Author Topic: solar panel installation  (Read 65379 times)

b4u2

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #100 on: September 04, 2015, 06:31:48 AM »
Executive Summary - cash purchase

Gross cost:   $46,165
Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit: Residential 60% of Fed. Tax Credit ($5k max)   -$5,000  link
Federal Tax Credit (30% of Net Cost at Installation)   -$12,350  link
Net Cost of System after rebates and incentives:   $28,815
 
Pay Back Time:   12.34 years
Internal Rate of Return (IRR) on Investment:   8.1%

How the hell am I supposed to afford that? Just curious how others find a way to pay for the system? I would love to go solar but I don't have another $46k laying around now. WHat if I don't stay in this house till I retire?

zephyr911

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #101 on: September 04, 2015, 07:32:07 AM »
You generate 5 excess kWh during the day and put it on the grid.  You draw 5kwh from the grid at night.  Net usage is zero, no bill.  You used the grid for free, but the grid needs to be maintained.  You don't see why that is a problem in the long run?  I don't have a problem with this arrangement when they were trying to incentivize solar power and 10 people did it.  It will be a major problem if 50% of people do it...
Incentives would have to taper off in the long run. I'm a big supporter of solar but obviously the math doesn't work in an end-state scenario where most/all ratepayers have net negative bills. The cost of the grid connection will go up, or incentives will drop, or both. But that's OK for the solar industry, because the cost of the systems is still falling steadily. In fact, the more expensive off-grid option (batteries and all) - which is already cheaper than legacy grid power in a few high-cost areas, like HI - will undercut the cost of grid power in most areas within 5-10 years.

Smart utilities will work out business models that sell customers on the added value of the grid tie (reliability, economies of scale via central storage vs. distributed, etc). Others may fail and require bailouts. The entire sector had its credit downgraded over these concerns, lest you think I'm being dramatic. ;)

How the hell am I supposed to afford that? Just curious how others find a way to pay for the system? I would love to go solar but I don't have another $46k laying around now. WHat if I don't stay in this house till I retire?
These guys do up to $40K. I was going to use them for my PV install but USAA (silly them) offered me a year, no advance fee, no interest, on a card with a very high limit (had it since 2000). I parked the cost there and am undecided on what's next - pay down gradually, roll into another 0% card, or move to a HELOC.

Re: your 2nd question, you don't have to stay forever. Research indicates you'll recoup about 40% of the added cost on a typical home sale, so staying for 60% of the payback period is a good idea. I am almost definitely not staying that long myself, but I did it anyway on principle. (dirty hippy idealist, blah blah blah)

thd7t

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #102 on: September 04, 2015, 07:38:30 AM »
Executive Summary - cash purchase

Gross cost:   $46,165
Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit: Residential 60% of Fed. Tax Credit ($5k max)   -$5,000  link
Federal Tax Credit (30% of Net Cost at Installation)   -$12,350  link
Net Cost of System after rebates and incentives:   $28,815
 
Pay Back Time:   12.34 years
Internal Rate of Return (IRR) on Investment:   8.1%

How the hell am I supposed to afford that? Just curious how others find a way to pay for the system? I would love to go solar but I don't have another $46k laying around now. WHat if I don't stay in this house till I retire?
What size system are you looking at?  This seems huge to me.  In terms of paying for the system, you could investigate a HELOC.  It would lower your rate of return (probably to around 5%), but a 5% guaranteed return is pretty good.  Clearly, if you don't think you'll stay in the house, it might not be so good, unless the panels increase your home value substantially.  In addition, should energy prices increase, you may see your rate of return increase as well.

nereo

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #103 on: September 04, 2015, 07:45:55 AM »
Executive Summary - cash purchase

Gross cost:   $46,165
Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit: Residential 60% of Fed. Tax Credit ($5k max)   -$5,000  link
Federal Tax Credit (30% of Net Cost at Installation)   -$12,350  link
Net Cost of System after rebates and incentives:   $28,815
 
Pay Back Time:   12.34 years
Internal Rate of Return (IRR) on Investment:   8.1%

How the hell am I supposed to afford that? Just curious how others find a way to pay for the system? I would love to go solar but I don't have another $46k laying around now. WHat if I don't stay in this house till I retire?

Curious how long it typically takes for the federal and local rebates to come back.  If it's within 12 months that makes it a lot more feasible. 
Agree with Zypher911 that a low interest, short-term loan might make the most sense.  Personally I'd probably use my HELOC, but as I mentioned earlier my payback period and cost is far less rosy than the $46k/12.34 years that you have. 

Also - b4us - did you get a breakdown on the costs?  e.g. how much of that $46k was for the panels, the inverters, installation, grid tie-in etc?  Sol did a really nice breakdown for his.

zephyr911

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #104 on: September 04, 2015, 08:03:20 AM »
Yeah, that is a big system. Mine was only $12K + associated costs (tree work, upgrading electrical service to new code, etc).

Nereo, the federal tax credit applies for the calendar year, so generally within 15 months, worst case. I got my system installed in June, activated in July, and will file for the credit (negating 80% of my taxes for this year) around the end of January - that 7-month period is probably about average since mine was mid-year.

That Admirals program I linked to includes an option to get 30% of the cost interest-free for up to 18 months, with the understanding that you'll get the full 30% federal credit back on taxes and use it to repay that portion of the loan.

Other incentives are often faster. I got a local (TVA) rebate of $1000 within weeks of activation.

monarda

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #105 on: September 04, 2015, 08:20:22 AM »
Curious if others have done solar the way I plan to: small system now and then expand later.

