 kW system.

      • +1
        1. Don't you have them auto-rotating ones? Or are they only in movies?
        • +2

          I assume those cost more, and if your roof is angled there probably isn't too much point

        • +4

          It's pointless as it costs more than just installing a few extra panels

      • +8

        Sorry can’t agree with your point #2 at least in Qld. Hot water heating off solar during the day (if using electric HWS) is a far better usage of day generation and much cheaper than paying way too much for a battery. At least that’s the case in Qld. Not sure if rates and generation make SA wildly different. Currently getting 16c FIT and paying about 21c peak.

        Even with most of our daytime generation being exported we are easily hitting 5 years payback in full. 5.5kw system with Fronius energy meter directing production to HWS. With a battery you’re lucky to get payback in 10 years.

        • +3

          @kipps Depends on case to case. Some people have a pool so that motor could really use the solar generation during the day time, it consumes a lot of electricity. The SA example was just for the highest rate. :)

          Yes, the ROI on batteries is terrible at the moment. That's why I always suggest a battery ready system rather than a system with a battery.

          @Zachary - A panel is fitted as per the roof pitch. Auto-rotating would defeat that purpose, although that would be pretty cool. Would love to see how that would work.

        • +1


          Auto-rotating would defeat that purpose, although that would be pretty cool. Would love to see how that would work.

          I will say the comment to auto-rotation referred to "tracking" systems whereas the solar panels track the sunlight so it is always performing at they max capacity. Staring East'ish early in the morning to end pointing West'ish. Producing as much as possible (remember, panels are expensive so they have to produce or else…)

          Most solar farms operate this way with their solar panels as their business is to produce absolute max and to sell lots to make money.

          Is there a similar tracking systems for home installations?

        • How many kWh can you sink into the hwc?

        • @LFO: That would a pretty expensive setup for residential setup but sure, one day that will become the norm I believe. As for now, the residential setup only supports dual tracking. So you can have panels facing one or at max, two directions.

        • How does the cost compare to just using a direct solar hot water system?

        • @abb: Very much depends on your off-peak rate pricing and your FIT. When I first got it installed I could only get 11c FIT yet off-peak pricing was 17 cents. So it paid to have HWS off production and to remove off-peak meters.

        • @LFO:

          I will say the comment to auto-rotation referred to "tracking" systems whereas the solar panels track the sunlight so it is always performing at they max capacity.


          Yeah, that's what I meant, sorry for the confusion if you thought I meant the panels auto-rotate randomly without cause and just for the hell of it or for aesthetic reasons….

        • +15

          Care to provide some decent analysis?

        • +8

          I never claimed to be an expert. Just sharing what I know, if it helps sure, if it doesn't there are expert websites out there to help. :)

      • +1

        I buy my electricity at about 22c/kWh - what were people paying that feed-in tariffs were 60c??

        • +3

          66 cents I think! The Labor government created this plan - it runs out 2020 or something. Easy money for early investors.

        • @AddNinja:

        • Initially, solar systems were extremely expensive. The 1.5 kW systems that cost $2k+ now cost about 10-15k 10 years ago. Therefore, the government set up premium feed in tariffs so people could have a good ROI.

          This one time a lady called me and she was on a 50c+ feed in tariff. She paid $30k for a 5kW system back in the day but was making a killer on her electricity bills, paying nothing and making a whole lot of dough. a 5kW system produces on an average 23kWh, so essentially she was making 23x0.5x90 = $1000+ a quarter.

        • -1

          Was she declaring to ATO / Centrelink that as income?

          Good for her if she didn't but it is a reality to be aware of. It is income and it will be taxed as income.

        • @LFO: For our company, before you could claim the cash you had to provide an ABN. I'm sure she did the right thing.

        • @LFO:

          So does that mean you can claim the cost of the solar system as an expense?

        • @kiitos:

          Well yes, if you had to declare the income the expenses can be claimed (depreciated over an appropriate number of years). For the most part, income from feed in tariffs in a residential house that you live in will not be considered income as it's primary purpose is not to generate income - it is about producing power for you to use and reducing your bill.

