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Solar energy – How to make it work better for you!

4 min read

February 20, 2020

We love our solar energy customers!

That’s why just like our non solar customers, we don’t charge them hidden fees. That means no transaction fees, no exit fees on most of our offers and no credit card fees.

We conducted a survey which was completed by solar energy customers across various electricity retailers in Victoria and New South Wales in 2016.

The results showed us that there are plenty of people with solar energy out there who aren’t getting the best out of their systems. So we’ve put together some handy hints for getting the most out of your solar.
Take me there now

The good news is, household solar uptake is on the rise across the country. Over 2 million Australians now have solar PV (photovoltaic) systems on their roof according to the Clean Energy Council. So learning how to get the most benefit out of your solar PV system is really important.

Many high government solar subsidies and double-digit feed-in tariffs ended from Jan 1 2017 (especially in NSW). That means it has become even more important to understand how to make your solar perform at its best. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Self consumption is the way to go

If you’re on a current feed-in tariff, it’s better to use your solar generation rather than export it, because buying power from the grid is more expensive than what you get in return for your solar export.

44% of the respondents* to our survey who are currently on a feed-in tariff of between 5-8 c/kWh indicated that they look to maximise value by exporting their solar generation to the grid as opposed to consuming it themselves.

This is troubling to us, although not really surprising given how ‘Set and Forget’ deals are sold by many energy retailers as a solution to massive electricity bills. However, nothing can be further from the truth.

Exporting all of your solar generation made sense when the feed-in tariff was high but at the present time self-consumption is often your best bet.

Data should become your best friend (if it isn’t already)

Data will help you create an electricity usage plan for your home, so you can make sure you’re getting the most out of your solar system.

Scribble in your favourite notebook, have a planning doc on your laptop or do whatever works best to make sure you’re well acquainted with:

  • your feed-in tariff;

  • your average daily usage;

  • what you export to the grid on average;

  • what your solar PV system produces on a daily, weekly and monthly basis; and

  • how much energy your favourite appliances use.

We found that over 60% of respondents didn’t know what their feed-in tariff was and in general had little understanding of what their panels were producing. To see what feed-in tariffs are currently available in your area, see our electricity plans.

Knowing the simple things mentioned above will help you craft a customised and well-informed electricity usage plan for your home. Getting to know your data requires a tiny bit of effort, but once it is done it’s sure to benefit you!

Utilise your solar during the day

Unless you’re still a lucky customer receiving a premium feed-in tariff, you should aim to use as much of your electricity during the day as possible.

50% of our respondents reported that they hadn’t changed their usage habits after installing solar. A change in habit is a must.

Not following this is a mistake a lot of customers make. Customers often expect to reap the benefits of solar by just investing money in a solar PV system and continuing to use most of their electricity outside peak solar generation periods. This leads to wastage as customers end up exporting their generation during peak solar generation times and would instead be better off utilising this output to power their homes.

To truly maximise the investment in your solar PV system, one thing is a must: change your habits to ensure that you’re using most of your electricity during the day.

to maximise the investment in your solar PV system, one thing is a must: change your habits

Understandably, this is not a viable option for all appliances; however, doing small things like putting a timer on your dishwasher or your pool pump to get them to switch on during a sunny day is a great way to maximise your solar PV system and save money.

Find out when your Solar PVs start & stop

Find out when your solar PV starts producing electricity in the morning and when it stops producing at night, so you know exactly what time you should use the majority of your appliances.

A good way to find out this information is to purchase a portable device that displays your solar inverter or meter data. These kinds of devices also allow you to track the efficiency of your solar PV system and let you know if your system is not performing well, so you can get any issues fixed.

If you’re a Powershop customer, you can also track the impact of your solar export by going to Heatmaps in your online account. You can find out more about it here.

* Total of 500 respondents to the survey conducted by Powershop across Victoria and New South Wales.