In 2011, we installed a small (1.92 kW) system (on a rental), tied to grid, all the wiring set up for future expansion. Numbers: roughly $12K system - $6.5K total incentives + $1.8K prep for expansion= $7.3K in so far) Expansion is designed. We will just need racks, 8 or 9 more panels, and microinverters.
Now we're waiting a couple of years for our reserves to reach a level where we can afford more panels. Plus the price will go down.

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #106 on: September 04, 2015, 08:42:41 AM »
Agreed, I pay the same flat fee for having a grid connection as every other user.  In my case, the panels produce so much that the utility's purchase price of my surplus wipes out my grid connection fee too, but it still shows up on every bill.  They're getting more free power from me than the cost of my grid usage.

That's a good thing, but most states aren't like that.  Do you think your flat fee covers "your portion" of the grid maintenance?  Obviously "your portion" is up for debate -- should the costs be split on a per household basis, per capita, usage based, etc., but I'm curious to know if you think you are a subsidizer, being subsidized, or just right.

Given that they are also paying Sol something outrageously high like 54 cents per kWh for the solar juice, he's being subsidized pretty substantially by the other grid customers. As far as the grid connection fee, he's probably not being subsidized there--yet (although the math is hard to work out). That only starts to become an issue when say a double-digit percent of the total grid load is being provided by solar and the utilities have to do more serious load management and even storage (if the percent gets very high).

zephyr911

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #107 on: September 04, 2015, 09:34:28 AM »
Curious if others have done solar the way I plan to: small system now and then expand later.

In 2011, we installed a small (1.92 kW) system (on a rental), tied to grid, all the wiring set up for future expansion. Numbers: roughly $12K system - $6.5K total incentives + $1.8K prep for expansion= $7.3K in so far) Expansion is designed. We will just need racks, 8 or 9 more panels, and microinverters.
Now we're waiting a couple of years for our reserves to reach a level where we can afford more panels. Plus the price will go down.
Yes. I bought 3kW and will most likely double it in a year or two. Not sure though... depends on making up our minds how long we're living here. My local conditions mean shit ROI (like 3-4%) so it was more of a statement buy than anything else.

Cadman

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #108 on: September 04, 2015, 09:44:49 AM »
I've been following this thread as I've thought about putting in such a system one day, and getting my feet wet on a new building I put up that's too far from the grid but where light during the winter hours would be nice. For that, a couple panels and a battery would suffice.

The way Sol did it is really the only way to go if you want to get ahead financially. Even if you value your time at $0, you'll never break-even on a battery system despite claims to the contrary.

A few random observations:

In our locality, the power company is starting a program called 'Simple Solar'. You pay up front buying a number of credits, and they'll build a unitized solar garden for the community. the more people that buy in, the more panels they'll add. You then get a credit discount on each month's bill, and they handle all costs and maintenance associated with it. I think the break-even point is 10 years out.

I know a retired engineer that put in a massive pole-mount system the last couple of years. His goal was zero energy cost. Of course he heats more efficiently with LP, but the additional panels he installed offset that LP cost.

You can build a more efficient system with series strings of panels to get to a higher voltage and feed that to a smart controller. However, he discovered that despite the panels all having the same rating, under identical conditions, some were worse performers than others. The worst were pulled out and not used because they drag down the entire chain; he moved others around (electrically) to balance his inputs. 

Phantom Loads- Before he spent a dime on the panels, he used a clamp-type ammeter at his breaker panel to find all phantom loads. For things that draw power 24/7, like a thermostat transformer or a doorbell transformer, he'd combine those into one source. For things around the house that drew similar power (wall-warts) those got a special wire run to a toroidal low-loss xformer in the basement.  With those ammeter numbers and a pocket calculator you can find out pretty quick how much you're throwing away.

If you live in a snowy climate, take that into consideration. If the panels are reachable, you'll need to sweep them off occasionally or output will drop. I think I could handle that kind of work post-FIRE. ; )

b4u2

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #109 on: September 04, 2015, 10:14:18 AM »
I used http://www.solar-estimate.org/ and they only asked what my average bill was. For some reason this summer our bill has been insanely high. The company they suggest is Able Energy Co. They claim they will come and do a better review of the estimate and explain all the costs.

I assume I would have to pay the 46k with a loan? I have no idea how the tax credits work. DO I even pay enough in taxes for this to work? I have no clue. I guess I would have them come do a better estimate and then figure the rest out once I have a better number for cost. I suppose if my electric bill went from about $180 a month to maybe $0 this would pay for the system? The electricity isn't free since I would still have to pay for the system so the cost is diverted? Doesn't give me that "happy feeling". Yeah I would be "green" but still spending the same amount of dollars?

zephyr911

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #110 on: September 04, 2015, 11:14:32 AM »
I used http://www.solar-estimate.org/ and they only asked what my average bill was. For some reason this summer our bill has been insanely high. The company they suggest is Able Energy Co. They claim they will come and do a better review of the estimate and explain all the costs.

I assume I would have to pay the 46k with a loan? I have no idea how the tax credits work. DO I even pay enough in taxes for this to work? I have no clue. I guess I would have them come do a better estimate and then figure the rest out once I have a better number for cost. I suppose if my electric bill went from about $180 a month to maybe $0 this would pay for the system? The electricity isn't free since I would still have to pay for the system so the cost is diverted? Doesn't give me that "happy feeling". Yeah I would be "green" but still spending the same amount of dollars?
If you used your recent (seasonal) average, it probably overstated the system size required, which inflates the cost. However, when you say your bill has gone high recently, all kinds of alarm bells go off. You probably have an insulation problem, a crack or some other kind of leak, OR your AC is not functioning at full efficiency.

