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What size solar power system do I need?

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

In a nutshell: To work out what size solar PV system you require, you need to analyse your household’s daily electricity consumption. Your monthly or quarterly electricity bill measures your household’s electricity consumption in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Using your current average daily electricity consumption, as well as your expected FUTURE consumption, we size and design a system to suit you and your needs. Sizing a solar power system should not be a ‘One Size Fits All’ process. Our team of accredited solar designers can help determine what size system will suit you best.

First things first – How is the size of a solar system calculated?

Solar systems are usually described by the total capacity of panels installed (not the size of the inverter).  See the examples below:

1. A solar system with 15 x 400W solar panels is referred to as a 6kW (or 6000W) system. (15 x 400W) ÷ 1000 = 6kW

2. To work out the size of a solar system with 12 x 380W solar panels, 12 x 380 = 4,560W →  4,560W ÷ 1000 = 4.56kW. Therefore, this system size is referred to as 4.56kW.

The size of your solar PV system will depend on:

• Space. The physical unshaded area available for the installation of the solar panels.

• Budget. Another important factor to think about is money. How much you are prepared to spend?

• Consumption. What portion of your electricity can/do you use throughout the day time.

Recommended solar system size

For grid-connected, regular solar power systems (not hybrid or off-grid systems).

 ​Total usage per day (assuming there is both off-peak and primary tariffs) ​Power bill per quarter ​Recommended solar system size ​10-20 kWh ​\$300 ​3.5 - 4.5kW ​20-30 kWh ​\$500 ​4.5 - 5.5kW ​30-40 kWh ​\$700 ​6.6kW (max size for 5kW inverter) ​40-60+ kWh ​\$1000+ ​8.0kW - 9.0kW+

NOTE: According to Energy Australia, a standard 4-person Australian family (without a swimming pool) uses an average of 21kWh a day.

Future Usage

The above figures are our recommended solar system size likely to deliver the most cost-effective solution based on your current usage. However, if you plan on increasing your energy usage in the future, this will impact what size system you will need. Increasing your energy usage can look like this:

• Adding a pool or spa

• Starting working from home

• Getting an Electric Vehicle (EV)

• Starting a family

• Installing or using the air-con more

 ​Solar size limits for Ergon/Energex (Single-phase power) ​Easy limit ​5kW inverter with 6.67kW of panels ​Maximum limit ​10kW inverter with 13.33kW of panels

What is meant by the ‘easy limit’ in single phase homes?  If you have a total inverter capacity greater than the easy limit, Ergon will make you limit the export to a maximum of 5kW, or in some extreme cases, they could just not allow the system to be installed at all.

The size limit rules for three-phase power aren’t as straightforward…

1. The easy limit for three-phase premises is 15kW (inverter capacity).

2. The next easy(ish) limit is 30kW (inverter capacity).

3. Systems between 30kW and 100kW typically require network protection equipment to be installed and REPQ engineering sign-off. These requirements add considerably to the system cost.

4. Systems over 100kW are a completely different ball game…

Other things to consider

Are you looking at installing just panels, or a battery as well?

If you are planning on adding batteries in the near future, it is super important that you mention this to your installer/designer! Solar batteries store unused energy produced by your solar panels, to be used at night, in times of inclement weather or during a black-out or power outage situation. With batteries, you need a solar system large enough to create enough surplus energy to charge your batteries.

The cost of a 3kW system is not half of a 6kW system…

Many customers feel that while they are going to the effort of getting solar, they may as well spend the bit extra and get a bigger system to future proof themselves. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this! In fact, there are quite a few scenarios where we would recommend this:

1. Your budget allows it and you have enough physical space to fit a larger system

2. You would like to use your air con more, install a pool/spa, start a family etc

3. You are interested in or considering adding solar batteries

4. You are considering getting an Electric Vehicle (EV)

In fact, over the past 14 years of installing solar power systems, we’ve never had a customer tell us they wish they got a smaller system. We have however, done many solar system upgrades over the years, for people who “should have just gone with the bigger system in the first place”…