Energy Efficiency Opportunities for Solar Owners (Or how to power your life for $1 a day!)

Around 14 years ago it was easy for solar panel system owners to lock in a high feed-in tariff and get a ridiculously low power bill. Or even a $0 electricity bill. Or even a negative power bill!

Today there are still many homeowners in Queensland, NSW, South Australia, and the ACT who bought solar in 2010-12 or earlier who are getting cheques every quarter from their electricity company instead of bills. 

This was possible because the various states used to have really generous buy back rates (feed-in tariffs) for any electricity you exported to the grid.

These days, of course, those schemes have been wound right back everywhere. Most who have recently bought a solar system will be getting between 3c and 13c per kWh for their exported energy.

While feed-in tariffs are far lower than they used to be, this is not the end of the world for solar owners. It just means that you have to think a bit more carefully about improving your solar self consumption, which involves shifting electricity consumption to the daytime where possible. And, of course, hunt around for the retailer that gives you the best feed-in tariff rate. If you haven’t done so already, you can check out our retailer comparison tool to try and find the best deals. There are a few smaller retailers out there that may offer a better rate than some of the larger electricity retailers.

If you have bought solar panels recently from a reputable installer, you should certainly be seeing substantially lower bills. But my guess is that you would be keen to see them go even lower!

Over the next few pages, I’ll show you, as a proud solar power system owner, how to get your bills down even more. I’l show you how to do this despite having a low feed-in tariff. And no, you won’t need any batteries.  At the moment batteries won’t pay for themselves for most households, but in a year or so when batteries are the right price – you’ll save money by not needing as large a battery system.

Can you power your family (and even a business) for a measly 30c per day?

How much do you think it should cost to power a suburban 4 bedroom house that houses 2 adults, 3 kids and a full time business in year round comfort?

 $1,000 per quarter? $2,000 per quarter?

How about $100 per quarter?

In fact, how about $60 per quarter.

Here’s an electricity bill from back when I had a 6kW solar panel system, rather than the 20kW monster I have now:

finn's summer power bill 

As you can see, the bill for my 5 person house (plus full time 2-person home-office) was around 30c per day or $33 per quarter.  Electricity charges are higher now, but these days it would still only be around $60.

In fact, if you look at the bill closely, I use less than half of what the average 2 person household in my area consumes (look at the 3 house diagrams above).

How did I manage that? Was I living like a caveman with no mod cons? Was I freezing cold in winter and blisteringly hot in summer because I wouldn’t allow anyone to use the air conditioner?

Did I have a premium feed-in tariff that paid 60c per kWh or a huge battery bank?

Nope, not at all. We lived in absolute thermal comfort 99% of the year and had – and have – most of the creature comforts your average Aussie family has. We have a server spinning 24/7, powering our office (AKA SolarQuotes HQ), a washing machine, dryer & dishwasher. Our TVs are left on standby because I’m too lazy to switch them off at the wall. And being half Finnish I even have a 7kW Sauna which gets hammered in Winter. That alone probably doubles our electric bill! Believe me, I don’t suffer for my cause!

Also, back then, I received an 8c per kWh feed-in tariff from AGL.  A rate still available in South Australia – just not from AGL.  This isn’t a huge amount and was not by itself enough to get my bills right down.

The truth is this: I have such a low bill because I combine my solar system with the simple energy efficiency steps that I will reveal to you over the next 7 pages.

 I came up with these steps by following a simple principle invented by an Italian economist in 1908.

“Say what Finn?!?” I hear you say. “I thought you were gonna tech me how to run my home for a dollar a day and now you’re rabbiting on about 19 Century Italian Economists?”

 Please bear with me – it’s worth it

100 years ago Vilfredo Pareto invented the “80/20 principle” which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

e.g. 80% of Australia’s wealth is owned by 20% of the population

or 80% of your troubles at work are created by 20% of your work mates

and… drum roll please …

80% of your electricity bill is caused by 20% of your appliances.

Now that’s quite a useful bit of info right there.

It is highly likely that all you need to do to get your electricity bill down to a fraction of what it is now is to focus on the ‘critical few’ appliances in your home that are responsible for 80% of your electricity bill.  

The other 80% of your appliances? Fuggetabout them!  They probably only make up around 20% of your bill.  Would you be happy with an 80% reduction in your bill? Of course you would!  So just rest easy that you probably only have to worry about 4 or 5 things to fix your bills once and for all. It really is that simple.

What is this exercise worth to you?

If you can get your electricity bill down from thousands per year to a few hundred dollars per year, what is that worth over the next 10 or 20 years?

Everyone is different, but here’s what it’s worth to me:

According to government data the average 5 person home in my postcode uses 22kWh per day. Over 12 months that is about a $3,000 per year electric bill. This compares to my annual bill which was about $400 (it is more than 4x$33, because my winter bills are a bit higher due to less sun and more sauna usage!).  Of course, these days, it’s a big fat credit – despite having two electric cars – thanks to filling my roof with 20kW of solar.

So I’m saving $2,600 per year in today’s money. What’s that worth over 20 years? Well, factoring in an electricity price inflation of 7% (which based on the previous few years’ increases is quite conservative) I’m saving myself over $100,000 (after tax!) over the next 20 years. Nice!

And that’s compared to an average bill. If your bill is curently much more than $3k per year, imagine how much cash you are going to give to your local electricity retailer over the next decade or two! Possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That’s insane. So enough talk from me and more action. Let’s make bill-shock a thing of the past.

Here’s what we are going to cover over the next 7 installments. I’ve broken them down into 7 days, and I suggest you action 1 thing per day to avoid overload!

Day 1: Where is your electricity going? Everything you’ve been told about energy efficiency is wrong! We’ll find out where the biggest savings can be made for a typical Aussie house. You may be surprised!

Day 2: The easiest and cheapest fix – LED lights

Day 3: We’ll discover how to massively tame your biggest energy guzzler: Space heating and cooling.

Day 4: We’ll decide if you should upgrade your water heater.

Day 5: We’ll look at all the appliances in your home that run 24/7, and find out how to cheaply and easily measure which ones suck the most electricity and what to do about it.

Day 6: We’ll look at all your ‘intermittently used’ appliances (like dishwashers and clothes dryers) and figure out which ones need your urgent attention.

Day 7: We’ll set an energy use target for your home, and find out how to cheaply monitor your whole home’s electricity use to try and stay under that target.

Don’t worry; I know how busy you are. I’ll keep this valuable information as quick, simple, cheap and effective as possible. Hopefully we can equip you with a plan to get your bill down to a dollar a day too.

Next: Where is all that electricity going? >>

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