Since it sounds like the PV system may be a bridge too far, and you want to do green things with higher ROI, I would strongly suggest you put PV on the back burner, and drop a few hundred bucks on a professional energy audit and an AC checkup. Chances are you'll see vastly higher bang for your buck on those things.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2015/03/25/cut-your-power-bill/
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/10/15/when-energy-saving-becomes-an-emergency/
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2014/05/01/beating-the-stock-market-with-diy-insulation/
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/05/10/ill-show-you-my-electricity-bill-if-you-show-me-yours/

nawhite

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #111 on: October 08, 2015, 05:53:48 AM »
Executive Summary - cash purchase

Gross cost:   $46,165
Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit: Residential 60% of Fed. Tax Credit ($5k max)   -$5,000  link
Federal Tax Credit (30% of Net Cost at Installation)   -$12,350  link
Net Cost of System after rebates and incentives:   $28,815
 
Pay Back Time:   12.34 years
Internal Rate of Return (IRR) on Investment:   8.1%

How the hell am I supposed to afford that? Just curious how others find a way to pay for the system? I would love to go solar but I don't have another $46k laying around now. WHat if I don't stay in this house till I retire?

How many kwh do you average per month? We average about 450 and are putting in a 5.2 kw system. Total cost  of the  system we are putting in this fall is about $14,000. After rebates we will be out of pocket about $4,000. We are also in Iowa. I think you may need to cut your electricity consumption first.

Yeah if your usage is high enough you need $46k in solar to offset it all, you need to invest in decreasing your usage first. Much more efficient (or gas) clothes dryer, better fridge (or going down to just one fridge), ways to decrease your home AC use like window awnings, sealing windows and doors, better insulation etc. When your usage is that high, every dollar you spend on decreasing demand will have a faster payback than solar.

2lazy2retire

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #112 on: October 08, 2015, 06:46:53 AM »
Executive Summary - cash purchase

Gross cost:   $46,165
Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit: Residential 60% of Fed. Tax Credit ($5k max)   -$5,000  link
Federal Tax Credit (30% of Net Cost at Installation)   -$12,350  link
Net Cost of System after rebates and incentives:   $28,815
 
Pay Back Time:   12.34 years
Internal Rate of Return (IRR) on Investment:   8.1%

How the hell am I supposed to afford that? Just curious how others find a way to pay for the system? I would love to go solar but I don't have another $46k laying around now. WHat if I don't stay in this house till I retire?

How many kwh do you average per month? We average about 450 and are putting in a 5.2 kw system. Total cost  of the  system we are putting in this fall is about $14,000. After rebates we will be out of pocket about $4,000. We are also in Iowa. I think you may need to cut your electricity consumption first.

Yeah if your usage is high enough you need $46k in solar to offset it all, you need to invest in decreasing your usage first. Much more efficient (or gas) clothes dryer, better fridge (or going down to just one fridge), ways to decrease your home AC use like window awnings, sealing windows and doors, better insulation etc. When your usage is that high, every dollar you spend on decreasing demand will have a faster payback than solar.

Why is everyone quoting the 46k figure when the net cost is 28k, or am I not understanding this - do you have to wait years for the incentives to kick in?

nawhite

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #113 on: October 08, 2015, 07:10:30 AM »
Executive Summary - cash purchase

Gross cost:   $46,165
Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit: Residential 60% of Fed. Tax Credit ($5k max)   -$5,000  link
Federal Tax Credit (30% of Net Cost at Installation)   -$12,350  link
Net Cost of System after rebates and incentives:   $28,815
 
Pay Back Time:   12.34 years
Internal Rate of Return (IRR) on Investment:   8.1%

How the hell am I supposed to afford that? Just curious how others find a way to pay for the system? I would love to go solar but I don't have another $46k laying around now. WHat if I don't stay in this house till I retire?

How many kwh do you average per month? We average about 450 and are putting in a 5.2 kw system. Total cost  of the  system we are putting in this fall is about $14,000. After rebates we will be out of pocket about $4,000. We are also in Iowa. I think you may need to cut your electricity consumption first.

Yeah if your usage is high enough you need $46k in solar to offset it all, you need to invest in decreasing your usage first. Much more efficient (or gas) clothes dryer, better fridge (or going down to just one fridge), ways to decrease your home AC use like window awnings, sealing windows and doors, better insulation etc. When your usage is that high, every dollar you spend on decreasing demand will have a faster payback than solar.

Why is everyone quoting the 46k figure when the net cost is 28k, or am I not understanding this - do you have to wait years for the incentives to kick in?

I quoted that because I always mentally think of my 3.2KW system as costing $12k not $8k after incentives but that is because I have to wait 13 months from after I paid for the system until I file my taxes (paid January 2015, file February-ish 2016). Though even at $28k the same thing applies, decrease demand before you look at solar, it's usually a better payback.

b4u2

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #114 on: October 08, 2015, 09:13:43 AM »
I'll try copy and paste to see how this chart works.

Yeah that didn't work. I'll try this

nawhite

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #115 on: October 08, 2015, 01:18:23 PM »
I'll try copy and paste to see how this chart works.

Yeah that didn't work. I'll try this

Your usage is around 5 times mine. 2 people living in a 1100 sq ft house. Electric stove and electric clothes dryer, gas heat and hot water. We decided to go with solar because we were basically out of other more cost effective home improvements. Sounds like you need to do an energy audit long before you even think about solar.

