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My Solar install Journey September 2022

  • 19-10-2022 9:29am
    Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭

    Hi folks,

    I wanted to document how my solar install has gone from getting quotes to the install and what it's like after some time. Pros/Cons. As of 19th October 2022 I have panels on the roof but will be a few more weeks before I get it all wired up. No company names mentioned.

    Like everyone else this autumn I started to freak out about energy prices and if solar would be helpful in dropping costs or protecting against future rises. In truth I'm also an IT geek so wanted to be able to monitor consumption and look at production figures. I've an EV since July so hoped to divert excess solar to that and potentially heat the water in the hot water cylinder and sell some back to the grid.

    I'd no idea where to start in terms of sizing etc. The obvious criteria seems to be roof orientation and space for panels along with consumption. I was able to look at my electric Ireland bills and see we are about a constant 500 kw per month. My first step was to look at solar as a service as I didn't have the capital to pay up front for the system. Phoned, emailed and contacted via website and never got a response. Next I checked out the thread here on installers and started contacting them. I got various quotes from about 11.5k after grant to almost 20k after grant for approx 6.5kw of panels - a 8kw battery and hybrid invertor and installation.

    What I don't like about all of the companies is that they want a 50% deposit up front and balance then on installation. This is a significant amount of money and some installers were quoting a lead time of at least 6 months but wanted up to 10k now payment. I wondered/wonder where I'd stand if one of the companies went out of business before my install got going at all.

    Ok so i got my 11.5k quote ran it by the quote thread here and it seemed to get reasonably good feedback. I got about 25 pm's in the following week asking for the installers details which I guess was due to the price.

    The company uses Givenergy invertors and batteries which I wasn't sure about but others have stated its definitely not worth paying the premium other brands seem to be charging. When I asked for a quote they sent out a pretty detailed plan - showing house orientation - potential production, pay back periods etc..

    My quote didn't include an Eddi but they said if i sourced one they'd fit it as part of the job. I purchased one directly from MyEnergy when the pound took its recent hammering and got it delivered to friend in NI. Also got a harvii and CT clamp to go with it. Few people have said it will never pay for itself but I like the completeness of having it.

    The other challenge I had is I fitted a VW charger for my EV back in the summer. It worked perfectly but didn't have automated excess solar diversion to the charger like say Zappi chargers to. I should have listened to those who recommended the Zappi back to me then!

    I threw my VW charger up on adverts and luckily got a buyer for it without taking too much of a bath on it. My original EV installer did a really good price for me installing a new Zappi tethered which is up and running as of 18th October.

    Ok so back to my install. Paid deposit September 26th. Bank transfer of 7k.. then a few emails over and back to confirm receipt and signed contracts etc. I was quoted a lead time of 6 - 8 weeks for the install. A few other companies who have lead times of six months had said oh there's companies taking deposits and promising 2 months but taking 6.. which didn't inspire confidence.

    Anyway I dropped an email to see if there was any idea on an install date week of the Friday 14th of October. Installer said they'd pass my details to roofing team who would be in contact re a date. Out of the blue on Monday 17th roofer showed up. I thought they were going to do a survey or talk about potential install days but no - they were working on another install in the area and as the day was super windy they were only able to do roof mounts/rails. In about 3 hours they had the rails up and wires running down to where I'm hoping to house the battery/invertor.

    On Tuesday (Oct 18th) they came back with the panels. I was originally due to get 6 410w panels -10 on the back of the roof with 6 on the front. They could only get 370w panels so i ended up with 19 in total - 11 on back 7 on front. I think it works out at 7kw approx versus 6.5 so i guess works in my favour.

    So thats where I'm at - I checked in yesterday (18th) to see when the electrician would be available to install the invertor/battery/eddi etc and they are running about 3 weeks after the roofers so in theory that puts me around 8th/9th of November for completion of install.

    I was amazed how quickly the panels went up - probably only took about an hour.

    I'll post photo's etc when the rest of the job is complete.



    Post edited by micks_address on


  • Moderators Posts: 12,326 ✭✭✭✭Black_Knight

    From when you ordered, and applied for the grant, was there any other things for you to do?

