STOP – Read this before you buy your solar panels! Part 1.

Edit – updated May 2015

Much is made in the press and online about installing solar panels, and it looks like the idea has caught the public imagination. We think it’s a great idea, if done correctly.

The main thing that people focus on is “how long is the payback period”?

i.e. You spend $10,000 on solar panels.  How long does it take to make $10,000 back?  You get a financial return from the electricity company paying you for the electricity you generate and send to them, and the money you save by not paying the electricity company for the electricity you use from your solar, instead of from them.

If you’ve installed solar panels within the last few years, or you’re looking at doing it now, you get a very low feed-in tariff of between $0.04 – $0.12 per kWh you send to the grid, depending on which state you live in.  Given that energy costs around $0.25, it makes far more sense to do this:

Use as much of your solar power as possible

Use as little power from the grid as possible

So how do you do that?

You need to know how much power your house is using, and how much power your solar panels are generating.


Current Cost NetSmart Gateway Screen Shot

Let’s take a look at the home in the graph above.  This is a fairly standard large Australian home – four bedrooms, three kids and a pool.

How do they slash their electricity bill (which runs at about $3700 a year)?

Do they install solar panels?

No way.

The first thing they do is reduce their waste.  If no-one is home, or everyone is asleep, they’re using about 750W (excluding the fridge).

0.75kW x 24 hours x 365 days = 6570 kWh a year.  That’s about $1500 a year they’re spending without even using power!  This is waste!    By simply turning off appliances that are not being used, they could save more money a year than a $8000 solar array could save them.

So what’s using the power here?

  • Entertainment systems x 2 in standby
  • Computers x 2 running constantly for no good reason
  • Endless appliances plugged in and not being used  – battery operated vacuum cleaners on charge needlessly.


OK, so you’ve got yourself an energy monitor and you’ve reduced your standby energy use.  Now what?  Still need to bring that power bill down?

OK, now it’s time for Part 2.