          See http://www.maxcamaccountants.com.au/resources/special_articl... for more details:

          "The ATO has confirmed in a number of private binding rulings that there are no specific legislative provisions relating to payments received from electricity suppliers, so it is not statutory income. In addition, in the opinion of the ATO, payments received in typical situations by homeowners (taking into account the amount of equipment used to generate the electricity, the current pricing structure, and the fact the homeowner produces the electricity for a domestic purpose only) would generally not be classed as income according to ordinary concepts, as it is private or domestic in nature."

          However, you can't rely on other people's private rulings and if the nature of your particular system is to make a profit then it very well could be considered as income and in the case above it seems likely that it could be considered as income. If you want to be sure you'd have to ask for your own private ruling from the ATO taking into account your specific circumstances. Installing anything up to a 10kw system now is very typical and it is hard to see the ATO considering that as commercial in nature - if you were installing something bigger than that then I'd probably get my own ruling to be sure.

      • Yep agreed, it's only really beneficial if you consume the power yourself (ie your home during daylight hours). Otherwise it's hardly worth it based on today's fit rates.

  • Just bought a house that has 15 solar panels + a solarhart hot water system on the roof.

    Question 1 - They claim to have had it installed <2011, but a recent power bill only has the minimum feed in rebate <15c. It was a deceased estate. Is there any way I can find / prove the system was installed pre 2011 to get the full gov feed in? (or perhaps they expanded the system post 2011 and stuffed the feed in as the panels are arranged in 2 banks).

    Question 2 - The hot water service is a fair way from the shower. Am considering an instantaneous electric hot water unit in the bathroom using the water coming from the solarhart unit. Is it ok/ viable to disable the solarhart electric booster, feeding in warmer that is only heated by the sun into the instantaneous unit?

    Any other tips to maximise value with this current set up.


    • +4

      Q1: The system probably has been expanded, or had its inverter model changed which allows the premium tariff to be revoked. Otherwise, try finding the installation paperwork for the date and contact the electricity retailer to confirm your eligibility for the premium feed-in tariffs. Not everyone has the 20 year 50c +/kwh deal, some have a shorter contract, so you might want to look into that.

      Q2: I have zero knowledge about hot water systems, sorry.

      Hope that helps. :)

    • Not the OP, but re your Q2, I have a solar HWS on the roof which feeds an instantaneous gas unit. Never really analysed to any detail but I'd think in summertime the gas unit would hardly need to kick in but definitely in wintertime it fires up when we use hot water.
      I can't see any issues whether the instantaneous unit is gas or electric.

    • Question 2

      Solar Panel + Electric Hot Water Tank + Solar Hot Water Diverter (Paladin)


      • My current arragement, had to do it because there lack of Gas in my area
      • Hot Water tank act like a battery storage for excess energy your solar produce
      • Keep the Hot Water tank temperature up to 70c, last throughout the night. In the morning it will heat up the tank again
      • Save lots of money, utilise 70% of my solar panel energy production
      • Interesting.
        So effectively your electric hot water storage system gets turned off at night (and then turned back on when the sun is out)?
        I thought I read somewhere you needed to be careful if the temperature of the water stored dropped below a certain point because of risk of bacteria of some sort?

    • +5

      I thought you lost the higher FIT once the name of the account changed?

      At least it does in Qld - https://www.qld.gov.au/housing/buying-owning-home/energy-wat...

      • Wow, that is new for me. I was pretty sure that I've had customers ring me up enquiring about FIT and saying how they have got the system from the previous property owner. I would rely on the government website though.

    • RE: #2
      You should consider a pump then. Our apartment building used to not have one and it took a good minute for the water to turn hot. Now there's a pump, it's <10 seconds.

      There's a couple different types I think but this one just works on a flow metre to turn on/off.

    • The high feed in tarrifs in WA only apply to the person who installed it, if you change the account holder then it no longer applies. These cost the government a lot of money and they are looking at getting out of them any way they can.

  • Does evacuated tube solar panels work? Would you recommend evacuated tube over flat panel?

    • +1

      Never heard of evacuated tube solar panels. Are you talking about evacuated tube solar hot water? I do not know much about hot water systems.

    • +1

      I have sold both. Evacuated tubes work very well and considered a premium option.
      I guess if you installed an additional flat panel you get can get a similar lift in performance, e.g. tubes = additional flat panel > single flat panel.
      Main saving in that case roof space.
      Both should have considerable lifespans.

      Edit: referring here to solar hot water systems if not clear.