LED light bulbs have a faster payback than solar panels. Depending on where you live, attic insulation usually has a much faster payback than solar. Weather stripping your windows and doors almost always has a faster payback than solar. Setting your thermostat one degree warmer in the summer has an infinitely faster payback than solar because the cost is $0. Pay for an energy auditor from your area and listen to their advice.

nereo

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #116 on: October 08, 2015, 02:59:04 PM »
I'll try copy and paste to see how this chart works.

Yeah that didn't work. I'll try this

Your usage is around 5 times mine. 2 people living in a 1100 sq ft house.... Pay for an energy auditor from your area and listen to their advice.
Just to add on... Many municipalities offer either free energy audits or rebates for energy audits. 
Even if you have to pay out of pocket with no reimbursement the cost is usually only a couple hundred dollars... which will can be paid off through energy savings much faster than solar.

b4u2

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #117 on: October 09, 2015, 04:44:19 PM »
I'll check around. We are a household of 5 and up to 7 depending on the time of year. This house was built in 2003. Electric dryer, gas heat, electric tankless water heater, dishwasher, electric stove, fridge, small freezer, lots of small stuff.

monarda

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #118 on: October 10, 2015, 08:47:51 AM »
With 7 people, I wouldn't be surprised if it's your tankless water heater. Our biggest electricity hog is our electric hot water heater (40 gal tank).

We monitored our electric usage- I posted about it here on this thread.

If you ever come to Madison and want to take our TED to borrow for a couple of weeks, you're welcome to.

nawhite

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #119 on: October 10, 2015, 11:14:43 AM »
With 7 people, I wouldn't be surprised if it's your tankless water heater. Our biggest electricity hog is our electric hot water heater (40 gal tank).

That would be my guess too. Heating water (or really anything) with electricity is really expensive and fairly inefficient if you don't use a heat pump. Though with heat pumps, remember that the heat still has to come from somewhere. In homes which have the heat on more than the AC, heat pump water heaters are just inefficient ways to heat your water with gas. (gas heats air, heat pump takes heat from air and moves it to water = gas heats water). In your case, using solar water heating panels would probably be far more cost effective at decreasing your bills and payback way faster than solar photovoltaic panels.

b4u2

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #120 on: October 12, 2015, 12:43:50 PM »
I installed that water heater back in January but my bill only started increasing in July. I also realized I have a huge ($300+) credit on my electric bill now. I wonder if they made a mistake and instead of telling me about it they just credited my account. I might have to dig into this credit and increased usage a little more now that I looked at the data more. I am on a Time of Day meter.

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #121 on: October 14, 2015, 01:38:44 PM »
So jealous Sol!  My power company will only give you credit for any excess power, they won't buy it.  Therefore I have not been able to make the numbers work, no matter how bad I want to do solar. I have the perfect roof for it too. :(

zephyr911

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #122 on: October 14, 2015, 01:59:17 PM »
I'm not making individual stock investments anymore but one of my current holds is a financier that funds solar, wind, and efficiency projects. They consistently report that the highest ROI is on efficiency.

Like Mr. Miyagi said: "best block, no be there." Likewise, using less energy is almost always easier and more cost-effective than making more. Of course, I support both. But from an MMM perspective you will absolutely get the most bang for your buck on reducing consumption.

Faraday

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #123 on: October 14, 2015, 03:59:58 PM »
...
The summary is that we're installing twenty eight 270 watt panels on our south-facing roof, at a cost of $32,400 up front, to replace an estimated 75% of our home energy usage.  This system should more than pay for itself before 2020, after which we will essentially be getting free energy.

Hey Sol - any update to tell on your Solar Panel Adventure? I'm planning an installation before the credits run out. Thanks a ton for posting this thread!

sol

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #124 on: October 14, 2015, 08:17:22 PM »
Hey Sol - any update to tell on your Solar Panel Adventure? I'm planning an installation before the credits run out. Thanks a ton for posting this thread!

I posted a year end summary about a month ago that detailed our final numbers.  It turns out our panels produce significantly more than 100% of our annual power use, and we recently we received and deposited our first state incentive rebate check.  Cold hard cash in the bank.

Faraday

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #125 on: October 14, 2015, 09:40:14 PM »
I'll try copy and paste to see how this chart works.

Yeah that didn't work. I'll try this

b4u2, you've got something crazy going on there. Look at your "one year later" kwh usage compared to the same time a year earlier. You've nearly DOUBLED your KWH usage EVERY MONTH. Some comments I'll throw your way:

1) You're looking at tens or even low-hundreds of KWH difference year-to-year. That's not going to simply be wall-warts or light bulbs, that's something BIG that sucks a lot of power, or a major appliance that's malfunctioning. If your increase in KWH were somehow turned into 100% heat, you'd be burning down your house.

2) Do you have an electric water heater? How long since you've drained it, had the elements changed out and the anode rod replaced? I'd have a plumber come check it out if you have an electric water heater that's never been serviced/maintained.

3) If you have a heat pump, get one of the "seasonal checkups". If the unit's 10 years old or more, you may have a refrigerant leak from the A-coil. If it's a heat pump, ask the technician who checks it out to see what the "defrost timer" is set to. It should be 30 minutes or more. If it's less than 30 minutes, the defrost cycle may be running far too often and wasting power.

