Making the most of your rooftop solar system

You can reduce your energy bills even further by ensuring your rooftop solar system is operating at full capacity. Here’s how.

One of the many advantages of modern rooftop solar is that it doesn’t require much maintenance. But this doesn’t mean you should just “set and forget” your system: regular checks and small tweaks can make a big difference to its overall performance.

Installing a solar analytics or monitoring system from the get-go is a wise move: it allows for continuous, ongoing reporting on your system’s performance, and rapidly identifies any issues that need further investigation.

Then follow these 4 simple steps to help you make the most of your setup.

Photo: Jessica Lindsay

Check your inverter

An inverter is the piece of equipment that transforms the energy your solar panels generate into useable electricity. If your inverter isn’t working properly, your entire system suffers.

Most inverters have an LCD panel that shows how much power is being produced. Solar panels only ever produce about 80 per cent of their rated capacity, so if you have a 6kW system, at the peak of a sunny day your inverter should produce 4kW-5kW. If the LCD displays a much lower number, or even zero, there’s a problem with your system.

Many inverters can also connect via wi-fi to a smartphone app or web interface that allows you to monitor how much electricity your system is producing. Apps and web interfaces represent use graphically, so on a sunny day you should be able to see a curve that rises throughout the morning, peaks in the middle of the day then tapers off. If your curve looks significantly different, something could be wrong with your inverter.

It’s important to remember that a low read-out could simply reflect a problem with your solar panels rather than a problem with the inverter itself. So the next step is to make sure your panels are functioning properly.

Maintain your solar panels

In general, solar panels do not need to be cleaned to remain functional: Sydney’s natural environment, with rain and wind, will do the job for you. However, if you live on a busy road or near a construction site – or if Sydney experiences an extended period without rain – your panels may accumulate grime and need cleaning with water. Unless you have safe and unobstructed access to your roof, call a professional solar-cleaning company.

If your panels are clean and your inverter is showing a low read-out, it’s time to call your solar installer to help diagnose the problem.

Consider installing a battery

Adding a battery to your solar system isn’t the right solution for everyone. But if you live in a house with a relatively large solar setup or your panels perform particularly well, a battery could save you money in the long run. Find out more about batteries here.

Renegotiate with your energy supplier

Your energy tariff may change once you’ve installed rooftop solar, so it’s important to check with your supplier and, if necessary, shop around for a better deal. Securing a favourable feed-in tariff – that is, the rate at which you are paid for any electricity you sell back to the grid – can also make a big difference. Learn more about optimising your energy bill here.

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