Once everything is up and running, your solar installation will begin to reimburse you in one of two ways: either directly through the Feed-in Tariff or indirectly through reduced energy bills. However, it’s important to note that if you’re currently using more electricity than your solar panels can generate, electricity will be imported to your home from the National Grid as per usual.
Considering how the Feed-in Tariff offers much less capital for exporting electricity back to the grid than it costs to import from electric companies (it’s roughly three times less), it’s worth thinking about how and when to use your free electricity in order to maximise the benefits.
- Reduce electricity usage: Naturally this isn’t something anyone wants to hear immediately after installing a solar array, but standard solar PV systems are capable of generating around 75% of the average household’s electricity demands (subject to performance). By swapping to energy-saving light bulbs, filling the dishwasher each time and waiting for sunny days before starting the washing machine cycle, your solar installation can provide a larger proportion of your electrical needs.
- Timing appliances: This one may take a little investigative work. Here’s a list of some home appliances and their typical power consumption.
|Energy-saving light bulbs||12W|
Even with a large solar installation, it’s easy to see how quickly your energy supply can be exhausted if a number of these appliances are running at the same time. By timing your devices to charge around midday and staggering the use of larger appliances, you’ll use more of your free electricity and therefore pay less through energy bills. Take a look at the power consumption of your electrical devices and generation meter to find out which can run at the same time and which need to be offset.
- Investing in a battery: One promising solution to having no free electricity in the evenings and overnight (when electricity imported from the grid is more costly) is to invest in a battery storage unit. Solar cell batteries can cost anywhere from £2,000 to £10,000 depending on storage capacity, but they do solve the issue of having no energy reserves.
- Heat pump: By coupling a solar array with a ground or air-source heat pump, hefty electricity and heating bills could be a thing of the past. Click here to find out more on heat pumps.
- Heating water with excess electricity: As the rates for exporting electricity back to the grid are low, you’re better off using up any excess electricity wherever possible. By carefully monitoring the incoming service grid lines, solar immersion devices divert any surplus electricity generated by your solar array to your central heating system.