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How to Maximize Your Solar Usage

With electricity rates constantly on the rise, going solar is an excellent first step to lowering your utility bill. However, to truly reap the benefits of solar energy, you need to know how to optimize your energy usage. The key to maximizing your savings is simple: shift as much of your electricity usage (especially large appliance usage) as possible to times when the sun is up. In this blog post, we'll explore why using Live Solar availability times is essential to getting the biggest savings and how you can take advantage of it. Below are the key factors that impact your solar usage.

Sources of Power

The solar system your home is connected to uses three sources to power your lights, heating, air conditioning, and other appliances. These power sources are:

  • Live Solar - This is the power produced by the onsite solar system as it gathers energy from the sun. If all of your power usage comes from live solar, you would be saving the maximum amount possible on your electricity bill.
  • Solar Credit - If solar power is generated but not used, the surplus of solar power is sent to the grid. The utility company, in turn, pays back the surplus solar power through solar credits. Solar credits are available as deductions from the electricity bill if you use power from the grid in times when live solar is not available.
  • Grid Power - Simply put, this is the extra energy required that was not offset by any Live Solar or Solar Credits. Grid power is supplied by the utility company and billed according to utility company rates.

Time of Usage

The time you use power also has a major impact on your solar usage. When you use power during solar hours or when solar energy is at its highest, you are guaranteed to have the highest savings in your solar energy bill. Solar energy is, after all, the most valuable when used right away. The highest availability of solar energy is usually between 10 am to 3 pm, but it can vary by season or weather.

Unfortunately, the highest solar energy availability does not always coincide with power demand. The highest power demand is in the morning when you start the day and in the evening when you come home. These periods of high electricity demand are called peak hours, usually between 5 pm to 8 pm in the evenings, 5 am to 8 am in the mornings, and essentially the whole day on weekends. An easy way to think of peak hours is that it’s the time when an average person working a 9-to-5 is home and awake. Depending on your rate plan and utility company, you may pay a higher rate for grid electricity during specific peak hours (generally 5 pm to 8 pm on weekdays). Using less power during these hours helps you save more on your utility bills.

How You Use Electricity

Your choice of appliances and their usage patterns can impact your solar power savings. Consider these tips:

  • Program Appliances: Schedule high-power-demand appliances to function during solar hours.
  • Choose Off-Peak Times: Use appliances like vacuums, washing machines, and dishwashers during solar hours, avoiding peak times.
  • Strategic Charging: Charge devices and rechargeable batteries during solar hours to maximize live solar power utilization.
  • Energy-Efficient Lighting: Opt for energy-efficient LED bulbs for night-time lighting to reduce dependency on the grid during low solar availability.
  • Power-Off Unused Devices: Turn off appliances and electronic devices when not in use to eliminate standby power consumption.
  • Temperature Control: Use curtains or blinds to regulate heat or cold loss when using air conditioners or heaters, reducing overall power consumption.

How Ivy Helps Residents Maximize Their Solar Savings

Using utility-grade monitoring, Ivy collects individual meter data and generates a breakdown of the three types of energy usage for each resident every month. Then, residents can use those insights and friendly tips to shift energy usage to maximize their solar savings. For example, here is a comparison of two residents who use the exact same amount of electricity per month, but their savings and bills are different.

Resident A: 463 kWh, $114 Bill, and $8 of Solar Savings

  • 20% Live Solar
  • 55% Solar Credits
  • 25% Grid Energy‍

With Ivy’s monthly solar bill, this resident would receive an illustration and simple explanation of this usage data. Their bill would come with tips to help them understand what Live Solar is, when the prime time is to take advantage of Live Solar, and how that would help them further lower their electricity bill.

Resident B: 463 kWh, $101 Bill, and $15 of Solar Savings

  • 82% Live Solar
  • 15% Solar Credits
  • 3% Grid Energy

This resident leveraged the energy usage data and tips in their monthly solar bill to maximize their savings. They shifted high electricity activities to Live Solar times whenever possible, including things like doing laundry, running the dishwasher, baking in an electric oven, and vacuuming. The great thing about leveraging Live Solar to reduce your bill is that it’s not about using less electricity. It’s simply about shifting your usage time.

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