Aug 30, 2019: Solar Installed

In last week’s Newsletter I mentioned that we had ordered the solar power system for the house next to the Greeny Flat. I was expecting it to take a month or so to get it installed. So I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from the installers (Space Solar based in Sydney) yesterday to say that they had a cancellation and they could come today. Naturally I rearranged my schedule so I could be here and told them to go ahead.

Part of our solar system being installed on the West side of the roof.

Part of our solar system being installed on the West side of the roof.

A couple of very nice fellas showed up this morning (almost on time) and proceeded to install our system with a minimum of trouble. Of course it helped that we had planned for it in our previous renovations on the exterior of the house including leaving an accessible pathway to get wires down from the roof to the meter box.


A very tidy installation.

A very tidy installation (note the ‘chase’ next to the meter box for running wires).

Last week I listed the main reasons why we chose an Enphase microinverter system including improved performance, exceptional monitoring and better safety. But one advantage I hadn’t considered was that, because there is no need for a large inverter box next to the electricity meter box, the installation is very neat, tidy and unobtrusive. This is particularly good for this house because the meter box is right next to the front door.

Microinverters are located in small boxes under each panel.

Microinverters are located in small boxes under each panel.

The photo above shows the rack-mounting system ready for the panels to be attached with one microinverter located under each solar panel.

All told I was very happy with the installers and the job they did… except for one thing… and this is a BIG pet peave of mine. Where they had to run wires through the roof space of the house, they moved some insulation out of the way and they weren’t careful enough about putting it back properly.

This photo shows where insulation was moved to allow wires to be installed and then wasn't put back.... bloody typical!

This photo shows where insulation was moved to allow wires to be installed and then wasn’t put back…. bloody typical!

The sad fact is that these blokes were MUCH better than most tradies who do work in attics. In my work as an energy auditor and energy -efficiency consultant I have had the opportunity to inspect a LOT of attics and roof spaces and I can honestly say that I have hardly ever been in a roof space where the insulation had NOT been stuffed up by an electrician, a plumber, an antenna guy or a heating/cooling installer. In most cases I find insulation thrown all over the place as if the tradie in question was really annoyed that someone had been so rude as to put some stupid fluffy stuff in the way of his (or her, but usually his) crucial job. At least our guys made a reasonable effort to put the insulation back where it belongs. Most tradies just chuck it out of the way and leave it there with great, gaping holes in the thermal boundary of the home.

So my stern advice to you is… don’t pay any tradesman (or woman) who has been in your attic or roof space until you have carefully inspected to make sure that they have put the insulation back where it belongs.

I’m afraid this is just another symptom of a pervasive attitude in the Australian building industry that insulation is not important and is just an inconvenience and an unnecessary expense.

Anyway, we sorted it out and our attic is now properly insulated again and we have a shiny new solar system on our roof.

The completed part of our solar system on the East side of the roof.

The completed part of our solar system on the East side of the roof.

Unfortunately we can’t turn it on yet (apart from checking that it is working today) because we have to wait for a new smart meter to be installed and configured to allow for our solar to be exported to the grid and earn us a Feed-In Tariff. If we were to turn on the solar now we would actually be charged for the power we sent out to the grid as well as for the power we take from the grid.  So we won’t be doing that. It should take about two to three weeks for the new meter to be installed then we can start enjoying the benefits of our new solar system.

Finally I want to give full credit to my mother who owns this property as an investment. Not many landlords are prepared to install solar on the roof of a rental house because typically, the landlord bears all of the cost while the tenant gets all of the benefit in the form of lower electricity bills. But Mum was willing to take a bit of a gamble because a) it seems like the right thing to do and b) we think we will be able to recoup the cost of the solar over the next ten years via an additional charge of about $12-13 per week on top of the normal rent. This shouldn’t be too hard to sell to tenants given that they are likely to save at least $30 per week on their power bills from to the solar on the roof. And it would still give Mum a 10% return on her investment. And that’s without factoring in depreciation or the potential increased value of the property. Not as good as the 18-20% return most home-owners can expect from putting solar on their roof but much better than you can get from a bank and much safer than the stock market.

I’ll let you know how it all pans out.

Cheers, Andy

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