Guide to choosing solar panels

Getting the best solar panel package for your home doesn’t have to be complicated. Once you understand the basics of how solar panels work, what solar panels cost and how to find quality solar panels, it will be easy to choose a solar package that meets your needs.

Some people want to know all the background information before contacting us, others prefer to have a chat. We can help you navigate your options and find the right solar system for your needs.

Enquire now Call 1300 592 492

For those looking for general information on solar panels

Solar energy

What is solar energy?

Solar energy is light energy from the sun that has been captured and converted into electrical energy.

How does solar energy work?

Nuclear fusion within the sun causes it to emit massive amounts of solar energy, which travels to earth in the form of sunlight. When sunlight hits solar panels, the panels absorb this light energy and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. The system’s inverter then converts the DC electricity into AC electricity that can be used around the house. You can learn more about this process in our How do solar panels work? section.

What are solar panels?

Solar panels (also called photovoltaic [PV] panels) are a collection of solar cells that are joined together and usually mounted to a property’s roof. What do solar panels do? They are designed to absorb energy from sunlight and transform it into electricity. Unlike some other forms of electricity generation, solar panels don’t produce harmful emissions or use non-renewable resources to create electricity day to day.

What are the different types of solar panels?

The three main types of solar panels used in Australian homes and businesses are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film solar panels.

Monocrystalline solar panels

The cells in these solar panels are created by growing monocrystalline silicon into an ingot, which a silicon wafer is then cut from. These cells are the most energy efficient of all the cell types, however they come with curved corners, which means they take up more space when combined to form a solar panel. Monocrystalline solar panels have a uniform black look.

Polycrystalline solar panels

The cells in these solar panels are created by pouring silicon into moulds. This process ensures that the cells have perfectly square corners, making them more space efficient and cheaper to produce than monocrystalline cells. They do not, however, generate as much electricity as monocrystalline cells. Polycrystalline solar panels have a patchy, more blueish tone.

Thin film solar panels

Unlike panels made from monocrystalline or polycrystalline cells, thin film solar panels are created by spraying silicon onto a large surface. These panels are the heaviest and least efficient of the different types of solar panels, but they are also often cheapest solar panels to produce. They are rarely used for home solar.

How do solar panels work?

You don’t need an advanced degree in electrical engineering to understand how solar panels work, the process is simple:

  1. Solar panels contain substances like silicon, which absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. This process is called the ‘photovoltaic effect’ (photovoltaic is what the PV stands for in PV solar panels).
  2. Once the panels have produced direct current (DC) electricity, an inverter then converts that DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is what our homes use for power.
  3. Any leftover electricity is then stored on a solar battery or sent back into the electricity grid.

What are the advantages of solar energy?

The environmental benefits of solar panels

Solar panels are a cleaner, greener alternative to many other forms of electricity generation. The main environmental benefits of solar panels are:

  • They produce no greenhouses gases: While solar panels are made using greenhouse gas producing processes, switching from fossil fuels to solar power makes our air cleaner to breathe by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases and other pollutants that would otherwise be emitted by coal-powered electricity production. These greenhouses gases are responsible for climate change, so switching to solar power can help slow global warming.
  • They don’t need water to run: Unlike electricity produced by traditional power plants, solar panels don’t require water to run because they don’t need to cool, process or refine fuel.
  • They aren’t powered by non-renewable resources: Solar energy is abundant, free and easy to harness. Once your solar panels have been manufactured and installed, they’ll produce energy from a completely renewable resource. 
Are solar panels recyclable?

Many parts of solar panels can be recycled. Most of the silicon in solar cells can be recovered and reused. The glass, plastic and aluminium that solar cells are housed in can also be recycled. Stripping solar panels of these materials at the end of their lifespan can be time consuming. It is expected, however, that recycling solar panels will become more efficient as more systems age out of use.

