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How does a solar PV (photovoltaic) system work?
Certain materials can be made to produce electricity when light falls on them; this is called the photovoltaic effect. Solar panels use this effect to convert energy from sunlight into direct current (DC) electrical energy. An inverter unit then changes this into alternating current (AC) for your home's electrical circuits. Any excess energy can be fed back to the electricity grid, for which you may be paid an agreed feed-in tariff or it could be fed into a battery storage system so you can use the stored power later (at night, for instance).
Solar panels work best when they're north facing, pointed directly at the sun, at an optimal angle and not blocked by trees or shading. The effectiveness of solar panels also depends on where you live and the weather.
Warranty period for solar panels
Manufacturer warranties range up to 25 years. Solar systems should last at least that long, so you look for an installer who's offering a warranty or guarantee for that length of time.
The solar panels we've chosen for our test have 25-year performance warranties (typically warranting that the panel will still produce at least 80% of its claimed power rating after 25 years) plus a 10 to 12 year warranty for the product itself. An installer may also give warranties for the mounting frame, workmanship and so on. Sunpower is an exception, with a 25-year warranty for both performance and product, and higher performance criteria in the warranty
Q: Is now a good time to install solar power?
A: Yes. The payback times in all the states and territories are pretty good now, mainly because the technology is so cheap at the moment. It's hard to imagine it can stay at this level as it's not much above the cost price of the gear and the labour costs.
Q: Are prices going to come down even more?
A: Grid-connected solar systems are unlikely to cost any less than they are now. The predictions are that over the next couple of years solar prices will go up.
Solar panels on a farm
Solar panels on tile roof
solar panes on a flat roof