For years people have been asking us how they can get rid of their power bills with solar power. The problem, of course, is that solar power is generated during the day and for many households this is impractical as they are at work during the day and hence use most of their power at night. Sure, you can set appliances to run with a timer, and you can run the base load of your house on solar power during the day, but you want more!
Solar Batteries have now solved solar’s basic dilemma by storing excess solar power, which can then be used at night. Like many people, you might be wondering why solar batteries have taken off in 2016 – why now? What’s changed? And does it really mean I can say goodbye to my power bill?
Firstly, it’s price. For many households, lithium batteries are now able to generate a return on investment that is shorter than the expected life of the battery. This is a significant milestone for renewable energy, and I describe it as a huge earthquake in the middle of the Pacific that no one heard, and yet the ripples are now shooting out across the ocean and are about to sweep across Australia in a wave of solar uptake over the coming years.
Secondly, it’s the technology, in particular the software that manages the system. Solar batteries come as a part of an “energy solution”, and the key feature is the software rather than the batteries. Solar management systems can manage the battery’s performance, significantly extend its life, set algorithms to deal with various electricity tariffs, facilitate home automation, adapt to household consumption patterns and even make predictions based on the weather forecast! It means you can get on with your life knowing that that batteries will be working at maximum efficiency.
So how does all of this come together to eliminate your power bill?
The answer is pretty simple really. All you need to do is use less power over 24 hours than your solar system generates during the day and not use any power from the grid. To do this, you are either going to need to spend significant money on an oversized battery bank, or you are going to have a smaller battery bank and cut back on your evening power usage. The choice for most people will be easy. The average family home in Sydney uses between 20 and 30 kWh a day with half or more of that being used in the evening. To eliminate your power bill, you will need to get a good sized solar system with a small battery bank, and you need to get smart with how and when you use your power. The feedback we’ve had from our customers is that the more fun you have with your shift to a greener lifestyle (and cheaper power bills), the more success you will have.
I’m Ready! What do I need to do?
The key to success is to design a system that doesn’t require you to significantly change your lifestyle, and when you do need to change things, you need to make it a habit that doesn’t require much work. You want to minimise the time, effort and money spent installing and then maintaining your new energy usage setup, and then maximising the effect, which in this case means reducing your power bill as much as possible.
This typically involves doing things once and doing them well. For more information about how to cut back on your power usage check out our Top Tips for Reducing Your Power Bill.
Investing in Solar Power
Once you have reduced your power consumption and shifted your power usage from the evening to the daytime, you need to get a solar system that covers your power consumption over a typical 24 hour period. The catch, however, is a solar system produces significantly more power in summer compared to winter, and so when sizing up a system you need to consider what bills you want to eliminate. If you don’t want to pay your winter bill and you use electric heating you are going to need a much larger solar system compared to if you want to eliminate your summer power bill and you don’t have a pool or air conditioner running.
As a general rule of thumb, a solar power system will produce around 4 times its size on an average day, and for most people this will be good enough. So if you use 20 kWh of power a day, a 5kW system will cover your usage on an average day. It’s up to you how accurate you want to be, and now that solar power can be so much cheaper than grid power, most people are installing larger solar arrays to make sure they cover their usage for as much of the year as possible. In fact it is often cheaper to install an extra few solar panels than it is to buy top of the range appliances that use a little less power. Worth considering.
What it all comes down to
The key to not paying a power bill is your energy usage during the evening once your solar system turns off and your batteries kick in. Most households are not going to have more than around 7 kWh worth of battery storage, either by installing a Tesla Powerwall or a mid sized bank of Enphase Batteries. For example, having generated 20 kWh or more during the day with a 5kW solar system, of which 7 kWh are now stored in your battery, you are going to have to be careful about how much power you use as well as how much power you are using at any one time. Crank up the electric heaters and you will need to buy power from the grid. Turn on all the lights, the laptops, the TVs, the oven and the kettle at the same time and you will need to buy power from the grid.
Once you have bought power from the grid, the only way to cancel that out is to send solar power back to the grid and get paid a feed in tariff. The problem is, if you are paying 25 cents a kWh for your power and getting paid a feed in tariff of 5 cents, you need to send 5 kWh of solar power to the grid for every 1 kWh you use in the evening. It just doesn’t make sense. This is why most households will never cancel out their power bill. You either need to have an extremely low power usage during the evening, or you need to be extremely careful about how you use your power.
But this isn’t a bad thing – far from it. It just means that for most households it will be far more realistic to have a small power bill, rather than no power bill at all. The best feedback we get is from customers that are consistently paying a power bill that is less than $150 a quarter, and yet they are using power just like ‘any other household’. They have all the comforts of a modern home including a dishwasher, fridge, a small air conditioner etc. and yet they are paying many hundreds of dollars less every power bill and will continue to do so for decades.
This can be significant for those who are about to retire, or who are looking for increased financial security by using money today to lock in low power prices for up to 30 years into the future. If things do get tough, you can simply cut back your power usage and have one less thing to worry about when the power bill comes in the mail.