The cost benefits of solar panels

While installing solar power requires an initial investment, there are many financial benefits of solar panel installation. These include:

  • Reduced power bills: You’ll either spend less money buying electricity from retailers or youll be able to get rid of your energy bill altogether and not have to worry about rising electricity prices at all.
  • Feed-in tariffs: Depending on your retailer and usage, you may be able to make money selling electricity back into the grid. The Australian Government’s Energy Made Easy website can help you search for electricity retailers who offer solar feed-in tariffs.
  • Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) incentives: Most people who purchase solar panels sell their Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs) back to their solar installer for a discount, which is included in their solar quote.
  • Increase the value of your home: Adding a solar panel system to your home or business can be a smart way to increase your property’s value. Unlike bathroom or kitchen renovations, which might not be to everyone’s taste, solar panels have a wide appeal among buyers.

How much money do solar panels save?

Perhaps a better question is, ‘How much do solar panels reduce your electricity bills?’. Solar power installation can lower your electricity bills in two ways. First, solar panels reduce the amount of power you need to buy from your electricity retailer. How much you’ll save here depends on the price you pay for electricity, your average usage, and the type of solar power system you have. Second, if your solar panels produce excess energy that is fed back into the electricity grid, you might be credited with a solar feed-in tariff on your power bill.

To find out how much money solar panels can save your household, call 1300 592 492 to chat to one of our consultants or fill in our online solar enquiry form. We’ll help you work out how much you might be able to save before you make your purchase.

For those starting to compare solar panels

How to compare solar panel packages

There are a lot of options to choose from in the solar panel market. Some of the top things to look out for when you compare solar packages are:

  • Solar panel quality: Compare solar panels’ efficiency, degradation rate, cell technology, power tolerance, and temperature coefficient. Read the How can I judge solar panel quality? section to learn more about what these terms mean.
  • Solar inverter quality: Inverters can be the first part of a system to fail, so it’s important to make sure the inverter in your package complies with the relevant Australian Standard (AS4777), is the right size for the number of panels you are installing and is not the cheapest on the market (these just don’t go the distance in Australian conditions).
  • Manufacturer tiers: Solar manufacturers are grouped into three tiers. Tier 1 is reserved for the lowest risk and most reputable solar companies. Tier 2 and 3 manufacturers are smaller operators who often haven’t been in the industry as long as Tier 1 manufacturers. It is important to note that tiers are not a measure of quality, but rather how bankable the manufacturer is at a particular point in time, and this is more relevant for investment in large-scale commercial projects.
  • Aftercare: Many homeowners think that once solar panels are installed, it’s a case of set-and-forget. Routine maintenance will ensure your panels are working safely, efficiently and productively, which can to help you save on you energy bills for longer. Consider caring for them in the same way you would service a car, having them checked every year or two and keeping them clean and free from debris. Look for a solar panel installer who offer local service and support options such as a solar health check, warranty claim assistance and solar maintenance services. Keeping your panels in good condition is just as important as choosing the right package.
  • Accreditation: Choose a Clean Energy Council approved solar retailer to make sure you’re purchasing a solar package from a responsible company that uses best practices. CEC Approved Retailers are different from, and more qualified than CEC Members. CEC Approved Retailers must follow the code of conduct and comply with Australian standards, whereas CEC Members are expected to uphold a code of conduct but aren’t associated with any consumer guarantees or compliance programs.
  • Cost of solar panels: There are a lot of things to consider when comparing the cost of solar panels. Don’t settle for the cheapest solar panels you find, any company advertising solar that costs less than $1 per Watt could be cutting corners and providing a bad quality system. Ask for details about the products they've included in the solar quote and do a little research on the reliability and quality of the solar panels, inverter, and any battery that’s included in the package.

What do solar packages include?

Most solar packages will include solar panels, an inverter and monitoring software. You may be able to add an optional solar battery as well.

There’s more than just hardware to consider when buying a solar package though. You’ll also want to make sure that any solar package quote you get includes the cost of installation and all the solar warranties you're eligible for.

Should I get a solar panel and battery package?

