Home > Case Studies > How We Saved Money by Installing Solar Power: A Case Study

How We Saved Money by Installing Solar Power: A Case Study

By: Susan Hunt MA - Updated: 3 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Solar Power Solar Hot Water Alternative

Nurse Elizabeth Neal and her husband, Martin live “in the middle of nowhere” in sunny Devon so their location is ideal for solar power.

But the Neals certainly couldn’t be described as a ‘typical’ solar power household. While most families use it alongside traditional electricity, the Neals have no mains electricity supply.

Producing Power

They produce around half of their own electricity from photovoltaic panels and a small wind turbine – and have a diesel generator to provide electricity when solar power isn’t available.

They also have a Solartwin solar panel which provides a lot of their hot water and chose it because the pump it uses is solar powered rather than electric.

Unfortunately, unlike many people who install a renewable technology, they can’t “sell back” any excess power produced to the National Grid because it would cost them around £30,000 to get connected to mains electricity.

Costs of Power

Given their circumstances, it’s impossible to compare their costs accurately against those of a “typical” house but Elizabeth says: “The costs of power have shot up and I know people who are paying up to £500 per month for their power – and we certainly aren’t paying anywhere near that amount.”

The couple buy 1000 litres of red diesel every year, at a cost (in 2009) of 46 pence per litre but it’s important to remember that when calculating the costs of any alternative power, you need to take into account the investment needed for purchase and/or installation of the technology.

“We probably use less than 10% of the power used by an average household,” said Elizabeth, “We have all the usual equipment and appliances such as a washing machine and dishwasher but we are very careful about how we use our power and are very careful not to waste electricity. For example, we’d never leave equipment on standby.”

Generator Use

The diesel generator is expensive to run so it’s important that they use it only when really necessary. In summer, it’s in use for an average of an hour per day but this rises to around six hours per day in winter.

“The Solartwin panel is excellent for our hot water needs,” said Elizabeth. “I’d say the water coming from the tap is hotter than the water you’d get from a gas water boiler unless you had it turned up very high and obviously for us, one of its major benefits is that it doesn’t need any electricity.

“The solar pump switches on as soon as the sun comes up and the hot water is stored in a hot water tank as usual. It stays hot for quite a while, although I think it would stay hot for even longer if we increased the tank insulation.”

Storing Power

Obviously, solar generation stops as soon as the sun goes down but they can store excess power produced on a sunny day in three leisure batteries, such as those used in caravans – and when that isn’t sufficient, they switch on the diesel generator.

The fact that they don’t have mains power affects the way the Neals use their appliances. For example, Elizabeth wouldn’t dream of switching on the generator just to use the washing machine. She would put the washing in when she was switching on the generator for another task such as using the vacuum cleaner.

“Overall, I think our solar panels and wind turbine probably reduce our reliance on the generator by at least 50%,” says Elizabeth.

“We also like the fact that we’re harvesting electricity which is provided free by the sun. If more people made use of solar power we wouldn’t need so many power stations.”

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Dudz
    Re: Grants Available For Your Business
    I run a small social club, non profit making run by volunteers. The Building consists of two bar areas back to back and a…
    9 August 2022
  • Char K
    Re: New Build Grants and Funds
    Hi there, We have recently bought a house that needs a complete update. We have our plans approved to extend and renovate fully and…
    29 July 2022
  • Spence
    Re: New Build Grants and Funds
    Hi We have class q planning to convert a barn into a dwelling in the countryside in Devon, are they any grants available to us???
    13 June 2022
  • Doug
    Re: New Build Grants and Funds
    Please contact me asap
    4 June 2022
  • Franco
    Re: New Build Grants and Funds
    I am about to develop a brownfield site into 11 dwellings and wonder what grants might be available to assist me in reducing the…
    6 May 2022
  • PP PP PP PP PP PP PP
    Re: Eco-School Grants and Funds
    PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP PP…
    28 March 2022
  • IXL IS SHIT
    Re: Eco-School Grants and Funds
    This app is bullshi* and the cun* that made this should die This is absolute bullshi* and the retar* that made this crap can go to…
    27 March 2022
  • Rossco
    Re: New Build Grants and Funds
    Hi iam hoping to be granted planning permission for a self build in November. The plot will be in a 5 acre plot on the outside our…
    2 October 2021
  • AMS7
    Re: Grants Available For Your Business
    My company currently operates from a small workshop space with corrugated roof and no ceiling, looking at foam insulation…
    6 September 2021
  • sludgebuster
    Re: Are There Any Grants for Water Treatment Systems?
    I live in a barn that was once part of a farm and found out yesterday that our outlet for drainage (we…
    6 September 2021