Homeowners throughout the UK are increasingly looking towards renewable energy sources and solar energy, in particular, to meet their self-consumption needs.
When deciding on whether to install a solar panel system or not, many homeowners will have the primary goal of making financial savings through reduced… or even eliminated electricity bills.
Before breaking down some recommendations that can help your self-consumption rates, it will be useful to define self-consumption and grid independence.
What is self-consumption in relation to solar panels?
Self-consumption is the simple but effective concept of generating onsite energy to meet your consumption needs through solar electricity production via a solar panel system.
To get a better idea of how self-consumption is defined, if you have a self-consumption rate of 50%, this will mean that you consume half of the green electricity you produce through your solar PV system.
What happens to the remaining 50%, which you didn’t use, you may ask?
It will be exported back into the UK electricity grid, or if you have a solar battery storage system set up, it can be saved for later use.
The advantage of being exported to the energy grid is that you will be reimbursed through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) scheme.
Self-consumption can also be referred to as load-shifting or solar soak. They all mean essentially the same thing; producing your own cheaper solar power rather than purchasing it from an energy company.
What is grid independence?
The less electricity you require from your current energy supplier, the more independent you are from the National Grid.
Nearly all homes and businesses throughout the UK are dependent on the energy supplied by energy companies.
Grid independence provides customers with the ratio of the energy your lifestyle requires vs the energy they produce and self-consume.
Having a solar panel system installed can reduce your reliance on an energy supplier but still use the national grid when needed.
By understanding grid independence, you will understand how much autonomy you can have through solar panel installations.
Why is self-consumption important for solar panel owners?
Self-consumption is important because it reflects just how much you can be saving on your monthly energy bills and at what point you can become self-sufficient.
The higher your self-consumption rate, the less you will have to spend on energy suppliers. This could also reduce your carbon footprint as you are using a renewable energy source rather than relying on less clean methods of electricity production.
It is a strong financial strategy to make solar PV systems use as possible to break even, as described in one of our previous blog posts.
What are the best ways to increase your self-consumption?
According to the University of Oxford findings, UK households with solar PV self-consume 45% of their own solar generation on average and reduce annual electricity demand from the grid by 24%. With additional adjustments, this reduction of 24% can be increased to over 35%.
If you’re looking for ways to maximise your solar output and minimise your need for the grid, we’ve compiled some ways to ensure that you make the most of your solar system.
11 Ways to increase your self-consumption
1. Conduct an energy audit
Do you know just how much energy you truly consume daily?
Working towards high self-consumption begins with installing a smart metre that helps you keep track of your electricity consumption from the grid and your energy production.
Your consumption and production of electricity at different times of the day are critical since larger overlap implies less utilisation of the electrical grid. You can use smart meters to see what your peak hours are for energy consumption and whether it corresponds with your solar panels generating green energy.
Check to see what times of day you are utilising the most electricity, and think about how you may reduce your consumption outside of daylight hours when the panels are not generating free energy for you.
If you don’t have a battery storage system and your peak hours are at night, adding this component to a solar system may be worth adding.
Smart meters can be provided free of charge by the energy supplying companies upon request.
2. Retrofit your home for greater energy efficiency
Older homes are less likely to be energy efficient, resulting in higher energy costs, more heat loss, and increased greenhouse gas emissions throughout the course of the property's life.
Although retrofitting can be expensive, there are still several efficient and economical methods you can take to improve your home's energy efficiency, some of which we will go over in more detail later.
Investing in larger improvements should be a part of your long-term plan, as the lasting benefit of upgrading older homes can increase household savings significantly.
As you won’t be using as much energy on climate control, your self-consumption levels will reduce and come closer to the energy levels you generate through your photovoltaic system.
3. Install insulation into your home
The act of heating or cooling your home makes for a significant amount of total electricity consumption, so keeping your home at or near the appropriate temperature is a sure-fire method to lower your electric bill.
Insulation is a cost-effective solution to ensure that your home maintains a comfortable temperature for longer periods of time and that it reaches an acceptable temperature more quickly when you need to switch on the air conditioner.
Heating is one of the main contributors to your electricity bill, and by better insulating, you will not have to consume as much power during the winter months. This will mean a greater percentage of your consumption needs will be met by electricity produced onsite.
4. Change light bulbs to LEDs, not CFLs
Lights are typically used during the evening hours, which means they are usually powered by electricity from the grid rather than by your solar energy system.