If you’re having trouble deciding whether to get a solar battery package, or to just feed your extra electricity into the grid, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What feed-in tariffs are available to me?
    Feed-in tariffs are set by your energy retailer and can vary quite a bit. It pays to look around for tariffs that suit your energy profile (how much energy you use and when you use it). Understanding your energy profile will help you determine when you’re likely to have excess energy for sale and choose the best feed-in tariff for your home. If your local energy retailers aren’t offering great rates on the electricity you have available to sell back to them, you may want to consider getting a battery so you can store your energy for your own use later..
  • Could I go completely off the grid?
    It can be difficult and expensive to be completely off the grid because doing so requires you to generate and store enough energy to sustain your electricity needs at all times. While this may be easy to do when the sun is shining, you would need to consider whether your energy supply would be sufficient during long periods of wet weather. You may be better off considering buying the largest solar and battery system you can afford, so that you can remain connected to the grid when you need back-up power.
  • Will a solar battery pay for itself?
    The answer to this question will depend on a number of factors, including: 

    Whether you have solar panels installed

    How much energy your solar panels generate

    How much energy you consume

    When you use energy

    Your retail supply

    Energy feed-in tariffs

    The storage capacity of your battery

    How much your battery costs and

    How long your battery is covered under its warranty.

It is also worth considering how the broader environment can impact changes in the energy sector and energy prices.

If you would like some advice on the value of adding a battery to your house, call 1300 592 492 to chat to one of our consultants or fill in our online solar enquiry form. Well help you get an energy solution that’s tailored to your needs.

How to judge solar panel quality

To most people, all solar panels look the same. But if you pay attention to detail, you can get a high-quality solar system that will meet your needs for decades to come.

Things to look out for when comparing solar panel quality include:

  • Efficiency: Look for panels that have a high percentage of sunlight converted into electricity. 
  • Degradation rate: This is how much a solar panel’s electrical output lowers over time. Find solar panels that have a low degradation rate.
  • Dual cell technology: Look for solar systems with parallel modules that work independently. This technology stops shade on one cell unnecessarily limiting the performance of other cells in the panel.
  • Power tolerance: This is how much power a solar panel can produce above or below its rated output, and is usually expressed as a percentage (e.g. +/-5%). Lower tolerance means a more reliable power output.
  • Temperature coefficient: The hotter your panels get, the less energy they will produce. The temperature coefficient tells you how much efficiency you’ll lose for every degree hotter than 25 degrees Celsius your panels get. Look for a lower temperature coefficient, as this can have a real impact on solar panel performance in warm Queensland weather.
  • Warranties: Choose a solar panel manufacturer that backs their products with a long warranty, and will still be around to honour that warranty if things go wrong.
  • Price: The cheapest solar panels can end up costing you more in the long run, especially if they’re made from inferior materials. Choose a reputable manufacturer over a cheap price.

What is solar panel efficiency?

When people talk about solar panel efficiency, they are referring to how much of the sunlight that hits your solar panels is converted into electricity. Your solar panels’ efficiency will depend on:

  • The design and type of solar cells your system has
  • How your system’s solar cells are laid out
  • The size and configuration of your solar panels

As solar panels age, they degrade, which means you can expect lower solar panel efficiency over time. Older and lower quality solar panels produce less electricity than the more expensive, most efficient solar panels on the market, which can convert over 20% of the sunlight they receive into electricity.

When you compare solar panel efficiency, make sure you look at the manufacturer’s performance warranty, as you want a system that will convert the maximum amount of electricity for as long as possible.

How to choose a good solar panel installer

Things to look for when considering your solar panel installer options include:

  • Accreditation: Look for an installer that is Clean Energy Council accredited to make sure you’re getting someone who is properly certified and trained.
  • Reputation: Read customer reviews and look to see how many awards a solar company has received.
  • Quoting process: Avoid any solar installer that doesn’t ask you specific questions about your property, your energy usage and what you’re looking to achieve by installing solar. Ensure they take the time to help you understand what they recommend. It’s a big purchase and you want to be sure you are buying the best solution for your home.
  • History: It’s important that your solar installer will still be around to offer after care and provide support for any warranty claim you might need to make, so look for an established company with a reputation for good customer service.

What kind of solar panel warranties are available?

Companies selling solar panels are legally required to provide you with warranty documents written in plain English.

