This Christmas, many Aussies will be gathering with family, hosting Christmas lunch, and heading out to look at the neighbourhood Christmas light displays. For many, the holiday season presents the opportunity to give gifts and connect with friends (coupled with a lot of power usage). But for homeowners with solar panels and batteries, Christmas also presents an excellent opportunity to harness the power of the sun to run a successful holiday gathering while keeping electricity costs in check.
What does it mean to ‘optimise’?
Being smart about electricity costs and making the most of solar is at the top of the list for many Aussies these days. But why is it important to optimise?
The festive season is often a time for higher than normal electricity usage – from Christmas lights glowing, to air con keeping out the summer heat, and appliances in use while we prepare a festive feast. Needless to say, our power needs seem to elevate over the festive season. In fact, data from Money Mag shows that Aussies collectively spend around $171 million on electricity over the Christmas period, equating to an extra $69 per power bill on average.
On top of this addition to the December power bill, many households are still feeling the sting of this year’s rising electricity prices, and are looking for ways to keep their electricity bills low this holiday season. These high power prices in most areas are forcing Aussies to make drastic changes this Christmas, with around 1 in 5 surveyed Aussies opting to go without Christmas lights this year, while 30% said they’d cut back on air con.
That’s where the idea of optimising your solar can come in, to ease the sting of those electricity bills while still allowing you to do the things you want this Christmas. It’s important to note that optimisation doesn’t just mean making the most of your solar. It also means being clever about the way you power your home. So what optimisation opportunities are available this Christmas and how can you get on board?
Imagery created by artist, and friend of Redback Technologies – Tondo Creative
Can Santa’s sleigh damage my solar panels?
Before we talk about optimising your solar, we need to address something that’s very important to our children and grandchildren. Will Santa and his reindeer damage the rooftop solar panels?
Solar panels are made to withstand various weather conditions, including hail and snow. If the solar panels are strong enough and well-constructed, they might be able to support the weight of Santa’s sleigh without damage. It’s well known that Santa’s sleigh is magical, meaning it should be able to make itself lighter – so it might not even be that heavy on the panels when it lands on your roof!
Santa’s reindeer can also fly, meaning that they should easily be able to hover over the panels without stepping on them. Plus, with Rudolph’s very shiny nose leading the way, all the reindeer will be able to see where they’re going and will take extra care not to step on the solar panels! As for Santa himself, he’s well known to be a considerate and careful gift-deliverer who knows when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake. With those special powers, he’s also able to know what type of roof he’s landing on – and as soon as he knows your roof has solar panels, he’ll make sure he’s extra careful.
Now that we know Santa won’t damage your rooftop solar, let’s talk about how to optimise your solar and power consumption this festive season.
Christmas power optimisation tips and tricks
Whether you have solar now, or you’re simply looking for ways to keep your electricity bills as low as possible this Christmas, consider these helpful optimisation tips.
Most fairy lights that you can buy these days are LED, but if you’re using some older lights, check if they’re using incandescent bulbs. While incandescent bulbs were essentially taken off Aussie shelves in 2009, they’re still available online (and still tucked in the back of the cupboard in many households as well), so it pays to know what’s lighting up your tree.
While LEDs are more environmentally efficient than incandescent bulbs, they’re also less likely to make a dent in your festive power bill. For example, for a home running a string of 2000 LED fairy lights for 5 hours per night over the Christmas period, a total of 88.3 cents would be added to the electricity bill for the lights’ consumption. To run the same string of incandescent lights for 5 hours per night, the Christmas electricity bill will jump up $35. It’s essentially the same situation, but costing you $34.12 less – that’s almost the price of a kilo of Christmas ham! So, if you’re still using old-school decorations, it will pay off to make the switch to LED.
It’s also good practice to put your lights on a timer to switch them off around 10:00 pm – especially if your light display is outdoors. After all, most people drive around looking at Christmas lights in the early evening, so keeping the lights on all night is just adding to the power bill. If you do want to keep those lights on all evening, however, solar Christmas lights are the answer. Using the power of the sun to charge your lights is even better than using power from the grid – and a fully charged Christmas solar light will still shine bright for 8-12 hours.
