UPDATE: The Feed-In Tariff has now closed for new applications (April 2019). Find more up to date information here.
You’ve got your solar panels, you’ve got the feed-in tariff, you’re generating electricity. So why would you want a solar optimiser? Or a solar diverter? What do they do and how do they differ?
What are solar optimisers and solar diverters?
First thing’s first; these are two different names for the same bit of kit. A solar optimiser (or optimizer for our friends across the pond) is a clever little piece of kit to make the most of the power generated by your solar panels. It’s all to do with the feed-in tariff.
The feed-in tariff is a government scheme that provides compensation for electricity generated and exported by solar panels. However, given that most people don’t have an export meter fitted, the government operates on the assumption that 50% of the energy generated will be put back in the grid and calculates your payments accordingly.
A solar optimiser (or solar diverter) is designed to divert any extra energy to different parts of your home – primarily immersion heaters – without having any effect on your feed-in tariff payments. You can continue to get paid by the government, and still keep all of your electricity?
Can a solar optimiser power my immersion?
Yes and no… While the power being diverted to the immersion can help to operate the water heater, any extra power required to get the immersion to its operating level will be pulled in from the grid and incur significant costs.
Apollo GEM is a good example. It basically means that your immersion will only work on the diverted electricity and not the expensive grid stuff, and your water will only get as hot as that electricity allows. It’s possible to work around this by regulating how much power the immersion works at, lowering the operating level and producing water a little less hot. This can be done manually, or automatically by optimisers that are designed this way – the
Can I use a solar optimiser to power other appliances?
While a lot of solar optimisers are designed solely for the purpose of diverting the extra energy to an immersion heater, some of the more modern ones also allow you to power home appliances.
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