A small solar system with heavy shading

How they use their solar and what could reduce their bills further

Anton Torres

9 March 2023

Steph and her family have a small 1.5kW solar system on their home in an inner Sydney urban area. Find out how a few small changes to their energy tariff and energy use at home could help them save more.

This article has been contributed by Solar Analytics.

Steph and her family have a small solar system on their home in an leafy suburb in North Sydney. They are a busy family with two kids at school and so most of their energy usage is during afternoons, evenings and weekends. The main energy use is from the dishwasher, the washing machine and the air-conditioner. 

Steph’s solar system is affected by heavy shading from surrounding trees in the mornings and afternoons making her solar production window short – 11:30am-4:30pm in Summer, dropping down to just 11:30am-1:30pm in Winter.


Just understanding when they produce solar was a huge revelation for Steph and her family:

“We were really shocked that our solar-producing window is so small. We just assumed that we would be generating solar while the sun is shining.”

Steph has made a lot of changes to the way she and her family use energy now:

“We use timers to run large appliances during solar hours, and have reduced our use of the air conditioning system.” Read more about how to reduce electricity bills using aircon and solar.

"We were really shocked that our solar-producing window is so small. We just assumed that we would be generating solar while the sun is shining."
Sydney, NSW
A graph showing energy produced and consumed

Steph recognises that load shifting isn’t easy, but has a routine that works for her family:

“I find that even when I’m at home, I’ll still set the timers on the dishwasher and hot load laundry loads to run during our solar hours. Otherwise, I get busy and often forget about our solar during the day.”


Since Steph’s solar system is quite small and she is already load shifting a lot of her major appliances, Solar Analytics’ main recommendation is to investigate the cause of the shading and whether it can be rectified. They also recommend she consider investing in ceiling fans to reduce the use of the very energy-intensive air-conditioning. She could also look at insulating her home to reduce heating and cooling wastage. Steph could use a slow cooker during the day to use their solar energy, rather than using the oven during the evening. The other option, if it is not possible to remove the trees which shade the solar panels, is to add more panels in a position which are less likely to suffer from shading. 


Recommended Tariff

Solar Analytics have analysed the data and seen that since most of Steph’s energy consumption happens during peak and shoulder periods, she could be better off switching to a flat rate tariff (paying the same price for electricity regardless of time.) This means that any appliances being load shifted to solar hours are also not drawing from the grid during the expensive afternoon peak tariff period. 

They said that the solar feed-in tariff is not that important seeing as they are likely to consume all of the energy they produce, and that they look for the lowest rate for the Energy Usage charge. 

As a recommendation to all, check the daily connection charge to ensure it is competitive.

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