After investing in a domestic solar system, most homeowners look to ensure that it’s working as hard as it can, so that it not only meets their power needs, but also helps them save as much money as possible. Here are 7 ways you can maximise your solar efficiency and minimise the amount of energy you have to buy from the grid.
Use more energy during daylight hours
As solar panels generate energy from sunlight, they only produce electricity during the day. So it makes sense to use as much of this free energy as possible by satisfying more of your energy needs during daylight hours. Ways to do this include:
- Recharging mobile devices, laptops and other electronic gadgets during the day and unplugging them at night.
- Using timers on energy-hungry appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers, so they operate during daylight hours while you are at work.
- Adjusting your heating and cooling appliances to the desired temperature during the afternoon, so you can switch them off at night. Some air conditioning units have a preheat or precool setting, and with new ‘smart’ appliances, this can also be done remotely using smartphone technology.
- Using appliances with rechargeable batteries such as cordless kettles and vacuum cleaners, which you can charge during the day and run off battery power at night.
- Some high quality inverters such as Fronius Inverters feature energy management capabilities, meaning certain services such as your hot water or pool pump can be triggered to run when solar power is being exported to the grid. This feature maximises self consumption and minimises power wastage.
Use one appliance at a time
The number of appliances you can power for free is limited by the size of your solar system and the amount of electricity the appliance draws, but a good way to ensure you are using less electricity is to only use one appliance at a time. For example:
- Vacuum the floor once the dishwasher has finished its cycle, rather than at the same time.
- Have your shower before or after you use the washing machine.
- Turn on the television after you have cooked dinner.
- Don’t use hair dryers or electric razors simultaneously.
Do an energy audit
Some appliances draw more energy than others, so understanding the way you use electricity can help you identify hotspots and make appropriate adjustments. With a basic solar system, you will be able to determine your daily solar production and the amount of power you export back to the grid will be available on your energy bill. More sophisticated systems incorporate online monitoring platforms which provide graphs and live feeds of your solar energy production. If you have a system fit with an additional metering device such as the Fronius Smart Meter, you can even conduct a detailed audit of individual appliances. A solar meter provides live on grid and solar consumption data. By switching off all appliances in the home and then one by one, switching individual appliances back on, you can pinpoint different appliance’s energy consumption in real time and find out which one consumes the most power.
Study this information and when you see patterns of high energy use, introduce simple measures to reduce them, such as switching your electric hot water system or pool pump to run during off-peak periods.
Plus, remember why you installed a solar system in the first place. When buying new appliances, try to choose energy efficient appliances with a high energy star rating.
Install a backup battery
There are a number of solar battery systems available and installing one can reduce the need for daylight electricity use. Sophisticated systems such as the Tesla Powerwall or LG Chem RESU Battery allow you to store energy either from your solar panels during the day or from the grid when rates are low and use it at some other time such as in the evenings. An added advantage is that you’ll always have power, even in a blackout.
Install a heat pump
As hot water is a major energy demand in every home, another way to maximise your solar energy efficiency is to replace your old gas or electric hot water system with a hot water heat pump. This highly efficient device gathers and uses the ambient heat in the air outside the home to heat a tank of water. It can capture up to three and a half times as much heat energy as it uses in electrical energy, resulting in a net gain of free renewable energy. Simply set it to operate during daylight hours using your free solar power and enjoy free hot water at night.
Maintain your system
Keeping your solar system in good working order is another way of maximising your solar investment, since solar panels can lose their efficiency if they’re not kept clean. You should ideally clean them every six to twelve months to ensure they are free from mould, dirt and bird droppings, which all reduce the amount of light the panels receive. You should also make sure that surrounding vegetation is not blocking their access to sunlight and trim back any problem bushes or trees. It’s also a good idea to have a professional check your system over every couple of years. It’s not expensive and they can identify problems and fix them before they start costing you money.
Use less electricity
The most obvious way to reduce your energy bills is to reduce your energy consumption. Here are just a few of the ways you can use less electricity in your home:
- Air dry laundry rather than using a clothes dryer
- Turn off lights and appliances when not in use
- Use fans instead of air conditioners when possible
- Switch off appliances rather than using standby mode, which continues to draw power
- Disconnect that second fridge or freezer when not in use
- Insulate your house and plug any gaps or leaks
- Install roof turbines to cool your house in summer for free
- Run your air conditioner at the correct temperature (25 C)
- Take shorter showers (no more than five minutes)
- Wash your clothes in cold water
- Cook using a microwave or slow cooker whenever possible, rather than a gas or electric stove
- Check the seal on your fridge door and replace if faulty
- Regularly defrost your fridge and freezer
- Use CFL or LED lighting inside your home and sensor lights outside.
By utilising some or all of these suggestions, you’ll be able to recoup your solar investment sooner and start saving on your energy bills.
Would you like more advice on your solar panels? We’d love to hear from you – get in contact with Keen 2B Green today.