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What to consider when you upgrade your solar system

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If you’ve had solar for a while, it might be time to upgrade your solar system. But what does that entail? And how do you know when a solar upgrade might be needed? Canstar Blue discusses below.

Over time, things change, like your household energy usage. So, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that your energy needs may not be the same as they were when you first got your home solar system installed. Maybe you’ve got a bunch of new appliances, or your household has gained a member or two.

Whatever the reason, your solar panels may just not be producing enough power anymore and it could be starting to impact your buyback period. But, this is where a solar system upgrade might be useful. There are lots of different ways to upgrade an existing system and this Canstar Blue guide explores all of these options. We also chat to the solar experts at Qcells Australia about any tell-tale signs that you might need a solar upgrade and the mistakes to avoid when upgrading.

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Can I upgrade my solar system?

Yes, it is possible to upgrade solar systems, however there are some constraints. The upgrades must meet the standards outlined by the policies of the state you live in and your distribution network. It must also work seamlessly with the existing system, including panels, solar inverters and (if applicable) any solar battery systems.

Why would I upgrade my solar system?

Stephanie Bond Hutkin, group head of marketing for Qcells Australia, said the biggest tell-tale that your solar system needs an upgrade is regularly getting higher energy bills, even with your system running daily.

“It may be undersized or underperforming, so you should contact your installer to have a look if the system has been underperforming,” she said.

According to Ms Bond Hutkin, some of the main reasons why households may choose to upgrade their solar system include:

  • Their electricity rates increased and their solar is not covering as much usage as they would like
  • Their daily energy consumption has increased due to switching from gas to electric appliances, getting an EV, putting in a pool or similar
  • They are not satisfied with their current product and service
  • They are replacing roof material or doing a renovation providing the opportunity to reconsider current and future electricity needs while work is being done (and the current solar system may need to be removed temporarily or permanently anyway)
  • Their usage requirements have changed (i.e. now using more electricity at night) and they want to add a battery – giving them the opportunity to upgrade their system at the same time.
  • They require backup power and want to add a battery – again giving the opportunity to upgrade their system at the same time

Compare solar plans

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Ausgrid network in Sydney but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 3911kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Citipower network in Melbourne but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4000kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on the Energex network in Brisbane but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4613kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

Here are some of the cheapest solar-specific deals from the retailers on our database. These costs are based on SA Power network in Adelaide but prices will vary depending on your circumstances. We show one product per retailer, listed in order of lowest price first. Annual price estimates assume general energy usage of 4011kWh/year for a residential customer on a single rate tariff. Price estimates exclude solar feed-in tariff credits. These are products from referral partners†. Our database may not cover all deals in your area, and please check retailer websites for up to date information.

How to upgrade solar systems

Upgrading a solar system generally includes one of two options: repairs or alterations. These things can be done separately or simultaneously, depending on the condition of your current system and your energy goals.

Repairs aim to restore the solar system to its original glory, amending or replacing parts of the system that may be broken, worn out or impacting the overall solar power generation and output. For example, if you have a string inverter and there is an issue with a panel then the whole system would be impacted by the faulty panel. So repairing or replacing the panel would allow the inverter to function at its highest capacity again.

Alterations you may wish to carry out could include adding panels (if there is the space), another inverter or batteries.

Ms Bond Hutkin recommended reaching out to your installer or a solar retailer in the area for assistance if you are looking to upgrade your solar system.

“They can suggest a second system and appropriate inverter or battery/inverter combo to suit your needs,” she said.

How much does it cost for a solar system upgrade?

This entirely depends on the work needed to upgrade the solar system. Upgrading is likely going to be cheaper than buying and installing a whole new system. But if your upgrade includes adding a battery, it could set you back up to $16,000. Just installing a solar monitoring system, however, will sit more around the $1,000 mark.

Mistakes to avoid when upgrading your solar system

people working on solar panels

Ms Bond Hutkin said there are two major mistakes to avoid when upgrading your solar system: choosing a quote based on the cheapest price and not considering your future energy needs when choosing a new system size.

“Make sure to opt for reliable products with great product service and warranty and a reliable installer with experience and after-sales service, of course, depending on the budget,” she said.

In addition to doing your research for prices, Ms Bond Hutkin recommended thinking about any future energy demands your household may have.

“Will you be adding an EV in the next five years? Will you add a pool? Keep room for any future increase in energy demands and upgrade the existing system with those demands in mind to minimize future expenditure,” she said.

You should also consider checking your solar feed-in tariff rules and policies before upgrading your solar system, particularly if you are still benefiting from a government-funded scheme, as this may become void if work is done to the system before the rebate end date.

Should I upgrade my solar system?

If you’ve had your solar system for a while and it is not meeting your electricity needs, it may be worth looking into a solar upgrade. This could be the addition of a battery with backup capabilities, additional solar panels to generate the extra energy needed or simply inspecting and repairing any potential faults that could be impacting your energy output.

However, there are going to be scenarios when an upgrade may be futile and it would be better to just buy an entirely new system. A mix-and-match system is not always going to be better and it may even cause unwanted stress on inverters or batteries, ultimately causing the system to produce power under its potential.

The best way to know what would be best for your home and energy needs is, as Ms Bond Hutkin suggested, by consulting a professional.

If you’re looking for a quality solar installer, make sure to check out our solar installers comparison where consumers have rated installers on their customer service, solar system performance, installation process, durability and set-up cost.

Best-Rated Solar Installers

Image credits: Hryshchyshen Serhii/Shutterstock.com, only_kim/Shutterstock.com

Kelseigh Wrigley
Energy Specialist
Kelseigh Wrigley was a content producer at Canstar Blue for three years until 2024, most recently as an Energy Specialist. She holds a Bachelor of Journalism from the Queensland University of Technology.

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