When you're looking for the best solar panel warranties, it is important to know there are several types of warranties that may be applied to your system, including:

  • Manufacture warranty: This solar panel warranty covers your panels for defects in their construction or materials. Manufacturer warranties are commonly 12 to 25 years but can be as high as 40 years.
  • Performance warranty: This warranty relates to how well you can expect your solar panels to perform over a number of years. For example, it can say panel power output will be 90% after the first ten years, then will drop to 85% after 25 years.
  • Inverter warranty: This warranty covers your system’s inverter. If you service your system correctly, and your system isn’t damaged, the inverter should last for at least ten years. Inverter warranties should be for at least five years, although a 10-year warranty is preferable.
  • Installation warranty: This warranty can cover the solar installer’s workmanship but not the system’s components. For example, if the system is not securely attached to your roof and is damaged as a result, you could be covered by the installation warranty. Installation warranties are usually valid for five to 10 years, with 5 years being the minimum to be a Clean Energy Council Approved Retailer.

Solar power is a significant investment, so it pays to make sure you’re covered by robust solar warranties to ensure you get the most out of your system. If you’re purchasing your solar system from a reputable solar company, they will likely be recommending products from a reputable manufacturer. There’s no point getting the best solar warranty if the provider won’t be around long enough to honour their promise. For more information on how to find a reputable provider, head to How to compare solar companies.

How can I find the best solar panels for my needs?

There are many things to consider when searching for the best solar panels for your needs, including:

  • Solar panel quality: Compare the technical specs to make sure you get the longest lasting, most efficient solar panels. Learn more about what quality solar panels look like in our How to judge solar panel quality section. 
  • Clean Energy Council accreditation: If you want to sell or trade your Small-scale Technology Certificates, you’ll need to make sure that the Clean Energy Council (CEC) has accredited the solar installer you choose and approved the panels and inverter you use.
  • Warranties: Solar panels come with a range of warranties for everything from installation to the system itself to performance. Check out What warranties do my solar panels come with to learn more about how long these warranties last.
  • Company reputation: There’s not much point getting a system with a great-looking warranty if the solar company you choose isn’t around long enough to honour their agreement or doesn’t provide you with after-sale care to keep your panels in peak condition. Read What to look for in a solar company for tips on how to choose a good supplier.

Why can’t I find Australian made solar panels?

Australia does not have a solar manufacturing industry. Even companies that say their panels are ‘Australian made’ import the components, then assemble them in Australia.

The cost of producing solar panels is much cheaper in China, and as a result many of our leading solar experts now work for Chinese solar companies. These two factors are why most solar panels on the Australian market are made in China, even though Australia has one of the highest solar panel uptakes in the world.

Who regulates the Australian solar panel industry?

In Australia, there are industry, government and jointly owned bodies whose roles and responsibilities have an effect on the solar panel industry and its consumers. These include:

The Clean Energy Council (CEC)

The Clean Energy Council is the peak industry body for clean energy in Australia. This not-for-profit, member-based organisation represents and works with renewable energy businesses, including solar companies. Its roles include advocating for the industry, improving industry standards, and working with the government to promote clean energy. The CEC sets standards for solar panel quality and installation.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO)

The Australian Energy Market Operator is the organisation responsible for managing electricity and gas systems, and markets across Australia. It is jointly owned by the government (60%) and energy industry representatives (40%). AEMO is member owned, and its members include representatives from federal and state governments, and from businesses that generate, produce, distribute and sell electricity and gas in Australia.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER)

The Australian Energy Regulator is the government body responsible for representing energy consumer’s interests. The AER focuses on ensuring Australians have access to secure, reliable and affordable energy. It regulates electricity networks and covered gas pipelines, setting the amount of revenue businesses can recover from customers in all areas of Australia except Western Australia.

The Clean Energy Regulator (CER)

The Clean Energy Regulator is the federal government’s economic regulator, responsible for administering schemes that have been developed in line with Australian climate change laws to measure, manage, reduce or offset carbon emissions. The CER has also conducted a review of the Australian rooftop solar sector, which introduced thirteen recommendations to increase the sector’s integrity and accountability.

For those ready to buy solar panels

What do solar panels cost?

