A homeowner’s experience of solar and battery

Last year, Stephen and Zoe installed MCS-certified solar panels and a battery storage system in their Telford home.

MCS Homeowners experience of solar and battery

One year later, we caught up with Stephen to discuss the impacts of these green upgrades on their lifestyle and household, highlighting the benefits and changes brought about by this move towards sustainable living.

Why did you want to install solar panels and battery storage in your home?   

Making the move to renewable energy has been a longstanding goal for us. We wanted to ‘grow’ our own energy, partly to cut down on our energy bills but also to show our grandchildren that we’re doing our bit for the planet.  

How has your first year living with solar panels and battery storage been?  

Our experience has been really positive! Both systems have operated smoothly without any issues, and they’ve provided us with around two-thirds of our electricity. This has significantly decreased our energy bills, and we’ve also been able to earn money by selling the surplus electricity generated from our solar panels (and stored through the battery storage) back to the national grid through our supplier.   

Performance during spring and summer

Your systems were installed at the start of spring. How did they perform during spring and summer?   

We were very impressed. In spring and summer almost all of our electricity came from our solar panels – in fact, within the first six months we generated more electricity (around 3,000 kWhrs) than we use in an entire year. We also noticed that, apart from just a handful of days, the battery system was providing us with all our energy at night during those months, which was really encouraging to see.   

What about during the colder months?  

I was a bit worried about how well our system would hold up in the colder weather. But when I checked the numbers, I was happy to see that even though we didn’t make as much solar power as in the sunnier months – only about a third as much – we still generated over half of what we needed, and even, at times, sold extra electricity back to the grid.  

What made you install battery storage alongside your solar panels?  

Installing battery storage with our solar panels has been a real game-changer. It lets us use more of the renewable energy we generate by storing it, meaning we don’t need to buy as much electricity from the grid. This not only saves us money on our electricity bills but also helps us do our bit for the environment and reduces stress on the grid.  

The best part is the battery’s flexibility, allowing us to sell our extra electricity back to the grid. In the future, with the new electricity tariffs that are set to be introduced, we can sell more power when prices are high and (even if it isn’t sunny) we can charge the battery up when electricity rates are lower. It’s like having a little energy bank at home, helping us get the most out of our system while keeping costs down.  

Most surprising about the technology

What’s been most surprising about the technology?  

I think the most surprising—and welcome—part of our experience has been the electricity generated by our solar panels during the colder and darker months. In that six-month period, we were still able to produce more than half of the electricity we used. The other equally pleasant surprise was just how many nights we ran without taking any power from the grid.  

What is the best part of living with solar panels and battery storage?   

One of our favourite things is how low maintenance they are – quietly doing their job in the background without needing much attention. It’s easy to monitor performance, as the app on my phone has a simple dashboard that shows how much solar energy we’re producing, how much energy we’re using as a household and the battery charge percentage. While you don’t have to check it all the time (although we often do!), it’s really rewarding to see the positive impact we’re having on the environment and our energy bills. And it’s always a nice feeling to receive payments for the extra power we sell back to the grid.  

Has your lifestyle or behaviours at home changed since living with the technologies?  

Our electricity usage hasn’t really changed, but we’ve definitely become more aware of how we use power, making little tweaks here and there to get the most out of the technologies. For example, if our battery charge is running low – around 15% or less – but the weather is sunny, we might hold off putting on the washing machine to give the battery a chance to recharge a bit more.  

We’re also more careful about using devices that use a lot of power at the same time, as this can overload the system, and we might end up needing to buy extra power from the grid. For example, we try not to do the ironing whilst the electric oven is on for dinner! It’s not always easy to coordinate perfectly, but most of the time our battery handles our power needs.  

Getting advice before taking the plunge

If you’re thinking about getting a battery storage system for your home or business, there’s lots of helpful information out there to guide you. Solar Energy UK, Energy Savings Trust, and your energy provider can offer great advice.

MCS-certified contractors can also advise you on what technology may be right for your home, helping you make an informed decision. In our case, Craig and Bernie, from MCS-certified contractor Craig Michael Renewables, were brilliant. They carried out a full home survey and discussed options with Zoe and me about which technologies would be most suitable for our home. Three months later, work commenced, and our solar and battery installations were completed within a few days.