The quote that you’ll get from a solar panel installer is usually based on the design and structure of your home. The factors that influence the quote the most are:
- Whether your home has a pitched roof
- The height of the house
- Whether there’s easy access to the roof from outside the house
- Whether your roof structure is stable (usually a stable tile or Tin / Colorbond roof is fine).
If your home is “non-standard” in one of these factors, then the installer may decide to charge you extra, or in some cases may even refuse to install a solar PV system in cases of extreme difficulty or risk.
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Assuming an installer is happy to install solar panels at your home, and you’re happy with the quote, you’ll then need to sign a contract for installing the system. Upon signing the contract, your installer will also arrange an installation date with you.
The solar panels and the inverter can normally be installed on the same day. However even after your system has been installed, you still may not be ready to start exporting surplus power to the grid. That’s because standard electricity meters only measure the amount of electricity you receive from the grid, not the amount of electricity you send to the grid. In order to start sending electricity to the grid, you need to get a “smart” electricity meter that supports net metering.
The cost of a new smart meter varies from state to state. In some states your electricity retailer will pick up the cost, whereas in other states it can cost as much as $400.
Once your smart meter is in place, you’re ready to start using your solar power and exporting any surplus to the grid. You should start to see credits on your electricity bill, reflecting the amount of solar electricity you’ve supplied to the grid. Many smart meters also allow you to track your energy use and solar production on your PC, tablet or mobile phone, so ask your retailer if this is available on their meters.
Above: Payments for exported solar electricity on an electricity bill