October 23, 2023

Load shifting solar - How to maximise your solar savings

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Load shifting means shifting energy usage, typically solar power, from nighttime to daylight hours in any way and any amount.

Importantly, it doesn’t actually mean increasing day usage or decreasing night usage on their own. It refers to the combination of the two, where total energy usage doesn’t increase.

Shift your energy-intensive tasks to during the day to maximise your solar savings

Shift your energy-intensive tasks to during the day to maximise your solar savings

Load shifting is an easy and strategic way to make the most out of your solar power system and save money on your electricity bills.

Effective load shifting makes you less reliant on grid energy and more on your solar system.

Why Load Shifting Works

At night, you pay for the power you use which is often $0.40 per kw/h + GST.

When the sun is out and your solar panels are generating energy, most or all of your solar power costs nothing at $0.00 per kw/h. So every kilowatt hour of power you use during daylight, instead of after sunset, is 40 cents less for your electricity bills.

This is a larger saving and amount than selling that same power for feed-in tariff credits.

Benefits of Load Shifting

Load shifting is the most impactful of all options available regarding the total dollars saved or returns on your energy bills.

However, this can also involve the most thought, effort or discipline to see results closer to the greatest benefit.

Load shifting is not ideal or realistic for most households if you can’t control when others are likely to use power.

There is also effort and time required to understand all your energy usage on an extremely detailed level. This makes it often not worth the payoff to many busy households.

We also understand and accept that significant changes to when or how we use power are either unrealistic and it defeats the purpose of having an investment like solar power. Otherwise, we would already be waking up at 1am to begin our washing when off-peak power starts or getting up for showers at 5am when peak rates start again.

Do less work, save more energy

So we have come up with the “Do less, Save more” load-shifting strategy playbook. This is a cheat sheet that ranks activities based on effort involved vs. likely impact, so you can shortcut your way to supercharged savings without making any extra compromises.

The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) is a phenomenon that suggests that roughly 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes.

Energy consumption typically follows a similar 80:20 rule. Surprisingly on average, 20% of your appliances or activities contribute to 80% of the total usage costs. This means there is a sweet spot where you can narrow down to just a few small changes with extreme results.

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of results come from 20% effort.

Identify your energy-intensive activities

Cheat sheet to identify your common big-ticket appliances

The key to high-impact/low-effort load shifting, is to identify your “big ticket” items. These big-ticket items are prime targets for effective load shifting for maximum effect with minimal changes.

You could buy a bunch of gadgets from Bunnings to measure appliances, although it’s usually very unnecessary. Common sense usually gives us a solid hunch on what these items/activities are.

Analyse or identify what is using far more power than noticed or expected.

Example: LED lights could be left on day and night and barely make a dent in an electricity bill. But, a small bar radiator from Kmart on all night to warm someone's feet could cost a fortune, especially if you have 4-5 of them.

To evaluate the most costly usage quickly and easily, consider the following three criteria for an activity that requires electricity.

Power Potency

How much power does this appliance require? Does the activity or appliance require lots of energy? Or does it require little to fulfil its function?

e.g. Think of the power used to run large multi-zone reverse cycle air conditioning vs. 1 small LED light

Active Duration

Is it typically used for a short or long duration?

e.g. Think 1 minute of hair dryer usage vs. 24/7 fridge

Usage Frequency

How often is the appliance used? Does it change at times or is it reasonably predictable and constant?

e.g. Is it a kettle being used 30 times a day or 2 times a day? Are you a FIFO or shift roster worker who might not use anything for days/weeks and then use it at an intense frequency during other periods?

If in doubt, the SA state government has an automatic calculator tool worth exploring.

Common appliances to load shift

Cheat sheet on how to load shift strategically

Climate control

The size/output/age of your primary climate control solution has a large impact. For example, if you have a large area that needs heating and cooling, a system will stay on and struggle all day or night trying to get the room to the desired temperature. Similarly, lots of inefficient and cheap radiators or portable air conditioner/split systems running simultaneously all night will add up far more than occasional or isolated random electricity usage. Heating requires more energy than cooling which requires more energy than fans and evaporative.

