Getting the most out of your solar: Tips & Tricks

Published On: December 20th, 2023|10 min read|

Australia is the sunniest continent on Earth, so it’s no wonder that over 3 million Aussies (and counting) are adopting solar. Over the last 12 months, power prices have significantly jumped in some areas, promoting many more Aussie homes to install solar. Fortunately, many households with solar are seeing a reprieve on their quarterly bill, showing just how effective solar can be for your wallet.

But, research shows that even though Aussies are seeing lower power bills since they installed a solar system, many are still paying over $1,000 per year for power. So, what’s the secret to cutting down that number even further? The answer could lie with some simple behavioural changes. You may have heard the term “getting the most out your solar”. But what does it really mean, and how will it benefit you in the long run?

Why is it important to ‘get the most’ out of solar?

Solar panels generate their power when the sun is shining and during this period, you can use the electricity produced to power your home. The best part of solar power is that using it means you’re not purchasing power from the grid. When you’re generating more power than you’re using during the day, you may also be able to sell your excess solar to the grid for a small financial incentive called a feed-in tariff. But feed-in tariff rates are falling in many regions, and as soon as the sun sets you’re back to buying power from the grid, adding to your electricity bill. That’s where things get a bit sticky.

In an example that made the news lately, some homeowners with solar are paying 30c/kWh to purchase power from the grid, receiving only 5c/kWh back from their feed-in tariff. Let’s put this in perspective and say you sell 10kW to the grid, and buy 10kW from the grid at this rate – you’d be spending $3 on power while making only 50c back, while that $2.50 goes straight onto your bill. While this example may seem quite small, research shows that the average home uses 17kWh per day. So over time, this number can add up, especially on a quarterly electricity bill.

Nighttime power usage is also a big contributor to hefty power bills since your solar is no longer producing, and unless you also have a battery system installed, you’re exclusively purchasing power from the grid. Think of it this way – any power you use when the sun isn’t shining is being added to your electricity bill. That’s where the idea of being strategic with your solar comes in. These simple changes can really benefit your electricity bill in the long run. Let’s dive into some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your solar setup.

Small changes that can help you save

“Getting the most out of your solar” is fairly simple, and all it takes from you is a few basic actions. Overall, your solar is producing so much valuable power while the sun is shining – why let it go to waste? By making the most of the electricity your solar is producing, you may be able to significantly reduce your electricity bills even further. Here are a few small changes you can make that can really pay off in the long run:

Pre-cool your house before you get home

If the weather has you thinking about switching on the air conditioner, timing your air-con usage can pay off. Simply utilise the power of your solar by pre-cooling your home during the day while the sun is shining. This action will use your solar to power the air con as it cools your home, as opposed to cooling your hot home from scratch when you return from work. Think about it, if you start the cooling process as soon as you return home, you’re not only trying to cool a very hot house, but there also might not be a lot of sun left in the day to power your solar (if there is any at all). So, pre-cooling can reduce the amount of power purchased from the grid, and offset your power costs in the long run.

Manage the temperature

While we’re talking about managing temperature, there are some smaller changes you could make to keep your electricity bills low. If you’re still feeling the heat during the night, opting for a fan will cost you much less in the long run, since fans use 1% of the electricity that the air-con uses. Or, if you absolutely can’t get by without switching on the air conditioner at night, remember to keep it at a manageable 24 degrees. As tempting as it may be, setting a lower temperature can cost you in the long run – each degree cooler can add up to 10% more to your electricity usage.

Use solar to run your major appliances

In addition to using solar to top up your EV and pre-cool your home, you can also use solar to power your other appliances while the sun is beaming. Something as simple as doing a load of washing in the evening can add up on your power bill. Your laundry appliances require a fair bit of electricity to wash and dry your clothes. So running loads of washing during the day using solar (rather than buying power from the grid to run them at night) can really offset your electricity costs.

