Solar FAQ's

These are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding solar energy and our products.

Your Solar System
Financial Benefits
Your Solar Installation
What does PV stand for?

PV stands for photovoltaic. This is the technology whereby solar cells are used to convert sunlight into electricity.

How do solar photovoltaic cells work?
Photovoltaic cells are made up of semiconductor material such silicon. The silicon is mixed with elements phosphorous and boron which create conductivity within the cell and activate the movement of electrons. The electrons move across the cells when are activated by the sunlight’s energy into the electrical circuit hooked up to the solar panel. Therefore, the power produced by a PV array (group of solar panels) increases with the intensity of the light striking it.
Difference between polycrystalline and monocrystalline panels?

The main difference between mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline panels is the purity of the silicon. Mono-crystalline cells go through a higher filtration process producing a purer form of silicon. This is why mono-crystalline cells can conduct higher amounts of electricity within the same area, therefore be more space efficient than poly-crystalline panels, and also offer higher peak efficiency.

The solar cells in mono-crystalline panels are slices cut from pure drawn crystalline silicon bars. The entire cell is aligned in one direction, which means when the panels are in direct sunlight at the correct angle, they are extremely efficient.

Poly-crystalline cells on the other hand are made up of silicon off-cuts, molded to form blocks and create a solar cell made up of several pieces of pure crystal. As the crystals are not perfectly aligned there are losses at the joints between them, resulting in lower efficiency. However, this mis-alignment can assist in some cases, as the cells work better from light at all angles, for example in low light conditions.

Aesthetically mono-crystalline panels are favoured by customers for their black appearance opposed to the poly-crystalline panels which are bluer in colour due to light reflection.

What affects the energy output of my solar system?

The energy output depends on your system size. The larger the system, the more energy it generates. Additionally, the solar system's energy output depends on your location in Australia, the direction your panels are facing (with north being the best), the tilt angle, and also the day and season.

What are solar optimisers?

Power optimizers increase the energy output from PV systems by constantly tracking the maximum power point (MPPT) of each module individually. Furthermore, the power optimisers monitor the performance of each module and communicate performance data to the monitoring portal for enhanced, cost-effective module-level maintenance. Each power optimizer is equipped with the unique SafeDC™ feature which automatically shuts down modules' DC voltage whenever the inverter or grid power is shut down. The MPPT per module allows for flexible installation design with multiple orientations, tilts and module types in the same string.

In traditional Solar PV strings without optimisers, issues such as shading on a single panel would affect the entire string equally. For example, shading 50% of one panel would reduce the entire system efficiency by 50%. The DC optimisers allow each panel to work independently, so only the output of the afflicted panel will be affected. So if one panel goes down, or is not performing well, the rest of your panels can still be working at optimal output.All Bradford Solar packs that include SolarEdge systems include SolarEdge DC Optimisers on the rear of each solar panel.

What is the ambient temperature the inverter can operate at without being derated?
With Bradford systems, CSR - an Australian icon for 160 years - provides the warranty. If you have problems, we are here for you. Cheaper inverters often come with a manufacturer's warranty, and if you need to claim, you have to deal with an overseas company.
Are you solar panels tier 1 manufactured?
Tier 1 panels are within the top 2% of Solar PV manufacturers. Tier 1 solar panels are the highest standard of panels available in the world. They only come from vertically integrated manufacturing companies, which means every stage of the manufacturing process is quality controlled. Tier 1 manufacturers invest heavily in research and development and use advanced robotic processes. To be a tier 1 manufacturer you must have been manufacturing solar panels for over 5 years. Tier 1 manufacturers use the best grade of silicon to produce solar cells. The higher the silicon grade, the longer the solar cell will last and the better it will perform. Bradford only use tier 1 manufactured solar energy products.
I already have a solar system installed, can I add more panels?