  • How many years does new technology come out for PV panels which vastly improve the wattage for a panel of same size & price?

    • Depends on manufacturer to manufacturer. The company I was working for recently upgraded panels by introducing an additional 5 watts per panel which resulted in a cheaper overall system price.

  • I have a solar relay failure and it seems impossible to get someone to replace Just the inverter at a reasonable price.

    Its a small system with like 8 panels….Is it worth even replacing and if so what would you suggest for like 2.1kw or something and how much would you say is a good price - Or should I just wait for Battery storage to come down in price.

    • +3

      8 panels seems to be a 2kW system. I'm not aware of the market prices but my company charged somewhere about $1200+ for the 2-3 kW inverters. In this case, I'd suggest putting in an extra $1000 and getting an entirely new 2 kW system so you can have a good duration of warranty. Of course, that's a price for the premium sellers. Local might be cheaper.

      Definitely wait for battery prices to come down. There will be more competition, better tech, and cheaper prices in about 2-3 years.

  • +2
    • What brand do you recommend for Inverter and Panel?

    The Hyundai Quality ? - Reliable
    The BMW Quality ? - Premium

    • Battery? I know there not economical at the moment, but which brand would you consider is of Hyundai Quality?
    • +13

      To the average customer, the monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels do not matter. They just want something that keeps bills low and it just works for a long period of time. In that case, I would suggest:

      Inverter - Fronius. Austrian made, brilliant quality. Comes with 10 years of warranty (5+5). Never heard any complaints about it and Panels rarely are the issue, it's always the inverter that causes a problem in a system. Therefore, invest in a quality inverter such as Fronius. I'd say its a BMW quality inverter.

      Panels - Trina is a good brand. Do not buy into the bullshit TIER-1 tag companies put on their panels. The tier 1 panel tag means absolutely nothing in terms of quality. I've also dealt with CSUN panels and they work just as well as the Trina ones.

      LG seems to be bringing high quality panels to the market and it's a known brand as well, wouldn't doubt them.

      Battery - Tesla powerwall is a great product. The UI of their software is beautiful and easy to use. The product itself is quite resourceful but very expensive. Definitely the BMW quality. We only dealt with Tesla and LG Chem. I'd say the LG Chem to be more of the Hyundai quality type. They were a bit cheaper than the Tesla and had less capacity as well.

      • Fronius 10kw and larger systems have a fairly noisy internal fan which kicks in when the system is putting out >2000w. I thought I'd mount my new inverter inside the garage to save it from the weather - somewhat of a bad idea as the fan noise resonates into the house (brick veneer home)

  • Did you ever get up on the roof and measure out when quoting or just use near maps or something?

    • I was an inbound sales person. Our outbound sales people never got on the roof, at least that's what I was told. They would visit the premises and then use nearmap on their tablet/laptop.

  • What is the cheapest solar + battery solution going around? Can you just make the battery kick in on peak periods, drain it, then auto switch to the grid without the power going out?

    • +1

      We only sold Tesla batteries with a 5kW system, so that would make the cheapest solution about $19-20k. Going with a LG Chem + Solar system could cost about $14-16k.

      Yes, you can set up timings on the battery to instruct it when to kick in and they will automatically draw from the grid when more is required.

    • +2

      I have an EV with 23kwh battery. Currently have 16x/3Kw of panels facing NW and 6x/1.5kw of panels facing NE feeding into a Fronius 3Kw Galvo inverter. I’m planning to add a whole bunch (43x) of s/h panels bought dirt cheap $15/ea. My plan is to buy a small 6kwh battery which will be topped up when needed from the car battery (charged direct from some of the added panels). I’m on a 47c FiT in WA which is on a dedicated phase on which there are no internal house loads. This maximises my exports. The other two phases will service all house loads and will go off-grid when on my additional solar serviced by a 10kw off-grid inverter. If there is not enough sun to service all needs, I’ll charge the battery from overnight off peak (12c/kWh). Currently not on time of use plan but will switch to same and this will give me all the power I need. I expect to have need for grid power backup only in winter. Cost of a 6kwh locally packaged battery including battery management system is $3400 incl GST.

      • +1

        How did you get panels for $15/ea?

        I'm about to build a new house and will be looking for a lot of panels (will have a LOT of roof space to fit them).

        Would love to pick up a lot of cheap panels!

