Article: Some interesting results from a solar survey

I thought some of you might enjoy this piece on Sense from Cleantechnica.

Here’s the quick intro, but I’ll let you read the rest:

CleanTechnica has the exclusive scoop on a new survey from Sense that digs into usage and generation data from more than 1,800 customers with solar from across the United States. Sense’s analysis of the results found that while installing a rooftop solar system can make a big dent in the overall energy footprint of a home, the actual return on the investment in the solar system varies widely, thanks to a number of variables.

@MaheshAtSense helped to analyze the survey data, so feel free to toss questions his way.

Nice plug!

The obvious target for excess solar is an EV or a battery but there are easier, more universal (and more challenging) automations:

  • Laundry … washing & drying cycles don’t necessarily need to be done based on the assumption that the washer/dryer is constantly powered. I would suspect that manufactures have/are considering cycles that can match solar power ups & downs.

  • Using a freezer as a “battery” … automate ice making. On a bigger scale than a typical home ice maker this gets interesting. From John McPhee’s “Ice Pond”:

    At Princeton University, off and on since winter, I have observed the physicist Theodore B. Taylor standing like a mountaineer on the summit of what appears to be a five-hundred-ton Sno-Kone. Taylor now calls himself a “nuclear dropout.”

  • Baking!

  • Dinner parties will have to become luncheons because dishwashers should run with the sun … unless a strategic post-dinner rinse and delayed wash (until sunrise) was an available washer mode.

How long before huge super-insulated water tanks become the norm in the US??


There are more details in the PR news release.


Great to see some of the aggregated data at work!

Some questions:

  • Of the “fifth of all solar residents producing more solar energy than they consume”, what proportion are doing EV charging?

  • The lower temperature = more efficient (solar) seems like a serious benefit. Is there also any correlation between panel degradation and the lower temperature locations? i.e. Panels degrade more slowly? Is the Sense sample size (and length) big enough to reveal any of that? Something I have pondered is that a heat pump in winter is outputting colder air so ideally should be blowing over a solar array. This of course creates problems in summer mode! BUT a solar thermal array with (cold) water input circulation around solar PV could be an interesting hybrid.

  • Part of “doing the homework before installing a new system” is definitely having access to Sense-like data aggregations … and Sense is in a great position to lead on those recommendations and essentially propagate itself throughout neighborhoods. To that end, is Sense considering doing “model home” installs or giving away units? The GIS geek in me thinks that you would grid out the US and sample solar houses therein and send them a surprise: “Hey, it’s your lucky day!”.

With some smart additions to the post processing end, plus a small change in infrastructure to also capture solar production as “from grid” and “to grid”, Sense could offer the perfect what-if platform for selecting rate schedules, planning car charging. Add in crowd-sourced solar data and they could even offer accurate projections of solar payback based on actual usage…


Here is a related blog-post on load-shifting. It features @markhovis73.

Fantastic … and thanks to @markhovis73 for sharing and great to hear of somebody (in the U.S.) combining solar + pellets.

“3-4kWhr” in a hot water tank is a little sad by Swiss/German standards. For a fun look at possible futures, check these out:

I’m rooting for solar powered microCHP. The TeslaSteam?