Living with renewables

Many people reading this will have spent their childhood in homes with 9” brickwork, lofts with no insulation, big single glazed sash windows and in winter ice on the inside of the glass. In hindsight it’s curious that it took so long for people to question the vast amounts of money our parents spent effectively heating the air around our homes, so poor were the thermal properties of our buildings.

But time and technology have moved on and today even many Victorian houses have the benefit of double glazing, wall and loft insulation and of course renewable energy systems.

When you invest in renewable energy technology for your building you will be made aware of the financial and environmental benefits. We strongly suggest you make the most of these by keeping in mind the way each system works and making small changes to your day to day living.

Foremost will be the reduction of your energy bills. We know a Solar PV system can make significant savings to your electricity bill and a heat pump will save approximately 40% off your old oil bill, not to mention the considerable government financial incentives currently available, but while you’re saving energy with these technologies it’s important not to squander it elsewhere:

  • Put into practice the energy saving recommendations attached to your Energy Performance Certificate; make your building more energy efficient
  • Keep doors closed to avoid drafts
  • Do not leave unnecessary lights burning and consider time-switches on automatic lights
  • Often overlooked, only heat in the kettle as much water as you require immediately

With the introduction of the Economy 7 electricity tariff, many families became accustomed to using their appliances at night to take advantage of cheap electricity. If you have solar PV you can now switch to using your appliances during the day and take advantage of FREE electricity:

  • Endeavour to use all your appliances only during the middle of the day
  • Be mindful of the time of year; if you’re leaving for work on a dark winter morning, set the dishwasher on its three hour delay setting, so it doesn’t start until the sun is well up
  • Be mindful of the size of your PV system; if it’s overcast and you only have eight panels, stagger the use of appliances
  • If the forecast is cloudy in the afternoon, try to use your appliances in the morning
  • You could even consider using an electric slow cooker during the day to cook your evening meal

If you have solar PV, remember your Export Tariff is paid on half the energy you generate, regardless of how much you use, so you can capitalise on this by using as much as possible:

  • As stated above, use appliances during the day
  • Charge spare phone and laptop batteries during the day for use at night
  • Consider installing an Apollo GEM immersion heater switch that will store excess energy by heating your water
  • Better still, a Nedap Power Router will maximise electricity use by storing it in batteries to power all your small appliances

A solar thermal system will provide most of your hot water during half the year but there will be times when you need to top up the heat from another source:

  • Time your hot water use to make the best of your solar thermal system
  • Experiment with the timer on your other heat source, so the heat is only topped up just before you require it

None of this is ‘rocket science’, as they say; having taken the time to determine which renewable energy technologies are right for you, you will probably be more aware than you were before of how you can save – or waste – energy. Now you can have fun thinking up new and innovative ways to save money while reducing your carbon emissions; perhaps run a competition amongst your household, to involve the entire family.

If you require any further help or advice on living with renewables, please don’t hesitate to contact your local Solarsense office.