Asking ‘how much do solar panels cost’ is a bit like asking how long a piece of string is – there are many factors affecting solar panel price. On average, you can expect to pay $800 to $1200 per kW, which on a 6.6kW system (average size) would equate to $5,280–$7,920. These figures are estimates only. The price of installing solar panels at your home will be affected by:

  • Government solar incentives and support schemes available
  • Type and number of solar panels
  • Type and size of inverter
  • Type of framing equipment and other system components
  • Height and accessibility of the roof and whether it is tiled, metal or concrete
  • Any after sales service agreements
  • Small-scale Technology Certificate (STC) incentives 
  • Whether you pay outright or get solar panel finance
  • The property's location

To find out how much your solar system will cost, it’s best to get a quote tailored to your household’s needs.

Can I calculate the cost of solar panels myself?

While there are many online solar quote calculators, the best way to calculate the cost of solar panels is to chat with a solar provider. They’ll take the time to review your current usage, work out how much energy you want to produce, and assess your home to determine the most optimum system for your circumstances.

How do I get a solar panel quote?

The best way to get an accurate quote for your solar panel system is to book an in-person assessment. A reputable solar provider will book a time to visit your property and assess:

  • How much energy your solar system will need to generate based on your usage
  • The best solar panel layout for your home’s orientation
  • How many panels can be placed on your roof

If you’re unable to do an in-person solar quote, you can also meet with your solar provider via a Zoom meeting or phone call. To get an accurate quote, it helps to have your address and latest power bill handy, as well as a photo of your meter box. If you’re ready to calculate the cost of solar panels for your home, call 1300 592 492 to chat to one of our consultants or fill in our online solar enquiry form.

What solar rebates are there?

Under the Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES), the Australian Government offers solar incentives to homes and small businesses that install eligible small-scale solar panel systems. The incentive is in the form of Small-scale Technology Certificates (STCs), which you can sell or assign to others. Usually, homeowners who install eligible systems will assign their STCs to the installer in exchange for a discount on the system. The more electricity your system produces or replaces, the more STCs you’ll be able to get, which is great news for people who live in sunny Queensland.

There are, however, a few criteria you must meet to be eligible to receive STCs, including installing approved solar panels and inverters that meet Australian standards, and having an accredited solar installer do the job.

At the time of writing, the Queensland Government does not offer a solar panel rebate. Your energy retailer may pay you a feed-in tariff for the energy your system puts back into the grid, which is paid in cents/kWh. 

How many solar panels do I need?

If you’re looking at your roof wondering, ‘What sized solar system do I need?’, the answer will depend on the size, layout, and orientation of your home, the amount of energy you use and your budget.

A 6.6kW solar system (16-18 panels with current panel technology) is often considered a good entry point. Broadly speaking (and depending the size of the household), this sized system can often produce enough energy to support the household during the day and feed excess energy back into the grid, making a significant reduction in energy bills.

How much electricity your panels will generate depends on many factors, including:

  • Your location
  • Time of year
  • Amount of sunlight they’re exposed to
  • The system’s quality
  • The panel’s orientation
  • The age of the system

The best way to figure out what size solar system your household needs is to get a personalised quote.

What is RACQ’s experience in solar panels and batteries

In early 2022, RACQ became the majority shareholder in the highly awarded GEM Energy Australia. Since 2013, GEM Energy has combined the latest technologies and exceptional service to provide safe and reliable solar, inverter and battery systems Australia-wide. Along with delivering outstanding residential solar panel and battery systems, GEM Energy has been trusted to install commercial systems for some of Queensland's most well-known organisations, including Australia Zoo, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre and the RNA Showgrounds.

Do I need to be an RACQ member to get RACQ Solar?

No. Anyone living within an area that we service can buy RACQ Solar.

Our partners at GEM Energy currently service the following areas:

  • Brisbane
  • Toowoomba
  • Sunshine Coast
  • Gold Coast
  • Cairns
  • Rockhampton
  • Townsville

Solar panels for business

Can I install solar for my business?

If you own the building your business operates from, it would be worth investigating whether installing solar panels will reduce your business’ electricity costs. If you lease your business’ premises, chat to the owner or body corporate about whether you can install solar or they're interested in installing solar themselves. You’ll need their approval before you can make any alterations to the building.