It can pay to optimise the total time of use over a longer time frame. For example, you could watch a quick Youtube video on how to use a sleep timer to turn off the system during times the household is asleep or away. Others choose to pump cooling through the end of the day during daylight savings and then let the aircon kick back in as required after sunset by leaving the thermostat at 21 or 22 degrees Celsius. With this strategy, you are placing the peak load of power consumption onto the hours with there is solar power.

Washing machines/dryers and dishwashers

These machines in large families are running constantly. If you are using hot water cycles for hours with old technology/appliances in high volume, it will add up rather high. These are perfect for delay timers to have them do their work during daylight and restrict them at night. Many savvy households manage their laundry to reduce loads of washing and/or dryer by half or more during the day.

A great way to make this work is to turn loads on with a 6-hour delay when leaving for work or school. The appliances will do the work during the afternoon at peak solar production for free, and be freshly finished before you arrive home. It is important to note, that there are a few separate dryer technologies. A traditional heat-based condenser dryer will be very energy intensive, whereas a heat pump dryer in conservative settings will typically only use 35% as much energy.

Consider that a 10Kg washing machine doing 2 loads a day in a family of 4-5 will be a huge contributor to a bill, whereas a young couple may only have a 7kg washing machine and rarely see more than 3 loads in a week. Think about it, 14 x 10kg vs 3 x 7kg over the same period.

Swimming pools & spas

Pool heating and spas consume considerable power. This includes spa baths. Luckily these are often used in summer when free power is abundant. Newer filters and pumps often come with a feature to run on chosen schedules and exclusively in daylight periods. A timer can also be purchased cheaply and retrofitted to older systems. This can often wipe a couple of hundred dollars off a bill with just one automated change.

Electric Hot Water

Consider a household with lots of people having frequent or long showers. Many homes have a secondary meter and lower tariff called “controlled load”. If this is the case, it can often seem like there is a high amount of hot water usage, but it may not contribute to the end cost as much because the cost of power kw/h can often be as low as 55% of peak usage rates.

Fridge and freezers

The bigger they are or the more of them you have or the older they are, the more likely they are to be used 2,3,4 times than normal.

Old Electronics & Appliances

Big, old TVs with low energy efficiency, game consoles etc. running at peak brightness day and night.

Rural & Commercial

Bore pumps, irrigation, Terrariums, fish tanks, industrial equipment, floodlighting, Dairy, Agriculture, Car hoists, farming activity, electric fences, industrial-sized batteries on charge

Cooking ovens and cooktops, computer servers/mainframes & security camera systems

Isolate anything that can run on a timer to allow it to do its work during daylight, and no/limited use at night without noticeable changes to your experience.

For example, a big fish tank that needs to run a water filter 6-8 hours every 24 hours can be set up to turn on at 9:30am and off at 5pm and never cost anything to run again.

If you’re looking for ways to conserve energy and save more money on your power bill, load shifting is a great strategy to implement. It’s important to identify your “big ticket” items in order to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak. If you have any questions about how to go about minimising your power usage, our team of expert consultants are here to help – don't hesitate to contact us.

Load Shedding vs Loading Shifting

Load shedding and load shifting are two concepts that are often confused. However, they have distinct differences that are worth understanding.

Load shedding happens when electricity supply is intentionally and temporarily reduced to certain areas or customers during periods of high demand or system stress.

This is taken to prevent a total blackout or system failure and is typically implemented by the utility company, grid operator or energy companies. During load shedding, customers may experience power outages, and certain appliances or equipment may not work properly.

Peak Shaving vs Load Shifting

Peak shaving refers to the practice of reducing energy usage during peak periods when the cost of electricity is higher. This is achieved by cutting back on energy-intensive activities, such as running air conditioning units or using heavy machinery.

Both peak shaving and load shifting are effective ways to reduce energy costs, but they differ in their approach.

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