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.
Green Efficient Living made it very clear at the inception of our company that we would only align ourselves with businesses who project the same values as us. These values focus on providing our customers with high quality and reliable products, impeccable customer service, a dedication to innovation and being strong advocates for reducing environmental impact.
This is why Green Efficient Living promote and install Enphase Energy products for our solar installations. Enphase is a company dedicated to pushing the boundaries of solar technology and are passionate about developing new technologies that make energy ‘more intelligent, more connected and cost effective’.
They design and manufacture products for solar generation, energy storage and web-based monitoring and are currently the market leader in microinverter manufacturing and distribution. The company was founded in 2006 and since then has grown to become a global leader in solar energy technology. In 2008, they introduced the world’s first microinverter system and just three years later they hit the milestone of having shipped one million micro inverters worldwide.
Eight years on and they have begun operating in 21 countries across the globe, opened their own research and development facility in New Zealand (March 2016), and have shipped over 15 million microinverters worldwide. During this time, they have won awards such as ’14th Fastest Growing Company (2013)’, ‘Technology Pioneer (2013)’, and ‘#1 Residential Inverter Supplier’.
But it isn’t just their size or expertise that makes them the industry leader and Green Efficient Living‘s choice. It’s their dedication to providing the very best products and services for their customers. Their web-based monitoring software, MyEnlighten, allows for complete connection and communication between your solar PV system and your home via an app on your phone or tablet. It lets you track your energy production in real time and monitor your system’s health through a status indicator. It also allows your solar installer to monitor and track your system’s production to make sure that everything is running as it should be.
Enphase also has an Australian head office, which can give you peace of mind knowing that if something was to go wrong, or if you have any questions as all, we can easily get in touch with somebody local and get you an answer straight away.
They have a passion for providing an alternative energy resource that reduces our environmental impact and are driven by a sense of responsibility towards our planet and communities. Their systems have already helped to offset almost 6 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide worldwide…yes, 6 TRILLION! And that number is continuously growing.
Consistent and rigorous quality testing means that their products are at a consistently high level and are reliable in all conditions and climates. All Enphase products undergo one million ‘power-on’ hours of accelerated, long-term reliability testing prior to their release. Our confidence their products extends far beyond our business, as we have installed them in our own homes as well! This way, our customers can be assured that their products and systems are there to last.
Green Efficient Living always have our customers in the forefront of our minds with every decision that we make, so it is imperative to us that we work with companies who see the same value in that. This is why we use Enphase microinverters.
If you are considering having a solar PV system installed, or to see the MyEnlighten app working in real time, come into our office and let us discuss how using Enphase micro inverters can work for you. Alternatively, you can contact us here!
Do you want to have a solar PV system installed, but are slightly skeptical because of something that you may have heard or possibly some general misunderstandings that you may have? There are so many different opinions on solar PV systems and so many myths, so Green Efficient Living has decided to clear up a few up in order for you to make a clearer decision. Here is the truth about a few solar myths that you may have heard that could be holding you back from enjoying all of the benefits that solar has to offer.
“The solar system that I am offered must be the right one for me!”
Unfortunately, this isn’t always true. There are many different solar systems out there and many different solar installers, and while the industry is one that is heavily regulated with strict compliance standards, it is still up to you to do the research and find the most trustworthy installer that will provide you with the most suitable system.
A reliable solar technician is one that is also a qualified electrician, giving them the sound knowledge and understanding of how to correctly wire the panels to ensure their efficiency, reliability, and safety. Your energy consumption habits, your location, your roof pitch, your needs, etc. will all need to be reviewed before they can even begin to understand what the correct system might be. If they are offering you a system before these questions have been asked, then the chances are that they are offering you a system for their benefit and not yours.
Never pass up the opportunity to have your system inspected. Through inspections carried out by Green Efficient Living, it has been found that a large number of systems are non-compliant which a high percentage of them being sub-standard. It is for this reason that your own research is extremely important to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable company. It is important to that you are aware of whether or not your solar installer is approved – a good company should always be able to provide proof of quality. Asking for their accreditation and certification is one way to ensure that you are dealing with a reputable company.
