Guide to buying Solar Panels:

What do you need?

Solar energy is virtually unlimited, ‘clean’, and easy to harvest. It’s about capturing the energy released by our sun and converting it into a form we can use. You can use the electricity generated by your solar-panel set-up to power your smartphone, washing machine, toaster, and even your electric car. A complete solar-power system includes individual components like solar panels, mounting stands, frames, casing, wiring, and an inverter; and it could include a storage battery as well.

Solar has become far more accessible to Aussie consumers and businesses, given the way solar-system pricing has dropped by around 60% in the last six years. Aussies are installing solar at the rate of six solar panels a minute. Two million (or about one-fifth of) Australian homes now have solar, with Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia having the biggest percentages of homes with solar.

If you’re thinking about investing in a solar system, you’ll probably want to get informed about the basics. In this detailed guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know - from how solar works and the advantages and potential drawbacks of solar energy, to what’s included in a full solar-power system and the kind of costs and savings you could expect.


How does solar energy work?

In the simplest terms, solar energy captures the energy generated by the sun and turns it into usable electricity for residential, business, industrial, and other uses. The solar-panel technology of today typically relies on a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass casing and appropriate wiring to harvest the energy. We’ll look at this process in more detail below.

Solar-energy capture methods are constantly improving, but it’s still important to consider the orientation of your home to benefit most. Typically, solar panels are installed on roofs, however, you can also opt for ground mounts and other areas on your property receiving direct sunlight.

Is solar energy renewable?

Solar energy is considered renewable energy because the abundance of sunlight makes it sustainable and inexhaustible. Increased demand has further driven improvements in solar-panel technology, which has made solar power particularly efficient and clean as an energy source.


How do solar panels work?

Solar panels capture the sun’s energy, before the rest of the solar-panel set-up makes the captured energy available for use in your property.

How do solar panels get electricity
into your home?

The sun releases photons (small energy packets), which arrive at the Earth’s surface within minutes from their conception. The photovoltaic (PV) cells in your panels then absorb the sun’s energy and convert it into DC electricity. The silicon cells in solar panels have been designed to absorb and connect with these photons, and this process knocks loose electrons from the atoms. Conductive plates on the sides of the cells then collect these electrons and send them into wiring, and this process forms an electrical circuit via the photovoltaic effect.

The electrons travel through the circuit to create electricity - either direct current or DC power. This can be stored in a battery or, alternatively, you can use an inverter to convert the DC power into AC (alternating current) power. This is the more common and popular choice for residential and commercial properties, as well as for appliances.

Solar panels and grid connection

Most solar-power systems in Australia are connected to the grid, and this means they’re connected to the main electricity grid from which houses and businesses obtain their energy. With a grid connection, you don’t have to rely on your solar-power system alone for all your electricity needs. Off-grid systems are more popular in rural areas where people can’t connect to the grid.

If your property is connected to the grid, any excess electricity produced by your solar panel system can be fed back into the grid and you’ll earn a feed-in-tariff from your energy retailer. This can be offset against the electricity you do use from the grid, as a credit on your electricity bill.


Advantages and disadvantages of solar energy

Solar energy offers ample benefits for the environment, however, it can be associated with some drawbacks that you’ll want to be mindful of.

Solar panels and grid connection

The process of generating electricity from sunlight itself through solar panels emits no carbon or pollution. Unlike other types of power generation, solar doesn’t need a lot of water to cool generators or to refine and transport fuel. At the same time, solar reduces your property’s carbon footprint and replaces carbon-emitting and polluting energy sources like fossil fuels.

In addition, the general advantages of solar energy include:
Long-life cycle

High-quality solar panels can last for as long as 20 to 25 years, and even longer if well maintained.


Solar provides an abundant, renewable, sustainable, and clean source of energy that’s feasible just about anywhere in the world.

Save on bills

Whether you use solar for all your electricity needs or just a part of it, you’ll probably be able to save on your household’s electricity bill or business overheads.

Minimal maintenance

Solar-panel systems have few moving parts and so little wear and tear. The inverter might need to be changed every five to 10 years, and various cables and isolators might also require minimal maintenance.

Diverse applications

Solar power can be used for everything from everyday electricity generation to powering space satellites.

Potential drawbacks or disadvantages include:
Initial outlay

The initial outlay for solar panels can be high, especially if you have a solar battery system; however, costs tend to be much lower than they were a few years ago, and rebates and incentives can further offset costs.

Dependent on weather

Power generation is lower when it’s rainy or overcast.

Requires space

Solar panels need a lot of space and might not be appropriate for smaller properties with limited roof space.


