It was a bright and sunny winter’s day on Monday, yet bitterly cold. As I needed to head out of the home for two hours, I went to turn off the split cycle air conditioner that was warming our home. However this time, I stopped to reevaluate my reasoning.
We now have a 4.5 kWh solar PV system that was generating more than enough electricity to cover running the air conditioner. Also as the ‘feed in tariff’ for surplus electricity generated is no longer generous (money we make for electricity we don’t use), why not keep the air conditioner running for our dogs to keep warm?
Before solar PV, this thinking would have be considered irresponsible for financial and environmental reasons. However this is the best example to explain my opinion on the benefits of installing solar PV – we now have responsible, cheaper and guilt free comfort.
In my last post (part 2) I concluded by advising we were researching ‘going off the grid’ – buying batteries to store our generated electricity, to use anytime we wish. At this time we have decided not to invest in batteries, purely for financial reasons (it would take another 7 to 10 years to recoup the investment). However we will keep an eye on the technology and pricing as no doubt in the future, it will be more viable to ‘get off the grid’.
** We probably didn’t need a 4.5 kWh solar PV system. We could have saved some money by installing a smaller system with the option to upgrade it later.
** If you and your family use very little energy during the day (because you are at work / school) then solar PV won’t benefit you much financially. The solar feed in tariff that electricity companies offer is currently minimal – you pay for the system and they benefit financially (they give you on average 8 cents for every surplus kWh generated but will on sell it for 29 cents kWh). Yes you are helping the environment but most families don’t have $2000 to $7000 to spend if they can not benefit financially.
** If you and your family can use a lot of your energy usage during the day (put your dishwasher and clothes washer on during sunlight hours) then financially you will benefit for solar PV. I would suggest only buying a system that would generate just enough energy that you would use during the day, as you won’t make much money for surplus energy generated. Our household (two adults and a baby) would really only need a 2.5 kWh system (put the dishwasher on with the air conditioner but not the clothes washer at the same time). Having a 4.5 kWh system means we can have the dishwasher, clothes washer and air conditioner on at the same time, on a sunny day but again we have paid much more money for this and I don’t think it was needed at this time.
** We will eventually get off the grid, by installing batteries to save all our generated electricity, so we can use it during non sunlight hours (and not get charged). The good news is that pricing for solar PV and batteries are coming down all the time. If you want to get off the grid, you will want not only the biggest solar PV system you can afford but also as many batteries you can afford too (saving electricity for long periods of non sunny days).
** We have just signed over to Red Energy as our electricity company. Not only were they the cheapest company for NSW using my calculations but more importantly for me, their electricity is generated from Snowy Mountains Hydo – sustainable and environmentally friendly. Red Energy is also 100% Australian owned. Ideally I would prefer to generate all our electricity from our solar PV but for now I am happy to know that by signing with Red Energy, all our electricity usage is helping the environment – part of the solution rather than the problem.
Note: If you live in NSW or Victoria and want to switch to Red Energy, let me know as they have offered my ‘family and friends’ a $50 voucher. In the spirit of being honest, I will also receive a $50 voucher but my intention is to donate any vouchers to Lock the Gate Alliance.