    I've my install this week and wondering what I need to do for it, if anything.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭micks_address

    Don't know yet. I registered for the grant on the seai site. Put in the size of the system and the installer and that was is. I think the installer looks after most of the rest of it. They are arranging ber assessment etc.. will let you know how I get on.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭micks_address

    Here's a screenshot of the givenergy portal. Its quite easy to use. Has a section for the inverter where you can set things like battery charge times etc. You can also enter in your electricity tarrif details and it will produce daily/month costs etc - fairly useful. You can enter in standing charges, different peak/off peak rates etc. It also has integration with solcast for solar forcasting. I only set this up last week but its a pretty neat feature.

    The cloud interface updates its data every 5 minutes - the app updates from local data when you are on your homes wifi every 10 seconds or so


    The app shows simillar details. If you are out of the house it will default to 'Away' and pull the data from the cloud - if at home it switches to 'Home' and pulls the data locally from the inverter. I find it can take a while to 'lock' onto the home local settings. Sometimes i just force close the app and open it again and it finds the home settings. I've a static IP address for the inverter so it should work better but its just a small frustration. You can also change the inverter ./ system settings via the app but i find the cloud interface a little easier and bigger on my desktop. The app shows grid export - solar generation, battery usage and the flows to / from all. Battery info also shown. I have some givenery smart plugs which are just simple enough energy monitoring plugs but the nice thing is they also integrate into the app.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭micks_address

    The portal has a ton of data in there. For example you can see generation data for the day. Broken down by strings. This is from yesterday. My string 2 is my north west facing panels. As I mentioned these were largely asleep for the winter months but on a good evening now they are starting to produce more. This should only get better for the next coupe of months hopefully! March felt like a wet month.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭micks_address

    Just a bit on the grant processing. Once I had agreed the quote with my installer I had to open a grant application on the SEAI website. Selecting the installer and adding the size of the system. The grant maxed out at 2400 at the time of writing still does. The application is approved quickly but you wont get paid until after the installation, and the installer has uploaded the required information to the SEAI site along with a BER assessment being done. My install included a BER assessment but this took a while to get done. They outsource the BER to a 3rd party company who phoned me in January and gave me a long lead time to getting a BER assessment complete. I mentioned I had previously had a BER done a few years ago and could this be updated and they agreed to contact my previous BER assessor. He was available quicker. The hope was he'd be able to update the BER without coming to the house by just adding in the Solar but the SEAI insisted he visit and do a complete assessment. Prior to Solar our house was a B3. This went to A2 after the solar install which I was pretty happy about.

    A few days after the assessment the BER was uploaded and the SEAI notified me that payment was processing and the payment hit my bank account the next week. It was still a good 2.5 months post my installation but I had Christmas in the middle of it and just a bit of over and back with the installer to get it sorted. They were quite honest about it and just said they were overwhelmed with the amount of installations happening but seemed to have gotten over the rush of things. Anyway nothing much more to say about the grant only that I was surprised to see people quoting 250 to 300 for BER's on different threads here so if your installer includes one in your price its well worth having

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭micks_address

    Here's my solar generation stats from install to early March (March in general has been a poor month!) Its up to the 7th of March when my Invertor was swapped over (top diagram) and post swap is below picture

    Since 7th March to 3rd April

    So you scan see its an improving picture from December. I only went live November 11th so missing 10 days generation there.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭micks_address

    A bit about how we are managing electricity consumption

    Before I had the installation done I was already on a Smart Meter and on a smart tarriff so any discussion around day / night meters, deemed export etc wasn't applicable so for me I'm with electric ireland dual fuel smart meter night boost plan. Once you are on a smart meter and smart tarrif you can't switch back to a day night meter

    From the Plan

    Energy kWh unit rates will be charged under the following three time periods:

    Day kWh rate is applicable to usage between 08:00 - 23:00 everyday

    Night kWh rate is applicable to usage between 23:00 - 08:00 everyday (excluding Night Boost times)

    Night Boost kWh rate is applicable to usage between 02:00 - 04:00 everyday

    So what I've been doing since installation is starting to charge my Battery at 2am and leaving it charge until 8am.. It doesn't take that long to charge.. but during that time I cover the house load using the night boost and off peak rates. We also time our dishwasher and washing machine to come on around 2am each night and I'll also top up the car between 2am and 4am if i need to. Its a short period so only get about 15kw into the car but its often enough as I do'nt do a ton of driving during the week and I've EV chargers at the office if I need to be there.