        • +4

          Cheap second hand solar panels in Oz are as a result of distortion of the market due to the gov't subsidy known as STCs.
          To get the subsidy you need to install new panels that are on the Clean Energy Council's approved list. They frequently drop off old panels and inverters from the list. A further requirement is such that in order to get a discount you need to use approved CEC installers. In order for them to be able to offer cheap installs therefore, all installers are CEC approved. As upgraders find when they want to increase the capacity of panels (or inverter), the only way forward is to rip out the old system and install new from scratch. As a consequence the old panels end up on the s/h market and the only real market for them is off-gridders because to connect them to the network buyers generally use installers (not licensed sparky tinkerers)
          Hence the conundrum is that the licensed installer CANNOT install the s/h panels because he is CEC ticketed and the CEC don't allow their certificated sparkies to install panels not on the approved CEC list. Therefore in an exploding market where people are upgrading from 1.5-3kw systems to 5-10kw systems, loads of panels end up on the s/h market. Skewed economics for sure!

        • @simmos: So you just ask for local stores every now and then ?

      • Bloody hell, that is some set up. Good on you for knowing your stuff.

  • +1

    What is the most cost effective, after all it is OzBaragin, battery for solar?

    What do you know about iStore from Solargain? Is it worth looking into as an alternative to batteries?

    • +1

      Solar Panel + Electric Hot Water Tank + Solar Hot Water Diverter (Paladin)


      • My current arragement, had to do it because there lack of Gas in my area
      • Hot Water tank act like a battery storage for excess energy your solar produce
      • Keep the Hot Water tank temperature up to 70c, last throughout the night. In the morning it will heat up the tank again
      • Save lots of money, utilise 70% of my solar panel energy production
      • Damn looks good. I'm guessing the $900 is not including install. Do you know roughly how much they cost to install?

        • Make sure you run your numbers. Hot water diverter are rarely worth it. They are the mini disk of the sufficiency world, ready to be forgotten when battery becomes mainstream.

        • @Smatters 14: oh okay thanks I assumed it would be a great long term benefit. I wouldn’t even know how to check the numbers??

  • Hello Ozb91
    I originally had 8 panels for 1.6kw then added another 8 panels to get 3kw. The inverter is 3kw. When 8 panels were added they used the same lead back to inverter however I noticed that there are 2 connection points on the inverter. Would it be better to have them in two banks of 8 in case some of the panels get shaded?

    • +1

      That is quite a technical query. If the 2 connection points will work how you claim, then yes it would be a good idea to have 2 arrays of panels connected in 2 different points so as to get rid of the shaded panels loss. Don't quote me on it though, haha.

  • I've got a question; When are we going to be able to buy super cheap rolls of thin plastic panels ?. I read they've recently created a new, super thin, printable panel and it seems like something that could really change the world.

  • Hi mate, i have 3kw inverter but panels aren't producing that much can i add panels but not change inverter without losing my feed in tarrif?

    • Nope, any sort of modification will lead to you losing your feed in tariff.

      • that's actually incorrect..

        • What is your source or clarification?

        • @Smatters 14: In WA you can add up to 50% over the original inverter capacity providing your inverter can take it. Most can. For multiple orientations this USUALLY means a 2x channel/dual MPPT inverter with the added set of panels facing in a different orientation. (Say NW and NE for instance).

  • I have 3phase power at my house. I have two 1.5 systems and 2 inverters. Each inverter feeds one phase.installed 5 years ago.
    I now hear that you can get 3 phase inverters.
    If I want to add another 1.5 to the system what would you recommend:
    Another 1.5 with inverter feeding into the remaining phase. Or
    More panels with a 3 phase inverter and ditch the two old inverter s.
    Or something else??

    • If you can reuse your old panels and hook them up to a 3-phase inverter, do that.
      Our 3-phase range started from 4.32kW.

  • OP is snoozing?

    Is it worth buying the battery ?
    What's the cheapest going on price and where to get them installed ??

    • Yes, I was asleep.

      I only know about LG Chem and Tesla Powerwall 2. I'd say they are too expensive and not worth the investment for now. Wait a couple of years for the prices to come down and the competition to go up.
      Powerwall 2 even has a stock shortage so it's really hard to get one installed, takes about 2-3 months sometimes.