What business solar rebates can I claim?

There are no special solar rebates for businesses. The good news is that most small to medium businesses can still take advantage of the Australian Government’s Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme. You can read more about this scheme in the What solar rebates are there? section.

For those who already have solar panels

How to maintain solar panels

In much the same way you regularly service your car, it’s a good idea to service your solar panel system – especially because they save you money! Solar panel maintenance will ensure your system is clean, defect-free, is less likely to deteriorate or corrode, and that all parts are securely attached. Your solar panel technician will also review your system for any recorded faults that have been logged.

The Clean Energy Regulator recommends getting a licenced electrician or a Clean Energy Council-accredited solar panel system installer to perform solar panel maintenance as often as your system’s manufacturer suggests. A good place to start is asking your solar installer if they offer aftercare services like a solar health check.

How often do solar panels need to be replaced?

Well-maintained solar panels will give you optimal energy output for the first 20–30 years after they’re installed. After this time, you will likely notice a decrease in their energy output. If you’re wondering when to replace your solar panels, there’s a simple rule of thumb – replace them when you aren’t getting enough electricity to meet your needs. And, before you pay for new panels, make sure you get a solar health check to ensure the problem is due to your panels reaching end-of-life and not another external factor that’s limiting their energy production.

How to clean solar panels?

If you’re searching ‘how to clean solar panels’, the good news is, many solar panel systems don’t need cleaning. As long as panels are installed at a 10-degree pitch minimum, the Clean Energy Council says they are self-cleaning, and rain should do most of the work. If your panels are installed flat on your roof or are located near trees or construction sites, they may need cleaning. Dont clean the panels yourself. Using a mop, broom, cloth or incorrect cleaning chemicals on solar panels can damage the surface, reduce efficiency and even void your warranty. Plus, cleaning anything on your roof is inherently dangerous. The best thing to do is to book solar panel cleaning by a professional. Check with your solar installer to see if they can recommend a reputable cleaner.

What to do if a solar panel breaks

It’s important not to touch broken solar panels, inverters, or storage batteries, as they can present serious shock, fire and cut hazards. If you suspect your solar panels are damaged, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to safely shut your system down. If your solar system is covered by your home and contents insurance, get in touch with the insurer to arrange repair. If you don't have solar insurance, contact a certified solar repair technician to fix your system. Damaged cells often cannot be repaired, so you will likely need a solar repair technician to safely remove and replace them.

Can I change my energy supplier if I have solar panels?

Yes. You can switch energy retailers whether or not you have solar panels installed on your house. A few things to consider when you’re making the switch are:

  • Feed-in tariffs: Compare feed-in tariffs to see if you could be getting paid more per kWh for the energy your system feeds back into the grid.
  • Usage and daily charge rates: Make sure that any benefits you get from higher feed-in tariffs won’t be thwarted by higher electricity costs for any power you take from the grid.
  • Price change policy: Ask what the new retailer’s price change policy is – you don’t want to switch just to be hit with a price hike soon after.
  • Discounts: Watch out for discounts that come with terms and conditions regarding early payment, introductory rates, or lock-in contracts.
  • Exit fees: Check that your current electricity retailer isn’t going to charge you an exit fee for switching to another retailer.

If you’ve already begun to install solar panels, make sure the installation is complete before you make the switch, to avoid any confusion.

Solar panel glossary

Feed-in tariff: A feed-in-tariff is the amount your electricity retailer may pay you for any electricity produced by your solar system that you supply into the grid, rather than using yourself. You can access feed-in tariffs once you’ve installed a solar power system with the appropriate metering system.

Inverter: A solar inverter converts the direct current (DC) that your solar panels produce to alternating current (AC), which can be used by your home or fed back into the power grid.

Solar health check: A detailed inspection of your solar system and report on whether your system is safe and well-functioning. The report includes notice of components that need repairs or replacement. If major faults are found, you may ask your selected retailer to provide a quote for a new solar energy system.


This guide is current as of the time of writing, 14 September 2022.

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.