How do I maximise the financial return of my solar power system?
Hopefully you have purchased a quality solar system featuring high performance, long-life panels like LG Neon. You are half-way towards big financial savings. The next step is to use power during the day while the solar system is generating free electricity. The more electricity use that can be "load shifted" into daylight hours the greater the financial benefit of having solar. The objective is to match power use as closely as possible to the free power output from your solar system. Putting a little effort into working with your solar system can potentially more than double financial savings.
Follow the weather.
In sunshine solar panels generate up to 5x more power than on a cloudy day. On a very cloudy day consider delaying washing machines, clothes dryers, dish washers and other heavy power appliances to the next sunny day. When solar generation is low try not to have multiple appliances running at the same time. For example, it's cloudy and the solar is producing 1000w. Using the oven is about 1000w and will be covered by the solar. Hoovering or ironing at the same time might be another 1000w which will be purchased from the grid and increases the power bill. Do jobs consecutively rather than simultaneously to operate within the solar generation. If you have a big solar system and it's a sunny day you can go much harder on power use.
If you are not home during the day using the 'Delayed start' feature or putting appliances on timeclocks is an excellent way of load-shifting into daylight hours. The use of air conditioning needs to be completely re-assessed when you have solar. Use free solar power to pre-cool or pre-heat the home during daylight hours. In the afternoon when the solar power is tailing off turn off the air con - the heat or cool in the slab & walls of the house will give a comfortable environment in the evening and overnight. Compared to the old regime of gunning the air con from 5pm-10pm when the household gets home, this could save over $1000 a year in some homes.
- Understand how much power your solar system generates and at what time of day.
Monitor your solar system to understand when generation peaks and how much free power you have at different times of the day. If all panels face east, light hits the panels early in the morning and you have free electricity early in the day with a peak at around 11am. Schedule those big power using appliances to match the generation. Avoid late afternoons as free solar power will be minimal. For west facing solar panels your solar power peak is early afternoon. If your house has both east & west panels you will likely have good generation for most of the day.
To take away the guesswork of estimating household power use and solar generation it is very worthwhile investing in a power monitor or smart meter wired into the meterbox together with bluetooth & wifi apps to monitor the solar. Simply monitoring household power consumption helps highlight 'Zombie' power loads - hidden, high power consuming appliances.
By adjusting the lifestyle bar on our Solar Savings calculator, you can see the potential increased benefit of shifting electricity consumption to daylight hours.