Timing your appliances to maximise your solar return
For Australian homeowners who’ve embraced the brilliance of solar energy, you’ve already taken a pivotal step towards greater energy efficiency and savings. But did you know you can further optimise these benefits simply by rethinking when and how you use your household appliances? Here’s how aligning the use of your appliances with the sun’s peak hours can enhance your solar return.
Understanding Solar Energy Generation
To begin with, it’s crucial to recognise that solar panels generate the most electricity around midday when the sun is at its zenith. This means the period from late morning to early afternoon is when your solar system is working its hardest and producing the most energy.
High-Energy Appliances & Their Features
Several appliances in your home consume a significant amount of energy. Let’s delve into a few of these and the nifty features they come with that can help you utilise solar energy better:
- Dishwashers & Washing Machines: Many modern models come with ‘delay start’ or ‘timer’ functions. Instead of running a load in the evening, set it to start around mid-morning or early afternoon. This ensures that these appliances operate at a time when your solar panels are generating the most energy.
- Air Conditioners: If your home tends to heat up during the day, consider running your air conditioner’s ‘pre-cooling’ feature during peak solar hours. By keeping your home cool while the sun’s out, you may not need to use it as much in the evening.
- Oven & Cooktops: Ovens and electric cooktops can be energy-intensive. If possible, prep meals that require prolonged cooking earlier in the day. Slow cookers, for instance, can be perfect for this. Alternatively, think about cooking in bulk during peak solar hours and reheating meals in the evening.
- Pool Pumps: If you have a pool, schedule your pump to run during the solar peak. Not only does this save energy, but it can also reduce wear on the pump, extending its lifespan.
- Spas & Hot Tubs: Many modern spas come with settings that allow you to specify operational hours. This means you can set them to heat up during peak solar hours. Moreover, they often have ‘power saver’ or ‘eco modes’ which disable high-energy functions during specified times.
- Electric Water Heaters: Much like the spa, these can be set to heat water during the day. If you have a system with a timer, set it to heat water during solar peak hours.
- Refrigerators & Freezers: While these are typically running 24/7, some models come with power-saving features. You can also optimise their efficiency by ensuring they are well-maintained and not placed in direct sunlight.
- Home Entertainment Systems: While not the largest energy consumers, it’s worth noting that many modern TVs, gaming consoles, and sound systems have standby modes that still draw power. Consider using smart plugs or timers to ensure they’re truly off during non-solar hours.
- EV Chargers: For homeowners with electric vehicles, charging can be a significant power draw. If possible, time your vehicle’s charging to coincide with peak solar production.
- Home Batteries: If you’ve invested in a home battery system, like Tesla’s Powerwall, you can optimise when the battery charges from the solar system and when your home draws from the battery. This ensures you’re using as much of your solar-generated power as possible.
- Vacuum Cleaners: Robotic vacuum cleaners, which can be scheduled, are growing in popularity. Set them to run during peak solar hours.
Optimising for Peak and Off-Peak Tariffs
Beyond simply aligning with solar production, another layer of savings can be realised by understanding and capitalising on peak and off-peak energy tariffs.
Electricity prices can vary significantly throughout the day. Energy providers often charge higher rates during peak demand periods, typically in the late afternoon and evening, and offer discounted rates during off-peak hours, usually late at night to early morning.
- Understanding Your Tariff Schedule: Start by familiarising yourself with the specific peak and off-peak times set by your energy provider. These periods might also include a shoulder period, where rates are between peak and off-peak rates.
- Appliance Scheduling: Once you’re aware of these periods, schedule high-energy-consuming appliances to operate during off-peak hours if solar generation isn’t possible. For instance, if you can’t run your dishwasher during solar peak times, consider running it during off-peak hours to benefit from the reduced tariffs.
- Smart Devices and Timers: Invest in smart plugs or home energy management systems that allow you to automate the operation of appliances based on these tariffs. They can turn devices on or off based on pre-set schedules, ensuring you’re always drawing power at the most cost-effective times.
- Battery Storage: For homeowners with battery storage solutions, understanding peak and off-peak tariffs becomes even more crucial. By charging your battery during solar peak or grid off-peak times and discharging it during grid peak times, you can further reduce electricity costs.
- Stay Updated: Remember, peak and off-peak periods, as well as the rates associated with them, can change based on decisions made by energy providers and regulators. It’s a good idea to periodically check with your provider or consult their website to ensure you’re updated on the latest tariffs.
By syncing appliance use not just with solar generation but also with the energy tariff structure, homeowners can supercharge their savings, making the most of both their solar system and the grid’s pricing dynamics.
Creating Solar-Conscious Habits
It’s not just about the appliances – it’s also about the habits of everyone living in the home. Here are some practical steps to embrace:
- Educate & Discuss: Ensure everyone in the household understands the benefits of timing appliance use with solar generation. Hold a quick family chat to discuss the optimal times for using heavy-duty appliances.
- Set Reminders: Place reminder stickers or notes on appliances. There are also numerous mobile apps that can help homeowners track their solar production in real-time and send alerts or reminders.
- Re-evaluate Your Routine: Perhaps it’s time to adjust when you do certain tasks. For instance, if you usually do laundry in the evening, consider switching to a mid-day routine.
Harnessing the full potential of your solar system isn’t just about installation. It’s also about adapting and integrating solar-conscious habits into your daily life. By timing the use of appliances with the sun’s peak hours, Australian homeowners can further reduce reliance on the grid, saving money and contributing to a sustainable future.