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Ask The BlackLab

Will my solar panels generate electricity during rainy, cloudy or snowy days?

All a solar panel needs to generate electricity is irradiance (light).  Although in gloomy weather the irradiance is a lot lower, solar panels still generate electricity.  Depending on how a system is designed, the solar panels can still do the job in poor weather.  As a rule of thumb you can expect 15-20% output in overcast conditions.  There are conditions where the output will drop to as low as 5%, but this would be very dark weather.

What happens if my roof is Shaded?

Shading is something to be avoided if possible and can have a severe impact on a solar system depending on how it is designed.  There are ways to mitigate the effects of shading by installing products like optimisers, or micro inverters.  There are also many techniques and wiring methods that can have a big impact on system performance when it comes to shading.  Installer experience in this area plays a big part on energy yield in shading conditions.

How do the government subsidies work?

In NSW the "solar rebate" are the Small Scale Technology Certificates or STCs.  These are created when an eligible solar system is installed.  These certificates have a value which is generally between $30-$40 depending on market conditions.  In general terms for every 1000W of solar panels you have installed on your roof you will get back $500.  It does not matter whether the solar system is off grid, is for a bore pump or is connected to a grid.  STCs are valid for systems up to 100kW and generally created and traded for a one off point of sale discount off a solar system.

What maintenance is involved in owning a solar system?

A good installation will have minimal maintenance, but it will depend on the local conditions and installation situation.  The best maintenance is good monitoring.  Quality solar products will tell you when there is maintenance required.  A good quality solar installation company will also tell you if something needs to be done with your solar system.  In reality not a lot of maintenance is done with solar systems, but you should check the documentation you receive with your solar system to see what is required.  So long as you can monitor the system production and you can do a visual inspection you are half way there.  The best monitoring system is Solar Analytics which will tell you how your system is performing.  How do you know if ALL your panels are working?  A system like Solar Analytics will tell you. If you'd like more information on Solar Analytics please drop us an email; or check out their website 

How long will a New solar system last for?

All of the products in a solar system have a warranty period.  Generally, the big ticket items should have a warranty of 10 years.  Some items such as monitoring devices or rooftop isolators have a 5 year warranty.  When reading about solar panel warranty, be careful to understand the difference between "performance warranty" and "product warranty".  The only warranty that matters is "product warranty".

What after sales support should I expect?

A solar system should come with after sales support, advise and monitoring by the solar installation company.  It should perform as expected and the performance should be inline with the performance estimate that is in the quote.  A solar installation is an investment.  Like any investment, you should receive a good return.  The performance should be inline with the PDS (product disclosure statement).  If something is not right, the installer should be there to help you.  All of the systems that are installed by BlackLab Solar are monitored and looked after to ensure the customers return on the investment is on target as set out in their plan.

Are all the products made in China?

Most solar products are made in China; but some of the better products are made in other countries.  BlackLab Solar install some of the best products in the world such as Selectronic and Solar Analytics from Australia & Fronius from Austria.  We also install other products that are sourced from Australian companies such as GenZ and Cobalt Solar.  BlackLab Solar do not install inverters that are made in China.  

Are batteries a good idea?

Batteries are a good idea if you are off grid.  If you are on the grid, they are a good idea if you would like energy security (a back-up supply if the grid fails).  If you are interested in batteries for on grid use so you can "use your own power to save money" the battery is not a good idea. The battery will not pay for itself in its lifetime.  At present, the feed in tariffs (how much you get paid for your surplus energy) are quite reasonable so it is better to sell your excess energy than store it in a battery.  Most batteries that are installed on the grid do not have backup capability.  Beware of unethical selling techniques from solar sales people.  Do not buy a white elephant.

Do I need a generator with my Off Grid power system?

A generator is an important part of an off grid system.  It will supplement the energy when the weather is poor, and it can provide an alternate source of energy if there is an inverter breakdown.  If you are willing to adapt to conditions and invest in a large solar system, you can do without the generator.  If you are more in tune with your system, and are willing to change your consumption requirements to meet the available energy, you will be fine without a generator.  If you are someone who just wants to turn things on and have them work every time, you will need a generator.  Important fact:  A generator is a piston engine machine that needs regular maintenance.  Like any piston engine, it needs to be regularly run and maintained.  It also needs to be suitably sized to the off grid system.  Too small and it will not do the job,  too big and you could glaze the cylinders of the engine. For example, if you didn't start your car for a month it might not go at all.  If you applied full throttle to your car on a cold winters morning without warming it up, it would not last very long.  A generator needs to be sized to do the job.  Sometimes the job will be running the entire load AND charging the battery bank all at the same time.

If you have any more questions, we'd be happy to help. Please send us an email or call us for a chat.

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