    So my goal has been to start at 8am with the battery full (9.5 kw 100% useable) and get to 11pm minimising grid import where possible. For december especially at weekends with cooking and everyone at home this was tight. Sometimes I'd get to 7pm and the battery would be empty and id be importing at the highest kwh rate from the grid. Also for those months I could only use 2.6kw from my battery continuously which meant if the oven was on and the kettle was boiled and the hob was boiling something the load was at least 5kwh so some import is impossible to avoid. With the gen 2 inverter and 3.6kw from the battery possible this is better but still its easy to go over this especially if someone pops on a shower.

    EI pay 24 cents as credit per kwh you export as well. This has muddied the water a lot for me as when I first got solar I'd have said charge the car and do as much as you can with free solar power, but the fact that i can charge the car, and fill the battery at night for around 15 cents kwhr and EI pay me 24 cents for export then I'm better off exporting my electricity that I produce from Solar. Also using the eddi probably isn't cost effective but i still use it for convenience. You can only earn 200 euro on export tax free so in theory at that point maybe you are better using solar than export but I havent done the numbers on it. The export credits automatically started to appear on our EI bills in January. I know some people have had issues with other suppliers getting set up which is part of the reason I'm slow to shop around and move from EI.

    Here's a plot of our EI usage over the last couple of months. The peak usage is shrinking which is the goal. I had a battery calibration and some car charging in march on peak rakes which i couldn't avoid so probably makes the numbers a bit worse than they normally would be. The goal is to make the On Peak usage as small as possible. I can definitely see an impact to our costs. EI for some strange reason havent issued our Jan to March bill yet but I can see from usage that it would only 30 euro after the government energy credit.

    It will be interesting to see how the solar production and export ramps up during the summer. On a good day in early April I have seen 5kwh generating from the panels and my best day hit 29kwh generated and it wasn't sunny all day. I can imagine longer sunnier days producing 40kwh plus.

    So thats how we use the system. We have changed habits to load as much as possible into the 2am to 4am slot - if this was another hour longer it would be great... but the rest of night rate EI provide isn't to bad. During the day then we try and stagger usage. We try not to have a couple of high usage appliances all on at the same time. Ill keep an eye on the forecast and if i know a day is going to be good might do run of the washing machine at night, get those clothes out to dry in the morning and do another wash/dry if i can squeeze it into the day. Its funny how your mindset changes when you can see all the usage you try and minimise it... When I had the install done first I was constantly checking the app for production and battery percentage and i still do a bit but probably less.. and hopefully at some point Ill just ignore it and let its do its thing!

    Post edited by micks_address on

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭micks_address

    As mentioned in the above post we noticed in December getting all day out of the 9.5kwh battery to 11pm was sometimes a stretch. Had a bit of extra cash lying around in February and while I'm sure it probably won't pay for itself I looked at adding another battery to the system. You can daisy chain the givenergy batteries together. I checked with my installer and they quoted me 4.5k plus vat for another 9.5 kwh battery. Way more than I wanted to spend. I checked around and was able to source a 5.2kwh givenergy battery for 2k including VAT. Its important to note the 5.2kwh battery only has a depth of discharge or usable capacity of 80%. That gives it a usuable capacity of 4.1 kwh. Added to my existing setup that gives me a total capacity of 13.6kwh. My installer contacted me in March re the gen 2 inverter swap over and I asked if they would also install the battery which they did for free. So since about the 8th March I'm on the gen 2 inverter and second battery. I could see from early February the 9.5 would easily have covered my day use with the solar being generated but its nice to know the extra cover will be there come the dark months of winter. I was able to make a stand for the battery and place it in front of the existing and its strapped in place. I think I'm done adding things to this room!

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭micks_address

    Well I was almost done! I noticed from the Inverter data on the givenergy cloud the internal temp of the inverter gets close to 40 degrees when charging the battery. I was a little concerned about the temps. I looked at some solutions on the givenergy community forums and few people had put fans over the inverter plugged into a smart plug using a temp probe to switch on/off the fans. Using Home assistant I was able to add the Givenenergy givetcp plugin which gives access to a lot of the Inverter settings. I was able to add some automation around the inverter internal temp and trigger on a set of fans at a set point (Im using 35 c) and switch the fans off when the temp lowers (using 30 c) It seems to be doing the trick. I can see the fans kick in and keep the temps below 35c on the inverter till charging completes and then they power off.