Solar power systems: what do you need to buy?

While solar-system prices have significantly reduced in recent years, a full system could include a variety of components like the panels themselves, the battery, and cabling. What’s included and what you need to buy depends on your system size and what you want, including battery storage as an option.

How many solar panels do I need?

When deciding your system size, consider what you’re trying to achieve - minimising your carbon footprint, maximising your ROI, saving money, or something else - and consider your circumstances. Your circumstances include things like how much energy you use, your available roof or ground space, the available sunlight in your region, and the efficiency of your chosen solar panels.

Solar-panel-system sizes are expressed in terms of their kW capacity rather than the number of panels. In Australia, a typical household might use 20 kWh per day, which corresponds to a 5 kW-sized system. A general rule of thumb is 1kW of solar panels produce around 4 kWh of electricity per day. The easiest way to find out your usage is to check your business’s or household’s electricity bill and divide it by four to work out the required capacity of your solar system.

Note that when choosing a system size, factor in your roof angle, winter days, and the number of overcast days you’ll likely get in your region. This might mean you’ll need to install more panels or a bigger system.

Solar battery

Solar batteries enable you to store extra power from your solar panel system for later use. You don’t have to install a battery with your solar power system, but it can offer various advantages. For example, you can save any additional or unused energy generated by your solar panels for use during the night or when it’s overcast and rainy.

If your property is off-grid, a solar battery can be a particularly good idea. If you’re on the grid, you can store extra power you generate instead of sending it back to the grid. You could have your system set up so you sell electricity back to the grid only when your battery is fully charged, or you source electricity from the grid only when your battery is fully depleted.

As such, a battery gives you a degree of independence from the grid, so if there’s a blackout, you’ll still have your own backup power. However, you won’t save or could save less on your bill (through selling excess power back to the grid) if you have a battery. On the other hand, if your energy retailer doesn’t offer feed-in tariffs or has very high peak-use rates, you could find a battery ends up saving you money.

The best battery depends on your household or business needs. Lithium-ion batteries tend to be the best option for various reasons, and options like the Tesla Powerwall 2, Aquion Aspen, Akasol neeoQube, Arvio Sirius Capacitor Module, and BYD B-Box RES could provide properties with anywhere between 2.2 kWh to 10 kWh or more of usable storage. Note that kWh stands for kilowatt hour - a measure of electricity and how much of it is used.

Solar inverter

Solar inverters are a critical component in any solar-panel system, as they convert the DC output of solar panels into the AC electricity usable for most appliances and devices. Your inverter’s capacity should be matched to that of your solar system. So, if you have a 5 kW solar system, your inverter should be a 5 kW one as well, though generally, inverters should be at least 75% of the solar power system’s capacity.

In terms of installation, inverters are designed to be installed outdoors but should not be exposed to extreme heat, as this degrades them and can reduce their life cycle. Ideally, they should be installed on a shaded wall and typically close to your property’s main switchboard, and by a professional electrician. Usually, your inverter will be either a string inverter or microinverter, or a hybrid type - but whatever the type of inverter, they tend to wear out within 10 to 15 years and so will need replacing at some stage.

You might be able to use your inverter to check for metrics like daily yields and monthly averages. You could also use it to check for solar system health, evaluate performance, and see battery charge levels. When complemented by a regular solar monitoring service by professional electricians, your inverter can help you fully track and optimise your solar panel system.


Choosing solar panels: what to consider before buying

When selecting the right solar panel, you’ll want to consider factors like efficiency levels, quality, warranty, manufacturer, and accreditation.


The more efficient your solar panels, the more electricity you’ll likely be able to generate with all else (sunlight hours, solar system size, etc.) being equal. Efficiency ranges from 12% to around 21%, and over 15% could be a good threshold to aim for when choosing a system. Ask the installer or vendor about the efficiency levels of the different systems they offer.


A high-quality system will potentially last longer and could provide you with more efficient output. Most solar panels are made from polycrystalline or monocrystalline, which tend to be similar in terms of performance in the Australian climate. However, do ask about the quality of the materials of different modules or systems, in particular for the frames, casing, wiring, racking, and mounting.


The industry standard for performance warranties is 25 years, while the manufacturer’s warranty (defective materials or workmanship) is usually between 10 and 12 years, though high-quality brands will offer 25-year comprehensive parts, labour, transport, product, and performance warranties.


Although the country of origin doesn’t necessarily indicate poor quality, the manufacturer is an important consideration. Most solar panels are made in China - Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore are also home to a few manufacturers - and some Chinese manufacturers produce exceptional products.  Top manufacturers include LG Electronics, Sunpower, REC, Fronius, SMA and SolarEdge.