There are a few things which need to be considered:

  • You will need to match the installed components to current equipment (panel wattage and inverter capacity);
  • You will have to reapply to connect additional panels (kW’s) to the grid. This effects current feed in tariff arrangements (adjusting the system may remove your current FiT);
  • If the system is older it will need to be brought up to the current electrical standard – the requirement and costs will depend on the year of install.

Overall it is typically more cost effective to install an additional system if you wish to generate more power.

Will it cost money to change my meter over?
Additional charges for (smart-) meter installations and/ or connection fees might apply and vary between States and Energy Retailers. Please check with your energy supplier. If you would like this to be organised through Bradford this can be arranged however charges will apply.
What is the difference between a solar string and a solar array?

A collection of solar panels are electrically connected to form a string. One or more strings form an array of panels.

What are the different types of solar panels?

There are three main types of solar panels available, each of which has its own advantages. These are: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film. At Bradford, all of our solar energy systems are monocrystalline or poly-crystalline as they are the most efficient and require the least roof space.

.      Mono crystalline (monocrystalline c-Si): Being used for over 50 years, these highly efficient panels produce a given amount of energy even only with a few panels. They have a very slow degradation, generally losing 0.5 - 0.7% per year.

.      Poly crystalline (polycrystalline c-Si): These panels are slightly similar to mono crystalline panels.  However their performance remains steadfast at higher temperatures, making them suitable for use in Australia.

.      Thin film: These panels have the lowest efficiency so to produce a certain amount of energy, the size of the panels must be doubled. However they tend to perform better than crystalline panels in places where there is a lot of cloud-cover or where the sun's irradiation is weaker. Research is continuing to improve the performance and manufacturing process of thin film panels.

I shading bad for your solar system?

Yes. Shading can affect the output of the entire string to be reduced to virtually zero for as long as the shadow sits there. In severe cases, a shadow does not necessarily need to fall on an entire panel. Depending on type of system installed, shading on a single cell could reduce the output of the panel and in turn the entire string (a string is a series-connected set of solar panels).

In a conventional solar panel string, shade is something that blocks the flow of the electrical current. However if there is a separate unshaded string, the string will continue to produce power as per usual.

Importantly there is a solution to shading; Bradford Solar recommends SolarEdge DC Optimisers which are included in all our SolarEdge systems. This will increase the energy output from PV systems by constantly tracking the maximum power point (MPPT) of each module individually achieving the optimal output.

Bradford will always provide you with expert solar advice, as we are members of the Clean Energy Council we must adhere to the code of conduct which stipulates we must assess whether a roof is suitable for mounting an PV array. Taking into consideration what roof space is available, orientation and tilt of the panels (this affects the daily performance of how much solar energy your system may generate) and any shading which will occur and how it will affect the system performance.

What is a micro inverter or AC panel?

Micro inverter panels feature a ‘micro-inverter’ on each panel which convert all the DC (direct current) power directly into regular AC (alternating current) household electricity. This avoids losses from shaded strings and maximises a system’s power generation. In circumstances where one solar panel may be shaded, the rest of the string can still operate at full capacity. So if one panel goes down, or is not performing well, the rest of your panels can still be working at an optimal output. This is because each solar panel works independently.

Does it have military grade capacitors rated for 105°C?
This means it has a high rating for dust and water resistance. This is crucial to ensure that the inverter’s integrity is not compromised and that it operates for the long haul.
What are the optimum conditions for a solar system to operate?

Solar panels produce most power when they are pointed directly at the sun. In Australia, solar modules should face north for optimum electricity production. For grid-connected solar PV power systems, the solar panels should be positioned at the angle of latitude to maximise the amount of energy produced annually.

Most Australian homes have a roof pitch of 20° to 30°. If your roof's slope is not ideal, our solar installers can create an appropriate mounting frame to correct the orientation and elevation of your panel.

How do you determine where the panels and inverter are placed?

The best position to install PV panels is on a roof plane which is facing closest to true north. Facing closest to true north optimises the exposure of the solar panels to the path of the Australian sun, resulting in maximum power generation.

