One person’s challenge to lower energy bills

Christopher Pickup has given his home an energy smart make-over including solar panels and a smart battery. It is worth nothing what he did.  Claudia Tanner writes about his efforts in an article on the i news website. It is curious that there was no effort mentioned to improve the energy performance of the building envelope. What are your views?


‘Not only do my energy bills cost me nothing – I make £800 profit from the energy companies’

Christopher Pickup has been sick of his energy bills going up and up. Just last week experts warned households are facing a further round of energy price rises.

And so the charity worker has given his family home an energy smart make-over – and now not only do his energy bills cost him nearly nothing, he’s actually set to make a profit on them.

The 43-year-old has solar panels installed – for which he receives payment of around £1,000 through a feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme.

Investment paying off in the long-term

He has also invested in a smart battery to optimise his household energy usage, reducing his use of his reliance from the national grid to around 10 per cent – which in turn has brought his bills down to around £16 a month. This means that Mr Pickup is actually making around £800 a year.

Of course there is the cost of the equipment – he paid £6,400 for the solar panels seven years ago, then in May spent £2,950 on a Moixa Compact Home Smart Battery.

So the solar panels are now paying for themselves. With his gas and electricity bills having come to £1,500 a year before he got the battery and now coming to just under £200 annually, in around two years’s time he will have saved enough money to cover the cost of that purchase as well.

He told i: “I was just really fed up with the cost of the bills. We need to move away from the fossil fuel society – for the planet and for our own purses. The big energy companies don’t care. I’m keen to share how I’ve done it with others so they can stop being ripped off too.”

What’s more, Mr Pickup says he hasn’t had to compromise on his lifestyle. “I’ve got a hot tub in the garden and a 55-inch 4K TV,” he explained. “You can still save energy and money by being smart.”

Whole house make-over

Mr Pickup, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, got his solar panels from British Gas installed six years ago and signed up to a deal to get FIT payments for 15 years, so he’ll receive this income until 2027.

The Moixa smart battery can store his solar energy generated during the day for use later. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to adapt to household patterns and optimise energy usage.

This means it charges and releases stored electricity according to when it’s needed. Solar is used where possible, but the battery also takes advantage of smart tariffs by importing electricity from the grid when it is cheap and providing options for back-up power later.

It has a typical battery life of over 10,000 full charge cycles and costs £2,950 for the smart battery on its own, or from £4,995 with solar panels.

“To really make savings you have to look at your whole home,” advises Mr Pickup, who has opted for a low-energy consumption TV and washing machine and changed all his light bulbs to LED.

Research shows leaving devices on standby rather than turning them off is costing Britons £1.6 billion – or £86 per household – a year in electricity. Mr Pickup uses standby savers – or energy-saving plugs – which work with a remote control. You can use the remote control to switch off up to four plugs at once, depending on the model.

He also uses Hive Active Heating, a system that lets you control your heating from your smartphone that, according to British Gas, can save customers £130 a year.

“I live with my wife, daughter and three rescue dogs who all need baths, and we don’t scrimp,” he said. “But we are economical, and only use the hot tun when we want to, we don’t have to going every night.”

Reduced car expenses

Mr Pickup has a Toyota Auris Hybrid, which he says has brought his monthly fuel bill down from around £100 to £40.

“I’ve gone for a hybrid instead of 100 per cent electric to still have the convenience,” he said. “I’m paying 0 per cent interest on my car loan, no tax, and with its regenerative braking I don’t even need to charge the car from my system – that makes sense to me.”

Next year, Mr Pickup plans to go “completely off grid” and also install a water storage harvesting system top make use of rain water – which he estimates will save him around 60 per cent off on his water bill.

2 thoughts on “One person’s challenge to lower energy bills

  1. So true. That is why in my introduction, I mentioned there was nothing that he did to improve the energy performance of the envelope. How do we better get that message across? He is proud of what he did but it simply isn’t enough for we collectively to meet our long-term low-carbon energy transition goals.

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