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So now I have a solar PV system how do I make the most of it???

teachergirl Posts: 773 Forumite
Photogenic Name Dropper First Post First Anniversary
edited 21 February 2012 at 9:19PM in Green & ethical MoneySaving
Dear all. I know there are several threads about solar PV but many of them are debating whether or not they are a good idea and if the free ones are worth having. All of which is valid debate. Stuck in the middle of some of these threads I have found the odd tip about how to make the most of the generated electricity but they can be difficult to pick out.
So I wondered if we could have a new thread where people share their tips for making the most of the electricity that they generate.
Our system was put up just before Christmas in a snow storm. We haven't exactly generated much electricity but as we are all at home for the holidays we have changed our usage habits and used our appliances during the day. When we go back to work we will have to use the timing devices to get our appliances to come on during daylight. Now at the moment that is the only thing I can think of doing. However I have picked up so many handy tips from these forums I wondered if we could share our ideas as there are bound to be some clever people out there who have lots of MSE ideas:money:
Thanking you all in advance:D

Official MoneySavingExpert insert: There are some great hints and tips on how to get the most from solar panels. Thanks to all who contributed!
Enough money to live on so retired early...planning to see where life takes me:D


  • Jon_Tiffany
    Congrats on joining the solar pv club! Firstly some good news - the days are getting longer now and you will see the output from the panels increase considerably over the next couple of months. :T

    A good place to start is dishwashers and washing machines as you have control and flexibility over when they are run. We try to save up washing as much as possible for the sunnier days, this works out well as sunny days are great for then putting the washing out to dry.

    We tend to run the washing machine from around 10am and then the dishwasher from about 1pm. We have an electric oven and grill so try to leave a space at lunchtime.

    Regarding appliances such as washing machines the two main points are:

    1 - dont run them all at the same time, stagger them, i.e run them one after the other

    2 - Dont be tempted to run part loads.

    I have a few more tips that I will save for another post.
  • teachergirl
    Brilliant.thank you. This is just the sort of tips i was hoping for
    Enough money to live on so retired early...planning to see where life takes me:D
  • Hetty17
    Hetty17 Posts: 36 Forumite
    First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    also think about kit that you plug in to charge up occasionally: mobile phones, electric toothbrushes, drills, rechargeable batteries, and so on.
  • Cardew
    Cardew Posts: 29,042 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post Rampant Recycler
    The point made above about not being tempted to run part loads is important.

    Modern washing machines for example don't use much electricity(0.4kWh or 0.6kWh) is typical. So the savings on electricity will often only be a couple of pence - or nothing on a dull winter's day - and there will be no saving on the cost of water and detergent.

    The same principle applies to dishwashers. When we had economy 7 it was a temptation to run them at night when there was still space for, say, breakfast dishes.
  • [Deleted User]
    [Deleted User] Posts: 12,492 Forumite
    Combo Breaker First Post
    edited 3 January 2011 at 9:47AM
    See what is actually being produced at a moment in time and then decide what you are going to run and always keeping an eye on the weather. Obviously your fridge and freezer will be running anyway so that is a basis. Then I re charge torches, toothbrushes, radios and laptops when there is more than minimum being produced. Going up through the breadmaker and so on. The washing machine is a bit different for me as we have rainwater harvesting to take into account and I use eco balls or soapnuts when I can, plus cold washes and quick washes when things just need a rinse. I try to stagger electricity usage during the lightest hours

    I have ordered an owl monitor so I get a better idea of the energy used by the oven v the remoska and the fridge etc and I will gradually make a chart for us to refer to

    I input readings into imeasure and that tells me that our electricity cost from the middle of june to now is £167 (and most food is home made ie jam, oven, ice cream etc)

    just to add that I bought a really good de-hydrator which I will use during the summer months to help preserve onions, tomatoes etc from my new allotment. This will make better use of the highest production from the pv system
  • teachergirl
    Thank you everyone.:)
    Cardew I must admit I can see the temptation to put on a half load but I will think more carefully about it now. As I will be back at work I think sometimes my use of the washing machine wil have to coincide with when I have time to iron afterwards! Charging stuff is a great thought too. it would be really good if there were lights and heaters that you could charge up in the day and then get them to release the energy at night. I suppose though that the time you would be able to do this most would be in the summer when you would not actually need them;)
    kittie I also have an owl monitor and must start looking at the electricity consumtion...the bread maker is also a fabulous idea . BTW what is a de-hydrator? We also have an allotment and often have too much to use.
    Enough money to live on so retired early...planning to see where life takes me:D
  • rhiwfield
    rhiwfield Posts: 2,482 Forumite
    edited 3 January 2011 at 2:56PM
    One or two thoughts.

    The electricity is produced in a bell curve, the size of the bell getting bigger until it peaks mid-summerish. ATM its quite small (low angle of sun and low length of day). The amount of leccy being produced at the peak of the day may be 3x as much in strong, summer sunshine as it is now, and the system may well produce 8x as much then. So using your leccy productively in the summer will be harder than it is now

    When days are really dull in winter generation will probably be accounted for largely by base load (central heating pump, fridge, freezer etc, sensors, displays)

    Many appliances dont use leccy evenly (dishwasher, washing machine, breadmaker, electric oven, microwave on low settings) or use high kW: eg kettle say 3kW, showers 8-10 kW.

    Constant (ish) appliances seem to be: lighting, tv, computers, monitors, set top box, electric hobs, toaster, tumble dryer, hoover, microwave on full (which uses about 1.5x rated output) Not sure about slow cookers, iron.

    As you can see it'll be a juggling act to keep varying use in line with varying production. I find it helps to keep a monitor in the kitchen/utility (where most usage is started) and (keeping in mind Cardews valid point about running appliances efficiently) try to manually balance usage against (over-baseload) generation. The more time you have to play the better you'll get but some tips:
    • Switch usage times about e.g. Cook evening meal during day
    • Save winter washing/drying/ironing for good generation days
    • Hoover when the sun shines
    • Get to know quirks of your machines e.g. my dishwasher has two periods of heating on eco setting, so stagger this with heating period of washing machine.
    • Avoid combining heating times unless you have surplus generation
    • At certain times you may find in winter that you still cant use generation. Thats when a fan heater/radiator can be switched on at say 750W or 1.25kW setting to add to the house's heat sink.
    • This one I havent yet tried but using a heat pump is likely to ensure you use all generation in winter, early spring/late autumn
    • FWIW I was given an old dehydrator and that might be a good part use of surplus summer leccy, when we'll be really struggling to use what we generate, especially as we grow our own fruit.
  • penrhyn
    penrhyn Posts: 15,215 Forumite
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    Why does it matter when or indeed if you use any of the energy produced by a solar PV array, as you are well paid by the FIT for all the power you generate?
    That gum you like is coming back in style.
  • Jon_Tiffany
    penrhyn wrote: »
    Why does it matter when or indeed if you use any of the energy produced by a solar PV array, as you are well paid by the FIT for all the power you generate?

    For some of us this is as much about doing our bit for the environment and UK energy security as it is about the money.

    The more we can use at home the less we import from the grid that we have to pay for, so maximising the money saving aspect.

    Environmentally, there are many benefits. It makes people much more energy aware, it helps move peak demand to be more evenly spread, there are no 10% transmission losses. In terms of the CO2 payback time estimates range from 2 years to 4 years at the most pessamistic.

    We have gone from a net exporter of energy to a net importer. We even now get gas from as far as Qatar.

    Have you seen the price of oil lately?
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