Hugh and Robyn Gourlay say lower electricity costs and doing something good for the country are two great reasons to install solar panels, especially when building a new home.
“Our main motivating factors were to build a greener house and to look to the future,” Robyn says.
They are also seeing significant savings in their monthly energy costs. Hugh and Robyn do not know what their energy usage would have been without solar, but their bills are consistently lower than their previous house.
“In our last house, in the winter, our power bills would get up to $250 or nearly $300,” Robyn says.
Hugh says there was a drop in generation throughout winter and their highest monthly bill last winter did reach $280. But either side of that month, the bills were about $150 – about $100 less than previous years. During summer, their monthly electricity costs have fallen to less than $30.
“Even if you get six months of really good, cheaper bills, I think it is worth it,” Robyn says.
Hugh also notes that they are still learning how to maximise their system. He is sure they will be better at reducing their grid usage next winter.
“We will get a bit smarter. We are still getting used to the house and the power usage.”
The main way they check their solar performance is through the electricity bills from their retailer.
“When we first got the system, we were forever looking to see how much we were producing and whether it was going to the grid. But we don't do that so much now.”
Install When Building
A year after moving to Te Whāriki, Lincoln, the Gourlays are still excited about their 4.8 kW solar system.
They had wanted solar panels at their old home, seeing them as a practical way to reduce household costs and support environmentally-friendly generation in Aotearoa.
“We really wanted it, but it never happened,” Hugh says of their former house in Christchurch. They were determined to make the most of the opportunity when building their new home.
“When you are building, the cost of solar is only a small portion of the overall cost,” Robyn says.
Hugh says the home was not specifically designed to accommodate panels. But the installers, World Solar, found plenty of room for the 4.8 kW system of 12 Trina Solar panels on a north-facing section of roof.
“We might have got two more on, but we decided 12 was enough.”
Hugh and Robyn bought a Nissan Leaf electric vehicle a couple of years ago. An additional investment in a Solar Edge EV charger to use their panels’ output has proven their best source of savings.
“If I think about our power bill and running our electric car, we are saving thousands compared to if we hadn't done it,” Robyn says.
Hugh says initially, they generally charged it overnight using a cheaper rate from their electricity retailer, Genesis. But, as they became more comfortable with the car’s range, they began relying on charging after work and on their days off.
“The EV charger is a really cool idea, and we have certainly got better at charging it up.”
Maximising The Benefits Of Solar
Robyn believes most households would benefit from solar.
“If there is a way you could have solar, your weekly costs would be so much better. When I think about our power bill and running an electric car, we are saving thousands compared with if we hadn’t done it.”
She notes it is easy to use the timers on appliances such as dishwashers to run in the middle of the day. They are also trying to maximise consumption on the sunniest days.
“We probably do look at the weather forecast more to get a bit of an idea of that. And if you do the washing today or wait to put it on tomorrow, it doesn't matter,” Robyn says.
The house is built to a highly efficient HomeStar six rating. However, Hugh and Robyn were surprised the solar, and the rainwater storage they also installed, did not count toward the rating.
They believe these features should be encouraged more for new builds by the government and councils.
“Now you have to put in double-glazing, whereas when we built last time, it was an added feature.”
They say the My Solar Quotes website made finding the right system and installer for them easier.
Christchurch company World Solar dealt with the builders and completed the work in a day.
“They gave good advice and had good follow-up,” Hugh says.
They are also delighted with the modern design of the Trina solar panels which blends with the roof.
“The panels are not obvious,” Hugh says. “They're not highlighted with a silver edge. They are completely jet black.”
He encourages anyone considering solar to do it, especially when building a new home.
“It is a good feeling knowing you are doing something good for the country, yourself, and the environment, as well as seeing and following and managing your power usage.”
If you are interested in going solar, get your 3 free quotes from My Solar Quotes today.