Should I get a battery storage system as well as solar panels?

Installing a battery storage system to work in conjunction with your home or commercial solar energy set-up essentially means that excess or unused energy that is produced can be effectively stored and then used when you require it.

There are a number of important advantages to this, including greater energy independence, reducing the size of your electricity bills, and lessening your impact on the environment. You also get protection against both price rises and power outages.

How does a battery storage system work?

With a battery storage system, excess energy produced during the day by your solar panels is not fed back into the grid, an option which many people choose as a means of benefiting from feed-in tariffs and thus reducing overall energy costs.

Installing a solar battery storage system, however, means that instead of unused energy being returned to the electricity grid, it is stored for later use, such as when there is little or no sunlight, at nighttime, or even when there is a blackout. This too has the effect of reducing your peak energy costs, as by using the electricity your own system has produced during daylight hours, you are not having to draw (and pay for) energy from the grid.

Using your own energy in this way also means increased efficiency and greater energy independence, and gives you access to a reliable and sustainable source of power at all times.

The way your solar system is configured will affect how much energy is able to be stored, as will the number and capacity of the batteries that have been integrated into the system.

What subsidy is available through the South Australia Home Battery Scheme?

Up to $3,000 is available as a subsidy from the State Government ($200 per kWh of storage installed, or $300 for energy concession recipients) via the Home Battery Scheme if you install a solar battery storage system that is virtual power plant (VPP) capable.

The current rate of subsidy is, however, likely to be reduced over time, as uptake of the scheme increases (it has already been lowered from its original rate of $4,000). If you already have solar panels installed, it is also possible to get a low interest loan to buy additional panels, in addition to the battery subsidy, through Plenti.

If you currently receive the 44c/kwh feed-in tariff via South Australia’s statutory feed-in scheme, you will no longer be eligible for this once you install a battery. If you receive a feed-in tariff via your retailer, you should contact them to enquire as to whether this will still be available to you.

Solar Battery Storage FAQs

Q. What are the overall benefits of a solar battery storage system?

A. The benefits include lower energy costs, more energy independence, less impact from electricity price hikes, flexible energy use, and protection against blackouts.

Q. How big are home batteries, and where are they installed?

A. Most batteries suitable for home installation are similar in size to an air conditioner, and weigh around 30 to 125 kg. They can be wall mounted or installed on the floor, and need to be located either outdoors or in a garage.

Q. If we have a blackout, will my battery still provide electricity?

A. One of the primary reasons many Adelaide homeowners choose to install battery storage as part of a solar energy system is to provide energy during a power outage or a blackout. However, not all battery systems provide blackout protection, so if this is your aim you need to make sure that any battery you are considering includes this feature.

Q. I already have solar panels — can I now add battery storage?

A. Battery storage can be added to an existing solar energy system, although you may also need to add additional panels if you are to get the maximum benefit from home storage.

Q. If I have a solar battery, can I live ‘off the grid’?

A. It is possible to live off the grid, but not if you are in receipt of a subsidy to purchase your battery. This is because it is a requirement that any subsidised storage system is capable of being part of South Australia’s virtual power plant. However, if you don’t require a subsidy, then solar battery storage can essentially take you off the power grid.

Q. Is council approval required to install a battery?

A. Council approval will be required if you live in a multi-storey residential flat or apartment building. You should also seek written approval from your body corporate before you purchase a system. In terms of other types of property, whether council approval is required will depend on the local authority where you live.

Q. Where can I find out more about subsidies for home solar energy, feed-in tariffs and battery storage systems?

A. Click below to find out more information:
Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme
Solar feed-in payments in South Australia
South Australia Home Battery Scheme

Maintaining your home solar energy system for optimum performance

Home solar energy systems require relatively little maintenance—however, this does not means that they require no attention or servicing at all.

In order to ensure a safe and efficient operating system that is effectively producing energy for your home and feeding it back to the grid, it’s important to undertake regular and thorough maintenance and cleaning. This will ensure your home solar system is working to capacity and you are able to enjoy the full benefits of your investment.

Benefits of checking your solar energy system regularly

There are several different things that you can do to ensure your system is performing at its best, and which will mean you won’t have to wait until your energy bill arrives to find out if your home solar energy system is not operating at full capacity.

Ensure your solar inverter is operating properly

The solar inverter enables the DC current that is generated by your solar panels to feed into your home, so that it can then be used by household appliances. It is also the means whereby the excess energy you produce can be fed back into the grid, enabling you to capitalise on any feed-in tariff you may have. Therefore, in order to get the most out of your system, your solar inverter needs to function efficiently.