4) Are you on well water? If so, you could have a water leak somewhere and your well pump keeps running. This is a very important one to me - I go around the house and make sure none of the toilets are stuck "flushing" every day before I go to work.

5) You could have a refrigerator that's gone bad, that's possible. It could be cycling back and forth into and out of defrost cycle.

6) If you have been considering a NEST thermostat, get one. They are great.

Those are the quick thoughts I have off the top of my head on things that could be eating large amounts of energy.

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #126 on: October 15, 2015, 08:50:01 AM »
I realized I never posted about the numbers on the system I had installed in April. Let me start with we didn't do it for the financial payback, we did it because we wanted to (we're a little crunchy but not too bad) and having panels makes our house MUCH more desirable in our market when we decide to sell in a year or two. We expect the sale price to more than cover the value of the panels plus help our house sell faster.

3.125KW grid-tie roof-mounted solar from SunRun.

Total cost: $12,175 - $500 gift card for taking the "put your deposit down today" incentive - $350 gift card for a referral = $11,325
Federal Rebate: 30% off of full price = $3652.50

Out of pocket cost: $7672.50 ($2.45 / Watt installed and warrantied)

We put $1000 down, got an interest free loan for the federal rebate portion that lasts until we file our taxes and the remaining $7500 ish is on a 2.99% loan.

We are in Denver, CO and get Net Metering (bank solar credits in summer to pay for usage in winter) + a check every month for $0.03/KWh produced. Electricity from the grid costs $0.11/KWh but then you can pay an additional $0.03 per KWh to get your power from wind which we were doing so our cost was really $0.14/KWh.

On average we were using 350 KWh / month of electricity (~$49) plus a $6/month connection charge for an average bill around $55/month.

Net Metering allows us to effectively generate 100% of our consumption and the $0.03 production incentive is usually around $8-10 per month or a little more than the connection charge so we are net positive on our electric bill. We replaced the electric bill with a fixed loan payment of around $62/month ($7672 @ 2.99%for 12 years). So we end up paying about $3-5 more than our current bill for 12 years but, after 12 years we don't have to pay for electricity again, and as electricity rates go up, our payment is fixed. (And in our housing market, "solar panels included" is worth more on the sale price than the panels themselves).

The other way of looking at the cost is we earn $49+$9 = $58/month and paid $7672 = 11 year payback = 9.1% return -2.99% interest on the loan = 6.1% return. It's not great, but we're ok with that. Its right around the long term post inflation CAGR of the stock market and way less volatile.

If anyone is thinking about solar, SunRun worked pretty well for us and they have an amazing referral program (value varies but it has been as high as I get $500 you get $500 if you use them as your installer). Let me know if you're interested in a referral.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2015, 08:53:26 AM by nawhite »

nereo

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #127 on: October 15, 2015, 09:04:02 AM »
nice summary nawhite.  Thanks for sharing.

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #128 on: October 15, 2015, 09:36:26 AM »
6) If you have been considering a NEST thermostat, get one. They are great.
There's a whole ongoing thread about those, I think in the real estate section. TBH, after seeing one in operation at one of my rentals for a year-plus, I think most of what it does can be achieved almost as well through behavior modification. IOW, the ROI is real but I believe it is much lower for Mustachians who are already using a simple programmable 'stat and actively building their own heat/cold tolerance through daily exposure and temp adjustments. NEST earns best for unenlightened laymen who use HVAC 365 days a year at exactly the same temperature (or, horror of horrors, inverted temps, 60s in summer and 70+ in winter).

I don't say this to denigrate the value or importance of their product in any fashion, and I think it's awesome that they do what they do. But there are many roads to optimization.

Caveats: obviously behavior can't stand in for an occupancy sensor or WiFi access.

(tl;dr: mindfulness does almost as well)

nawhite

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #129 on: October 15, 2015, 10:55:52 AM »
6) If you have been considering a NEST thermostat, get one. They are great.
There's a whole ongoing thread about those, I think in the real estate section. TBH, after seeing one in operation at one of my rentals for a year-plus, I think most of what it does can be achieved almost as well through behavior modification. IOW, the ROI is real but I believe it is much lower for Mustachians who are already using a simple programmable 'stat and actively building their own heat/cold tolerance through daily exposure and temp adjustments. NEST earns best for unenlightened laymen who use HVAC 365 days a year at exactly the same temperature (or, horror of horrors, inverted temps, 60s in summer and 70+ in winter).

I don't say this to denigrate the value or importance of their product in any fashion, and I think it's awesome that they do what they do. But there are many roads to optimization.

Caveats: obviously behavior can't stand in for an occupancy sensor or WiFi access.

(tl;dr: mindfulness does almost as well)

This was definitely my experience too. The batteries died in my thermostat in early September and I haven't replaced them yet so I haven't had any heating or cooling from my HVAC system at all. Instead I've just been doing:

Oh it's going to get hot today, lets open the doors and windows right when I get up or overnight to get the house cold in the morning and then close them all up and shut the blinds/curtains before the sun gets strong. Or
Oh it's going to be cold today, better open up all of the blinds and curtains immediately when I wake up.

My friends have a Nest and it keeps their house very comfortable, but when I'm already only running the HVAC for less than an hour a day most days I can't see it really saving me that much money? Take that $200 for a nest and buy some bags of insulation for your attic, you'll save more money.

b4u2

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #130 on: October 28, 2015, 08:53:14 AM »
I think I "may" have found the issue. A simple explanation is that the dryer is not shutting off. I only noticed this the other day when my wife went to unload dryer that I had started and she said it was still running. I checked the time and realized I started that dryer nearly 2 hours ago! I went down and the meter still said damp. I stopped the dryer and checked, all the clothes were dry. My step son typically does his laundry late at night and no one notices if the dryer continues to run because we are all asleep. It does appear to eventually turn off but there must be a sensor that is bad? I am going to check into this more.

