Solar panels are a great option for those who want to save on energy costs and help the environment. But can they power your whole house, potentially meaning you don’t have to pay an energy bill ever again?
In theory, they can. But in practice, it’s difficult for the average homeowner to install enough solar panels to power their entire home. They can, though, generate enough energy to power household appliances such as your TV and fridge-freezer. If you want to go off-grid with solar, it would be easier to lower your energy needs than to install enough panels to sustain your current lifestyle.
In this blog, we'll look at how to power your home with solar power, how to make the most of solar panels and how Solar Together can help you become more self-sufficient with clean electricity at a lower price.
What does going ‘off-the-grid’ mean?
The term going ‘off-the-grid’ means living or working in a way that does not depend on any public utilities. Taking the idea to its extreme, that means no public water, no natural gas, no electricity, and so on. The phrase is often associated with people who live in remote areas, but it can apply to anyone who wants to be more self-sufficient when it comes to their energy needs. It’s worth noting that most solar panel systems are connected to the grid and it’s uncommon to install off-grid solar systems. Despite this, solar panels can still help you become much less reliant on your energy supplier.
There are many advantages for those who want to reduce their reliance on outside sources for energy: less hassle dealing with utility companies, less exposure to pollution from fossil fuels, and an enhanced connection with nature. And if you have your own green power system (for example including solar panels) then you will also be reducing your carbon footprint, too. The question is, how much of a household's daily energy needs can solar power account for?
How much power can solar panels produce?
Unfortunately, current technology doesn't allow the average homeowner to go entirely 'off-grid' with solar panels alone. But that doesn't mean installing them is a bad idea.
The amount of electricity a solar panel produces depends on two main factors:
- The efficiency rating of the panel and its various components. This rating is usually between 15 and 20%; the more modern and more expensive the panel, the better the efficiency typically is. The more efficient the panel, the more energy it can generate from the same amount of sunlight.
- How much sunlight hits the panels each day. This is why it's important to install them where they will receive the maximum amount of direct sunlight. Picking the ideal location and angle helps here.
A typical panel output can be anywhere between 250-400W, the higher the wattage, the more electricity it can produce under the same conditions. Most people who get solar panels installed (on the average UK house) get a 3-4kW system, typically composed of between 8-12 panels. Installed properly such a system will produce between 2,450-3,000+ kWh per year depending on orientation and location. The kWh of electricity produced will also vary depending on the weather conditions.
How much of your house can you run on solar power?
The amount of energy that a household uses depends on how many people live in the house, how much each person uses, whether the house is insulated or well-built and if the house uses only electricity or a combination of gas and electricity.
Typically, the majority of solar power is produced around midday. However, for a lot of households, the power consumed often has a peak at the start of the day due to things like making breakfast and having showers. It then peaks again at night when dinner is made, the heating goes on and lights are turned on.
Graphs showing the importance of self-consumption and how changing your power consumption can reduce your reliance on imported power
According to Ofgem, average homes use somewhere around 2,900 kWh of electricity per year. So, your solar panel system would cover the annual household electricity consumption? Unfortunately, it’s not that straightforward.
Unless your energy consumption pattern is matched with when the electricity is generated by the panels, you won’t be able to use the power. Any unused electricity is transferred back to the grid to be used elsewhere. You won’t be compensated for this unless you have a SEG tariff.
Do you want to know more about solar self-consumption? It’s about aiming to get the most out of your solar PV system and to give a better balance of directly used solar power and imported electricity. The higher your self-consumption, the less electricity you have to buy from your energy supplier and the lower your energy bill will be.
How much solar power do electric appliances need to run?
Now we know that solar panels would not be able to get you off the grid completely, that doesn’t mean that having them is pointless. Running appliances on solar and saving on your energy bill is still possible. There are many devices in your home that could be powered by solar panels. According to the Centre for Sustainable Energy:
- Washing Machines use 255 kWh/year
- LCD TV’s use 175 kWh/year
- Dishwashers use 657 kWh/year
- Kettles use 164 kWh/year
- Toasters use 109 kWh/year
- Hairdryers use 182 kWh/year
- Computer Screen uses 300 kWh/year
Please note the above figures have been calculated using average consumption and power figures.
Depending on your solar panel system, you would be able to charge a number of appliances. Of course, you may make use of more devices. If you use more electricity than you generate, you would buy this remainder from your energy supplier like you normally would.
How to make the most of solar panels
Even if they can't power everything in your home, they can still provide plenty of energy for household appliances and lighting, and help reduce costs around the house. And while you can’t completely cover your energy needs, you can at least reduce your dependency on the grid.
As we learned, most households use a significant portion of their electricity at night. Solar panels do not work when it's dark outside, but there are ways of saving electricity. With the use of a battery, electricity generated during the day can be saved for your nightly use and you could increase your grid independence by 50%. Over time, this would be enough to offset your initial solar panel costs and would help you become less grid-dependent.
If you have your heart set on going off-grid, then you could consider:
- Supplement your panels with a generator of some kind. A diesel generator wouldn't be environmentally friendly but would be suitable if off-grid is your only goal.
- Using other forms of green energy. Wind power is coming down in price all the time, making this more viable than it used to be—and yes, there are turbines suitable for the average home. However, wind turbines are not always good at producing consistent amounts of energy all day every day, and they can’t be installed in all locations (i.e. if you live in a city) so bear that in mind.
- Reducing your energy needs. Switching to less power-hungry appliances, getting rid of appliances you don’t need, and generally living a less tech-heavy lifestyle will mean you need less energy, to begin with.
Contact Solar Together today
The key reason why solar isn't more popular among homeowners is how much solar power costs. Buying the panels and having them installed costs around £5,000 on average, which most people don’t have lying around.
That's why we created Solar Together.
Solar Together is a group-buying scheme that can help you significantly reduce the cost of having solar panels installed. We work in conjunction with local councils, grouping residents together from across the country, giving you exclusive access to a lower solar panel price you simply can't match if you buy alone.
We vet installers for the quality of their service so that you don't have to. Beyond that, we even offer optional add-ons like battery storage and EV charge point installation and insurance-backed guarantees for customer protection.
We understand why that might sound too good to be true. So, why not learn more through our Blog?