It is also important to be aware of what is available to you once the system has been installed, such as warranties, after-installation support, maintenance checks, and customer service. A quality provider should be with you long after the system has been installed.
Don’t get caught by hidden costs – ensure that you are aware of everything that you are paying for! Some companies may charge you for small things such as your meter box upgrade, so make sure that you have every little detail written in full and provided to you for your own personal records.
Green Efficient Living are Clean Energy Council approved installers and all of our technicians are qualified electricians. We only use quality components and products that are guaranteed to deliver and make you aware of every cost involved in the installation.
We take pride in our work so you know that you are getting the best possible service before, during and after your system has been installed.
“I’m not home during the day, therefore, solar panels won’t benefit me!”
It is true that unless you have a battery system installed, you cannot store the enery that your system produces to use at a later time. As a system’s energy production is highest during the day, this is ultimately when you need to be utilising it. Although most families of individuals are not home during daylight hours, there are still a number of ways that you can benefit from solar panels. It just means that you will need to change your energy consumption habits to match that of the solar energy production. Try to find ways that you can use the majority of your electricity usages during the day. Instead of waiting until you are home to turn on and use your appliances, schedule them to come on while you aren’t home. Have your washing machine run its cycle, and then your dishwasher, etc. This will ensure that you are making the most of your energy that is being produced and reducing your electricity bills in the process.
Also, remember that weekends are two days out of the week when you are home during the day to utilise the energy products. Even if your solar energy production is only able to make up a slight amount of the energy needed to run your appliances, you are still benefiting from having solar installed.
“I don’t need to worry about using all of the energy that my system produced because I’m being paid for the energy that I don’t use!”
This is true, but it is also slightly naive. Long gone are the days of high feed-in tariffs (what you get paid for the elecricity that you send back to the grid). Currently, this rate is at $0.068 per kilowatt hour (kWh), so for every kWh of solar that you don’t use, is sent back out the grid and you are reimbursed $0.068. For such a small amount, it is far smarter to try and utilise every kWh that you can, by timing your appliances to come on when energy production is at its highest. By using your solar, you’re saving yourself from having to purchase it from the grid at approximately $0.32 per kWh.
“Solar panels only produce energy on warm, sunny days so they aren’t really worth it!”
The myth that solar panels aren’t effective on cloudy or overcast days is one that has been argued for a long time now. Solar panels rely on light (UV rays) and not heat to produce energy, so as long as light is hitting the panels, there will be energy production – the amount, however, varies.
A study by the CSIRO is 2012 found that although cloudy weather can reduce energy production, they are still able to generate as much as 25 percent of the output that they would on a sunny day. Take Germany, for example – despite being a country that experiences a lot of cloud cover, they are currently one of the world’s top solar energy producers.
But, there is no such thing as a ‘shade-tolerant’ solar panel, although some solar panels deal slightly better under different shading conditions. These conditions can be quite complicated and it is dependant on how the shade falls over your panel, i.e. does it fall in a horizontal or vertical line, is the shading diffused or concentrated? But the long story is, if your panel is shaded, it will produce less power.
Many people also think that the warmer the temperature, the more energy is produced as a result. However, with all solar panels, their electricity production decreases as the temperature increases. Instead, the perfect weather for producing maximum solar energy is a day that has maximum sunlight (minimum cloud cover) and cooler temperatures.
“A solar system requires far too much maintenance!”
Solar systems contain no moving parts and are therefore very reliable and self-regulating – so much so that it is quite easy to forget that you can even have a solar system installed! For this reason, the system requires very little maintenance and effort on your behalf. But while this may be the case, it is important that you remember to complete a few easy tasks every now and then to ensure that your system is running smoothly and providing you with all of the benefits.