I do own a kill-a-watt and need to learn how to use it and start testing other appliances and see if they are drawing more than they should. Most of the stuff in the house is getting old. I bought the house new 13 years ago so I am sure certain appliances are going to start going bad now. Of course I don't really have money to replace them but neither can I allow them to eat up electric.

I'll try copy and paste to see how this chart works.

Yeah that didn't work. I'll try this

b4u2, you've got something crazy going on there. Look at your "one year later" kwh usage compared to the same time a year earlier. You've nearly DOUBLED your KWH usage EVERY MONTH. Some comments I'll throw your way:

1) You're looking at tens or even low-hundreds of KWH difference year-to-year. That's not going to simply be wall-warts or light bulbs, that's something BIG that sucks a lot of power, or a major appliance that's malfunctioning. If your increase in KWH were somehow turned into 100% heat, you'd be burning down your house.

2) Do you have an electric water heater? How long since you've drained it, had the elements changed out and the anode rod replaced? I'd have a plumber come check it out if you have an electric water heater that's never been serviced/maintained.

3) If you have a heat pump, get one of the "seasonal checkups". If the unit's 10 years old or more, you may have a refrigerant leak from the A-coil. If it's a heat pump, ask the technician who checks it out to see what the "defrost timer" is set to. It should be 30 minutes or more. If it's less than 30 minutes, the defrost cycle may be running far too often and wasting power.

4) Are you on well water? If so, you could have a water leak somewhere and your well pump keeps running. This is a very important one to me - I go around the house and make sure none of the toilets are stuck "flushing" every day before I go to work.

5) You could have a refrigerator that's gone bad, that's possible. It could be cycling back and forth into and out of defrost cycle.

6) If you have been considering a NEST thermostat, get one. They are great.

Those are the quick thoughts I have off the top of my head on things that could be eating large amounts of energy.

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #131 on: October 28, 2015, 11:11:56 AM »
I think I "may" have found the issue. A simple explanation is that the dryer is not shutting off. I only noticed this the other day when my wife went to unload dryer that I had started and she said it was still running. I checked the time and realized I started that dryer nearly 2 hours ago! I went down and the meter still said damp. I stopped the dryer and checked, all the clothes were dry. My step son typically does his laundry late at night and no one notices if the dryer continues to run because we are all asleep. It does appear to eventually turn off but there must be a sensor that is bad? I am going to check into this more.
Ouch! Yeah, dryers are a huge energy suck, and one that's running when it should turn off could easily cost you tons of money.
I have a pretty good/cheap appliance guy on call so I'd just point him at it and call it good, but if you have time to troubleshoot... it might be a very easy repair. Concur that sensor is a good guess, though a control board could be the issue too.

As for the other appliances... you can always unplug when not in use to reduce idle current draw.

Faraday

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #132 on: October 28, 2015, 12:36:58 PM »
I think I "may" have found the issue. A simple explanation is that the dryer is not shutting off. I only noticed this the other day when my wife went to unload dryer that I had started and she said it was still running. I checked the time and realized I started that dryer nearly 2 hours ago! I went down and the meter still said damp. I stopped the dryer and checked, all the clothes were dry. My step son typically does his laundry late at night and no one notices if the dryer continues to run because we are all asleep. It does appear to eventually turn off but there must be a sensor that is bad? I am going to check into this more.
Ouch! Yeah, dryers are a huge energy suck, and one that's running when it should turn off could easily cost you tons of money.
I have a pretty good/cheap appliance guy on call so I'd just point him at it and call it good, but if you have time to troubleshoot... it might be a very easy repair. Concur that sensor is a good guess, though a control board could be the issue too.

As for the other appliances... you can always unplug when not in use to reduce idle current draw.

I wonder if lint could be collecting on the sensor and stopping it from working.

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #133 on: October 28, 2015, 01:14:53 PM »
I think I "may" have found the issue. A simple explanation is that the dryer is not shutting off. I only noticed this the other day when my wife went to unload dryer that I had started and she said it was still running. I checked the time and realized I started that dryer nearly 2 hours ago! I went down and the meter still said damp. I stopped the dryer and checked, all the clothes were dry. My step son typically does his laundry late at night and no one notices if the dryer continues to run because we are all asleep. It does appear to eventually turn off but there must be a sensor that is bad? I am going to check into this more.

http://www.repairclinic.com/RepairHelp/How-To-Fix-A-Dryer/7---/Dryer-won-t-stop?r=%2fShop-For-Parts%2fa8%2fDryer-Parts

RepairClinic.com - dryer issues - dryer won't stop. Check out what they advise (and plug in your model number for the parts you need for your specific dryer) - dryers are simple to fix and the parts are relatively cheap (much cheaper than getting someone to come check it out or buying a new one). Youtube can show you how to replace anything in a dryer (and any other appliance) if you aren't comfortable with it. 

b4u2

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #134 on: October 28, 2015, 03:34:52 PM »
The dryer outlet on the outside of the house was clogged. Hopefully that fixes the problem. I normally clean it but overlooked it this year somehow.

How do I find the KWH cost for Cedar Rapids, IA with Alliant Energy? I am also on the time of day meter. I plugged the Kill-A-Watt into the fridge and want to see what it is costing me. I figured once I get the hang of it I'll start testing other appliances as well.

