watervole: (Default)
 When we had our solar panels installed, the deal was that we paid £5 a month and got all the electricity that we were able to use from the panels and Homesun got the feed in tariff and the £5.

I got a letter today saying that they'll be cancelling our monthly direct debit so we now get the panels for free, but they'll still maintain the panels for the agreed 25 year period.

I'm happy, but puzzled.  (and concerned that there's a catch somewhere.)

Either they hope to sell us some other service in the future and are being terribly nice to us (which is a sound tactic, but I'm not sure what they expect to sell us) or there is some other reason.

What kind of commercial sense does it make to turn down £60  a year for the next 24 years?

Answers on a postcard.....
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I've just made a complaint to the Telephone Protection Service about a solar panel company.  Telephone cold-calling people on the TPS list is illegal.  I can't do anything about overseas companies, but I sure can complain about the UK ones.

That's the second solar panel company to phone me in a week.

I like solar power, I already have solar panels.

The usefulness of solar power in no way excuses people breaking the law in an attempt to drum up as much trade as possible before the level of subsidy falls.

If you want solar panels, do NOT let yourself be tricked by some of the con men out there.   There are some that will grossly over-estimate the likely yield and savings.  Go with one of the companies that fit free panels - you know exactly what you're getting with those - and they will only use your roof if it really is suitable as it's their money on the line, not yours. 

This lot - Apple solar energy - fall into the 'lying bastards'  category.  Their web site claims "Domestic Electricity prices are rising, but by installing Apple Solar Energy Solar Panels you can generate as much Electricity as you require – becoming self-sufficient."  

Self sufficient with solar?  Whatever happened to night time?

watervole: (Default)
I've found a useful web page that works out average sunlight in different places and tells you your likely power output each month for a given inclination and orientation of roof.  You can enter your own values and look at the result.
watervole: (Default)
Take one cup of rice and two cups of water (will do three people). 

If you want more or less, just maintain the one to two ratio on volume.

Boil water and simmer for a minute or so while the sun is shining.  

Turn off the ring and wrap a nice fluffy towel around and over the pan. 

Come back in half and hour  of so and give it a stir (most of the water will already have been absorbed, this just mixes the remainder in evenly).  Replace towel. 

Come back some time in the next hour or two and eat nice fluffy rice.  All the water will now be absorbed.

You don't have to watch it.  It never boils over.  You don't have to time it exactly and it makes great rice.
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For those who haven't read all the comments:

1. If there is a power cut the panels cut out as well, because if they kept generating the national
 grid would still be getting charge going back on to it (remaining live) and would be unsafe to work on.  There have been some interesting comments with regard to batteries, but these would not be applicable to free panels as the leasing arrangement states that Home Sun own the panels and all other associated equipment and you are not allowed to fit anything on to the system.  (I thought that was the cases, but I just asked Trevor to make sure I had the details right)

If anyone does decide to get panels from Home Sun or is contacting them for a survey, I'd much appreciate the referral fee (for my fund for buying a maypole, or for charity if you prefer), so please do tell them that you heard about it from Judith Proctor.

If you'd rather contact a person (especially if you have any questions) than go through the web site, you can call Trevor - the guy we dealt with, who was helpful and non-pushy - on 07880 567 500.  He says he's happy to answer any questions people may have - again, mention my name.
watervole: (Default)
Hazy sunlight.  Generating 1.62kW  at 2:20pm.  Using around 360W, which feels a bit high.  I've only background plus the computer.

(background = fridge, 2 freezers, burglar alarm, light sensor in porch and a few clocks) 

I wonder if Henry left his computer on?  Ah yes, he did - probably downloading something.  That accounts for the extra.  As it's a sunny day, I don't mind.

I've still no idea what we'll generate when it's raining in winter.  If anything....
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Although I'm currently minus 5KWh on my electricity meter since Tuesday, I'd warn people to be sceptical of claims by some firms that you'll halve your electricity bills.  I still think 1/4 to 1/3 reduction is more likely.

That's because that negative 5KWh is the electricity I didn't use.  I suspect some firms take the total you generate and subtract that from your total electricity bill and quietly ignore the fact that electricity produced when you don't need it is no use (unless you're collecting the feed in tariff yourself, in which case you'll also gain financially from the unused amount).  I saw a firm in Poole yesterday, making exactly that claim (with a girl on the stand who knew so little that on hearing I already had PV panels suggested that I might be able to install hot water panels on the inside of my roof...).  If you're collecting the FIT, then you'll be owning your own panels.  That's also a sound route to go, but you need to have the free capital.