Despite what you may have heard, no solar panel is self-cleaning. Just think, if there was self-cleaning, non-stick glass, wouldn’t you have it on the windscreen of your car? If you can see your panels when you are standing outside, take a look to see if there is any dirt or debris sitting on the surface that may be covering them slightly and run water over them as needed to clear it away. How often you need to clean your panels is also dependant on the area in which you live. Near coastal, salty or farming regions or industrial areas will require you to clean your panels more often as there will be a faster build-up of grime. It is also wise to make a habit of taking a look at your inverter each time that you walk past it to ensure that it is running as it should be and that your energy production is still at its highest. Lastly, trim back the surrounding vegetation that may cause shading and therefore reduce your panels’ production.
If you have experienced wild weather, call an expert to have your panels inspected for any damage and professionally repaired as needed. Making these few rules a habit, along with having your panels professionally inspected once a year, is all the maintenance that a solar PV system requires for it to continue working at its best.
“I won’t be living in my home long enough to repay my investment!”
This is up to personal opinion, but at the end of the day, having solar installed on your home is beneficial both while you are there, and when you decide to leave. Statistics show that panels pay for themselves within six to fifteen years, depending on the type of system that you have, your location, your energy consumption habits, etc. In addition to this, a study has revealed that 85% of Australian home buyers believe that a house with a solar system installed has an increased value and three-quarters of renters would pay higher rent to live in a home with solar energy(1).
So even if you are not planning on living in your home for the next fifteen years at most, you are reducing the amount that you are spending on your electricity bills while you are there and increasing the value of your home when it is time to leave.
“My roof doesn’t face North so my panels won’t produce enough energy!”
There are two key factors in the positioning of solar panels that determine the maximum output of energy that can be produced by your system – direction and tilt/angle.
As Australia is in the southern hemisphere, we experience a sun that is predominantly from the north. Therefore, for your house to receive the maximum amount of sunlight, your panels should face north. In Adelaide, it has been found that panels that do face true north, at 30 degrees tilt, work at 100% efficiency that decreases by 10-20% if they face east (84% efficiency) or west (86% efficiency)(2).
Do not worry too much if your panels cannot face true north, as there is always other options. In this situation, it is best to have them north-east or north-west, with the angles of the panels being the main focus, to maximise the amount of sunlight that they can receive. The optimal direction of the panels also depends on what time your family uses the majority of your electricity. For example, you and your neighbour may have the exact same house design, facing the same direction, however your neighbour is retired and home for most of the day and will benefit more from having his panels face true north. You on the other hand have a young family, and are out the majority of the day. You therefore, would benefit more from having your panels facing east and west.
So just because your panels may not have the perfect placement, it does not necessarily mean that it will be detrimental to your output. It may in fact, work in your favour. If you are thinking about having solar installed, but are unsure if your location and roof will allow for optimum placements, speak to an expert at Green Efficient Living today and allow them to professionally design you a system that will produce the greatest yield.
“My panels are made in Germany, so they must be the best on the market!”
Firstly, a few things must be clarified before we can continue. Are your panels MADE in Germany, or are they just supplied by a German company? The difference between the two will distinguish just how superior they are. Germany holds the title for being able to produce the highest quality panels on the market and have a strong reputation in the solar industry. If you buy a genuine German-made solar panel you can almost guarantee that they will be of a high quality. But the line between what is German-made and what isn’t is a little blurry.
There are a few companies out there that maintain that their panels are made in German simply because that is where their distribute them from, but a lot of these companies still use Chinese manufacturers to produce their modules. This misleading branding is easy to believe and causes a lot of confusion about the quality of their products.
In saying that, it does not mean that panels made in China are necessarily of a lower qualitt. The only way to know whether you are truly choosing a reputable company with high quality and high performing panels, is to do your research and choose one that is classifed as Tier 1.
Green Efficient Living only use Tier 1 panels and high quality components so you know that your home system is designed to last. We only use brands that we would use, and have used, on our own homes, so you can rest assured that we are supplying you with the best.
If there is anything else that you are still unsure about regarding a solar PV system, give Green Efficient Living a call on (08) 8297 3422 for more information.
H. Jones, 9 May 2015, 85% of Aussies say solar panels boost property prices, <http://www.realestate.com.au/news/85-of-aussies-say-solar-panels-boost-property-prices/>.