Because they are one of the few things that cannot be used during daylight hours, it is critical that the bulbs you use consume as little energy as possible.
LED lights consume significantly less energy and last significantly longer than standard compact fluorescent lights.
Not only will your home be safer as a result of upgrading all of its light fixtures, but you will also save money on the cost of replacing bulbs and operating the lighting.
5. Charge any devices during the daytime
You might be tempted to charge your batteries overnight while you sleep but depending on what you're charging and how much you're charging it, being efficient with your charging time can remove hundreds of pounds from your electricity bill. Read more about battery storage on our blog post, Solar battery storage: is it worth it?
Whether you're charging a smartphone or an electric vehicle, it's crucial to consider the financial implications of your actions.
If you work during the day, consider charging your devices first thing in the morning or as soon as you get home.
6. Make sure your devices are not on standby mode
In standby mode, certain devices and appliances continue to use electricity even when they are not in use, causing them to consume more energy overall.
Even electronic devices in standby mode can download content or perform Wi-Fi inspections, making them ready and waiting for users when they are turned on.
Turn off laptops, electronics, video games, and televisions that you aren't going to be utilising for an extended amount of time whenever possible.
According to Energy Saving Trust, it’s estimated that the average UK household spends between £50 and £861 a year on their appliances in standby, or non-active, state.
7. Power your gardening through solar panels
If you enjoy spending time outside, you may be able to use solar energy in your garden area.
Solar is ideal for powering gardening tools such as hedge trimmers and mowers, which require charging or a constant connection to energy to function properly.
Making use of your daytime solar is a terrific method to fuel your outdoor enjoyment during the spring and autumn seasons when output is at its height.
If you have a sauna or pool, don't forget to run the heater and pump during daytime hours to lessen your need for grid electricity during the evenings and overnight.
8. Improve your home’s building envelope
A building envelope serves to protect the interior while facilitating interior temperature control. They can encompass your homes entire exterior building system and usually consist of a properties roof, subfloor, exterior doors, windows, and, of course, the exterior walls.
In more simple terms, the envelope is the barrier that separates the inside of a house from the outside – shielding the inside from hot and cold air, water, light, and noise.
From an energy efficiency perspective, the barriers to temperature and air should receive most of your attention, to “seal” the envelope from the outdoors just like that envelope carrying a letter in the mail.
If your building envelope is not properly secured, having gaps and small openings around your windows and doors, you will see a significant spike in energy consumption during the colder months of the year.
Older homes are considerably more likely to have gaps that need to be addressed, ranging from the obvious ones you notice every day to more serious issues such as unsealed vents, skylights, and insulation gaps.
Installing door and window seals is an excellent approach to keep your home at its optimal temperature while avoiding the expense of paying for power outside of daylight hours.
9. Install a solar panel battery storage system
A home or solar battery lets you store energy generated by a solar PV system so that it can be used at a later date.
This allows you to have more flexibility in taking energy from the grid and when you can rely on green energy produced by the panels.
For example, you can store the electricity your solar panels generate during the day and use it at night.
In fact, this is such a popular choice that a survey conducted by Which? found that 60% of people who have, or would consider, a home battery stated that the reason they would do so is to make better use of the electricity generated by their solar PV system.
10. Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS)
Although using timers to ensure effective energy usage throughout the day is a smart idea, you may not have all the information on the ideal times to use your equipment.
To maximise energy efficiency, many individuals opt to install a Home Energy Management System (HEMS).
A HEMS allows you to measure energy consumption throughout the day and, in certain circumstances, manage when different appliances and systems turn on and off to achieve optimal efficiency.
Integration of a HEMS with a Home Automation System allows people to work more efficiently while also controlling timers, lights, and other electronic devices all from their phone or other mobile devices.
11. Transition to an electric car
We know that it’s a big decision to swap over from petrol or diesel cars to an electric car…but it is undeniably the way of the future.
In fact, the government announced that: “Between 2030 and 2035, new cars and vans can be sold if they have the capability to drive a significant distance with zero emissions (for example, plug-in hybrids or full hybrids).”
If you make regular short trips or travel around town for the majority of the time, then they may be the right choice for you.
You can charge any electric vehicle through electricity generated by a solar PV system with the correct setup. This means you will cut down on your carbon footprint and petrol costs in combination.
Although you may never be self-sufficient in terms of energy, these are just a few of the actions you can take to improve your energy efficiency.
Self-consumption starts modestly, but each step gets you closer to becoming completely solar-powered, self-sufficient and less dependent on the grid.