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Upgrading your solar installation  

So you have got solar already and want to expand it ?

Mostly, the news we have for you about adding more solar completely sucks. Read on.

Upgrading your inverter

If you are one of the lucky ones on the '47 cent' feed in tariff, then if you replace your inverter with a larger one, you lose your 40 cent per kWh of exported power bonus payment and get the same 7c feed in tariff as everyone else.

That aside, you can add up to 33% more panel power to your existing inverter than your existing inverter maximum capacity and still get the same result as having a larger inverter.

e.g. if you have a 2kW inverter, you can have 2.66kW of panels, 3kW inverter? you can have 4kW of panels, 3.8kW inverter? ....5kW of panels

Your existing inverter must be on the Clean Energy Council approved list at the time of your upgrade, and in a measure that is entirely beyond our comprehension, the CEC have 'de-listed' a bunch of inverters. So if you have for instance, the SMA Sunnyboy 3.8kW inverter, an absolute gem of a product and sold in Australia since 2008...tough luck. The CEC decided not to list it anymore so you can not add panels to it AND get the rebate (approx $200 per panel). You can add panels to it, but they won't pay you the rebate.

Adding more panels
Let's say you have got past the 'inverter' problem described above, then you run into the wiring and voltage problem. Rules have changed, and any expansion of panels to an existing installation may require some or all of the installation to be re-wired, put in conduit, roof top isolators fitted etc. The rule is that if you don't touch it, you don't have to obey the new rules, but if you do, then you have to comply.

Then there's the voltage mismatch issue. Back in the day you might have got the latest and greatest 180W panels. Now the panels are 250W or larger, and the voltage produced by panels drops as the panel size increases. So if your inverter has a totally unused 'MPPT tracker' then panels can be added without much drama, but if new panels are added to an existing tracker then the total additional voltage should very closely match the existing string voltage of your current panels...and of course it most likely won't. Not a disaster, but it will mean that one way or another, your electricity production will not be at its best as everything on the string of panels gets dragged down to the lowest common denominator just like when a panel is shaded or faulty.

Does your inverter have a totally spare MPPT tracker? Highly unlikely, because your original solar salesman most likely wouldn't have considered the need at the time.

Warranty and electrical safety?

Thought you couldn't get more depressed about upgrading your solar?

What if something goes wrong with your existing panels or inverter after an upgrade? Who is responsible for fixing it? The original company you bought your solar through is going to refuse you on the basis that someone else messed with their installation, and the new company is going to refuse you on the basis that the original installation isn't their problem. Rock and a hard place.

Then what if you have ordered your solar upgrade and the electrician takes one look at the original job once he's on site, in your roof, and says it's illegal. Under the law, he has to report it to Western Power and leave, or fix what he finds and charge you whatever it takes.


Do we do upgrades?
Sometimes, but mostly with our own customers only. We know that 70% of the solar companies people bought from have disappeared so the warranty problem is less important. We'll look at every upgrade request, and give you our advice on a case by case basis.

For the people who are on the 40 cent feed in tariff bonus scheme, remember that if you have a small system at the moment then that bonus isn't really going to be worth much to you anyway, and also, that bonus expires in 2021 which is only 5 years away now. It might just be cheaper and easier to buy a new 5kW system and trade in your existing equipment.


Have questions that are not answered here?
There's no such thing as a 'stupid' question.
Please just ask. (See Contact Us page link above)