Switching to a renewable energy supplier may may not cost much more than your existing tariff but will make a big difference to your personal carbon footprint. The more renewable energy we all use the less fossil fuels will be used.
Switch to electric instead of gas when choosing new appliances or heating systems.
Think about solar panels they are so much fun!
The Energy Saving Trust has information on renewable heat generation.
There is much debate about the impact of solar energy production on the environment. A few examples are given below.
Manufacturing solar panels requires a lot of energy and chemicals. The energy required may be produced from coal and initially gives it a large carbon footprint. However, the energy used to make the solar panel is quickly offset by its use in the first few years. Of course anything you make to provide energy needs to be built and maintained. Solar panels require very little maintenance.
Solar power is still relatively new there are not enough non-operational panels to make recycling commercially viable so materials such as aluminium, copper or silver are not recovered.
Large scale solar energy plants will have ecological impacts on the air, soil, water and wildlife.
However, solar energy is a renewable free source of energy. It does not emit greenhouse gases when producing electricity. The more renewable energy sources we use the less the impact on the environment.
I admit I was reluctant to have panels at first as the cost is substantial and the payback for the initial cost is counted in years. From day 1 we have saved half the repayment of the loan each month and this percentage will increase as the price of electricity increases.
Buying the panels
What a nightmare - now everyone has installed double glazing in their homes those sales people have jumped ship! Make sure you know exactly what you want and the price you want to pay. Allow yourself twice as much time as you think the appointment will take. The good thing is there are a lot of companies installing panels so competition is high and you can negotiate. I still don't really understand the way installations are sold. You are buying a set of brand new components and an installation service surely the quotes shouldn't differ as much as they do.
Don't just rely on the bigger companies to quote. We knew the system we wanted - panels, a battery and a voltage optimizer. We were able to get all this from a small fairly local team of electricians which had branched out into solar installation. The larger company wanted to enter into a longer relationship with us - install the panels then come back later when battery technology had improved and also wanted us to change to an electric boiler whereas we felt we should continue with our existing gas boiler until it needed replacing.
Use a voltage optimizer
A voltage optimizer is something we had never heard about until we started researching solar energy. A voltage optimizer regulates the incoming power supply in order to reduce the voltage supplied. The benefits are less wasted energy, a reduction in the electricity bill and the power quality is increased which reduces wear and increases the lifespan of electrical equipment.
Why weren't we told that pigeons like to make a nest under solar panels? There are several solutions which are fairly cheap to buy. However, to put on to the panels after installation it is expensive due to the scaffolding needed. Why don't installers offer you this at the time or panels have the guards on as a design feature?
Update: We have had our solar panels pigeon proofed. Oh their little faces! Apparently they will hang around for a week and then give up. It was all relatively painless apart from the cost. The installation was done by a mountaineer on ropes so there was very little disruption for us.
Change electricity provider
Research the best export tariff rate for your lifestyle especially if you are out of the home for most of the day when you are generating the electricity. Tariffs may be flat, variable or smart and you need a system smaller than 5MW, certificates from a MSC certified installer and a smart meter. We had a smart meter installed by our previous energy supplier and still needed to change our meter.
We had our panels installed in Spring 2019. Who would have known what enjoyment you can get from them?
Straight after the installation I spent quite a lot of time in the cupboard watching the display on the inverter. Now we have a smart meter most of the information can be seen on that. It is really satisfying seeing that you are running your house on £0.00 an hour.
Another unexpected treat is to find that your battery is full and you've started to export electricity. Initially you may be pleased as your electricity company may be paying you for your export. However, turn on and appliance and use the electricity before the company gets it, now you don't have to buy your electricity back later to run that appliance at twice the price!
A year and a half later and I'm still getting daily enjoyment from having the panels.
Use delayed start timers
We are both fortunate that our jobs allow us to be in and out of the house during daylight hours which means we can use appliances when we are actually generating electricity. If you're not around make use of the delayed start time function you might have on your dishwasher, washing machine and oven.
Change the way you cook
I have a gas hob and an electric oven, if the sun is shining I won't think twice about using the oven and I will use my instant pot (electric pressure cooker) to sauté or heat up food rather than the gas hob.
I am writing this in October on a cloudy day yet the panels are still exporting to the grid. Modern panels will generate electricity in lower light conditions.
We now know a lot more about sunrise and sunset, the orientation of our house, the difference in the sun's elevation from Winter to Summer and the time the sun's rays leave our garden.
The one thing we were disappointed to find out was that even with a battery the panels will not give you electricity in a power outage. The whole system shuts down so that no power goes back into the grid in case the engineers are working on it. You can rewire a system to be able to work independently but it takes far more research and money than we were willing to give to it.