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #135 on: October 28, 2015, 07:35:54 PM »
How do I find the KWH cost for Cedar Rapids, IA with Alliant Energy?

It should be on your last electricity bill.  A quick "googling" suggests the average is 12.9/kw*h.  However, check yours... often you'll have different rates based on either the time of day or your rate will go up after you consume a certain amount of power per day.

Faraday

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #136 on: October 28, 2015, 08:31:29 PM »
How do I find the KWH cost for Cedar Rapids, IA with Alliant Energy?

It should be on your last electricity bill.  A quick "googling" suggests the average is 12.9/kw*h.  However, check yours... often you'll have different rates based on either the time of day or your rate will go up after you consume a certain amount of power per day.

Remember to add in any fees and cost recovery line items on  your bill. The true KWH cost is what you pay, not some number the power company fabricates to make it look cheaper.

Example: My local Electric Membership Co-Op claims they charge me 11 cents/KWH. But after all their line items, I pay 14 cents/KWH.

That's the real, actual amount I've always paid. It's not like I get to call them up and refuse to pay the other line items.

nereo

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #137 on: October 28, 2015, 09:09:38 PM »
How do I find the KWH cost for Cedar Rapids, IA with Alliant Energy?

It should be on your last electricity bill.  A quick "googling" suggests the average is 12.9/kw*h.  However, check yours... often you'll have different rates based on either the time of day or your rate will go up after you consume a certain amount of power per day.

Remember to add in any fees and cost recovery line items on  your bill. The true KWH cost is what you pay, not some number the power company fabricates to make it look cheaper.

Example: My local Electric Membership Co-Op claims they charge me 11 cents/KWH. But after all their line items, I pay 14 cents/KWH.

That's the real, actual amount I've always paid. It's not like I get to call them up and refuse to pay the other line items.
No....  When you are looking at the how much energy a typical appliance is using (and what that is costing) you ignore any fees and line items.  Those items don't go away if you add or subtract energy usage.
So if you learn that your amplifier draws 100 watts when left in standby and you pay 10/kw, your amp is costing you 1 per hour. 

Knowing what those line items are is always a good thing.  Ironically, your total cost per KW will go UP as your energy usage goes down for that very reason.

Faraday

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #138 on: October 28, 2015, 10:33:09 PM »
How do I find the KWH cost for Cedar Rapids, IA with Alliant Energy?

It should be on your last electricity bill.  A quick "googling" suggests the average is 12.9/kw*h.  However, check yours... often you'll have different rates based on either the time of day or your rate will go up after you consume a certain amount of power per day.

Remember to add in any fees and cost recovery line items on  your bill. The true KWH cost is what you pay, not some number the power company fabricates to make it look cheaper.

Example: My local Electric Membership Co-Op claims they charge me 11 cents/KWH. But after all their line items, I pay 14 cents/KWH.

That's the real, actual amount I've always paid. It's not like I get to call them up and refuse to pay the other line items.
No....  When you are looking at the how much energy a typical appliance is using (and what that is costing) you ignore any fees and line items.  Those items don't go away if you add or subtract energy usage.
So if you learn that your amplifier draws 100 watts when left in standby and you pay 10/kw, your amp is costing you 1 per hour. 

Knowing what those line items are is always a good thing.  Ironically, your total cost per KW will go UP as your energy usage goes down for that very reason.

You still pay the final bill, one way or another. Your point seems to be a meaningless shill for The Man.

sol

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #139 on: October 28, 2015, 10:48:44 PM »
You still pay the final bill, one way or another. Your point seems to be a meaningless shill for The Man.

I disagree, and this is my thread so I get to do that.

Those flat fees are unrelated to how much power you use.  You pay them if you use zero, so they're more like a tax due unto Caesar.  Scaling your power consumption in either direction will not avoid them.  They're a fixed cost.

But your per kWh cost is scalable.  If you used zero, you would pay zero.  Separating out the per kWh cost from the fixed cost is the only way this accounting makes any sense.  Including your fixed costs in your total per kWh charges is like including your income tax in your sales tax.  Only one of those things depends on how much you buy, so only one of them needs to be considered when making the cost comparisons vs not buying.

Unless you're going totally off grid and avoiding those fixed fees all together.  In that case I'd give your math a pass, but for ordinary folks who are maintaining a grid connection in addition to utilizing solar panels to reduce their consumption, those residual fees are not offset by your solar panels in any way so including them in your solar payback period doesn't make any sense.

b4u2

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #140 on: October 29, 2015, 07:05:03 AM »
What I found disturbing was when I called customer service they couldn't even give me an answer. Here is a summary for the last two months.
It is amazing how the bill amount varied between the two months but they can't break it down for me. The main onpeak and offpeak charges don't even come with a cost break down just a total?
I found a rate sheet but I haven't been able to do the math yet to make any number match what is actually on the bill. I have the time of day meter.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2015, 07:34:47 AM by b4u2 »

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #141 on: October 29, 2015, 08:11:57 AM »
Sol, that's true if the fees that are being discussed are billed as fixed monthly fees. However, my power company advertises a certain electricity rate per kWh (say 10c), but they have additional charges which are also billed as per kWh items. My electricity bill has a breakdown that lists something like this:

Monthly grid fee - $10
Energy Charge (100 kWh @ 0.100/kWh) - $10
Going Green fee (100 kWh @ 0.025/kWh) - $2.50
Service Charge (100 kWh @ 0.014/kWh) - $1.40
etc...
So the "fees" on my bill are somewhat scalable with usage, just not all of them, and my actual usage cost is higher than the advertised electricity rate.

