Finding a more affordable way to go solar
Dawid Strauss is on a mission to help New Zealanders access affordable solar power for their hot water. Water heating makes up about 30% of a typical household's energy consumption, so savings in this area can make a big difference to your homes efficiency as well as your cost of living. Getting into solar can be pricey, but the Green Heat system is designed to fit a homes existing hot water cylinder, significantly reducing installation costs. Strauss brought the patented technology with him when emigrating from South Africa in 2019. The system converts solar energy into electricity using photovoltaic panels. It differs from many other solar systems in that it doesn't require a battery or the reticulation of water using a pump. The old hot water cylinder element is replaced with a heavy duty, stainless steel element that includes both AC, for normal power, and DC for solar. Three or more solar panels installed on the roof connect with a MPPT charge controller, then to the DC side of the cylinder. On average, you can save up to a thousand dollars per annum. Normally a family of four can pay a system like this back in four years, says Strauss. Nadine Ferreira had four solar panels installed at her Maraetai home 10 months ago, and Ferreira says theyve seen a difference of around $80 a month in their power bill. The monitor is in the pantry, you can see the sun heating the water up during the day to a set temperature, says Ferreira. The beauty of the system is that on winter days if theres not enough sun, by 4pm it switches over to electricity. The busy household fluctuates between five and six people over the week, but Ferreira says they have never been stuck with cold water. When Susan and David Lawrie started investigating solar systems for their Tauranga home they were motivated by sustainability. Im conscious we can do things better, says David. Five whole-house proposals for solar averaged around $15,500, with one at $22,000, not including batteries. By comparison, Green Heats relatively low entry level price appealed to the Lawries. A cost of $4500 for solar hot water on its own, and a shorter repayment time, felt like a tangible investment, says David. That was five weeks ago, and even in winter, David says theyve already seen a significant reduction in their power bill. The systems smart meter enables the Lawries to adjust temperature settings, see when the cylinder is running off mains or solar power, and maximise savings. They can also measure how much power is used other than for hot water. We now know what our power bill is going to be fairly accurately each month, says David. Weve yet to monitor a summer, but based on the weekly information we're getting, our power bill is going to look pretty good. David works as a retirement village maintenance manager, and is reporting back to the sustainability team who are investigating solar for their independent living homes. New Zealand has set ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions. This includes reducing our dependance on coal and gas for supplying power to homes. Households taking up solar plays an important role in this. Solar power for the Forever House The uptake of solar systems is helping Kiwi homes be more energy efficient. The emerging industry is also creating new job opportunities. At Ara Education Charitable Trust, Cinelle Nuku and other students are learning about solar as they work alongside skilled volunteers and building tutors to restore the Forever House as a healthy and sustainable home. Once completed, the Forever House will have sustainable features including thermal blinds and a Green Heat solar system for hot water. It will be painted inside and ou t with Resene Paint products. Nuku, who attends James Cook High, has signed up to learn more. I want to put solar in my own house, he says. Saving money is a great idea, also the energy savings. In the long term its better to pay more money upfront, and then you can save much more later. The Ara Education Charitable Trust (AECT) is an innovative collaboration creating work and training opportunities for South Auckland school-leavers. Click here to donate . Learn expert advice and sustainable building tips. Follow the progress of the Forever House as the AECT, Stuff and our sponsors turn a derelict house into a warm, dry, eco-friendly and low cost home.