How I cut my electricity bill with solar panels

Solar photovoltaic panels EPEC Ltd energy consultants, Great Dunmow, Essex

As a family of 5 in these austere times we often look for ways to make our pennies stretch that little bit further.

We do all the usual cost saving activities like shopping locally in Great Dunmow than driving to the out of town supermarket. This has also helped to reduce our carbon footprint and supports local shops. We even like the range of clothing, toys and games the second hand shops have on offer. Sometimes we find a good bargain that can be sold on eBay or similar if we want something new!

Home energy analysis.

With my energy consultant head on I decided to analyse our home’s energy expenditure which, for an 1840s 3 bed semi in the centre of Dunmow, was particularly high. As I said we are a family of 5 with children of a range of ages (2, 10 and 14) and have quite complex energy demands for our busy lifestyles.

Surprisingly our highest energy expense was electricity. Despite doing all the usual cost saving methods such as changing bulbs for low energy ones, (including the halogens) and checking that unused appliances are switched off rather than being left on stand by we were still paying too much.

We did some cost comparisons and looked at switching our supplier but found that we were on a very good deal with British Gas so wouldn’t see any benefit from switching.

Solar photovoltaic systems

Solar photovoltaic panels (often referred to as solar panels) are a renewable energy technology that converts energy from sunlight into electricity. The technology has been around for years – most commonly people may remember them from solar powered calculators like the one below.

Solar powered calculator

Modern solar photovoltaic systems are quick easy to install and are effective at saving you money on your electricity bill.

The image below shows a typical solar photovoltaic system:

As can be seen from the diagram above sunlight goes into the panels which are installed on your roof. The panels convert the sunlight into electrical energy as a direct current.

This direct current has to be made into the type of electricity which your home works on which is alternating current. It uses an inverter to do this.

The other side of the inverter is connected to a meter to monitor how much electricity is generated and then to your home consumer unit (fuse board). This feeds all the power outlets in your home like plug sockets, electrical spurs and lighting.

Any excess electricity is fed back into the grid which prior to 1st April 2019 you can get paid for in Feed in tariff payments. This has now changed and new installations are not eligible for the payments. There are still clear cost savings in having a system installed which will be outlined later in this article.

In the diagram above the excess electricity is also being fed into a battery storage system. This stores electricity and releases it when it is needed such as at night time.

Our system and how much we saved

Back at the start of 2018 we decided to install a solar photovoltaic system and added a useful device called a voltage optimiser which reduces the grid demand so increases the savings for only a small extra initial cost.

Living in a conservation area in the centre of Dunmow we had to apply for planning permission which was duly granted by Uttlesford Council.

The images below show the afternoon of the installation – note the scaffolding required to reach our roof and for the safety of the installers.

Below is a breakdown of costs and savings resulting from the system being in place for a little over a year now:

Electricity cost for 2017 £985.34 no solar panels

Electricity cost for 2018 £772.62 solar panels installed in February

Cost saving for 2018 = £212.70

Payments from Feed in Tariff for 2018 = £400.00

Total savings = £612.70

Panel installation cost for 2018 = £600.00

This gives a profit of £12.72 for the first year.

The graphs below show our actual yield for 2018 and so far for 2019.

As the cost of electricity increases in line with inflation (and other factors that affect the cost of electricity generation and distribution) but the cost of the panels stays the same we look to save year on year. Although for people interested in producing their own electricity using solar panels will no longer benefit from the feed in tariff payments the inflation proofing fixed cost insulates against inevitable future electricity cost price rises. This therefore makes them a good investment.

We are happy to have made cost savings as well as significantly reducing our carbon footprint.

Written by Daniel Hurst, 7th May 2019.

Comments (2)

  • Hi Dan, been interested in solar panels but put off by initial outlay, you say year one cost was £600 to install but presume you spreading actual cost over a number of years? What was actual installation cost and what sort of lifespan do the panels have please

    • Hi Lisa,

      the actual cost per system depends on what your requirements are.

      My year 1 cost is the loan I took out to have the system installed spread over 15 years. My break even point is sometime towards the end of year 2/year 3.

      The panels I have are guaranteed to 99.8% efficiency over a 25 year period. If they fall below this (identified through monitoring using the generation meter) then they are replaced with no extra cost.

      I would say for budgetary purposes that you should look at starting about £6,000.00 for a 3.8 kW system but don’t pay any more than £7,500.00

      If this saves you say £600 a year then you would get your money back after about 10 years for the £6,000.00 system. This may be shorter as electricity costs rise year on year so may be as short as 6 to 8 years. However, your carbon footprint will be significantly reduced with immediate effect and once you have recouped the costs your electricity bills are nothing.

      If you are interested in discussing this further please give me a call (contact details are on the website).

      Kind regards

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