Solar Success


Solar Success is a unique plain English complete guide to understanding, designing and installing stand-alone and grid connect solar for homes and properties anywhere in the world.

By its emphasis on reducing energy usage (without inconvenience) before specifying the solar capacity etc it has saved buyers huge sums of money (in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars). As with his top selling RV-related Solar That Really Works, author Collyn Rivers gives solutions that do work – not ones that may work.

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The complete guide to home and property solar systems


Essentially, Solar Success is about using solar energy to reduce the fossil generated electricity that we use: to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Throughout, it stresses the need to reduce what one uses unnecessarily before one thinks about generating more. This can be done by three associated and economically viable approaches:

reduce energy usage by doing things differently
reduce energy usage by using more energy-efficient appliances
change the supply of energy to non-fossil fuel through appropriate technology.

The solar energy required is there; 7000 times more energy than the world currently uses is available. It makes every sense to use it and countries worldwide increasingly do.

Solar is also affordable. In California, Italy and Japan, solar power now challenges power generated through natural gas and nuclear energy. In Germany, home owners’ solar generated surplus fed back into the grid network and all energy generated is paid at close to five times grid electricity’s buying cost.

Australia’s solar take up is high in rural areas that lack grid-connection. Sales of systems that draw from and feed back to the electricity grid (i.e. grid-connect) proved even more successful than expected as installation rebates and feed-in tariffs were initially very generous.In mid 2014 the Australian Federal government virtually ceased paying rebates on the curious basis that the scheme was attracting many more takers than had been expected. There is now however a growing move to go off-grid as electricity prices continue to rise (and feedback payment drop).

Solar Success highlights an initial major in the rebate system: that rebates were based on existing energy usage. This makes little sense. As demonstrated throughout, major energy savings are cheap and easy to make. Example after example shows savings of 50% or more, through often inexpensive changes.

In practice, suppliers sometimes advised replacing incandescent light globes by compact fluorescents, but anecdotal evidence suggests few did more than this. The near certainty of reducing usage is squandered through lack of incentive.

Knowing what is practicable and what is less practicable with solar enables readers to evaluate what is offered. And to have an often necessary and educated say in the decisions. For those who wish to design and implement systems themselves, Solar Success shows how to do it, and how to avoid the traps.

However you finance the system, and no matter where or how you live, follow the guidelines in Solar Success and you will have an economic system that will supply clean and reliable power for years to come.

Solar Success is intended as a guide to follow rather than a mass of things that have to be remembered. As with my related books, CaravanMotorhome Electrics and Solar That Really Works, it has been partially adopted as a trade text, but that is not its main intent.

To assist usage, most topics are first covered generally, and then in a hands-on installation context. The subject matter’s interactive nature precludes a rigid ‘read one page after the next’ format. You may find it helpful to back track or read ahead. The extended Contents page, and the index at the end will also assist you to locate wanted information.

I use mostly plain English, but sometimes need technical terms to avoid confusion. All such terms are defined. I include a ‘Tech Notes’ at the end of some chapters of Solar Success, but you can skip these if you wish. I avoid using conventional electrical symbols. They are meaningless to most readers.

Finally, we really do walk the walk! Our self-designed and self-installed system on our previously owned 10-acre property in the Kimberley exemplifies what is set out in Solar Success. The entire home, property and two offices were 100% solar. Even the 31,000 litre swimming pool ran from solar. We designed and installed it in 2000. The property was sold in late 2010 but (in late 2014) the systems are still operating.

Our vehicles: a Nissan 4.2 litre TD Patrol, a dual cab HiLux, and a little Sierra fire engine and our TVan camper trailer – all had solar-powered appliances.


Any book written for the general public, which discusses electricity runs into an immediate problem with the term ‘low voltage’. The term means different things to different people. Its legal definition varies from country to country and in none does it mean what most people think it means.

To most people, low voltage is what comes out of batteries. But to electricity regulators and, lawyers, low voltage means something quite different. The actual definitions are given in Solar Success, but briefly, that which most people regard as ‘low voltage’ includes the 230 volts that comes out of the wall socket!

That which comes out of that socket is also known by different names. Americans call it utility power, Britons call it mains power, some Australians call it mains power, others call it grid power. Sailors and some RV owners call it shore power. Unless noted otherwise, I use ‘230 volts ‘to mean any or all of the above.

This, to put it mildly, tends to confuse, but legally I have no choice but to use the correct terms. I avoid them where possible but sometimes they simply have to be used.

There is also a minor complication in that the voltage that comes out of a wall socket varies from place to place. In most of Europe it’s 230 volts, Australia uses mostly 240 volts, but Western Australian uses 250 volts. The USA uses 110 and 220 volts.


Many people assisted over the years in the production of this book. Firstly, I thank my wife Maarit, for her patience during my intellectual absence during its and rewriting, and for her assistance with the design (particularly of the outside covers).

Especial thanks also to Barry Powell, Col Higgins, Geoff Clifton, Julian Lawrence, Ken White and Lawrie Beales for their totally invaluable critique and technical proofing of the original drafts. I also thank the Australian Bureau of Meteorology for the base solar data from which our solar irradiation maps were prepared.

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