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Anyone use solar panels for your home?

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by jp3975, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. jp3975

    jp3975

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    I know its got to be pricey to have enough panels to power your home.

    My questions:

    Is it worth it?

    What kind of maintenance needs to be done?

    Does homeowners cover it should something happen in a storm? Or any other sort of malfunction?

    How long is the warranty? And what can you expect a panels lifespan to be?
     
  2. superspud

    superspud Ninja

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    Not to the extent that you're talking about but I have (a) solar panel.

    Had a solar power vent fan installed on my roof to keep my attic cool. I can honestly say its the best purchase I've made for my house thus far. $1200 installed and it's literally cut my electric bill by 1/3rd every month, actually 1/2 last month compared to last year without it.

    Attic breeze. Not hooked up to my electric system at all. Automatically turns on at anything above 70 and moves a TON of air.


    Sorry for the thread hijack, just happy with my fan :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2012

  3. USMCsilver

    USMCsilver Boat Life ©

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    I intalled a solar vent in my old house. Amazing difference.

    Wish I could afford $20,000.00 for a solar power set-up, but then I'd have to cut down my trees which offer about 95% shade. :)
     
  4. Atlas

    Atlas transmogrifier

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    Start with solar water heating...
    Much more practical / cost-effective for now.

    When you use solar to heat water you're using that energy just as it falls from the sky, as heat. That means there's no conversion to another form (as to electricity, with photovoltaic panels) so you don't suffer the conversion losses.
    (There are other losses of course, as in storage and retrieval, but still....)

    The technology and products available for domestic solar water heating have come a long way in recent years.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2012
  5. Glock20 10mm

    Glock20 10mm Use Linux!

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    Yup... off grid solar here. While my primary system is still being built (I am doing it myself) it's worth it too me. But I am in extenuating circumstances as well.

    1. DON'T SKIMP ON QUALITY! Seriously, you pay up front but it's worth it. Inverters are one area, but pretty much all components need to be top quality to ensure long reliable service.

    2. Good quality panels will run you about $1.20 - 3.00 a watt. This is where things get "complicated" and confusing. I am working on a blog to help newbies out and I still have some entries to make.

    3. Good quality panels come with a 10 year minimum warranty and are expected to still produce 80% of their capacity after 25 years. This is not always true, as with anything some will last longer others not so much.

    4. You have to decide what kind of system you want, grid tie, off grid, hybrid. Once you do that then you need to evaluate your consumption as well as your electrical appliances. Living off grid means I have to be more aware of my power use and on top of that I need to have the most efficient components possible.

    A huge mistake a lot of people make getting into solar is continuing to live as they always have. Sure you can do it... but it will cost you $$$ to build a system that will meet your lifestyle. Then you have the naysayers that come in and tell you that you have to give up all your comforts and that's BS, you don't.

    Hell you can reduce your electric bill by simply being more proactive in conservation and identifying energy intense items and either replacing them with newer more efficient models OR putting them on a breaker (usually a power strip will work fine) so you can isolate them from your electrical load when not in use.

    That above statement brings me to ghost loads, or phantom loads. You all have them. Your VCR, DVR, DVD, TV, PC, Laptop, Clocks, microwaves... the list goes on. But it it's plugged in it's probably drawing power. Not much but when in the world of conservation every watt counts. Kind of like ultra light back-packing where every ounce counts.

    Determine which loads NEED to remain powered and then the ones that don't... put on a breaker or switch to isolate them completely.

    5. Maintenance is simple, if you don't have batteries it''s really simple. Once a year, or more if you are in a dusty area, use your garden hose and wash the panels down. Done.

    If you are grid tied then all the components that are related to the grid side are the responsibility of the controlling entity. Generally people will hire a company to install their system and that company will be responsible for the inverters and load distribution assembly.

    If you are off-grid like I am, then I have to check my batteries about once a month to make sure the water levels are fine. Also to ensure they are being cycled properly. Depending on your system design you may have to run your generator once every 2-3 months to perform a maintenance action called desulfinization. Basically your generator over drives your batteries to clean the plates. It's the easiest way to describe what is going on.

    If you are like me then you will design the system so that theoretically you will never NEED to run your generator for power production. We are building a hybrid system, anyhow during the summer months... I don't need my generator for the small array and the big one that's going up now... if I had designed it correctly and the components all work as advertised... then I should only need to run my generator once or twice during the winter.

