Note: This article contains out-of-date information about the Feed-in Tariff scheme (FITs) which closed to new applications on 31st March 2019. Find out more about the closure on the Energy Saving Trust’s website.
One of the challenges facing solar PV owners is making sure that their system is operating efficiently. A key part of this is ensuring that you use any excess electricity effectively.
Solar PV systems generate their electricity during the day. For many households in the UK, the day is the time when you use the least amount of electricity. You can take some steps to use this surplus electricity efficiently. For example, use appliances like a dishwasher or laundry machine during the day. However, for many people, a separate system will offer the best efficiency.
For most solar PV systems, the excess electricity is sold back to the grid as part of the Feed-in Tariff (FIT) scheme. However, the estimated payments from the FIT are based on the production of your solar system. This means that you can use as much electricity as possible from your solar panels without affecting your FIT payments.
There are two different kinds of systems that you can use to use the electricity from your solar panels efficiently. The first is an electric immersion heater or storage heater, which will take surplus energy and convert it into heat. The second option is to use home batteries to store the electricity and allow you to use it in the evening when you need it.
1. Electric heater systems
One option for using the surplus electricity generated by your solar panels is to have an electric heating system fitted. These systems will intelligently use any surplus electricity and store it as heat, which is released throughout the evening.
There are two main types of electric heater that you can use for this purpose. The first is an immersion heater which will heat up a hot water tank. This can give you enough hot water to use in the evening, or simply save you energy by not having to have your gas boiler heat up an entire tank of hot water.
A second option is an electric storage heater which will simply convert the excess electricity into heat and store it. It can then be released as with any other kind of electric heater.
Both of these systems can be used to divert excess electricity and store it in your own home, rather than selling it back to the grid.
2. Home battery systems
Home battery systems offer more flexibility than electric heaters. A home battery stores the excess electricity so that you can use it to power your home in the evenings and overnight.
The obvious benefit of these systems is that you will use even less electricity and can properly harness the power of your solar panels. However, you may still find that you need to use electricity from the grid, as home batteries usually don’t store enough power for high load appliances like kettles or electric showers.
Both of these systems are a significant investment. However, they can save you money over their lifetime, and so it’s worth looking carefully at their return on investment. Using these systems will let you use as much electricity as possible from your solar panels to power your home, saving you money and saving the planet.