Other large-scale appliances include your oven, dishwasher, and pool pump. So pre-cooking your meals, washing your dishes, or timing on the pool pump to run while the sun is shining can also help you save. Setting a timer or utilising Smart Load Control can also help with this, but we’ll delve into Smart Load Control a bit later.

Upgrade your hot water system

A heat pump is a device that can really help you with the costs of running your hot water system. The pump will take heat from the air and transfer it into the water – something really handy to consider if you live in a ‘hot’ region. You could also look into solar thermal panels as an option, which are essentially dedicated solar panels exclusively used for heating your water.

Both options can really help you avoid paying exorbitant prices to run your hot water system. That said, you can also utilise Smart Load Control features to optimise the way you use your electric hot water system, too, by scheduling your hot water system to run when there is excess solar power available.

Forego the gas and switch to electric

If your home is using gas, you’re no stranger to expecting 2 different bills – both for powering your essential appliances. By switching to electric, you’ll be able to consolidate to the one bill. In fact, the Victorian Government, for example, estimates that VIC households can save up to $1,000 off their annual energy bills by switching from gas to electric. By connecting your previously-gas-powered appliances (like your stove or heater) to electric, you open up the opportunity for these to be powered by solar. Imagine going from 2 energy bills to 1 really low one!

Charge your electric vehicle while the sun is shining

Charging a 60kW EV battery on grid power can cost up to $24 per charging session. But why pay to charge when you can get your rooftop solar to do the hard work for you? Topping up your EV during the day using solar can save you that $24 on your power bill. Or, if you must charge your car at night, you could consider using a free public charging station.

Taking the next steps to save

There are some additional steps you could take to further reduce your power bills with a Redback Technologies inverter or battery system. First off, Redback’s Smart Load Control is a solar owner’s best friend, especially during a cloudy or rainy day when the sun isn’t at it’s brightest. It works by allowing a single large load (a power-hungry appliance like a hot water system or pool pump) to run when there is excess power being produced by your solar system.

Smart Load Control will run large loads with excess solar power when it’s available, and intuitively switch them off when it’s not. In addition, if you need to run your hot water system for a minimum number of hours per day, Smart Load Control can still switch it on at the end of the day if there has not been enough sunshine. Features like Smart Load Control can reduce the need to purchase electricity from the grid during the day.

For Queensland or South Australian homeowners, a Dynamic Connection (or ‘Dynamic Export’ in SA) is also available on these Redback systems. With a Dynamic Connection, homeowners have the opportunity to export up to twice as much solar to the grid when the network operator allows it. Most inverters are capped at a 5kW export limit, but with a Dynamic Connection the export limit can be up to 10kW – that means you can make up to twice as much money on your feed-in tariff. Redback is currently the only inverter manufacturer certified for Dynamic Exports in Queensland.

At this point you might be thinking that you still need power at night regardless of how much you get the most out of your solar, which can inevitably add to your power bill. We have an answer to that too: battery storage. With a battery storage system, excess solar generated throughout the day is stored in the battery system and ready for use in the evenings (or on a cloudy or rainy day). As we learned earlier in this article, the shortfall between the cost of buying electricity vs. selling electricity is quite high. But by almost eliminating the need to buy power with a home battery system, you could eliminate your power bills altogether.

On top of all of these features, all Redback customers also have access to the MyRedback App which gives you plenty of data and trend reporting to help you understand how much power you use, how much you buy, how much you sell, and when your ‘peak power periods’ are. When you’re equipped with this much information, you’ll be able to make the most out of your solar effectively and see the results detailed in your app.

Getting the most out of your solar doesn’t just mean using your valuable generated solar when it’s available, it also means being strategic about how you think about power usage in your home. As rising power prices continue to sting Aussies both with and without solar, it’s valuable to understand just how much of an impact solar can have when you’re open to optimising.

By getting the most out of your solar, you’re opening up the possibility of significant savings on your power bills, allowing you to use your money the way you want – not just to pay a bill. A brighter future begins with getting the most out of your solar.