You can save with solar panels and boost your home’s energy efficiency

15 June 2024

Personal finance expert Jess Irvine with Brisbane-based Courtney, who installed solar panels on her home
  • Brisbane-based Courtney installed solar panels on her home about a year ago and since then, has seen her energy bills go from $300-$450 per quarter to $0
  • According to the Australian Energy Council, the upfront cost of installing a 5kw solar system in a major city will be made back in savings within three to five years1 so she’s saving money while also using more renewable energy
  • Even without solar panels, there are plenty of cost effective and sustainable changes you can make around your home, such as installing an induction cook top (instead of gas) and using a heat-pump hot-water system

When Courtney bought her gorgeous Queenslander home in Brisbane, one of the first things she did was look into installing solar panels. “We have sunshine about 98% of the time so it made perfect sense,” she says. “We may as well use it.”

While she was doing her first phase of cost analysis and research, Courtney was told that she and her partner didn’t spend enough on energy to justify the cost of installation. But when their neighbour, who has a similar-sized home, had theirs installed, it piqued her interest again. As it turns out, there was a cost-effective and energy-efficient option for their household. 

Video: On The Brighter Side, Jess Irvine discusses the process of installing solar panels – and the benefits

What was the process for installing solar panels?

The first challenge for Courtney was knowing who to call for advice, so she reached out to a neighbour who she knew had a great experience. This intuitive approach set her up for success: “It was a super-smooth process – they came out and were really informative and easy to talk to, they went through all the options and two weeks later it was up and running.” 

How much did installing solar panels cost?

The step that can feel overwhelming is sorting out the rebates, but Courtney had it all explained to her by the suppliers she worked with. “We installed a 6.6-kilowatt system and did a price comparison but ultimately stayed with our current provider because they had the best value-for-money solar plan,” Courtney says. It was about $8,000 upfront with the Queensland government rebate.

How soon do you start seeing savings?

Courtney installed the system about a year ago and has seen a significant change in energy costs. “Our energy bills used to be $300-$450 per quarter but the last two have been $0, which is astonishing because this summer we were running the aircon daily so to get a $0 bill – and I had to check it a couple of times to make sure that’s what it said – was hands-down worth the investment.” At that rate, the solar would pay for itself in about five years – less if energy prices continue to rise.

Jess Irvine’s tips for making your home energy efficient 

If you’re looking to keep those savings flowing, there are other steps you can take around the house to improve energy efficiency, which can help in the long term – not only in terms of emissions but also in terms of cost.

Switch up your cooking style

“If you have a gas stove, you could consider replacing it with an induction cooktop,” says Jess Irvine. This is because electric cookers don’t get as hot and distribute heat more evenly, resulting in faster cooking times and less energy consumption.

Upgrade your hot water system 

If it’s time to replace your hot-water tank, you could look at a heat-pump hot-water system. “They’re highly efficient, using about a third of the energy of traditional hot-water systems,”2 says Jess Irvine. Not only do these systems reduce energy consumption, but they also qualify for various government rebates and incentives, making them a cost-effective choice in the long run.

Consider your financing options

When it comes to paying for solar or other improvements that upgrade your energy efficiency at home, there are affordable options you may want to consider. “You can borrow the money you need at a low interest rate or pay by instalments, which can really help reduce those upfront cost barriers,” says Jess Irvine. “The CommBank Sustainable Living Hub is a great place to find more information,” says Jess Irvine. “There are lots of ideas and tips on there about how to keep moving towards living more sustainably.” 

For more of Jess Irvine’s money saving tips and support available to help you navigate the rising cost of living, visit the cost of living hub.

Jess Irvine is CommBank’s personal finance expert, and a respected journalist with nearly two decades of financial reporting experience. Her personal passion is helping people with their money.


The Australian Energy Council Solar Report 2022, page 15.

2 – Hot Water Systems.

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