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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Solar Panels in and Working, The Next Step is ...

As part of the installation of Solar Panels we had monitoring hardware installed. One transmitter is attached to measure our power usage and another to measure our generation. Both these send data to a receiver attached to a spare port on our ADSL line. Efergy who supply these units provide a free service which records all the data. As well as online graphs you can download various reports for analysis.

Step 1 was to change some household practices. The Dishwasher and the Washing Machine now only operate during the day after we are generating power. We are also looking at some of our refrigeration equipment to see if we can alter their operating times.

Step 2 was the assessment of our overall usage to see if our generator was big enough to run the house - it was. The Solar Panel installer will now fit a cutover switch to our meter board which allows us to plug our generator directly into the house. Rather than numerous extension cords snaking through the paddock and into the house a single heavy duty cable will run from the new (yet to be built) generator house. It will be positioned out of earshot but still close. Setup and changeover will be minutes. And the dismantling just as quick.

Each year we use our generator at least 3 or four times when power goes out. The last time was after the East Coast Low cut power for 3 days. We expect our country service quality to degrade in coming years when the state government sells off the service. The small investment in a quick changeover facility will make life just that little bit simpler.

Step 3 is the assessment of Time of Usage (TOU). Now that we have some usage history we were able to plug data from Peak, Off peak and Shoulder usage into a spread sheet and compare the cost of TOU to our current contract. Based on these numbers a changeover to TOU will give us a 14% additional saving on our quarterly bill.

Step 4 was to get the supplier to change us to TOU and then go to the Sales department and get a 12 month contract which would give us another 18% discount on the TOU rates. This has to be renewed every 12 months (calendar marked) and the bills paid on time and in full.

One warning here. Make sure you keep track of your conversations and write down the call reference numbers. We were able to eliminate a $66 changeover fee because in one call the operator said the fee was only applicable for meter configuration and not for the reading.

According to our spread sheet we have reduced our quarterly bill by a whopping 57%. A pay back period of 2.9 years on our Solar Panel investment.

The electricity supplier doesn't spell out all these discounts. It was only due to our solar installer that we were able to find out about and take advantage of the various configuration discounts.


  1. John and Jean, Great analysis of the process, thank you. We had solar at our other house but none here. Once we sell that house we will have it fitted here but the generator cut in/out is of great interest to us. I agree with you that, like the banks, electricity suppliers can be shy about sharing all the options with customers. ;)

    1. We appreciate your feedback Barb.

      Keeping the discounts secret allows suppliers to offer a better deal whenever potential new customers come around shopping for prices.

      With the cost of solar installation so low and the increasing cost of electricity putting in solar is many times better than money in the bank.

  2. Hi Johnandjean,
    I'm looking to buy a farm in the Dungog/Wingham area in the coming few months. I am really impressed with you solar system installation. I am hoping to do the very same thing after I sell my home on the Central Coast. I would be grateful if you could tell me the contact details of your solar system installer. I don't know how to send you my email address.
    Thanks in advance,

  3. Hi Earl,

    David Watson

    Electrical Contractor Lic No. 150764C

    Level 2 Service Provider, Cat 1. 2, 3, 4. ASP No. 3004

    CEC Accredited Grid Connect Solar Designer/Installer: A6673913

    Mobile: 0427 921147

    Office: 02 4995 9223

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