If you’re looking at investing in solar, there might be a range of things holding you back. Perhaps the hours you work or the upfront costs don’t seem to make solar a financially viable option.
Many of our customers live in older houses, including old Queenslanders and older buildings with asbestos walls and floors. With legislative changes and advancing technologies, these houses may often be out of date when it comes to electrical safety and meeting Australian standards.
Although living in an older house may feel like a challenge when it comes to solar, the good news is that it’s usually not. Older houses do range in age and quality, however, so we’ve compiled a list of the most common issues that may impact the price of getting solar on an older house.
Switchboard & Meter Upgrades
If you’re in an older building, you may have a switchboard that doesn’t meet current Australian standards and poses creates a serious safety liability. Older switchboards were often made of flammable wood or chipboard, backed with toxic asbestos or contained outdated porcelain fuses. They also don’t usually contain a safety switch, designed to break the circuit in case of faults or surges.
Legally, your electrician needs to leave the premises with all electrical works meeting the current legislation, so if solar is being installed in an older home, you’ll likely have to pay additional costs to upgrade the switchboard to meet current legislation and safety standards. This will be the case for any electrical works carried out on the premises, though, and the safety and peace of mind are worth the costs.
The good news is that as of late 2018, Ergon and Energex both cover the meter replacement charge, which means extra savings if you’re located in an older building.
Old Trees and Shading
Older houses often have established trees which have grown over decades. The problem with tall old trees is that they may overhang the solar during parts of the day or in different seasons.
If one cell in a solar panel is covered by shade, the whole string of panels won’t work and the solar system will have reduced power. It’s important to be aware of whether overhanging trees, roof arches or other buildings will cause shade during the day. If they do, you may find yourself with a system with much lower efficiency.
A good installer will be able to calculate the amount of shade that will be present throughout the day, as well as during summer and winter. This way you’ll be aware of any decreased efficiency from the shade, and make sure you are placing your panels in the best possible position.
Fortunately, panels can usually be placed on different areas of the roof, or overhanging shade trees can be trimmed to suit the needs of the system without sacrificing the aesthetics of the property.
Installing solar on your home can cause older roofs to break or leak. It’s important that your chosen solar installers thoroughly check your roof’s condition before planning an installation.
If you have an older house, your roof may not be in the best condition, or it may contain asbestos. If so, solar may not be a suitable option for your home.
The good news is that many people choose to use other available roofs, such as a shed, as an alternative location for solar. If you already have a newer carport or a large storage shed, it may be a viable alternative if the roof is suitable for solar.
If solar isn’t the right choice for you, but you still want to take advantage of savings on your electricity bill, you may consider batteries instead. With the Time of Use (TOU) tariff, you can buy and sell as part of what’s known as a virtual power plant (VPP). The opportunities to purchase, store and resell power vary by location, so check with your electricity retailer on whether they offer this option.
Heritage Listed Homes
If your home is listed as a building of heritage significance on the local council’s heritage register, you may need to seek approval before adding solar. If you’re unsure if your house is heritage listed, you can contact your local council for further information.
Although newer technology is often added to heritage listed buildings, the visual impact on the premises is likely to affect the chance of approval. Heritage expertise may be necessary to decide on positioning of your new solar system, depending on the direction it faces and how much it will alter the appearance of the building.
Solar is becoming much more common on older homes, and it works very effectively on heritage homes and has big environmental benefits for older properties.
To make the most of your solar, it’s important to create electricity habits that utilise the most energy during the day. This is often done via automation, or simply by setting appliances to run during daylight hours via timers.
Older homes are less likely to have optimal energy efficiency, meaning more energy is expended in heating, cooling and maintaining appliances at night time. This means more power is drawn from the grid at night time, increasing power bills.
However, solar is still a big money saver on an old house. There are also some things you can do to increase the houses’ energy efficiency and maximise your solar savings.
The Next Step…
When deciding whether to install solar on an old house, it’s important to seek a professional opinion on the condition of the roof, the age of the switchboard, and any other issues that may impact on the installation of a solar system. This will vary for each property, so it’s important that a site inspection is undertaken before installation.
The good news is that solar is a great option for most older homes, and will decrease costs and make the property environmentally friendly.
Contact Proven Energy today and find out how we can help create a system customised for your home.
Peter is a Licensed Electrician and the Director of Proven Energy, a Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer. After working in the industry, Peter’s interest in renewable energy lead him to found the company in 2012, offering honest and reliable solar system supply and installation for residential, commercial, off-grid and agricultural properties. Peter is a CEC Accredited Installer. Electrical Contractors Lic No. 74650