Get the most from your Solar PV system
Use as much of your own Solar Power as possible
Regardless of whether or not exported electricity is paid for, it is good practice to self-consume your Solar PV generation. If a new export tariff is introduced in Ireland, it is likely to be a lot lower than the price you pay to import from the grid. You will make bigger savings on your electric bill if you adapt your electricity usage to make the most out of your PV panels.
The basic principle is to use as few appliances as possible after dark. This is can be hard to achieve due to busy lifestyles, but in summertime when we have bright mornings and long evenings, it should be easier. Even on a low light day, the cost of operating an electrical appliance can be supplemented by Solar PV power.
- Stagger your use of major appliances during the day to make sure you import as little electricity as possible
- Charge mobile phones, laptops, tablets, toothbrushes etc. during the day
- Set timers, or delay start timers, on your dishwasher, washing machine, tumble drier etc. so that they come on during the day – and remember to stagger their start times
- Consider using your electric oven during the day, or using a slow-cooker with a timer
- If you have a gas hob, consider using the microwave during the day instead
- Keep an eye on the weather – if you know it is going to be sunny in a few days, hold off running appliances
Monitor your power
Knowledge is Power! If you know what appliances in your home are consuming power, when and how much, you will be able to make informed decisions as to what to control. The Smappee Solar Energy Monitor will monitor both your household consumption and the Solar PV generation, and overlay this information on a simple graph you can view on an app or computer. It is a really easy way to see when you are generating more electricity than you are consuming, and vice versa. The smart technology in Smappee will also give you a breakdown of the electricity usage, appliance by appliance.
The Smappee system also has ‘comfort plugs’ which you can use to switch appliances on and off remotely or use the plugs as a timer. The plugs can also be activated via ‘Triggers’ such as sunset or sunrise times, and thresholds of Solar PV export power.
Use a Power Diverter
Excess electricity can be diverted to your immersion heater in a hot water cylinder – using your cylinder like a battery. Most cylinders in Ireland will have a 3kW immersion heater element; this element can take up to 3000 watts of power. A Power Diverter would control your immersion in proportion to the amount of Solar PV power available – it can start your immersion from as low as 50 watts. The Power Diverter also switches off your immersion if the power is needed by another appliance, all automatically.
Electric space heating
Normally when it is sunny in Ireland, we do not require a lot of heat for our homes – however, there are certain months of the year when it is bright but still cold, typically March, April, and September. Far Infrared heating panels and mirrors, such as those from Herschel, can be used to consume surplus Solar PV electricity and heat rooms in your house.
The far infrared heaters are as low as 300 watts and can be controlled via a Smappee comfort plug (mentioned above). These heaters can be more effective than traditional electric radiators, as they use the thermal mass of the room to store heat. An air-to-water (or air source) heat pump could also be used to consume surplus Solar PV power, but they can be expensive to install.
Battery technology is becoming more advanced and affordable. If your Solar PV system is large enough to warrant it, batteries would allow you to consumer Solar power at night time and even provide an emergency power supply in the event of a power cut. It is important to install the right size of battery, so we would recommend a period of energy monitoring before the correct battery size is chosen.
Lastly, keep an eye of your inverter and ensure your panels are clean and not over shaded – particularly if you have problems with dust or bird droppings, or nearby trees.