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Is solar power worth it?


 
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#1 clewand550

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 06:32 PM

I have been reading some threads on the cost of solar power.  It sounds pretty expensive to put in solar power.  With the cost of solar power installed, is it worth it?  Does it save you that much money in heating bills?  I really don't know too much about them.  I was considering having some installed but I wasn't sure if it was worth it for the cost of installing them.  What are your thoughts?

#2 ItsTravisxD

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 06:40 PM

If you invest in solar panels early, I assure you that you'll both be saving energy and cutting your electricity costs.  Solar panels are those kinds of things that in the long run will be super cost efficient and also energy saving.  It's always a good idea to keep a backup energy battery and so your solar panels will convert the sunlight into energy inside your battery so during a power out, you always have energy or at least backup energy.

#3 Phil

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 10:43 PM

Solar is viable today if you self install,  If you can find someone who understands electricity it's pretty easy to do.  Most of the "hard" work is mounting the frame on the roof or on your land.  The panels have pigtails that just snap together to form strings.  The only wiring to be done is from the string ends to a DC disconnect, from there to an inverter, and from the inverter to the breaker panel.

I did self install and even with cheap 6.5 cent/KWH my payback is less than eight years.  Panel prices have since dropped 30% more so if I did it today payback would be less than seven years, perhaps six and a half.

Having an installer do it, is much less viable.  Unless you states incentives are really extravigant, you could easily end up with 15-20 year payback or more.  My self install cost $22,600 for 10KW, if I did it today it would be more like $18,000.  Subtract 30% tax credit from that number.  Having a contractor put in 10KW could run up to $60,000.

Of course you can do a much smaller system but contractor overhead would be an even bigger hit.

You'll need sun access for most of the day as well.

If you are interested in DIY I can point you to wholesale websites for the best deals, and direct you to a fun tool which lets you play with different sized systems to get a flavor of how they work.

#4 MyDigitalpoint

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 01:09 PM

The cost of solar power has been always a major drawback to me.

I believe this is the best power source, but It has always been costly and opposite to technology, the pass of the time is not reducing significantly the price tags.

#5 clewand550

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 01:41 PM

Thank you to all of you for your advice and tips.  They are all very useful and helpful to me.  I am going to look into getting solar power since it seems like it is definitely worth it.  I have a brother in law that would probably be able to help us with this. I have always considered putting them in and now I know after reading these messages that it is worth it.

#6 meowcow

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 06:35 PM

These are my thoughts exactly, thank you for posting your question. I also think solar panels should become a lot cheaper than they are now so that more people can afford them or to test them out so more people can believe and benefit from its worth. I do understand why it has to be so expensive for now, so I am not really complaining. But even with its high price I believe it is worth it. If I had a lot more money I would definitely grab panels right now despite their price because the sun is really a great source of energy because it is so plentiful. Everyday that the sun shines on my house without solar panels to me is opportunity wasted.

#7 angeldrb

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 11:00 PM

I think large oil corporations are keeping solar power at bay because they would drastically lose their profits if solar panels become widely available to the public. Solar panels could be cheaper. And yes, they are worth it because the sun is the best source of power and energy.

#8 btatro

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 10:41 AM

Yes, this is something that you will see the benefits from over time. While the initial cost may be high, what you will save in the long run will make up for it. Knowing that you did your part to make a difference should make you feel good, and maybe encourage others to make the same choices!

#9 Hardison

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 02:19 PM

There are some companies here is Los Angeles who will install solar panels in your home for free. A company came to my church for a promotion. Since I live in an apartment, I didn't pay much attention. I will definitely find out more information and provide it for others in Southern California. Perhaps there are similar programs in other states.

#10 clewand550

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 05:30 PM

View PostHardison, on 13 April 2012 - 02:19 PM, said:

There are some companies here is Los Angeles who will install solar panels in your home for free. A company came to my church for a promotion. Since I live in an apartment, I didn't pay much attention. I will definitely find out more information and provide it for others in Southern California. Perhaps there are similar programs in other states.

Wow!  That is awesome!  I don't know of any companies here that will install them for free.  I'm guessing that if you buy the supplies from them, they will then install it for nothing.  That would make sense.

#11 steph84

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 07:56 PM

I think you have to look into the brand of panels you are going to purchase. If you spend tons of money on panels that will burn out within 3 years then it is just a waste. Check out online reviews and find a good panel. It is totally worth it!

#12 still learning

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 08:27 AM

View Postclewand550, on 13 April 2012 - 05:30 PM, said:

..... here......for free.......buy the supplies from them.....

