The Importance of Shopping Local and Supporting Small Businesses
Often the reason business owners decide to branch out on their own is because they feel as though they can offer a better service or product than what is currently available, because of this there are so many benefits to shopping local and supporting small businesses.
We’ll delve deeper into a couple of those benefits and also talk about the different ways you can show your support.
A Better Shopping Experience
In today’s fast-paced world, online shopping is the preferred method of shopping. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s cheaper however it completely eliminates human interaction. When you shop in store, you’re getting the desired product and/or service as well as an experience. The character of the business will often reflect the owner’s personality and by choosing to visit the store, you’re not only giving yourself the opportunity to get to know the person behind the service and/or product but you’re also giving them the opportunity to get to know you. Often, you’ll find employees will happily take the time to listen to your needs and find you the best solution because they care (and not just about your money) which is difficult to say about larger corporations with monthly sales targets determined by an interstate head office.
Strengthen the Local Economy
When you shop local, it comes back to full circle. Let’s break that down, shall we? By spending money, you’re creating demand. By creating a demand, there is an increased need for jobs. With an increased need for jobs, there are lower unemployment rates and lower unemployment rates lead to more people having a disposable income. That disposable income will (hopefully) be spent locally which then creates more demand and starts the cycle all over again.
It’s simple, when you shop local – you’re investing in your community.
So, how can you support local and small businesses?
Spend money, of course – particularly important during the holiday season! However, if you are unable to do so here are a couple of other ways to show your support for free.
Talk to your friends and family, share a Facebook or Instagram page or leave a positive review for others to see.
Educate Yourself Research the local businesses in your area and make some time to go see what they have to offer.
Unfortunately, owning a business is tough these days. Online shopping and large franchises pose bigger and bigger issues to business owner’s every day. So remember that when you support a local or small business – you’re supporting local people, local jobs and someone’s dream.
Over the years we’ve become accustomed to hearing the same questions relating to having a solar photovoltaic (PV) system installed. So, as we are dedicated to education and helping our customers as much as we can, we have compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions to help you on your journey.
1. What is a grid-connected solar system?
A home without a solar system draws its energy from the electricity grid. A grid-connected solar system is a solar PV system that is connected to the electricity grid. Your household will consume the energy that is created from your solar system first, and if more is needed, it will draw the remaining electricity from the grid. It also allows your system to send power back out to the grid. If your household is not consuming the entire amount of energy that your system is creating, then that surplus is sent back out to the electricity grid. This surplus is measured and credited back onto your power bill. Depending on what state you live in and what electricity supplier you are with, this value will vary.
2. How much will my solar system cost me?
As an extremely broad question, the answer is dependent on a number of factors. The final price depends on what brand of system you choose, how many panels you have installed, whether you decide on a string inverter or microinverter and much more.
ALWAYS get multiple quotes to compare prices and remember that the most expensive quote doesn’t necessarily mean equate to the best system. In South Australia, on average a 5kW (kilowatt) system costs approximately $5,500 but there are some elements that will affect this price.
3. What size system do I need?
To answer this question, your system designer will need to understand your energy habits such as your daily usage amount, your energy usage patterns, your location, etc. From here, they will be able to offer you the correct sized system. While your installer should be able to offer you a rough estimate just by receiving your latest electricity bill, they should not be able to present you with an ACCURATE system size without first asking these questions.
4. How many solar panels will I need?
Once your installer determines the system size that your household requires, they will then look at what panels will best suit your system. Not all panels are created the same, or yield the same amount. So your installer should be working out which panels are most appropriate for your lifestyle and energy patterns. They will also need to look at elements such as your roof size and budget.
5. Will anything else affect the price of my system?
There are a few added elements that will affect the overall price of your system. Each solar PV system is tailored individually, so don’t assume that just because your family member has a 5kW system with X amount of panels on their home, means that you will pay the same price for the same system. Factors need to be taken into account such as additional labour costs for things like a double storey roof, panel mounting brackets to angle your panels correctly if your roof is flat and much more.
6. How much money will I save with my solar system?
Typically, it can take anywhere from four to six years for a system to pay itself off in South Australia. Payback times depend on a number of things such as your location, your energy consumption, daily usage patterns, how well you maintain your system, the size of your system and your feed-in tariff.
