Guest Blog from Infinity Energy Services – one of our solar PV Approved Installers.
We all want to get our energy bills down and reduce our carbon footprint, but which are the right technologies to invest in today and how do they all work together? In this short guide, we cover three key energy solutions and how to get the best out of them.
Solar photovoltaic panels, or solar PV for short, generate electricity from the sun. Once a solar PV system has been installed on your roof, the electricity the panels produce is zero-cost. This is because sunshine is free!
Apart from wind turbines (not always practical on a house or apartment block), solar PV panels are the only way that households can generate their own electricity. There are several ways of saving energy, for example with proper insulation, but only solar PV panels will provide your home with free electricity.
A solar PV system is not like getting a boiler that requires regular servicing. PV systems require little or no maintenance, and have a typical life-span of 25+ years. The only component that is likely to fail is the ‘solar inverter’. It’s advisable to get as long a warranty on the inverter as possible.
Solar panels will only generate electricity during the day while the sun is shining. They do work on cloudy days, but the output is much lower. So, the main drawback to a solar PV system is the fact that your supply of free solar energy stops completely once it gets dark.
What’s the solution to this problem?
Battery storage allows you to do two things:
- Capture surplus solar electricity to use in the evenings and at night, and
- Store cheap, off-peak electricity from the grid at night to use during the day when electricity rates are higher.
Battery storage is therefore a perfect companion for solar panels. You rarely use all your solar electricity at the exact moment it is generated, and battery storage will automatically mop up the excess.
In the evening, perhaps when you have the cooker on and need a lot of electricity, the battery will then discharge the stored solar energy to help power your cooker. This discharged solar electricity is free of charge.
In the winter, and depending on how big your battery is, there might not be enough surplus solar electricity to charge your battery fully. In this scenario, you can top up your battery with low-cost, off-peak electricity from the grid.
To do this, you need to be signed up with an energy supplier that can offer a dual rate electricity tariff, similar to the old Economy 7. You will then have a low Night rate for a certain number of hours, and a higher Day rate for the remaining hours.
You can program your battery storage to charge during that cheap, night time slot. Then, during the day, the battery will discharge the low-cost, stored electricity, allowing you to avoid paying higher day time rates until the battery energy runs out.
Electric Vehicles & Charging Points
Another big topic in energy at the moment is the electrification of transport. To help the environment, traditional petrol/diesel powered vehicles are gradually being replaced with electric cars, vans, trains, etc.
With the government’s recent ban on petrol and diesel cars in 2030, all of us will sooner or later be getting an electric vehicle or EV. Once you drive an EV, you will need to charge its battery with electricity. While there is an ever growing public charger network, the easiest and cheapest place to charge your car is at home.
Once you have an EV charger installed, you need to work out the best time to charge your vehicle. If you have a solar PV system, and the sun is shining, you can charge your car with free solar electricity. That would theoretically reduce your car’s fuel bill to zero!
However, in practice, a solar panel system cannot provide all the energy your EV needs. Another way is via battery storage. If you come home after work and plug your car in say at 5:30pm, if your home battery storage has electricity in it, the battery can discharge electricity into your car.
That still might not be enough to charge your car’s battery fully. So the third option is to charge your EV at night during the hours when your off-peak Night rate apples. You don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to plug your vehicle in: you can either program the car, or the charging point itself, to come on during those cheap night rate hours.
Charging an EV with (free) solar energy and (low-cost) electricity from the grid can put a huge dent in your monthly fuel bills. If you currently pay say £1,000 a year on petrol or diesel, that figure could be as low as £150-200 a year with an electric car powered by a combination of solar and off-peak grid energy.
To keep energy costs down – and to do as much as we can to reduce global warming and hold environmental harms in check – there are two main approaches for UK residents:
- Minimise your need for energy in the first place, and
- Generate your own energy from renewable sources.
You can cover off both these points by driving an electric vehicle, charging it at home, and allowing your solar PV and battery storage to (partly) power both your home and car.
It’s not a fully comprehensive set-up. There are other steps you should take as well, such as insulation, moving off gas, investing in highly efficient fridges, cookers, lighting, etc.
Nonetheless, with solar PV, battery storage and electric driving all working together harmoniously, you will sleep better knowing your energy bills and carbon footprint are as low as they can be.
Infinity Energy Services
Infinity Energy Services are one of our Switched On Portsmouth Approved Installers. For more information please visit our Approved Installer page here.
Discover your home’s solar potential for free here.