How to Make the Most Out of Your Solar Panels

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How to Make the Most Out of Your Solar Panels

Solar energy has come a long way in the last decade. Demand for solar photovoltaics (PV) continues to increase as technology prices fall. There are many reasons why people install solar PV, but most people will see it as a way of helping to both reduce their electricity bills and their carbon footprint. Once you have installed your solar panels it’s important to understand how you can most the most out of them. Here are some of the ways you can do this:

Use more electricity during the day

It’s a good idea to do all your domestic tasks such as washing, dishwashing and ironing during daylight hours as this is when your solar PV system will be working at its peak. If you’re out at work during the day, it’s worth setting up timers for your dishwasher and washing machine to make the most out of your PV system.

Make sure your home is insulated

To help you save money on your electricity bills if you are using electric heating, programme your timers to come on during the day. In order to keep the heat in your home for longer make sure that your roof or loft are insulated and add insulation to your cavity or solid walls. To prevent draughts, draught-proof your doors and windows as well. 

 Combine with other renewable systems

 Solar PV systems can be combined with other space-heating renewable technologies such as heat pumps, solar thermal systems, and wind turbines all of which work well together.

PV can be set up to power a heat pump for example or several of these systems can feed into a thermal store. In fact, solar PV systems make the perfect renewable partner for heat pumps. Heat pumps can use the electricity produced by the solar panels from sunlight and create up to 4 times as much energy as they consume


Sign up to the Smart Export Guarantee

The Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) pays customers for renewable electricity they have generated and put into the grid. It has replaced the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme, which still pays many solar panel owners for the electricity they generate at home. Big energy companies have had to participate in the SEG since the beginning of 2020. To benefit from the SEG you must provide evidence that your generating equipment and installation is MCS (Microgeneration Certification Scheme) certified. Your installation must be 5MW capacity or less and you’ll need a meter that can provide half-hourly readings for electricity export. The tariffs being offered by most suppliers are very reasonable and similar to the export tariff rates previously being offered by the government with their FIT scheme.

Install a smart meter

Smart Meters are able to show you the exact and real-time consumption of your electricity and send it back to your energy supplier. When coupled with solar panels, a smart meter can save you a substantial amount of money on your energy bills. You can see what your solar energy usage is so that you can act on reducing it. After technical issues which affected the way some smart meters worked with solar panels the second generation of smart meters known as SMETS2 are now solar panel compatible. However, you should be aware that not all energy suppliers have set up their smart meters to read the exported energy from solar panels.

Check your inverter

The basic function of a solar inverter is to convert the direct current (DC) electricity produced by your solar PV panels to alternating current (AC) electricity that can be used in your home and exported back to the grid. In addition to that, its job is to maximise the available energy being generated from your solar panels.

It’s important to choose a good quality solar energy inverter as it is an essential part of your solar panel set up. It’s an intelligent piece of equipment that connects to your system and should be placed where you can easily get at it. Most inverters now have internet connection capability, so you can monitor your system using apps or web browsers, even when you’re away. The technology can allow you to track your energy use and production as well as check your system’s health, encouraging you to be more sustainable and save more money.

Install a PV diverter

If you are generating excess electricity surplus to your demand and exporting that electricity back to the gridyou may want to look at how you can use more of your generated energy in your own home. Installing a PV diverter will allow you to use that surplus electricity to power the immersion heater in your hot water tank, storing hot water for you to use later. Provided you have a hot water cylinder you can get the benefit of your surplus energy instead of exporting it to the grid. Typically, this is the least expensive upfront cost option for increasing in-home use especially if you install the diverter at the same time as your solar panels. A PV diverter such as the Solar Iboost is a reliable and low maintenance piece of kit that directs your excess energy to power your immersion heater instead of exporting it to the grid. Solar Iboost is a remote switch that uses a wireless connection so that there is no additional wiring required. It will help to reduce your bills although, the excess solar energy generated is unlikely to meet all of your hot water needs.

Install battery storage

If you have a solar PV system installed you will inevitably generate more electricity than you need at times of high supply and low demand, with any surplus exported back into the grid. With solar batteries you can maximise your ability to use the electricity generated by your solar panels on a day to day basis. So, during the times when you need more electricity than your solar panels are producing such as late in the day or at night you can use the energy you have stored. As you are using all the electricity you generate with your solar panels rather than sending it back to the grid you will be able to save on the amount of electricity you import and cut your bills. If you are installing a battery system to an existing PV system you should make sure that any changes to the overall system don’t affect your existing Feed-in Tariff payments. Many people are still being paid for the electricity they generate, and export to the grid through the feed-in tariff system, a government subsidy scheme which ended in March 2019. However, if you can store some of your surplus electricity and use it at a time when you need it, you will still get paid the same for your export but will spend less on electricity bills for your import. Unfortunately, batteries are not cheap and the value of installing a battery storage system will depend on how much energy you use, when you use it and how much energy your renewable system can generate. Prices are expected to come down significantly over the next few years but for the moment you need to calculate the overall cost of installing battery storage with a solar PV system and whether it is worth it to you.

Designer and developer of solar photovoltaic systems from 1kW to Megawatt range. Steve worked for Alstom and General Electric for 11 years. He develops solar inverter and complete systems with energy storage that are affordable, easy to install, and have a quick return on investment.

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