Ensuring that you have the correct sized system will speed up your payback times. Having a system that is large enough is important as it will not only cover your power consumption, but it will maximise your return on investment. But having a system that is too large will mean that you’re exporting a large surplus of energy back into the grid and as feed-in tariffs are no longer as high, you will be selling your power for less than your electricity rates. So it’s important to ensure that your system is correctly sized to maximise your return.
7. Is my roof right for solar?
Not every roof is suitable to have a solar system installed on it. Generally, there are six key factors that will determine the suitability of your system.
Orientation: While a north-facing roof is best for optimum production in South Australia, it has been proven that panels facing north.
Shade: Solar panels only produce maximum energy in full sunlight. If a part of a panel becomes
shaded, then the output level is reduced. It is therefore necessary that your roof does not experience any shade if possible. Vegetation and overgrown trees can easily be removed, but shade from chimneys or poles on the roof is much more difficult to work around. If there are certain ares of you roof that do experience shading during the day, then your installer may offer you a system with microinverters to avoid your output dropping too much.
Size: Your roof has to be large enough to have the space for the number of panels that you require. The minimum sized system that can be installed in Australia is a 1.5kW, which generally equates to 6 solar panels. If your roof is not large enough for 6 solar panels, then you may need to look at other options.
Age: The age of your roof will be an indication of its structural integrity. If you are in an older home and are unsure about whether your roof will be able to safely support a solar system then it is best to have an inspection done beforehand.
Pitch: Solar panels
generate maximum power when they are positioned perpendicular to the sun. Your installer will need to take the pitch of your roof into account when installing your panels at the optimal angle. If the pitch of your roof is too flat or too steep, then your installer will need to use mounting brackets to angle the panels correctly for maximum yield.
Material: While solar panels can generally be installed on any roof, there are some exceptions. Metal roofs are often the best to install a system on, while tile roofs can be quite fragile and generate an extra cost.
8. Does the temperature during the day affect production results? Does hotter weather equal greater energy production?
Many people believe that hotter weather produces more energy, however, it is much the opposite. The hotter the day, the less energy that your system will produce. This is because a solar system converts LIGHT into energy and not HEAT.
A solar panel has an optimal temperate range that is best for producing the greatest amount of energy. As the temperature rises out of this optimal range, the production efficiency begins to decrease. Excessive heat is therefore detrimental for a solar panel’s production. Instead, the days that you will find you produce the most energy are on sunny, cooler days.
9. Is there any maintenance involved in having a solar system on my roof?
Despite the rumours, solar panels are NOT self-cleaning. So, like any other appliance or installation around the home or office, we do ask that you occasionally inspect and perform a small amount of maintenance on it. You can find a copy of our maintenance manual here.
10. Do I need developmental approval to have a solar system installed?
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t need to get council or planning approval when having a solar system installed, however, there are a few instances in which you may. If you live in a council strata development, then getting approval from the body corporate may be required, or if you live in a heritage listed home then you will need to get council approval. If you are unsure whether or not you should be receiving approval, you can ask your solar installer or local council for guidance.
11. Will I still be using energy from the grid?
Yes. Your solar system only generates energy when there is sunlight, and when this energy is generated it needs to be used immediately. At night time when there is no energy being produced, your system will draw energy from the electricity grid so that you can continue to use the appliances within your home. Should you have a battery system however, it can store energy produced by your system to use when your system is not generating power.
Solar systems are all individually tailored to ensure maximum power generation for your household. If you have any further questions, please do not hestitate to give us a call on (08) 8297 3422 today, to speak to one of our qualified installers.
Should You Get A String Inverter or Microinverters?
If you are considering having a solar PV system installed on your home or business, one of the key decisions that you will have to make is whether to have a string inverter or micro-inverters installed.
Inverters play a crucial role in the production of solar energy, so it pays to choose the right one. When the sun hits the solar panels, the light energy is transformed into direct current (DC). Unfortunately, your house or business runs on alternating current (AC) and therefore an inverter is needed. The inverter converts the DC into AC to make it accessible to your home or business.
