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Doing laundry when it is sunny: Households with solar panels face challenges in shifting their energy consumption

washing machine
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Did your grandmother also do the laundry when a sunny day was forecast? Now that so many households have solar panels and the electricity network is experiencing problems due to overload at peak times, it would also be better if households with solar panels run appliances such as the washing machine on sunny days. The energy generated is then immediately consumed instead of stored, reducing grid congestion.

However, in practice, people do not always do this. Naomi Hubert investigated why this is the case during her master's degree at TU Delft.

"Many people with solar panels have difficulty shifting their energy consumption to periods when this energy is produced, while this can actually help reduce blockages on the energy network. Especially now that more and more households are generating energy themselves with their solar panels, and that number is still rising." Hubert explains.

"In my research, I interviewed 283 Dutch households with solar panels about their 'washing' behavior." Washing behavior is a fairly flexible habit, but it is also relatively energy-intensive.


The research now published in Energy Research & Social Science, shows that there are various factors that influence whether or not people's washing time is shifted.

It appears to be difficult for people to adapt to technologies, such as washing when the solar panels provide plenty of energy. This is because households have difficulty monitoring the energy production of their solar panels and the of their household.

In addition, doing the laundry has become a routine activity that is often done on a standard day and time. Another point is that people who have difficulty shifting the time they are doing their see themselves as passive users of the energy system. This means that they do not feel like an active participant of the (solar) energy system.

Finally, it emerged that people are not well informed about the benefits of using energy when it is generated, or ways in which they could do so.

Behavioral change supported by technology and information

These results show that technology and behavioral change must support each other, but that this is not self-evident. It is important that we not only look at the individual, but also at the bigger picture. For example, automation of appliances can support changing routine washing behavior, but will probably not be sufficient.

Providing practical information and clarifying that households do play an active role in the energy system is equally important. Hubert says, "The rise of is a great development for the energy transition, but to prevent problems with overloading the energy network, the behavior of must also change. People need to be supported in this change. I hope to contribute to that with this research."

More information: Naomi D. Hubert et al, Do laundry when the sun shines: Factors that promote loadshifting in Dutch households with solar panels, Energy Research & Social Science (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.erss.2024.103514

Citation: Doing laundry when it is sunny: Households with solar panels face challenges in shifting their energy consumption (2024, May 23) retrieved 19 June 2024 from
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