I'm looking at the different cycles of my washing machine.  I always use the 30 degree setting normally, but just for curiosity I'm trying the others to see what they power usage is like.

today I'm trying the 60 degree eco wash.  I've already concluded that it's not a good one for solar power.  Although the manual rates it as using just over 1KWh and I'm currently generating 1.25KW, I'm actually negative by 1.4KW.  It's clear that most of the power is used at the start of the washing cycle to heat the water.  Solar is best for things that use less than 1KW for longer periods of time.  (though I'm still saving nearly half the power used on this wash)

Incidentally, it's clear that washing machines get their energy efficiency labels for scoring on particular points.   I can think of no other reason why my machine uses less energy (according to the manual) on the 60 degree cycle than on the 40 degree cycle!

Tomorrow, or the weekend, I'll try my normal 30 degree wash and see if it's possible to do that without ever exceeding the generation rate.

I'm also intending to cook the rice for tea early today while power is still plentiful.

watervole: (Default)

The firm I used are Home Sun.  If you want to know if you qualify under their rules, see this page.  The key factors are:

Compass direction of roof.  Must be between SE and SW.

Angle of slope of roof.

Lack of shade from trees/neighbouring properties.

Size of roof - the bigger the better.  (economies of scale on installation)

It's unlikely that you'll ever get more than a third of your electricity from solar power, and it could be as low as a quarter if you're not at home during the day to do things like laundry using the daylight.

watervole: (Default)
Keris asked a bunch of questions:

----OK, how does that Owl thing show you how much individual things are using? Is it only by turning them off and seeing the difference?

Yes.  but it's advisable to do it several times to get a sample as things like fridges and freezers go through a cycle, which can affect results.  However, some things are easy to spot.  The old fluorescent tube in my kitchen needs replacing as it's about 150W - a lot more than I thought.

----That power is a lot more than I'd expect from solar panels, what area do they cover? And is your roof south-facing? Mine is SE/NW so it's far from ideal.

My roof is within about 25 degrees of south.  The entire roof is now covered in panels - 13 of them.  If you're not within 30 degrees of south, then solar power is unlikely to be cost-effective.  Yours might be worth checking.

----How do you get them to install it free? Since my average power consumption (without heating on) is around 500W that might reduce my costs quite a bit, but not if I have to pay several thousand pounds to have it installed.

Your roof may be too small to qualify for free panels, but see Home Sun  to find out.

watervole: (Default)
A thought from Alex_Holden.

If I had two sensors with logging (My current one doesn't have a logger), then I could use one after the inverter and one in the usual position and get some really pretty graphs.

I can't currently justify spending £70 to get a pair, but I do like the idea of being able to see both generation and consumption.

sky mostly overcast 3:20pm - generation = 480W

watervole: (Default)
I've uprated 'overcast' from 1/4 to 1/3 generation.  I'd forgotten that my power is likely to hit max a little after the middle of the day as my roof isn't directly south.  I'm at about 600W generation now.  (I think my max will be around 18-19KW under ideal conditions)

600W is enough for background, but if I cook toast I go well over.  I was surprised how much difference it made to power use if I turned down the grill temperature by one point.

It pays to remember that the relationship between temperature and the energy required to reach it is definitely NOT linear.


Mar. 22nd, 2011 12:26 pm
watervole: (Default)
I'd describe the sky right now as overcast.  The sky is pretty much covered, but it isn't rain clouds.

Generation at 520W at 12:30  (of which I'm using 200W)

As I get a feel for maximum generation at different times of day and what fraction cloud cover knocks off, I'll probably be able to predict what to expect.  For a very rough figure, I'd say that 'overcast' reduces power generation to around a quarter of 'full sun'.  But at this time of day, a quarter is still enough to cover my consumption.
watervole: (Default)
It's about 8:30am with light cloud.  We're generating 350W at the moment, which is more than we're using.  It was already running around 200W when Richard got up at 7am.

Last night, we hit the point where we were using all we generated around 5:30 (apart from cooking tea which is obviously a higher load) and power generation went to zero around 6pm.

I imagine the real test of the system will be on days with heavy cloud.  And days are much shorter in winter, of course.

We had 13 panels installed, which is the maximum the roof can take.  The economics are very clear on this.  If you're going to have panels at all, you should have as many as you can take.  There's a large fixed cost for things like erecting scaffolding and installing the inverter - to spread the fixed costs over as many panels as possible makes clear sense.  It would not be easy to add more panels at a later date as you'd have to put scaffolding up again.

The interesting question is how much of our electricity usage can be shifted into the daytime.   Washing and vacuuming are obvious ones, but I'm wondering about cooking - which is the really heavy drain on any electricity system (apart from kettles and electric showers).

We don't have an electric shower, but if we did, I'd be showering in the daytime from now on.