The tilt angle of the panels is also important and is dependent on the pitch (angle) of the roof. Most Australian homes have a moderate roof pitch (angle) and this is usually suitable to the panel tilt angle required. However, if you have a flat roof, or an unusual roof pitch, Bradford Energy can supply tilt frames that allow the panels to be adjusted to the optimum angle.

In the southern hemisphere, solar arrays (one or more solar strings) should face north to collect maximum sunlight during the day. The panel tilt should be set to the local latitude to optimise the sunlight across the seasons. A north facing panel tilted to match the latitude will almost always optimise the performance.

The inverter (a critical unit as it converts solar energy to electricity) is best installed near your existing meter box; either inside or outside is fine as long as the inverter is not exposed to direct sunlight for an extended time.

Will solar pv panels produce solar energy if it is not sunny?
Solar generates the most power when it is sunny. Heat can actually reduce the performance of solar modules. However, even on an overcast day your system will still generate about a third of the power it would generate in direct sunlight.
Does shading affect the performance of the panels?

Yes, shading definitely affects the performance of your panels. Shade from trees, roof ventilators, or antennas changes the flow of electricity through the panel, thereby reducing the performance. To maximise their energy-storing capacity, PV panels must be in full sun from at least 9am to 3pm and must be kept free from shade, dust, and other impurities.

Fortunately, the Suntech and LG Solar photovoltaic modules used in Bradford's solar energy system are created with a bypass diode that minimises the power drop caused by shade. In homes where there are shading issues or panels have to be installed in different directions or roof orientation, we suggest you explore the AC panel – micro-inverter range. Ask us if they are suitable for your requirements.


How much sunlight should the panels receive?

The amount of sunlight that a solar panel receives over a day is expressed in peak sun hours. As the amount of energy generated by a panel is directly proportional to the amount of energy it receives from sunlight, it is important to install panels so they receive maximum sunlight. One of our solar energy specialists will calculate the amount of energy generated by the solar PV panel from the peak sun hours available. Peak sun hours vary throughout the year.

How does temperature affect the output or efficiency of panels?

Solar panels operate best at ambient temperatures up to 25°C. Extreme heat can cause a solar panels output to decrease. This is due to the electrical flow of the electrical circuit changing the speed at which the electrons travel. As a result the resistance of the circuit increases due to the elevated temperature. The same result is achieved when the resistance is decreased due to extremely low temperatures.

To determine the heat tolerance of a solar panel you should refer to the temperature coefficient (Pmax). This will tell you how much power will be lost when the temperature rises by 1 degree above 25 degrees.

As like all electronic appliances solar panels can overheat. To reduce the effects of extreme heat, solar panels are installed a few inches above the roof line. This allows air to flow underneath the panels which assists the panels to cool down. This is also known as a passive cooling system. The inverter also is recommended to be installed in shady areas to avoid direct sunlight and therefore reduce the risk of overheating.

What's the difference between single phase and three phase electricity?

Electricity is either connected at 230 or 240 volts (single-phase, which accounts for the majority of domestic situations), or 400 and 415 Volts (three-phase). The latter is better suited for powerful appliances. A single phase connection is common in small to medium sized houses that use an average amount of electricity. Three phase connections are more common in larger houses that utilise a lot of electricity, or in rural areas.

Is hail likely to damage my panels?

No. The panels are tested to withstand hail. A hail test is conducted with a 20 mm diameter ice ball at 23 m/s (82km/h), directed at 11 impact locations. 

Does the inverter have an IP65 rating?
This means it has a high rating for dust and water resistance. This is crucial to ensure that the inverter’s integrity is not compromised and that it operates for the long haul.
What are STC's?

An STC is a ‘Small-scale Technology Certificate’. STCs are the Federal Governments financial incentive to Australian householders to encourage the installation of solar systems.