Where "here" is makes a really big difference,  How much electricity you use can make a big difference too.

Here in the US different states have different kinds of rebate and subsidy schemes.  In California there actually are companies that offer a no-upfront-cost to homeowners for solar electricity setups.  Sounds too good to be true.  Got to be dependent on taxpayer or ratepayer subsidy.  (We do have a state renewable electricity requirement for the major utilities, that affects things a lot)
If you listen to some of our local radio ads, having a monthly electricity bill of over $150 makes it feasible.  $150 is far more than our electricityuse (we use natural gas too), but some people certainly use that much.

So much depends on where "here" is.

Too, there are people who have rooftop PV for other than monetary reasons.  For principle.

#13 Phil

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 08:49 AM

Mydigitalpoint,
Prices have come down dramatically!  Three decades ago they were in the $15/watt range, now they are in the $1.50 range and below and that's today's dollars vs 80's dollars!  They may go down a little from here but not by much more.  Now is the time to jump in.

Clewand550,
Here is the best site for panels and inverter's I've found.  They've even formed a partnership with Ford for installing solar power to charge their Focus Electric. http://www.sunelec.com/

Here is a great site for everything else: mounting racks, grounding, disconnects, USE2 wire, etc. http://solarelectric...m/shoppingcart/

I chose a SMA Sunnyboy inverter and it's great.  It runs totally on DC so it draws no power at night.  My 8KW inverter will start if it can generate 2W and keep running down to that level as well, you can't suck much more power out of the sun than that.

A great benefit is their "Sunny Design" tool available here: http://www.sma-ameri.../downloads.html It lets you configure an entire system and get it right.  You choose one of their inverters, choose the panels you want to use and choose the location closest to where you live and it will give you the optimal design and a performance estimate.

There are a couple of gotcha's in solar that are beyond normal wiring.  If you roof install and want to run conduit through the attic it must be metal and since it's over 250V it must have a ground bushing to specifically ground the conduit.  You can buy the stuff at HD and either a pipe bender or buy preformed 45 and 90 bends and more couplings.  You can also use flexible metallic.

If you need more info post back here.  It goes without saying that you must pull an electrical permit and check with your utility for their specific requirements, (net metering agreement, etc.).

Andeldrb,
Oil companies are doing nothing to stop this, BP even sells solar panels.  Remember, excepting the Nisan Leaf and Ford Focus electric virtually all cars run on oil, not electricity.

Hardison,
THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH!  What they do is install it for free but you pay them over time by giving them your savings.  You will pay much more over the long run because they are contractors, you will not only pay them for the equipment, but their labor and their interest.  Think about it, in order to do this, they have to take out a loan, buy the equipment, pay their workers, etc.  All that overhead has to come from someone and that someone is you.

Don't get me wrong, if that's the only way you can afford it, then go for it.  It is much more lucrative if you can swing the deal yourself even if you have to take out the loan.  The places I've refered to sell wholesale, contractors can't get much better than that, and the labor costs are not insubstantial.

#14 Phil

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 08:54 AM

Still learning,
My average bill is $75 and it pays for me, (payback less than 8 years despite 6.5 cent/KWH local rate).  That's the difference between contractor install and self install. I'm also a stones throw from Canada so southern CA would get 30% more sun than I do.

#15 still learning

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 03:47 PM

View PostPhil, on 14 April 2012 - 08:49 AM, said:


Prices have come down dramatically.....They may go down a little from here but not by much more.  Now is the time to jump in.

I think you're probably right about prices not coming down a lot more, for rooftop type PV equipment anyway.  Some more, no doubt, but not enough to justify continued delay.  Centralzed PV might be different.  

Contractor costs separate from the equipment probably won't come down a lot more either.  Actual install labor costs will likely remain about the same but maybe, just maybe the administrative costs will come down.  I guess one problem is non-standard permitting.  I understand one city can require a lot more paperwork than another, can add many hundreds of extra dollars.  I think there are proposals for standardization, but just proposals.

I'll have to review the numbers. Could be now is the time for us.

Regarding self install, do-it-yourself, while I think I might try it, some of my neighbors aren't to be trusted on a ladder.

#16 clewand550

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 04:11 PM

View PostPhil, on 14 April 2012 - 08:49 AM, said:

Mydigitalpoint,
Prices have come down dramatically!  Three decades ago they were in the $15/watt range, now they are in the $1.50 range and below and that's today's dollars vs 80's dollars!  They may go down a little from here but not by much more.  Now is the time to jump in.