Your solar system’s datasheet can include a long list of specs, but the most important one could be the rated power output figure. Additionally, the power tolerance tells you how much electrical power a solar panel can produce above or below its rated capacity in real-world conditions, while for the temperature coefficient rating, your panels should be rated to 100V DC minimum for safety.


Your solar panels could be with your property for decades, and you might be selling the property at some point. How they look on your roof could be an essential consideration - whether it’s a neat, utilitarian look you prefer or slick, eye-catching design.

CEC approved

Look for endorsement by the Clean Energy Council (CEC) when it comes to solar modules. If a solar PV module is listed on the CEC’s list of compliant modules, it means it’s approved for installation under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES). It also means the CEC has checked and verified that the module meets the required safety standards for use in Australia.


Costs and savings of solar energy and solar panels

When working out costs and savings, don’t forget to factor in your installation costs, likely energy savings, payback time, and rebates and incentives.

How much do solar panels cost?

One of the things that could strike you as you shop around for a solar system is how much quotes can vary. This could be down to different quality standards, brands, and other factors.

As a general guide, a good quality 3 kW system, including a high-quality inverter and all installation costs, could set you back $4,000 to $6,000, including rebates and incentives, which will vary depending on where you live. For a 5 kW system, you could be looking at anywhere between $5,000 to $9,000. For a 10kW system, you might be looking at paying $12,000 to $16,000. For a specific quote, talk to an expert installer about your needs and goals.

For Victoria, take off up to $2,250 in rebates. If you choose a budget inverter, you might take off another $800. Microinverters, as opposed to a string inverter, could cost around 20% more. Additional costs could include electricity switchboard upgrades and other electrical work.

A solar power system without batteries typically pays for itself in around four to seven years and an average of five years across Australia, though this can vary greatly depending on your usage, system size, and state or territory. The standard life cycle for a high-quality system is 25 years, with warranties of 20 to 25 years. A cheaper system is likely to cost more, in the long run, thanks to repairs and lost output.

Solar battery price

Installing a battery system is likely to at least double the price of your solar panel system. The price will depend on how much energy storage you obtain. For example, adding around 10 kWh of storage will cost around $10,000. While most batteries have only a 10-year warranty, the payback period is around 15 years, and this would mean the battery won’t eventually pay for itself, unlike solar-power systems with no batteries (unless rebates and incentive subsidise your costs).

Installing a battery system is likely to at least double the price of your solar panel system. The price will depend on how much energy storage you obtain. For example, adding around 10 kWh of storage will cost around $10,000. While most batteries have only a 10-year warranty, the payback period is around 15 years, and this would mean the battery won’t eventually pay for itself, unlike solar-power systems with no batteries (unless rebates and incentive subsidise your costs).

Energy savings

How much you end up saving on your power bill depends on a whole host of factors; your location (amount of sunlight), the size of your system, your feed-in arrangement and tariff with your electricity retailer, and your energy consumption and energy-use patterns. Factors like panel configuration and inverter type can also impact efficiency and hence, savings.

Use this easy-to-use calculator for homeowners to find out your recommended solar system, how much a solar system could cost for you, the payback period, and how much it could save you on your annual energy bills.

How much could solar save you?

Try our great calculator for homeowners

Enter your details and we’ll calculate how much a system will cost you and how much you’ll save on your energy bills.

What state do you live in?
What is your average quarterly energy bill?


3Kw system with 10 panels

5Kw system with 16 panels

6Kw system with 18 panels

6.6Kw system with 20 panels

Estimated cost

$5000 - $7500




Payback the system

Approximately 2-5 years

Approximately 2-5 years

Approximately 2-5 years

Approximately 2-5 years


$1200 per year

Possibly $2000 per year

$2200 savings per year

$2500+ savings per year

This is a guide only, speak to one of our experts for an exact cost.

Rebates and incentives

The federal solar rebate - officially known as the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) - works like a discount at the point of sale to reduce the cost of your solar system, including for solar hot water systems. How much you get subsidised depends on where you live and the amount of electricity your system generates, but as a general rule, you could receive around $650 per kW of solar panels installed. To be eligible, your system must be less than 100kW in size and the installation professional must be CEC (Clean Energy Council) accredited.

Your state or territory might have its own incentives, rebates, and other schemes, which you might be able to claim in addition to the federal rebate. For example, in New South Wales, while the solar bonus scheme is now closed, eligible low-income households could apply for a free solar system. The Victorian government is currently offering a solar panel rebate, a solar hot water rebate, a solar battery rebate, and interest-free loans for upfront costs for households (both renters and homeowners). Eligible Victorian households can get a rebate of up to 50% of their purchase cost for a solar PV panel system (up to $2,225). The Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, and South Australia also have various incentives and rebate schemes.

