Our first month with Solar Panels

posted in: home, Simple living, Solar Power | 1

Let’s look back on the first month with our new Solar Panel system. Installed and turned on 2nd November, 2012. This 5kw system, almost true north facing, over the last month of spring.

Weather-wise, it’s been a mixed bag of searing hot days, lots of thunderstorms and clouds as well. It’s really given us an idea of what we can expect over winter when there will be more consistent cloud cover. To be perfectly honest, we are glad we went with the larger system as some of the cloudy days we would be struggling to run a light bulb with anything smaller.

As I previously detailed in this post, our power is worth more to us to use than it is to export and buy power in the evening. So we are making sure to run the dishwasher, washing machine etc as much as possible in daytime hours.

We have also been making a more consistent effort to reduce our overall power usage, either solar or imported, to keep our bill down and maximise our return. Things like arranging the TV, amp, DVD player etc all on one switch to turn off at the wall when we aren’t using them. The only thing that stays on is the Foxtel box as DH records soccer games at all hours of the day or night.

The other major change we have made is moving DH’s iMac into the family room to be shared between him and our teenage DS1, who was originally using a tower computer. This computer, although custom-built and powerful for its time, was also a power-hungry black beast, and it was the computer most used in the house. So exchanging that for a much more power efficient Mac was a logical next step.

We have been very fortunate in the weather recently. Although we were careful in the siting, planning and insulating of this house, we still require some forms of mechanical heating or cooling in extremes of weather. However we have been able to avoid using the air-conditioner at all for several weeks now. This of course is a huge energy saving.

So, how’s the system going? Here are the most important figures….

  1. Power generated in our first month: 961.55kwh. Our daily average for spring appears to be around the 30kwh per day mark. Our lowest was 13.93kwh, our highest 37.32kwh.

  2. Our average use for our own power has been 54kwh per week, leaving 47kwh imported to cover our power at night etc. However, the average excess exported to the grid each week is 167kwh, so we are way ahead in that department.

  3. Most exciting has been the average daily usage, which has not been under 20kwh for our last few bills. We are currently hovering somewhere under 15kwh at present, so thats fantastic news.

Our “Solar pay-off” figure involves both the money returned for our exported power, as well as the value of the power we used from generation, that we otherwise would have had to buy. This is sitting at $265 for our first month of use. If we continued these excellent results, it would mean our system would be paid off within 3 years, however there will be a considerable dip in production over winter, so I am looking more to find a long-term average for those types of predictions.

But the best part of all is that it looks like our next bill will have a cheque attached to it. This will help offset any lack in the system in winter, and help us to achieve our goal of being bill neutral!

I know that Solar power isn’t for everyone, in every location. For example, the current price offered to people exporting power in NSW is wholesale rates, which are around 6c kwh. That’s just crazy, and I can see why a struggling average family, like us, would find it hard to justify the massive outlay in their budget. However, if you can afford it, it makes a lot of sense to do it. Best of all, the power is clean, quiet, efficient, and all yours. That’s a good feeling!Happy Crafting - Cassie.

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