A Small-scale Technology Certificates or STC, is an electronic form of currency and tradable like a share. Their value is used to significantly reduce your system's upfront cost. The more renewable energy your solar system is generating, the more STCs you will be rewarded. The final amount of STCs you receive depends on the size of your system and your zone location in Australia.

This is divided into four climate zones based on the strength of the sun. To check the number of STC for your system, we advise you to visit the Govt. of Australia Clean Energy Regulators website.

As an owner of a solar PV system you do have the option of keeping and trading the STCs yourself. In order to trade STCs and be paid a spot rate at the market, you have to register with the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER). For details, please visit http://ret.cleanenergyregulator.gov.au/solar-panels.

We currently handle STCs for you to ensure eligibility and payment. We reduce your solar system price upfront and collect the STC value from ORER later. We employ dedicated staff who look after the administration and paperwork of STCs to ensure we can pass on maximum benefit to you.

What is the Renewable Energy Target?

In August 2009, the Australian Government implemented the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme. This is designed to deliver on our nation’s commitment to ensure that 20 percent of Australia’s electricity supply will come from renewable sources by 2020.

What are STCs and how are they calculated?

The Australian Government has issued Small-scale Technology Certificates or STCs, an electronic form of currency and tradable like a share. Their value is used to significantly reduce your system's upfront cost. The more renewable energy your solar system is generating, the more STCs you will be rewarded. The final amount of STCs you receive depends on the size of your system and your location in Australia.

Every system size has a number of STCs allocated to it based on the Zone it is in. An example of the STC's generated by a 1.5kW system is given below for reference.

City

Zone

Rating

Total STC Entitlement

1.5kW System

Adelaide

3

1.382

31

Brisbane

3

1.382

31

Canberra

3

1.382

31

Darwin

2

1.536

34

Hobart

4

1.185

26

Melbourne

4

1.185

26

Perth

3

1.382

31

Sydney

3

1.382

31

The final amount of STCs you receive depends on the size of your system and your location in Australia. This is divided into four climate zones based on the strength of the sun. To check the number of STC for your system, we request you to visit the Govt. of Australia Clean Energy Regulators website..

What is the Solar Credit Scheme?

Solar credits are effectively a multiplier of the STCs that your system is eligible for. Solar credits are only available for solar systems - so as to make the system purchase more affordable and to have more Australians contributing to our Renewable Energy Target.

Should I keep and trade STCs myself?

This is certainly an option. In order to trade STCs and be paid a spot rate at the market, you have to register with the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator (ORER). For details, please visit http://ret.cleanenergyregulator.gov.au/solar-panels. We currently handle STCs for you to ensure eligibility and payment. We reduce your solar system price upfront and collect the STC value from ORER later. We employ dedicated staff who look after the administration and paperwork of STCs to ensure we can pass on maximum benefit to you.

I heard the value of one STC is $40?

This is not exactly right. STCs are sold on a spot market which functions like the stock exchange. Depending on supply and demand, the price varies. Historically, the price per STC has been between $10 and $39. However, besides the spot market, STCs can also be traded in the ‘clearing house’. The clearing house is a virtual entity. Here, sellers will have to wait up to three months. Unfortunately, what we are seeing is that nobody buys from the clearing house because the spot market ensures you get the upfront discount on your system and reduce your out of pocket expense.

Once your solar system is installed, we will also work with you, training you on how everything within your solar system works. We also provide you with a comprehensive hand-over pack that includes all of the details of our Bradford and CSR-backed warranty - as well as all relevant contact details. As promised, we are with you throughout the entire life of your system.
The amount of solar panel 'rebate' you can claim depends on where you live:

The lower your zone number the better your rebate!

Here are some examples for the approximate STC value for a 5kW system based on a $37 STC price:
Zone 1: incentive =  $4477
Zone 2: incentive =  $4255
Zone 3: incentive =  $3811
Zone 4: incentive =  $3256

STCs solar rebate Australia

Financial solar incentives are changing at the end of 2016

As a result of 2015 RET (Renewable Energy Target) review, the STC deeming period will be dropping by 1 year every year after 2017. (The current deeming period is 15 years). This means any installation done after 31st December 2016 will have a reduced government rebate. If you're interested in solar you should act fast and take advantage of current STCs before they change.