    A few useful youtube links on givetcp and home automation. I had a rasperry pi 3 lying around so put that to use and have it booting from an external SSD. Apparently memory cards can burn out pretty quickly with Home Assistant

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  • Registered Users Posts: 2,263 ✭✭✭bullit_dodger

    I've similarly gotten a fan for the inverter. It looks like the main driver for temps on the givenergy is actually the charging of the battery. If the battery is full and the inverter is busy doing 3-4Kw from the panels to AC, it doesn't seem to drive the temps up as much. But 2Kw into the battery is what rises it.

    Having seen your setup, I'd suggest one additional potential improvement. I'd get another set of those fans you have and place them on the inside of the door down at the bottom air vent. Effectively sucking fresh "cold" air into the room - which will be exhausted by the top vent.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭micks_address

    A few more bits since my last post:

    Electrician ran an a new socket circuit from the inverter EPS. Originally I was going to put a socket in the room next to the inverter but I wanted to be able to run our broadband/wifi in a power cut. This was all located in the back corner of the house, so the electrician ran piping around the house to the back corner and installed a new socket inside. He had to put a 10amp rcbo on the circuit as per Givenergy EPS installation. The circuit also needed its own earth path to the existing earth rod. It has a max load of 2400 watts, but we running nothing like that off it. We did buy a 900 watt kettle just to be able to boil a kettle in the case of power cuts - and I added a Govee floor light as well which runs off the socket to avoid the usual scramble for candles/torches if we lose power.

    It all works a treat. We had it installed in May and had our first power cut a week or so later. Unfortunately our broadband didn't work during the powercut. It seems Virgin media depends on power being on in the area. I was having having a look around and noticed Starlink were doing an offer on hardware and decided to bite the bullet and order it. It was never going to be as fast as Virgin but in theory always works in a power cut. Had that installed in May and trialled it along side our VM BB and the house felt no different. No complaints on gaming, streaming or working from home. So we cancelled Virgin and sticking with Starlink for now. Siro is coming to our estate so I might suss that out in time to see how it works in power outages etc. Might seem a little extreme to switch broadband providers just to be able to have internet in a power outage. We probably don't have enough power cuts to justify it. When we do though we don't have data on phones either so just frustrating. We had a power cut shortly after the Starkink install and it was cool still to have all up and running.

    We had a couple of hiccups in May/June with the Solar inverter RCBO tripping in the consumer board. Reported it to our installer and after a few weeks they sent out an electrician and they replaced the 25 amp rcbo with a 32 amp one (as GiveEnergy recommend) No tripping since that.

    The other thing I wanted to do was level up the number of panels we have on the back roof of the house - We had 11, a row of 5 and row of 6. I was told at install they were 370 watt panels. I enquired with the installer and they said they were actually 350 watt panels and they were no longer available. We chatted over and back about the fact i was told 370 watt panels were going up on the day and they agreed if they could source an extra panel they would fit it for free. That's gone up this week, so I now have 12 panels on the back of the house and 8 on the front. Not really much more I can do panel wise.

    Couple of other changes we made, I sold our condenser tumble dryer and bought a heatpump dryer. Bought secondhand off adverts and sold our own there as well. Cost hardly anything to change. Notice a big difference in power usage. Typically with the condenser dryer we would see 2.6kwh used for at least 1.5 hours. With the heatpump dryer I've seen full loads dried for 750 watts. It never seems to use over 500 watts at any one time, which helps keep the house load below the 3.6kwh the inverter can supply to the house load.

    We also swapped out the kettle which was 3200 watts for a 2200 watt one. It takes longer to boil, but just helps keep the house load down when lots on and avoids grid import.

    The one other change we made was to extend the EPS circuit to also run the TV from it. The whole circuit averages less that 200 watts. The covers the starlink router, netgear mesh router, rasperry pi, tv and satelite box. Electrician put a spur on the tv circuit and fused it down so it can only do 1200 watts max. Again this is a complete convenience play. Its really nice to have the TV and broadband/wifi up and running during power cuts.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,120 ✭✭✭micks_address

    Here's the electric Ireland insights for the year so far

    Our bill for July (2 months) was 96 euro credit. Lot of export for June which was very sunny.

    Solar generation since the gen 2 inverter was swapped in

    Post edited by micks_address on