There are two main types of inverters that your solar power system can use – string inverters and microinverters. Depending on certain factors such as your location, energy needs, energy usage patterns, amount of shading on your home, one type of inverter may be better suited to your system than the other. Green Efficient Living is here to help you decide which one is better for you.
A string inverter, or central inverter, is a large box that is generally located on the wall on the outside of your home, or close to your fuse box/electricity meter. There is usually one, maybe two, string inverters on each residential solar installation and they operate in series array or series circuit.
Microinverters perform the same role as string inverters, however, they are much smaller and designed to sit underneath each individual panel. They accept the current of each panel individually rather than a series of panels collectively. This ultimately means that there is the same number of inverters on your roof as there are panels.
So Which One Is Best?
There are many factors that need to be considered when deciding which inverter type is right for you. Your solar installer will have to look at which direction your roof is facing, how much shade it is receiving, your energy production goals and much more, before determining which inverter is right for your system. Independent of those factors, however, there are major differences between the two types of inverters.
System Performance and Energy Output
One advantage of microinverters is that there is never a single point of failure that can affect the whole system. As microinverters operate independently of one another, they result in a more effective output overall. This means that if an outside influence such as shading from dirt and grime, overcast weather conditions, overgrown vegetation, etc. cause an effect on one panel, the entire system’s performance is not compromised.
However, systems with string inverters risk losing their entire system’s maximum performance if one panel becomes affected or fails. As they are connected in series, if one panel is affected by outside influences (mentioned above) or performance failure, then your entire system will not function to its maximum potential. The rest of the unaffected panels outputs will drop to match.
Enphase Diagram Comparing Microinverters (left) to String Inverters (right)
Winner = If your roof receives shading, or you’re in an area that receives a lot of cloud cover, then microinverters are your best option for maximum production.
When having microinverters installed, there is also a reduced safety risk as they operate at a much lower voltage than string inverters. As string inverters accept the voltage of the entire system, you can have up to 600 volts DC on a domestic system, or more, running through your home. If this voltage were to arc, your system will fail, a large bang may occur, and in worst cases, a fire may result! This is why it is paramount that you find a reputable installer to ensure that your system is installed to the highest quality.
Winner = Microinverters have been labelled as the safer option as they eliminate the need for this high voltage wiring.
Flexibility and Expansion
String inverters have a limited number of panels that they can accept, so depending on how many panels are already in your system, you may find it hard to add more at a later date. Microinverters allows for increased expansion in the future – all that you will need to do is add more panels and more inverters. Their independent operation also means that you are not limited when it comes to their orientation either. You can add panels on any side of the roof, at independent angles, and still yield the same amount of electricity. However, with string inverters, all of your panels must be connected in the same orientation and facing the same way.
Most string inverters, however, do have two independent inputs, or mmpt’s. This means that two arrays of panels can work independently of one another via the same inverter.
Winner = Microinverters allow for your system to be expanded in the future as well as a lot more flexibility with your panels positioning and orientation.
While prices may vary between states, installers, manufacturers, etc. statistics show that microinverters are still the more expensive option.
However, cost does not only cover the initial expense up front but also the overall savings that you will receive throughout the life of your system and the speed at which you recuperate your initial expenses. While string inverters may not be a larger initial expense, your overall production will be greater with microinverters and therefore may result in larger savings on your bills in the long run.
Winner = For an initial lower cost, string inverters are the better option. However, for long-term investments, the upfront costs of microinverters will be recouped over the lifespan of the system.
Maintenance and Repair
One large advantage of microinverters is their panel-level monitoring. While the homeowner is not able to see the individual values of production, your technician has access to each inverters performance via a system monitoring program. This means that they can easily monitor how your inverters and panels are performing without the need to perform an inspection. String inverters can only let your technician monitor the system’s overall production.
However, as microinverters are located on the roof of your home, maintenance and repairs can become a lot more costly and time-consuming. If a panel or inverter develops a fault, your technician will have to get onto the roof to have access to your inverters and panels.
A string inverter, on the other hand, is more cost-effective and timely to repair as it is located on the wall of your home down on the ground. This means that your technician avoids the lengthy process of having to get onto your roof to repair the fault.
