RACV solar installer and RACV customer talking in front of a house.

How solar works

Learn the basics of solar power, what components you need and how to care for your system

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Illustration of a house fitted with solar panels, showing how solar panels generate energy from the sun overhead, and how this energy is then used throughout the house.

How the sun produces solar power

Solar power converts light from the sun into energy. This can then be used to power your home or business, stored in a battery, or fed back into the grid.

To produce solar power, you’ll need to buy solar panels and an inverter to work with your switchboard and connect to the grid.

You can also buy a battery to store the excess power you generate.

The components of solar

Solar panels

Your solar panels convert the sun’s energy to electricity (called direct current or DC).


Your inverter converts DC electricity, from solar panels, to alternating current (AC), which the grid uses to power your home.


Power is sent to your switchboard for your electrical equipment to use. Homes and business connected to the grid will have a switchboard already.


Electricity you’re not using gets sent back into the grid for credits. When you need more power than you’re producing (like at night) you buy it from the grid.

Graph illustrating the fluctuating usage of solar from AM to PM, and how solar energy generated but not used, can be stored later in a battery.

Why some solar systems have a battery

Batteries have many benefits. With a battery you can:

  • store excess energy, generated during the day, for use at night
  • buy grid power at off-peak times
  • sell stored power back to the grid for credits on your electricity bill.

Explore our battery storage options.

Grid vs off-grid systems

There are two kinds of solar set ups — one that connects to the grid and one that’s off-grid.

Grid systems

These systems transfer extra power you’re not using back into the grid for other homes and business to use. You can access electricity from the grid when you don’t generate enough solar power, or at night.

Off-grid / stand-alone systems

These systems are run without any electricity from the grid at all. They have battery storage for back-up power. With an off-grid system you might also invest in ways to minimise energy use.

Aerial view of a Victorian farm with off-grid solar panels.

Off-grid home in Foster installed by RACV

Check if your roof is ready for solar panels

Roof direction and shade

North-facing solar panels work best but aren’t essential. Our team help you position panels to get maximum sun.

Roof space

Check your roof is big enough for solar panels. You'll need at least 25-35 m² for a 5kW system.

Roof strength and material

Your roof must be strong enough to support the solar panels and racking. We install on tin, cement and terracotta roofs, but not slate.

Solar tips and advice

Rebates and finance options

Frequently asked questions

This depends on the size of your house, your energy consumption, and the quality of the system.

When it comes to solar, you get what you pay for. Basic solar systems can range from as little as $4,000 after all the rebates to tens of thousands of dollars for high-specification systems.

High-spec systems will produce more power from the same number of panels and last much longer than cheaper ones, meaning you can save for years and years into the future.

The average starting price for a 6.6kw system on a single storey house is around $5,000-$7,000, after rebates.

The orientation of your solar panels will make a difference to the amount of electricity produced.

In Australia, the best position for solar panels to face is north – but don’t stress if this isn't possible on your roof. It’s all about positioning solar panels where they’ll get the maximum daily sun exposure.  East- or west-facing solar panels can still be highly effective - particularly if you use more electricity in the morning and late afternoon, when the sun will hit those panels.

Our solar experts will find the best location for your panels based on your property.

A battery will store any excess electricity generated by your solar panels. Later this stored electricity can be used when sun exposure is low, like cloudy days or at night. It can also provide emergency backup power during a grid outage.

The length a battery can power your home depends on the type of unit. As a guide, a typical larger battery will hold 50 to 75% of an average homes’ daily electricity usage.

If you don’t have a battery, you may need to reconnect to the main grid when your solar energy is low. This means you’ll be charged for power from your electricity retailer. Whilst you may earn by selling your excess electricity, the cost to reconnect to the grid can be generally higher than the credit you’ll get through a tariff.

Explore our battery storage systems to support your solar panels.

Yes, solar panels still work on rainy or cloudy days. There is just less solar power produced on these days, as there are fewer particles of light available to create a high flow of electricity.

Some solar panels perform better in low light conditions. While the power output is reduced, you are still saving money whenever power is being generated by your solar system.

Solar panels won’t generate electricity at night because there’s no sunlight. But if you have solar power stored in a battery, you can use that electricity overnight. If you don’t have a battery, at night your house simply draws power from the traditional power grid.

Most solar systems won’t work in the event of a power outage. This is required by law to protect line workers and property from danger when electricity is sent back to the grid from any rooftop solar generators.

In most cases, only systems with batteries capable of providing emergency power backup can operate in a blackout. Not all battery systems have blackout power protection, so check your type of system and its capabilities.

To speak with the team on how to be completely protected from blackouts, call 1300 447 765.

**3.99% p.a. and 8.40% p.a. comp. rate is based on a $30,000 loan for 5-year loan period. See the comparison rate warning on www.plenti.com.au. All applications for credit are subject to approval. Terms, conditions, fees and charges apply. Credit provided by Plenti Finance Pty Limited ACN 636 759 861 (supported by its servicer, Plenti RE Limited ACN 166 646 635) or Perpetual Corporate Trust Limited ACN 000 341 533, Australian Credit Licence number 392673 (as custodian).