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!