I see some possibilities with regard to cooking.  It may be possible to cook things like potatoes earlier in the day and reduce the amount that needs to be cooked in the evening.  (though anyone can save a lot on cooking this kind of thing by using towels on the hay box principle.  Bring your spuds/stew/whatever to the boil and simmer for a few minutes, then turn off the ring, cover the pan/casserole with some thick, fluffy towels and come back when you want to eat it and it will be cooked though, still warm, and never burnt)
watervole: (Default)
Interesting to see the difference that the angle of the sun in the sky makes.  it's getting towards 4om now and generation has fallen to around 1.3KW - which is still far less than the 300W I'm actually using, but you can see the pattern.

Electricity use will rise a bit in the evening with lights switched on and more computers in us (though it's surprising what a difference it makes if you get serious about switching off lights in rooms you're not actually in).

It will be interesting to see how much difference clouds make.  If a cloudy day can still manage 2-300W, then it will be really useful.

Incidentally, if anyone is interested, this is the monitor that I'm carrying around the house with me to view the net electricity generation/consumption.  It's a remarkably handy little gadget.  I've been using it for a month or two and not only does it give me a good feel of which appliances use how much electricity, I find that now I'm used to the normal patterns, I can often spot when things have been left switched on elsewhere in the house.

At low readings during the day, I'll now find it tricky to tell difference between a small gain and a small loss solar electricity-wise, but I'm sure I'll get used to it.  I can always go and look at the solar reading in the meter cupboard if I really want to know.

watervole: (Default)
It's 1:30pm and the workmen have already finished.  It's a sunny day and my electricity meter is currently running backwards (the electricity company will be along in a few weeks to install a new meter).

The scaffolding will come down today or tomorrow.

This seems like a very good time to do some laundry, while the sun is shining and I'm generating at around 1.8KW. 

My little portable energy monitor shows current through the wire - it can't tell direction, so it shows the net flow.   It's showing 1.5KW, though the little meter the solar people installed in my meter cupboard is showing 1.8KW as that is the generation figure.  I typically use 2-300W during the day when I'm not using anything beyond the computer and the freezers.
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Initial photos are here showing the workmen on the roof and the electrician in the loft.

watervole: (Default)
Apparantly the 'tags' are no longer physical.  They're stored on a computer record.  So, the problem was quickly resolved and there's now men working on my roof.
watervole: (Default)
10am.  The people to install the panels have arrived.  There's a small snag, the men who installed the scaffolding on Friday for them to reach the roof didn't leave a tag to show it had had its safety inspection.  Don't yet know how this will work out.
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The electrician was here bang on the dot of 8am (they said people would arrive between 8 and 10am).

He's working away fitting something called an 'inverter' in the loft.  There are things happening in the cupboard with the electricity meter and there's a small hole in the back of my built-in wardrobe (because that's the wall where several pipes go up, so it's an easy place to feed wires between floors) which I assume will connect in some manner to where a light switch is currently dangling free on the floor directly below on the other side of the meter cupboard..

He got here before Richard left for work, so Richard was able to give him a quick guide to useful access points for wiring.

Not much useful that I can do, so I'm just staying out of the way.
watervole: (Default)
We're having solar panels fitted by Home Sun.

The scaffolding went up yesterday and the panels are due to be installed on Monday.  Richard's busy clearing the loft today so that they'll have access.

This is one of these schemes whereby we get the panels fitted for free.  We get the electricity, but Home Sun get all the feed in tafiffs, etc.  We pay them £5 a month for maintenance of the panels (if our roof was big enough to take 16 panels, then there would be no maintenance charge).

I'm expecting us to come out ahead by at least a fiver a month, but I'll let you know how it works out over time.  I'm intending to do sensible things like only using the washing machine when the sun is shining (which is handy for drying in any case).

I'm going for the free panel option for two reasons.  1.  We couldn't afford to buy panels at present.  2.  As the company makes its profit from the subsidy on the electricity we produce, they have a clear motive to only install panels if they can make a profit.  In other words, they won't sell us panels unless our roof is suitable and it's in their interests for the panels to work well for many years.
watervole: (Save the Earth)
According to this study, the payback time in energy costs for solar panels on roof tops is around 4 years.  However, I'm not sure what latitudes they're considering. (and I'm not sure of the date either)

This summary of research from the Centre for Alternative Technology estimates that even in Europe, the carbon footprint of photovoltaic panels is about a tenth of producing electricity by other means.  (assuming a 25-30 year lifespan of the panels)

Factors influencing the results include the carbon cost of mountings for panels (which used to be higher when aluminium was the main metal used), the energy mix in the country you live in - the carbon saving is greater if your country burns a lot of coal, carbon cost of labour and maintenance, energy losses in distribution, the carbon cost of making the glass panels, etc. 

(There's also interesting details of reductions in heavy metal pollution if you follow this link here.)

In short, I'm feeling a lot more positive about solar panels than I used to.  (But I still think roof-mounted wind turbines are useless)

There are still issues of whether the electricity is produced at times of day when it is useful, but I think they may well be useful overall - especially if battery technology continues to improve.


watervole: (Default)
Judith Proctor


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