(Sun)Shiny Happy People

Here we go. Not just one guest post from hubby for the Great Energy Race, but lots! Here is another. This may be the last, so make the most of it.
This post is not so much about saving energy, but about where we get our energy from, i.e. the sun! And actually, it may well save us (or at least the National Grid) energy, as there is none of the wastage that goes along with fossil fuels.
Over to hubby:

Last year we started to look at the possibility of having Solar panels fitted to our house and in February 2013 we took the plunge after a lot of research.

There are two main ways to get panels:
1) buy them yourself and reap the financial and energy rewards for yourself;
2) get them fitted “free” and only benefit by being able to use the power they generate as the sun is shining.

We were fortunate enough to be able to do the former. We had some money that we inherited, and we figured that with interest rates the way they are, the money might as well be sat on our roof, providing us with some of our energy, rather than sat in a bank, and probably invested in BP or the like.
We got three quotes altogether and then chose a great local company, Dorset Energy Solutions . The lovely Aussie Richard was able to give us some excellent advice and aftersales assistance, and we would totally recommend them (no, they haven’t given us a free panel for saying that).

Here’s how it works…..

  • When the sun shines your panels gererate electricity
  • While they are generating you can use ALL of the electricity you generate as it is being generated. If you don’t use it as it is generated it is exported to the national grid.
  • You get paid, by your energy supplier, for ALL the electricity you generate. Irrespective of how much you use. You also get paid a secondary rate for half of your generation as it is assumed this is exported to the grid. The technology for storing your own electricity is not yet very economical or reliable.
  • Your payments are deposited in your bank quarterly. They are index linked, tax free and are guaranteed for 25 years from point of installation

Based on the first twelve months of generation our panels will pay for themselves in 7-8 years. Then we will receive a nice tax free income for another 17 years (or whoever lives here next will)

What we have found harder to quantify is how much of our own electricity we are actually using. We have changed some habits like we will normally run the washing machine and dishwasher when the sun is on the panels, and we have seen our electric meter run backwards on sunny days which is pretty cool. BUT according to our bills, our electricity usage hasn’t dropped since having the panels fitted, which neither of us can quite understand.
So, as part of the Great Energy Race we have decided take more care to monitor our electricity consumption and to this end borrowed a basic meter from our local library. We have found that we may need a more advanced unit which will allow you to see when and how much you are generating to enable us to use the maximum of our own electricity (update-check out my awesome Q.I post here for all things electricity monitoring…)

There are also some pretty cool gadgets out there to help you use any excess solar electricity.
One of my favorites is the Solar iBoost. In a nutshell this gizmo will switch on your water immersion heater if you begin to export to the grid. If you then turned on the washing machine, say, it would then turn the immersion off again until there was an excess again. I have been in contact with someone who had an iBoost installed last year and here’s what she has to say about it:
“At the moment I only have my gas boiler on for an hour or so in the evening as the iBoost has preheated water during the day. This gets the tank up to temperature for showers etc for the evening and morning, the tank then drains and off we go again. Last summer our water heating was turned off from may until mid September”
This sounds good to me and it’s going onto our Wish List, as this could be the most cost effective way of using up excess solar energy without even thinking about it.

Renewable energy has to be the way forwards from here on in.
I wander what impact it would have on the National Grid if all the houses in the UK were fitted with solar panels?
Maybe it would give us all an extra reason to smile when the sun decides to make an appearance!


7 thoughts on “(Sun)Shiny Happy People

  1. So if you electricity taken from the grid has not reduced then there are some possibilities.

    1) You are using more than the previous year
    2) You are not generating as much as you thought you might

    Your monitoring should help work out #1, some electricity providers allow you to compair your situation with others around you. For example if there was a lot of bad weather in your area last year you might have used the tumble drier last year. If you made changes to the house or added new appliances that may have also affected things.

    Given that your meter was running backwards that does suggest the panels were working ok but regarding not generating, there are a few possibilities. You might have been given a ludicrous estimate regarding how much energy the panels would produce. There might be a technical issue with the panels or electronics. Maybe wait till the next sunny day and turn everything off to see that it’s still generating. The panel might be shaded or dirty, particularly now after the dust clouds that have been coming over the country.
    See this video on cleaning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVhs4Na-Lv8

    • Great, thankyou for this. I don’t think we are using more, but maybe with all these things that are drawing power without us realising it, we are?

  2. Another good point from @TheSolarShed is that your panels only have a limited supply capability so you want to space out running of your heavy loads such as not running the dishwasher and washing machine at the same time

    • Yes, we were told that even in bright sunshine, they don’t generate enough to boil the kettle! (although kettles are quite energy hungry) We do try and make sure we don’t run the washing machine and the dishwasher at the same time.

  3. We are looking to move house this year. I’d love to look into getting solar panels installed. I will be very interested in following how you get on (really must get out more).

  4. Pingback: Crossing the Line | My Make Do and Mend Year

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