1 September 2014
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How do I get the most out of my solar system?

In my time in the solar industry (around 8 years now) solar has evolved a great deal in a pretty short amount of time.

Solar systems sizes have gone up, system costs have come down (can you believe that around a decade ago, a 1.0kW solar system was around $25,000?) and as a result, buyback rates or “feed in tariffs’ have come down as well.

Installing a solar system is no longer about feeding as much power as you can back to the grid – in fact it’s quite the opposite – it’s about using as much free power straight from your system as you can, and shifting as much of your power usage into sunlight hours as possible, so that when the sun goes down, you’re using as little mains power as possible.

You do get paid for the power you feed back to the grid – but at only around 8c per unit, it’s more of a bonus than a goal. However, every unit of free power you consume directly from your own system will save you between 30 and 45 cents – and those savings, particularly in Spring and Summer, – can add up very fast.

Naturally, some homes use more power during sunlight hours than others, but almost every home can make a few small changes to maximise their solar investment. It’s not even necessarily about using less power (although that is a great thing) but moreso when you use your power.

Are you home during the day? Then that’s when you want to use your most energy hungry appliances.

The days when you’re home are the easiest to use the free power. For all the appliances that you need to use at some stage – try and use them during the day.

This includes your washing machine, dishwasher, tumble dryer, ironing, vacuuming, pumps, and charging of phones, tablets and laptops.

Timers are now your new best friend.

Of course, if you’re not home, there are several appliances that can be run during the day anyway, as more and more modern appliances now have timers.

This includes dishwashers, pool and spa pumps, washing machines (perfect to run 2 or so hours before you’re due to get home) tumble dryers, as well as charging smaller appliances – electrical stores sell wall socket timers that allow you to set what time of day your appliance turns on.

An iPad for example takes around 6 hours to fully charge. If you’re heading to work for the day, why not just set the iPad on charge before you leave the house, so that instead of charging overnight and using mains power, it fully charges during the day – and doesn’t cost you a cent.

In a heatwave, you can now cool the house down before you get home.

It goes against normal logic, but when you have solar on the roof, there is now a lot of benefit to ‘pre-cooling’ the house down a few hours before everyone is due to start getting home.

During a heatwave, if you get home at 5 or 6pm (or later) what’s the first thing you do? Crank up the air conditioner, and probably to a pretty high setting to cool down a boiling hot house.  This means you’re suddenly chewing up a lot of very expensive mains power in a short space of time.

With solar, you can now set your air conditioner to start up a few hours before people arrive home, and run at a more modest temperature, so that when you get home, the house is already cooled – and has cost you little or nothing to do it. You can then turn the aircon down to an even lower setting, or perhaps even turn it off altogether. Sound too good to be true doesn’t it?

At Greenlife, we’re here to help.

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