Solar Installation Tips For New Build Homes
If you're considering solar power for your new home, you want to get it right from the get go. A new build offers the chance to optimise your set up, but you want to make sure you've done your homework. Proper consultation with your architect, builder and solar expert during the planning process is the best way to avoid common installation issues or roadblocks, and we are here to help!
Here are our top tips for navigating your way forward to a sunny future in your dream home.
1. Roof Design
The first thing you need to check with your home builder is whether your roof will support at least 6.6kW of solar panels (20 - 22 panels) with a 5kW inverter (as per Finn Peacock's suggestion on SolarQuotes). Incredibly - in this day in age when an all-electric future is certain to become the norm, there are still developers and homebuilders getting away with building brand new 'slender roof houses' without provision for supporting solar resources. In 2019 the average size system Goliath Solar & Electrical has installed for it’s clients has been 10kW which is around 34 panels installed with annual electricity savings of close to $3,000!
The good news is that if you find your new home needs roof modifications at the planning stage, it can easily be included as a build contract variation, usually at a cost of a few hundred dollars, and noted as:
“Upgrade roof trusses (including calculation and design) to accommodate future roof solar panels supplied and installed by Owner after handover”.
Simple. But crucial!
Another great thing to discuss with your architect and solar experts is tailoring the design to your roof. They can also help identify possible shading issues from neighbouring properties, as well as solutions for optimal placement of antennas, skylights, ventilation, etc on other areas of your roof line.
We suggest getting all your roof spaces supported for panels so North, East, West and South. This way you’re not limited to the size of the system you have installed. If a 13kW solar panel system can fit, get 42 panels approved as this will help you produce more electricity in cooler months to charge a battery like a Tesla.
2. Pre-Wiring For Solar
We always advise pre-installing your solar system wiring while your home is under construction. We can very simply pre-wire the house for solar, meeting all Solar CEC standards, before the walls are gyp-rocked. This is much simpler and more cost effective to do at the beginning of a build than after, and also ensures there are no visible solar cables in your home.
A few technical things to be aware of...
- Solar cables run at up to 600V DC in your home and are live at all times, except for when the sun goes down or you switch your solar panels off, and they cannot be protected by a circuit breaker or safety switch.
- For this reason there are strict regulations on how and where to run the solar cables, and they have to be protected by specific heavy duty solar conduit. It's important to note - not all builders or electricians are across these industry standards as they're not necessarily solar experts.
- We recommend engaging a CEC approved electrician, (ideally from the same company who will install your solar system) to do your pre-wiring. This way you can be sure it's compliant and will avoid any extra costs that tend to crop up when mistakes are made.
- It also helps to know which solar system you plan to install before wiring, to ensure the correct cables are laid.
3. Solar Inverter Location
Inverter, Switchboard & Battery
The great thing with solar panels on a new build house is you have the chance to decide where all your services will be located. Our advice is to position the inverter as close to the switchboard as possible. Usually we suggest placing them on a southern wall or inside your garage, which can also be an ideal spot to position a battery in future.
Don't forget - your monitoring system will need a data connection and the internet can be connected via wi-fi or hardwiring. Hard wiring is preferable due to the unreliability of wi-fi, so we recommend running a data cable to the inverter / switchboard location. That way you're pre-wired for the day of install and your system can be connected to your home internet on the spot.
Aim to get a solar-ready electricity meter installed at the start of the build - this will save you waiting around. Goliath can help get pre approval from SA Power Networks once your block has been cleared.
Type of Inverter
We design a solar system for all our clients based on their current and future needs. Most of our clients are sticking with more reputable DC European made inverters as you can AC couple a battery like a Tesla or the Adelaide made Sonnen to any inverter in the market. We do have DC hybrid inverters we trust however they only come in single phase and are not as popular due to higher costs.
4. Switchboard & Three Phase Power
We understand that in the not too distant future you will likely add big appliances to your home, and with this in mind it makes sense to install a bigger switchboard with more breakers and greater capacity than you currently need. It will certainly save you lots of money down the track, as replacing a switchboard is a costly exercise.
Whilst most house run on single phase power, there is a limit to how much solar a 10kW capacity system can export to the grid, and hence how much you can save on your power bill. In simple terms, if you have the option to install three phase power, even in a modest home it opens up the opportunity to generate more power and savings, given the current feed in tariff. Plus you'll be generating enough extra energy to charge larger appliances in future.
It's also wise to consider laying 3 phase cabling from your switchboard to wherever you would place a charger for your electric car (the future is closer than you think!). It won't be long before this is a reality for most of us, and it will cost heaps less than installing cables later.
5. Safety & Scaffolding
We take safety seriously, if you're building a multi story property, it's a good idea to ask your builder to allow the solar company on site to install your panels while the scaffold is up as it’s not always possible to add scaffold after handover.
6. Timing & STCs
The timing of your solar install will influence the STCs rebate which in turn will have an influence on your system cost. The STCs are only created once the system is fully installed and operating and will reduce the cost of your installed solar system.
For instance in 2019, a 6.6kW solar system installed will get you 109 STC’S @ $36 each = $3,924. In 2020 the same 6.6kW solar system installed will only get you 100 STC’s @ $36 each = $3,600 so you're looking at nearly $325 less if you wait until 2020 to get your system installed.
For this reason we can discuss rough pricing once building plans have been drawn up but we are only able to quote formally with a fixed price 3 to 4 months out from the date you will be installing your solar system.
With a little forward thinking you'll be pleasantly surprised with your solar system performance and savings well into the future! If you're looking to build a new home in Adelaide, Goliath Solar is ready to help you achieve the benefits of building a solar-ready property.
To learn details specific to your property, please contact us.
David is the founder of Goliath Solar & Electrical. His 13 years experience working as an electrician have equipped him with top shelf solar and electrical knowledge which he brings to his current role overseeing the installation team.