Friday, March 16, 2012

Statistically Off Grid

Just looking at the recent generating and usage figures, I realised that for a few days I have been statistically off the grid.

These lithium batteries are 95% charge efficient.  This means that the losses are very small to put energy into the battery and get it out again.  For every 100Wh put in, you can take 95Wh out.  That compares well with lead acid batteries where the best you can get out is about 80Wh.

Another way to look at it is that by changing to lithium batteries, the effective size of your PV array increases by about 15%.  Or you effectively have 15% more charging hours in the day (as it still takes time to charge the wasted Watt.hours of energy lost in an inefficient battery).

As I had more power available with the new batteries, I moved a couple more loads to solar from being on the grid.  These were the garage CCTV camera and the central heating system.

The central heating system runs on gas but it also uses electricity for the boiler controller (valves, fans, thermostat controls), the heating timer programmer, as well as the zone valves and circulating pump upstairs.  But it was powered from one place in the airing cupboard.

With these things moved to run on solar power, that leaves very little in the house that runs on the grid:

The main cooker and oven in the kitchen;
The instant water heating shower (2 minutes a day);
A hair dryer (2 minutes a day);
The microwave in the kitchen (a few minutes a week);
A clock radio in the bedroom (24x7 load);
A radio and DECT phone in the kitchen (18x7 on a timer);
Two bedside lights (a few minutes a day);

On a number of days, the import meter did not increment at all (it only counts whole kWhs).  So on those days, the house statistically consumed no grid power and so the house appeared to be entirely powered from the solar batteries.

But it's not just a "rounding error".  The wireless energy meter spends most of the day now reading "zero" Watts and the import meter also stops.  This is because they cannot measure very small power loads of less than about 10-20 Watts.  Below that threshold, the import meter enters an "anti creep" mode where it stops counting and the LED that normally blinks to show the passing of Watt.hours lights continuously to show that it has entered the non-counting mode. 

This prevents the meter erroneously counting units that were just a calibration error (for example it might read 5W when the consumer unit is actually turned off).
The electricity company does not usually care about this small error, and in any case, who could run a house on just 10W of energy?

So it seems I don't have to bother with running wires to the bedroom for the clock radio or the kitchen for the radio and DECT phone, as they don't consume enough power to cross the threshold at which the import meter will start to count :D

The side effect is that the energy company doesn't believe my self-entered meter readings on their web site now.  They asked for a reading for the latest bill and I gave it to them.  Then a few days later they sent someone to re-read my meters, as they didn't believe my readings!

Unlike folk who have grid tied solar, it's entirely possible for my import meter to stop counting up.  People with grid tied solar still consume grid electricity in the evening that has to be paid for.  They just earn it back on the FIT for the energy they export (usually measured on a separate generating and export meter or "deemed" exports from the generating meter only).

1 comment:

  1. It's akin to getting those 'free' mints on your pillow. :)