Solar Panels for businesses

Given Australia’s high electricity prices, a solar system can lower your business overheads right away. You could save by generating your own power and even by selling unused power back to the grid. Additionally, demonstrating your business is committed to helping the environment and reducing its carbon footprint can help you appeal to customers.


Your business could be eligible for the SREC (up to 100kWs) or the Large-Scale Renewable Energy Target and large-scale generation certificates (LGCs) (systems greater than 100kWs). How much you get depends on where you’re located, as well as the system size or capacity. You could also be eligible for state/territory rebates or incentives.

Tax incentives

If you’re a small or medium business, you might be eligible to claim a substantial instant asset write-off for your solar system.


Solar panel maintenance and cleaning

Although solar panels tend to be self-cleaning as the rain washes away dirt and grime, in some cases, you might need to clean them yourself or have a professional do it for you.

How to clean solar panels

You might need to clean your panels at least every six months, depending on your region and the local environment. Minimal tilting, living in a dry and dusty region, and living by the sea could mean you need regular cleaning to allow your panels to capture maximum power. Bird droppings, grime, leaves, and other waste covering your panels can also compromise how much power you’re getting from your system.

Completely shut off your system before doing anything. To stop cleaning products drying too quickly and leaving a residue, clean your panels on an overcast day early in the morning or evening during the colder months. Never wash your panels when they’re hot, as cold water could crack the glass, and never use harsh cleaning products, as these could leave scratches and residue.

Use a soft brush to brush off dust and debris, then rinse with a normal (not high-pressure) hose, avoiding the back of the panels or the gaps between the panels and roof, before gently rubbing it dry with a squeegee with a plastic blade. You’ll want to do it from the ground if you’re doing it yourself. If you can’t safely reach your system, have a Clean-Energy-Council-accredited technician carry out the work for you.

Solar-system maintenance strategies

Regular maintenance, including cleaning, can keep your solar-system investment in optimal shape. This could boost performance and power generation, as well as maximise the life cycle of your system.

Your solar maintenance plan could include monitoring, preventative maintenance and thorough checks, and ideally, you’ll have these done by experts. Your solar system maintenance schedule should include the following, carried out at periodic intervals as recommended by your preferred solar expert.


You or an expert should monitor and inspect your solar panel system, whether remotely or on-site. This can be done through your inverter system and/or any linked software. Ongoing monitoring and checks allow you to catch issues as they arise and act quickly to address them, including timely repairs.

Performance review

Carry out regular performance reviews or health checks to ensure your solar system is generating as much power as it’s designed to.

Wiring and components

Your ongoing maintenance program should incorporate checks on wiring, circuit breakers, isolators, cabling, and the mounting system to protect against the risk of electrical and mechanical faults and issues. This should be carried out by a professional electrician, ideally, one accredited by the CEC.

Preventative maintenance

A solar installation expert might be able to assist you with a preventative maintenance plan. These anticipate potential issues and target them with preventative servicing work to minimise the risk of these problems occurring. Preventative maintenance could optimise your solar-system’s efficiency, help you save more money on power bills, and eliminate the need for costly repairs and parts replacement over the longer term.

Battery inspection

Your batteries are your biggest investment in terms of components across your whole solar system, so make sure you have them regularly inspected. The technician or electrician can test whether they’re being charged correctly and check for heat damage or for issues relating to overcharging or over-discharging. Other possible issues to be checked for include fluid leaks.


Looking for an expert installer for your solar panel system?

Solar energy is a powerful, abundant, clean, and increasingly affordable way to generate electricity for your home and business. Solar offers numerous advantages, which tend to outweigh any potential limitations. Understanding the different components, especially the importance of inverters and the role of batteries, can enable you to make a smart decision when choosing your set-up. Today, payback periods are shorter than ever, and while costs and savings will depend on your individual specifications and other variables, it’s likely you can save on your electricity bills while doing good for the environment.

Are you ready to take the next step towards investing in a solar system?

Contact Platinum Solar for a free consultation today.


Our multi-award-winning team of licensed electricians are passionate about providing amazing service. By going with a reputable company like Platinum Solar, you can be confident we won’t oversell you. Our team will provide you with the right recommendations and service to save costs as much as possible while optimising your solar system for your household or business requirements. Contact us now to find out more about how our local teams can help you with a great solar-power system designed for your budget and energy requirements.