      Then you also have the compatibility issue. Every battery doesn't go along with every inverter. Fronius and ZeverSolar inverters are compatible with the Tesla Powerwall 2. LG batteries are compatible with Sungrow inverters.

      A battery is also worth it when the system is a 5kW. This way it generates enough to charge the battery and provide power for the house during the day.

  • +3

    how does one get good advice on solar without being "sold to"? Need to figure out optimal solar config for my house, but i'm concerned that if i ask for quotes then the provider/installer wont have my best interests in mind?
    I'm in Sydney inner west.

    • +3

      To ensure an optimal solar configuration, use this guide:
      1. How much are your quarterly bills and what is your usage like in terms of day time

      1. North is the best direction to put panels on, followed by west and east. West gets the afternoon sun whereas East gets the early morning sun. I always suggest all panels on North and if they can't fit, then some on the West.

      2. Ask the salesman about how many panels they are putting on each direction and how many can actually fit. If more can be put on North, get it done.

      3. There are crappy solar installers that will install on any direction and with any type of configuration, like 5 panels on North and 3 on West. A good solar installer will have a configuration list ensuring optimal performance from dual tracking (2 directions) configurations. So when they suggest a system size, enquire what type of dual tracking the system supports. Now how to check if the configuration is poor? Can't help you there, I'm only aware of our dual tracking system configs and since this was a big company, I'd trust the engineers to know what they were doing. Also, solarquotes is a good website to get help from.

      4. Get multiple quotes with the design. Ask them to mail you the design with the quote. So you can see where they are fitting the panels. Ring some of the big brands first like Origin, Energy Australia and then try the local ones. See where the differences are.

      5. Don't buy into the big brand "we are more expensive because we provide quality installation". They are using the same systems as the local installers, perhaps the cabling might be different, but there are some really well known small installers providing real good value for money compared to the big energy providers.

  • What is the actual cost of batteries not including install?

    • I just got a quote for Winston 6Kwh for $3400 incl GST. This includes the battery management system and is LiFePo4 lithium polymer. Believe me this type is the best you can put in a car or on solar system at home. Note does not incl install or inverter.

      • Yeah im more interested to know what the LG Chem and Tesla Powerwall 2 cost @ wholesale.

    • Tesla Powerwall 2 - $12,749 including install. I do not have the price without installation.
      LG Chem - we sold this only bundled with a solar system, starting at $13k and that is again with installation.

      • When i got a quote for LG chem it was 2 - 2.5x the battery price cost for install. Obviously install company didn't tell me the cost of battery i called a wholesaler and they gave that to me.

        Wondered how much installers are marking up the batteries, Install cant be to hard or timely

  • My dad is obsessed with getting some panels. He has a large, 5 bedroom house that is poorly insulated and outdated. 2 people living it, please help me convince him to focus his hard earned elsewhere.

    He is a huge user of ducted heating, airconditioning (split system). It seems to me that his main expenditure is via gas and not electricity.

    • Examine his electricity bills and see what his average daily usage (kWh) is.
      If it is 6-9 kWh a day, a 2kW system should be alright.
      If it is 10-14 kWh, I'd say a 3kWh system.

      Now see if his usage is mostly during day or mostly during night time.
      If the usage is already low (8-12 kWh a day) and mostly during night, he shouldn't be wasting his money on solar, in my opinion.

  • Is it a good idea to invest in the wall battery if missus and 2 kids are at home during the day?

    • +1

      You are getting good use of your solar during the day but need more details on your usage through the evening peak, your tariff and FiT etc. Need to be properly assessed, but it could be that if the family are using up a lot of the daytime solar generated power, there won’t be a lot left to top off a battery sufficient to cater for your evening needs.

    • +1

      I agree with simmos. How big is your system? What are you putting back into the grid on a daily basis?
      If you are consuming most of your generated solar, then there might not be enough to charge the battery fully thus rendering its use in the evening pointless.

      Usually a 5kW system generates about 23kWh on an average in a day, the powerwall 2 has a capacity of 13.5 kWh.
      Still wouldn't recommend buying it at $13k. Wait for it to get better and cheaper.

  • Is that worth to install a solar system if my house uses about 450AUD per quarter, for 4 people?

    • If a good amount of your usage is during day time, then yes. Otherwise, you'd just be running your refrigerator and a couple of other items on solar.

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