    Other maintenance includes cleaning cooling fans and ducts on your inverters and ensuring connection integrity on your wiring and charge controllers. Some of the higher end and larger capacity charge controllers also have cooling fans associated with them.

    Bottom line is going solar is empowering as you are no longer beholden to a corporation or an aging power grid. But you have to really like the independence. I enjoy clean and quiet power every day... and the only regret I have is not having enough capital up front to build the final system we will need for the big house.
     
  6. jp3975

    jp3975

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    I thought Id hear from you. How did the situation with your property go where you found out you owed quite a debt...if you dont mind me asking?

    When I asked if it was worth it...I mean, how long will it take to pay for itself on average? I know that depends on how much you pay on the electric bill and how much you've spent on the panels, but an example would be great if you've got one.

    If I do it, Id want to still be hooked up to Entergy. Ive heard people talk about producing excess energy and getting money back from the power company. That would be nice. I spend a fair amount of time away from home, so there's potentially a lot of time no more than the fridge would have to take electricity.

    What brands would you recommend?

    As for the other posters, thanks for the input. I hadnt even thought of a solar attic fan. Are they that much better than a typical vent that spins with the wind?
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2012
  7. USMCsilver

    USMCsilver Boat Life ©

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    If the sun is on, it is on. :wavey: (IIRC, there was a thermostat that could be set.)
     
  8. Ian Moone

    Ian Moone

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  9. Glock20 10mm

    Glock20 10mm Use Linux!

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    On the property note... we have a deal in the works right now that would save the property, reduce our monthly payment and consolidate our debt. The deal is a very wealthy friend of hers is offering to consolidate our debt at 4%. Personally I am leery of it as mixing friendship and money of this scale is risky. But if things work out then it should be smooth sailing and I will be able to assume full control of all finances... which means shyte will get done right.

    Payback averages 10-15 years... but that's dependent on several factors. I am not familiar with Entergy and would have to look them up, but I am assuming that's your power company.

    There are so many manufactures out there it's hard to say who is the best, but anything from Helios, Kyocera, Mitsubishi, Sanyo and you will be doing well as far as panels. Inverters Outback is king right now although Trace Xantrex is very good as well. Magnum Research has good stuff as well.

    As for getting money back for excess production, that doesn't happen anymore. Instead the power company will credit your account, and how that works is you have a credit that you will consume before receiving a bill. So if you produced 10kWh of power in excess... this is power you fed back into the grid, then you would have 10kWh of credit so lets say your production dropped and you used 11kWh of power from the utility... then you will only pay for 1kWh of consumption.

    For more details on that side you would really need to talk to your utility company.
     
  10. Restless28

    Restless28

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    I would love to go solar as a backup for some systems or as a water heating device on a modest budget. TSP has some interesting info on this, and I'm happy to see it in discussion here.
     
  11. yipchoy

    yipchoy

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    Hi,
    we went solar ab out 45 days ago. Our system consists of 24, 230w - 17.3 square foot panels, inverters and a solar powered attic fan. It is guaranteed to produce 20+ kwh per day weather permitting of course. We leased the system for 13k for the 20 year period and I paid all up front since I had the cash at the time.

    I believe that according to a couple of very creditable sources that my past and current electricity consumption has been vastly stated. Both independent sources indicate that my average usage per day for this part of the country for a house with 5 ton AC unit should be approximately 5kwh per day. But our smart meter says that we have consumed as little as 21 kwh per day in the dead of Houston winter to as much as 125-150 kwh in the middle of summer.

    So I need to go to war with our provider to straighten this issue out. The good part is that if it is as much as 4 times the 5kwh per day stated we would be doing very well. Add to that the Fed Tax rebate of 30% of the cost of the system, helps us to recoup our outlay fairly quickly.

    Hope this helps.

    Alan
     
  12. Restless28

    Restless28

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    Very interesting. Keep us updated!
     
  13. Restless28

    Restless28

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    I may have to at least look at this.
     
  14. Glock20 10mm

    Glock20 10mm Use Linux!

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    Well this weekend I FINALLY got the main array up and running. It's in a non-standard configuration at the moment (I am still waiting for the main inverter to arrive... tomorrow!). The system is performing much better than I anticipated.