Saving thousands; being carbon neutral and, not burning coal when I need grid electricity.

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Being a geek is interesting. Being an environmentalist is interesting. At present, the two are intersecting as I am learning a bit about electricity and its use. For me, it is about not burning coal and saving money – in that order. Don’t get me wrong, saving money is good! But doing my bit to save the planet is even better. 

I own a house with 3.5 kilowatt of solar panels on the roof which pretty much powers the house when the sun is up. After buying the house, I had a 5.6 kilowatt battery installed. This runs the house when it is cloudy and or at night. I have solar on the roof for hot-water, gas for cooking and a fireplace. I also have one air-con unit and a car charger for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV SUV Hybrid. The air-con and car pull power from the grid.

I still get a bill each month but it is a third to a half of being totally on the grid and my payback is about four years. But best of all, no coal is burned to give me grid when I need it as I get renewable power. So my house is ‘carbon neutral’ in energy consumption. This is what I wanted. I also get a few bucks each month for putting excess power back into the grid but that’s a story for another day.

My bill is about A$150 (US$120) a month – which includes $50 a month grid connection (whether I like it or not) and $100 a month for heating, cooling, charging the car or other things requiring grid power. But the grid power comes from “Green Power“. The $50 I pay in electricity for the car a month is offset by about $200 a month in petrol savings.

With the house and the car, I think I am saving about A$3,600 a year. And here’s where the geeking kicks in, I can monitor all from the my computer or iPhone and iPad!

So what have I learned over the last 12 months:

(1) If you are not using stuff – don’t leave it on. For example, I had an old energy hungry bar fridge to keep bottled water cool which I used rarely. It is now turned off and I run just one fridge. Check what you leave on!

(2) Schedule when you use stuff. Look at when you get charged. I am with Enova Energy and I studied their price list (see below). In short – during the peak – Monday to Friday 7 am to 10 pm – I pay double. Between 10 pm and 7 am and on weekends, I pay half. So, I wash clothes before 7, run the dishwasher when I go to bed and do other energy intensive things during the weekends

(3) Understand what costs you money. I used an electric kettle at 3 this morning – look at the spike! (see graphic below) I normally use gas to heat water but was lazy. But now I know! I also had disk drives and so forth backing up during the day. They now run twice a week rather than every day in early hours of the morning. It all adds up.

(4) Shop around and get a better deal. I am with Enova – a community owned company based in Byron Bay.  They appear much cheaper than the big multi-nationals and you get personal service with nice people.

Finally, to ensure I live a ‘carbon neutral’ life, I buy off-sets for all of my personal carbon consumption. The per capita carbon consumption of each Australian is 20 plus tonnes a year. Just like you can pay an extra dollar or two for carbon credits for flights, I am doing the same for my whole consumption a year. That costs me about $200 and I do this through the the Southpole Group.

So, I am where I want to be – saving thousands every year; not buying coal and living a carbon neutral life…..and geeking out. It can be done!

Snapshot of 12 hours on the battery and sun

  • Purple is the charge level in the battery
  • Green is consumption
  • Orange is pulling form the battery
  • Blue is energy from the sun
  • Grey is pulling form the grid

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What I am collecting and consuming at 11.30 am

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Enova price list

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Resources

My infrastructure provider

Grid provider

My system

Off-sets


Editor’s Note: I have no commercial association with any of the companies mentioned in this post.