December 22, 2022

4 steps to becoming energy efficient and self-sufficient

At gridX, we are all about using smart energy management to automatically and intelligently optimize energy flows to lower costs and increase self-sufficiency. But sometimes you need to go back to basics and do things the old school way. The first step to a self-sufficient home, office or – for that matter – any building is understanding the potential for improvement in the current setup.

Although it may sound counterintuitive, the middle of winter is actually the best time to check the suitability of your site for clean energy technologies like solar panels. With energy prices and volatility at an all time high, there has never been a better time to electrify assets and reduce dependence on the electricity grid by becoming self-sufficient.

So instead of making new year’s resolutions that you won’t keep, why not think about new year, new you clean energy solutions? (and with them, protection against volatile energy prices 😉). Here are our energy management experts’ top four tips to make your home or site energy efficient and self-sufficient in 2023.

1. Make your site solar-ready

Winter solstice – the shortest day of the year on December 21 in the northern hemisphere – actually marks the best time of the year to check a site’s solar-readiness. Why? Because if on its lowest horizon during the winter solstice, the sun still reaches certain spots, these locations are highly suitable for solar production – in the summer months, the potential is then much higher. 

Our Head of Energy Management Baptiste Feron recommends taking a photo of the sunlit roof surface every two hours to compare the shading over the course of the day. Giving these to a solar installer allows them to optimize the positioning, wiring and other prerequisites for the panels. If the roof is constantly partly shaded, there are still ways to work around this. 

Installing solar panels is then the first step to making a site clean and intelligent. Combining solar with other assets like batteries then allows PV power to be fully utilized. To go beyond this, if there is a maximum curtailment limit (e.g. in Germany) sophisticated features like PV forecasting can then be leveraged.

2. Check your energy efficiency

Have you ever noticed that the snow on rooftops seems to sit unevenly on different parts of a building? This has a lot to do with roof insulation. If the repartition of the snow is different, more heating is lost wherever there is less snow, which likely means higher energy bills.

To easily compare yours with your neighbor's, simply throw on a winter jacket, go outside and look at the roofs. If there is less snow on your roof, your insulation is probably worse…or you heat much more – either way it’s a reason to act. If that’s the case, the best ways to increase your efficiency are to improve your insulation, particularly in the attic or upper areas of the building, install a smart thermostat, and switch to electric heating alternatives, such as heat pumps. 

3. Choose which heat pumps suits you best

A project from the UK’s Energy Saving Trust found that heat pumps can be installed in any housing type, of any style and from any era. The only question is, which type of heat pump? 

Air-source heat pumps are best suited to urban areas as they are easier to install, so are well-suited to multi-family homes. The project in the UK found that flats or apartments are more likely to use ground-source heat pumps, as long as there is a garden or area of flat land outside. Water-source heat pumps are appropriate if you have a body of water near your house (don’t we all?) and hybrid heat pumps are a good option for a variety of property types. The short answer – talk to a heat pump installer.

The next step after this is to lower costs and provide added value through heat pump integration and control – so look for models/brands that provide a third-party interface. Otherwise, you will not be able to manage the device. A good indicator, in the DACH region at least, is the SG ready label, or you can check out our list of gridX-supported manufacturers.

4. Choose which EV charger you should get

The first major decision on selecting an EV charger is single-phase or three-phase, which is dependent on your electricity supply and the type of electric vehicle (plug-in hybrids, for example, are usually single-phase). As a general rule, houses are supplied with single-phase electricity, but this is also country-dependent. At larger sites with three phases, phase optimization is crucial to optimize EV charging speeds across all charge points. An additional consideration is that with EV charging stations that enable third-party control, you can easily enable solar charging to unlock additional self-sufficiency.

Having a manufacturer-independent solution like XENON for sites with multiple chargers also allows you to choose whichever EV charger(s) work for your site. If the site is complex, with multiple fuses, it’s also important to have more sophisticated EV charging management for cascading fuses

Make 2023 the year of energy efficiency and self-sufficiency – to not only protect yourself from volatile energy prices, but also to become more sustainable and contribute to the energy transition. The next step is of course adding a layer of intelligence with smart energy management. So, check the suitability of your home or site today and go green and smart in the new year!

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HEMS: Evolution and how to win the race
As heating, mobility and electricity become increasingly intertwined, the home is becoming the energy hub of the future.
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