Clewand550,
Here is the best site for panels and inverter's I've found.  They've even formed a partnership with Ford for installing solar power to charge their Focus Electric. http://www.sunelec.com/

Here is a great site for everything else: mounting racks, grounding, disconnects, USE2 wire, etc. http://solarelectric...m/shoppingcart/

I chose a SMA Sunnyboy inverter and it's great.  It runs totally on DC so it draws no power at night.  My 8KW inverter will start if it can generate 2W and keep running down to that level as well, you can't suck much more power out of the sun than that.

A great benefit is their "Sunny Design" tool available here: http://www.sma-ameri.../downloads.html It lets you configure an entire system and get it right.  You choose one of their inverters, choose the panels you want to use and choose the location closest to where you live and it will give you the optimal design and a performance estimate.

There are a couple of gotcha's in solar that are beyond normal wiring.  If you roof install and want to run conduit through the attic it must be metal and since it's over 250V it must have a ground bushing to specifically ground the conduit.  You can buy the stuff at HD and either a pipe bender or buy preformed 45 and 90 bends and more couplings.  You can also use flexible metallic.

If you need more info post back here.  It goes without saying that you must pull an electrical permit and check with your utility for their specific requirements, (net metering agreement, etc.).

Andeldrb,
Oil companies are doing nothing to stop this, BP even sells solar panels.  Remember, excepting the Nisan Leaf and Ford Focus electric virtually all cars run on oil, not electricity.

Hardison,
THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH!  What they do is install it for free but you pay them over time by giving them your savings.  You will pay much more over the long run because they are contractors, you will not only pay them for the equipment, but their labor and their interest.  Think about it, in order to do this, they have to take out a loan, buy the equipment, pay their workers, etc.  All that overhead has to come from someone and that someone is you.

Don't get me wrong, if that's the only way you can afford it, then go for it.  It is much more lucrative if you can swing the deal yourself even if you have to take out the loan.  The places I've refered to sell wholesale, contractors can't get much better than that, and the labor costs are not insubstantial.

Thank you Phil for sharing this site with me.  It will help.  Thank you.  Now I'm really eager to put solar power in.  Thank you to everyone else too for sharing all of your advise and tips.

#17 Shortpoet-GTD

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 03:43 AM

Two words.
You bet.

#18 zararina

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Posted 15 April 2012 - 06:49 AM

I think it will be worth it in the long run since if you already have a solar source enough for your needs, you do not need to pay for an electricity bill anymore as long as it can be used. And it will benefit the environment in the long run too specially if lots had already used this alternative source of energy.

#19 Hardison

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 02:56 PM

View PostPhil, on 14 April 2012 - 08:49 AM, said:

Mydigitalpoint,


Hardison,
THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH!  What they do is install it for free but you pay them over time by giving them your savings.  You will pay much more over the long run because they are contractors, you will not only pay them for the equipment, but their labor and their interest.  Think about it, in order to do this, they have to take out a loan, buy the equipment, pay their workers, etc.  All that overhead has to come from someone and that someone is you.

Don't get me wrong, if that's the only way you can afford it, then go for it.  It is much more lucrative if you can swing the deal yourself even if you have to take out the loan.  The places I've refered to sell wholesale, contractors can't get much better than that, and the labor costs are not insubstantial.

So true! It turned out that the company only rented the solar panels to the homeowners. It's a completely ripoff! Many people contacted the company, but when they learned of the completely details....balked.

#20 Phil

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 10:38 PM

I think my permit was $93 and the net meter was $85.  That was the total bureaucratic costs.  There was a net metering agreement, and a state revenue agreement but that was just paperwork.  Actually the hardest thing for me was wading through all the paperwork, they sure don't make that part easy.  I think I have to re apply with the state every year for their rebate.

One thing our PUD did to us is warn us rates would go up because their power source was going to raise rates.  When they did raise the bill they raised their service charge and NOT the rates! <_< To me that's cheating, I have to pay the monthly service charge regardless of meter reading, even if it's negative for the month.  That's about $20/mo!  If I have a net negative meter at the end of the year the PUD also pays me for that but at a 2/3 rate, not  a biggie since if I do have a negative reading it won't be by much.

Ah, the old rented panel ploy! :biggrin:

Clewand550,

Be sure and download that tool!  It will give you loads of information and will guarantee you get it right.  Best of all it's free!  Once you see how the variables affect the results you can always hand calculate for other manufacturers' inverters if you go that route.  SMA does give you the most options though, and they are the biggest mfr of inverters in the world.

Good luck and don't be afraid to ask more questions.

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