Couple fit solar panels after $500 power bill shock


Mytchall Bransgrove/Fairfax NZ

Garry Robinson’s solar panels are unlikely to pay for themselves but at least he will not be getting $500 power bills any more.

After one too many $500 monthly power bills a Timaru couple switched to solar power.

Garry and Suzanne Robinson were gobsmacked their electricity bills kept going up when there were only the two of them living in their Fairview house and they both worked during the day.

Suzanne said they bought new appliances with good energy ratings when Garry built the house 10 years ago but their bills kept increasing. She admits the underfloor heating probably didn’t help but as water has become a valuable commodity and with environmental concerns the couple decided to make the change. They had the panels installed in February and were switched off the grid during the day last week. They eagerly await their next power bill.

With an 8 metre x 4 metre swimming pool to heat Garry had installed polythene piping in the roof to take advantage of the natural heat there but found it only heated the top layer of the 1.8m deep pool.

“We knew if we did not get it heated properly it would become a white elephant,” Suzanne said.

With the 44 solar panels meeting all their daily needs at a cost of $26,000 and a heat pump for the pool generated by the panels costing $7000 the water is now a toasty 28 degrees Celsius.

“We can now run the pool virtually all year round,” Suzanne said.

They estimate their panels will produce 900 kilowatts a month on average and last year in an average winter month they used about 1500 to 2000 kilowatt hours. On Sunday, though it was cloudy, they had stored 26kw by late afternoon.

What grates for the couple is that the sun is free yet there is not much encouragement to use solar energy.

The public is charged  20.175 cents per kWh for electricity while the Robinsons will be paid just 8 cents per KWh they produce for the grid.

“I’d rather store what we don’t use considering how they pay,” she said.

The couple have estimated they will get about $32 a month in winter from the power company by selling their excess electricity. If on average they paid about $300 a month for their power previously and they get the expected return, it will take them 8.3 years to pay off their expenditure. If the equation does not include extra power generation payments it will take them 85 years to get even.


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