Winner = There are definitely pros and cons to both. System and fault monitoring are easier in microinverters, however, maintenance and repair are easier in string inverters. Microinverters also have the added ease of service should it ever come to needing to claim your performance warranty.
Both string inverters and microinverters have their pros and cons. While it may seem that microinverters are the clear winner, this is not always the case. Should your home and roof receive minimal shading, your energy usage be predominantly throughout the day, and you have no intentions to expand your system in the future, then there is no reason why you should not use a string inverter. However, if your roof is one that receives shading in certain areas throughout the day, then microinverters may be the better option.
Your solar installer should be asking you a number of questions during your consultation to distinguish which inverter will benefit you the most.
What Is Solar Shading and How Can You Deal With It?
We all know by know that solar panels produce electricity from the sunlight. So it makes sense that when there is shade cast upon them, they produce less electricity. It would seem fairly obvious that the power output produced by the panels is reduced proportionally to the amount of area that is shaded – this isn’t true.
Most domestic solar systems include anywhere between 5-30 panels, and most of the time these panels are connected in a ‘string’. Smaller systems may only have one string while larger scale systems may have more. We find it easiest to explain a string of panels as a string of Christmas lights. Electricity flows from one bulb to the next, lighting up the entire string of lights. However, when one bulb blows, the whole string of lights fails. This is the same for a solar system connected in strong. Even if a small amount of shade falls on just one cell in the panel, the output of the whole string of panels is reduced for as long as the shadow remains. Instead, it is because when one panel fails, it begins to become an energy consumer, rather than an energy generator. The shaded panel begins to draw power from the other panels, who in turn are not producing their optimum or maximum output.
There are many different factors that can result in solar panel shading. Shade from overgrown vegetation (trees and plants), cloud cover, dirt, bird feces, etc. all cause an effect on overall power production. During the design and layout stage of having your solar system installed, your installer should have taken a look at your roof from above, using technology, and be taking into account many factors such as optimal sun direction. They should be designing your system to sit in a location where it is not shadowed for half of the day, e.g. behind a chimney or a tree.
Fortunately, while there aren’t many ways to completely eliminate solar shading, there are ways to manage it.
How To Manage Solar Shading
1. Regular cleaning of your panels
Cleaning your panels every three or so months ensures that they stay free of any on-surface shading that may occur. Running a hose from the top of your roof, directly down to wash away leaf litter and debris that can get caught on top of your panels. Using a squeegee or cloth to gently clean the more tough dirt and grime is fine, but scourers and high-pressure water cleaners are not.
2. Be aware of vegetation
Be aware of overgrown plants and trees that may cast a shadow on your panels. Make a point observing this every three months or so, to ensure that your panels remain in maximum sunlight for as long as they can. Also, remember to observe this at all times of the day, to see how they are affected as the sun moves.
3. Micro Inverters
Microinverters are just as the name suggests, however, they are much smaller and designed to sit underneath each individual panel. They perform the same function as a string inverter, however, they accept the output of that panel only, rather than a series of panels collectively. This maximises your total production output because if one panel fails, the others are not compromised.
They are slightly more expensive upfront, but as time goes on, the product price is dropping. Microinverters allow for an expansion of your system, so there are no restrictions when it comes to your system’s future and they are often labeled as the safer choice due to the minimised voltage running through them.
4. DC Optimisers
DC Optimisers are similar to microinverters in that they are also located on each individual panel. However, DC Optimisers, or power optimisers, are used in systems where a string inverter is involved. These DC Optimisers work with the string inverter to enable the maximum production from each panel individually, despite the fact that the panels are connected in a string. When a panel becomes shaded and its power output differs from the unshaded panels, the optimisers correct ‘mismatch’ of energy production between each panel by allowing it to function at its Maximum Power Point (MPP), and then converting that energy to the optimum voltage and current for the string inverter.
All of these factors should be looked at by your solar installer and they should be informing you of the best choice for your situation and requirements. Green Efficient Living solar installers use a number of programs to look at all of the factors required to provide you with a system that will work best for you.
To speak to one of our solar professionals today, call (08) 8297 3422 or fill out a request form on our contact page.