You should check your inverter display every two weeks, ideally in daylight conditions late in the day (in South Australia, the best time is between 4.00pm - 5.00pm). If it’s dark when you make this check, or there is very limited sun, your inverter display will be blank, but this doesn’t necessarily indicate a fault. Therefore, any checks of your solar inverter should ideally be made when there is a reasonable amount of sunlight, and little or no cloud or haze.

You should check the following:

If you are not familiar with the displays on your system, the manufacturer’s manual will explain where these can be found. If you don’t have a copy of the manual, let us know and we will be able to supply another edition.

Check your system’s efficiency

All home PV solar energy systems come with documentation that details your expected energy yield. As a first step to checking the efficiency of your system, compare the results that are displayed on your solar inverter with those that have been supplied.

Keep a record of the readings that you take, including information such as the time and date, and what the weather conditions were like (e.g., cloudy, clear, sunny, etc.) This will then be a useful reference point for you to be able measure changes or fluctuations in your system’s performance.

What should I do if my solar inverter is underperforming?

If you aren’t getting the output from your system that was predicted, or you notice a drop in performance, then it’s important that you have your system inspected as soon as possible. If this is the case, get in touch with Rawsons Electrical and our expert team can advise you on the steps that need to be taken to ensure that you’re getting full value from your home solar system.

Do I need to clean my solar panels?

If your solar panels aren’t clean—whether due to rain, pollution, bird droppings or other deposits—sunlight is unable to reach the solar cells, meaning they absorb less sunlight and in turn produce less energy.

Reduced solar panel output means that you may not produce enough energy to run your home and then still have to draw power from the grid. This means that you won’t experience the drop in energy bills you were expecting, because not only are you still using mains electricity but you’re not feeding energy back to the grid and so aren’t earning any benefit from your feed-in tariff either.

How do I clean my solar panels?

Ideally, eco-friendly materials should be used, such as water that contains no harmful chemicals or detergents, as this will help to ensure that the rubber seals and glass panels aren’t degraded.

It is also important to ensure that no spots, harmful residues or chemicals are left behind, and that the cleaning process does not in any way scratch the glass in the panels.

What are the benefits of living in a smart home?

You will no doubt have heard the term ‘smart home’ (where you can talk on your smartphone, watch your smart TV, and park your smart car), but what does it actually mean? Are there any real benefits to be gained from a smart home set up?

What are home automation systems?

A smart home is essentially one that has a range of automation systems in place. There are a variety of different technology products that can form part of a smart home system, with the aim being to combine these in such a way that all the various functions can be controlled from a single app, ideally making your home more liveable.

A smart home will enable you to perform tasks like program household appliances in advance, open the garage door while you’re still in the car, switch the lights on and off remotely, or monitor your home security wherever you are and at any time, all through an app on your phone or tablet.

Imagine, for instance, that you’ve been out on a hot summer’s day but forgot to set the timer for the air con to come on, and so are dreading returning home to a boiling hot house. However, with a home automation system, you can switch your cooling system on using the integrated app on your phone while you’re still out, meaning you will be able to return to a nice, cool house after all.

What are the benefits of smart home technology?

Smart home technology can provide a range of practical benefits, such as enhancing energy efficiency and making home security more effective and reliable. For instance, by using your smart home system to program when your electrical appliances come on or switch off, you can better optimise your energy use in line with your lifestyle. In addition, a smart home security system will significantly improve your levels of domestic protection. You can control your security doors or check your CCTV remotely, while digi-locks will provide you with real-time notifications should there be any unusual activity when you’re out. You can enjoy other forms of home security as well, as a smart home system can be integrated with smoke, gas and leak detectors, meaning you will notified instantly (even when you’re out or asleep in bed) should a potential emergency occur.

What are the keys to smart home system design?

A well designed and user-friendly home automation system will be designed to meet the specific lifestyle needs of you and your family, easy to understand, intuitive to use, and offer high levels of flexibility. It will enable you, with a single tap, to perform tasks like operate your home theatre, close the curtains, or dim the lights, regardless of where you are.

It should also be robust, reliable and low maintenance, and have stable connectivity with all of the devices to which it’s connected, while not impacting on other devices connected to your home wi-fi network.

A common misconception is that automated living systems can only be integrated into new homes. However, this is not the case and it is relatively straightforward retrospectively to install one in your existing property, regardless of its vintage (although there will be some exceptions to this).