Who is the warranty with?

Enjoy peace of mind with Bradford Solar. Bradford's national network of project managers, installers, electricians and technicians, ensure that you can rely on us to manage all aspects of your energy efficiency requirements. You can rest assured that all of our services are backed by one of Australia’s oldest and most respected companies, CSR.

Unlike any other company in Australia, all our systems include our ‘life of the system’ Bradford warranty. This means that in case the manufacturer of the product is not available or in exisitence during the promised warranty period CSR Bradford will make good the same or equivalent product specifications. Peace of mind warranty from an over 160 year old ASX listed company.

Is there a restriction to the size of PV system I can install?
There may be a limit to the size of the system allowed by the Electricity Network Provider. In order to answer this accurately your Energy Solutions specialist will need to know the suburb and postcode your home is in.
Why do you need a network approval before installing solar?

When installing a Solar PV system you are going to be generating and potentially exporting any excess power into the grid. This means you have legal and other obligations that are different to those of a customer who merely imports electricity – which is why need special approval, potentially a new import/export meter, and to enter into an agreement with the Network Provider.

The approval process is to ensure the PV system is network compatible (proposed products are compliant). If the application is denied the system will need to be redesigned or if it is due to the Network requiring an upgrade to accommodate the PV system, you will have to wait for the required works to be completed before continuing with the connection process.

Can you install panels on a flat roof?

While we can install on a flat roof, ideally we install panels with an incline (or tilt), as most roofs have an incline of 22°. As you start to tilt the panels upwards, you begin to point them toward the sun, therefore they "catch" more sun, improving the amount of energy produced.

In addition, when you tilt the panels they become self-cleaning, as dust is cleaned off when it rains.  If you don’t tilt them, then any dust/dirt will not be cleaned off easily, so you will have to clean them periodically. There are companies that provide this servide and they will charge between $150- $250 to do so, therefore cutting down your savings. 

So, if you have a flat roof we recommend we install tilt frames to incline them toward the sun and maximise your energy efficiency.

How long will the process take to have my solar power system installed and producing energy?

This will depend on your meter change and grid connection which is done by your energy provider. Bradford will help you with the application but it can be from three weeks up to two months until your system is grid connected. We will keep you in the loop regarding the progress. The installation itself will take up to one day, depending on your system size.

Are Bradford installers level 2 accredited?

Yes, our installers are Level 2 Accredited. This means that they are qualified to connect and disconnect service mains, install overhead services, install underground devices. And install basic metering.

What maintenance is recommended?

Like any appliance exposed to the environment there may be dirt built-up over time.

A good way to track whether your system may require maintenance is by installing a monitoring device. Monitoring devices can allow you to see real time data of how much solar energy your system is generating.

In the event your systems output decreases you can call our customer service team for advice and support.

Will it cost money to change my meter over?

Additional charges for (smart-) meter installations and/ or connection fees might apply and vary between States and Energy Retailers. Check with your energy supplier.

If I purchase a Solar PV system from CSR Bradford Solar and later add a battery storage device to the system, will it affect my warranty with you?

As long as the system components are not tampered with during the installation of the battery system, the warranty is still valid. All of our systems can have batteries added to them, which is the same for all systems, however they will all need to have additional hardware added. It's best to have current usage data so the system is designed to ensure the batteries charge and discharge correctly to maximise the battery life and increase your economic benefits.

Does the condition of the panel (clean/dirty) affect output?
Visualize a solar panel as a car wind screen. If there is a buildup of dirt on the wind screen, the sunlight piercing through would be less invasive and you would be lacking visibility. Now think about solar panels. Solar panels work by allowing light into the solar cell. The more light that hits the panels, the more it can generate. The less light absorbed by the solar panels the lower the output.

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