Christmas lunch or dinner
For Christmas lunch, it’s always preferable to run the oven when it’s sunny so your valuable self-generated solar can power that appliance. Or, if your friends and family are heading to visit you in the evening, it doesn’t hurt to pre-cook your food during the day. That way, your solar can help power your oven and microwave while the sun is shining, and you’re not buying all that power from the grid on Christmas night. Plus, when the guests arrive in the evening, you won’t be stuck in the kitchen and you’ll be able to socialise – it’s a win-win!
Planning for a cold lunch this Christmas can also go down a treat. This is a particularly handy plan to have in place just in case Christmas day is cloudy (preventing you from using solar to power an oven). Cold ham, pasta salads and fresh prawns will still create a delicious feast no matter what the weather is – all while ensuring you’re not purchasing power from the grid. Plus, it’s less effort for you to prepare.
Or, if you want to avoid using your home appliances altogether, why not head to a local park for a nice barbecue with the family for free?
Beating the Christmas heat
An Aussie Christmas is far from white, in fact, temperatures often soar to the high 30’s or 40’s in many regions. That’s where air-con – a very ‘high-power-use’ appliance – often comes in to save the day. If you do choose to power on the air conditioner this Christmas, remember to keep it at a cool 24 degrees. As tempting as it may be, setting a lower temperature can add up to 10% more to your electricity usage – with or without solar.
Or, you could consider switching off the air-con and opting for a fan. Fans use about 1% of the electricity consumed by air conditioners, so switching on the fan is always a better choice for your electricity bill. Pair this with a cold Christmas feast, and you and your guests will stay nice and cool this Christmas.
Thinking ahead of Christmas night
If you’re going to drive around and see the lights in an electric vehicle, remember to charge it during the day (between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm are the best times) while your solar is producing valuable electricity. Charging it once the sun has set will only add money to your electricity bill.
While you’re enjoying your evening Christmas movie, turn off the lights and dim the television to save a bit extra on your power bill. After all, televisions and other entertainment systems can account for up to 10% of a household’s electricity usage – and running these appliances at night means your solar isn’t helping to foot the bill. Switching an existing 1-2.5 star rated TV to a 7-8 star rated TV can save you up to $171 per year, too, so if your TV needs replacing, it wouldn’t hurt to pop a 7-8 star unit on your Christmas list!
Yuletide battery storage – how can it help?
We’ve covered a lot in this blog to help you be smart with your power usage after the sun goes down. But what if there was a way to keep using your own self-produced renewable energy in the evening? There is – and that’s where home battery storage comes in.
At Christmas time, we’re using a lot of appliances for a lot of different things – we’re entertaining, we’re playing Christmas music and movies, we’re cooking, we’re turning on our Christmas lights, and we’re cooling our home. Adding a fully charged battery system to the mix means having the ability to tap into the solar produced during the day to help power these appliances and take the edge off that power bill.
No one wants to think about the power going out on Christmas – especially while cooking or entertaining. But since Christmas takes place during the hot Aussie summer, grid overwhelm isn’t uncommon – especially as extreme heat couples with power demand from several households running high-power air conditioners. This can lead to rolling blackouts, which can unfortunately disrupt festivities. With a fully charged battery storage system, however, well-needed essentials like the fridge, fan, television, lights and computer can stay up and running even when the grid is down.
Battery storage is a great next step for solar-equipped homeowners looking to further optimise their setup and save even further on their power bills. To get started with battery storage, or to speak to an expert, get in touch with Redback today.
Don’t let the notion of high electricity bills ruin your Christmas celebrations this year. Instead, consider optimising your solar to its fullest to manage those costs, without sacrificing tradition, comfort or fun.
From all of us at Redback Technologies, we wish you a Merry and Bright Christmas and a Happy New Year.