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #142 on: October 29, 2015, 09:08:03 AM »
Ontario Hydro also splits costs, but the extra charges have a small fixed amount and after that they are directly related to consumption.  Extra charges (delivery, Regulatory charges and debt repayment) are always more than the actual use charges.  I am paying for debt Hydro-One incurred while I lived in Quebec - so fun.

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #143 on: October 29, 2015, 09:34:19 AM »
The dryer outlet on the outside of the house was clogged. Hopefully that fixes the problem.
Yeah, that could easily have been reducing the moisture egress and telling the sensor the load was wet.

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #144 on: October 29, 2015, 10:06:34 AM »
You still pay the final bill, one way or another. Your point seems to be a meaningless shill for The Man.

I disagree, and this is my thread so I get to do that.

Those flat fees are unrelated to how much power you use.  You pay them if you use zero, so they're more like a tax due unto Caesar.  Scaling your power consumption in either direction will not avoid them.  They're a fixed cost.

Sol, you are  right and I agree completely with what you have said: those line items don't go away unless you disconnect from the grid and scaling your power consumption in either direction will not avoid them.  What you said is consistent with what I learned working for Carolina Power & Light (Now Duke Energy) in their distribution division for over six years. 

I DO have some questions I wanted to get to, that I wanted to pose to you and others who have actual panels on the roof right now making power.

Can we drop it and move on to more important issues, please? I'm glad to sacrifice my comment to get to the more important issues that will keep this thread useful. I have much bigger fish to fry than arguing about what people mistakenly assume I said. I can delete my original comment, or replace it with a line item listing of my own fees. I just want to get to the important stuffs.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2015, 10:11:31 AM by Faraday »

sol

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #145 on: October 29, 2015, 10:32:34 AM »
No worries, important stuff always displaces old conversations here anyway.  Ask away!

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #146 on: October 29, 2015, 11:44:43 AM »
No worries, important stuff always displaces old conversations here anyway.  Ask away!

I'll review the thread to see if I'm asking something that's already been asked, but I'll go ahead with these questions:

1) I think your panels are on your roof, right? What kind of roof structure do you have - is it rafters or trusses?
2) Were there any special challenges your installers had with your roof?

(My roof is built on top of trusses made with 2x4 lumber, so that dramatically increases the precision required to hit the center of the 2x4. That worries the hell out of me, enough so that I'm actually considering first going with a standing seam metal roof so I could use the clips and not have to worry where the truss edges fall on the roof deck...)

(and this is the one I think has been answered, but I can't recall for sure...)
3) You have a net-meter, right? And did it have to be installed, by the power company, BEFORE your array came online? Do you have to pay a monthly base surcharge for that meter? My power provider requires a $3/month charge for the dual-reading net meter.

Side note: I'm VERY close to adding three or four panels with microinverters, grid-tied. I plan to run about four or five 275 watt panels that way for awhile and gather real-world data on how much power I can generate at my site (and how many trees I REALLY need to cut). Then from there, I plan to build out the rest of the system and eventually add battery power. (Probably using AC coupling, to preserve the investment in the microinverters.)

I don't know that I'll ever go completely off-grid, but I am going to push myself as close to that line as I can.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2015, 11:46:32 AM by Faraday »

sol

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #147 on: October 29, 2015, 12:12:59 PM »
1) I think your panels are on your roof, right? What kind of roof structure do you have - is it rafters or trusses?
2) Were there any special challenges your installers had with your roof?


I paid to have my panels installed professionally, so I'm afraid I can't speak to the difficulties involved.  It was a two day install job for 28 panels, with a two or three man crew.  One day to put up the racking and run the wires while the electrician installed the inverters in the garage, and a second to lift all the panels on to the roof and connect them.

The racking system was installed over the shingles.  Presumably it is anchored to studs but I haven't looked, sorry.

The panels stand about 4 inches off of the roof.  The only change made to the roof was to shorten the sewer vent stacks so they would still be open, under the panels.  Code here requires 14 inches of vent pipe above roof level to prevent clogging by very occasional snowfall, but that's not an issue under panels so we just shortened them.  If the panels ever come off, I'll have to lengthen those pipes again.  The panels were installed right over the top of my attic vents.

Quote
3) You have a net-meter, right? And did it have to be installed, by the power company, BEFORE your array came online? Do you have to pay a monthly base surcharge for that meter? My power provider requires a $3/month charge for the dual-reading net meter.

Yes, we have a net meter.  Our regular meter measures net power consumption, so it runs backwards during the day.  We  had to have a second meter installed that measures just the power coming down from the roof and feeding into the net meter.  That one only counts up to measure power generated, and that's the one the power company reads once per year to determine my production incentive payment ($4969 last year).

Yes, we had to have that meter installed and certified before we could start accruing production incentives, but the system was running for like three days before they got here to certify it.  We just didn't earn any production incentives for those first three days, though we did effectively earn the retail rate for power by reducing our net meter total for the billing period.

We do not pay a monthly fee for the net meter specifically, but we do pay other monthly fees and I think it was like $200 up front (paid by my installer and figured into his cost to me) for the city to install the second meter.

Like every power customer here, we pay a $10/month grid connection fee, recently increased from $5/month when they lowered the retail cost of power a little bit.  I suspect too many people like me were taking advantage of the incentive program, so the utility lowered per kWh rates and raised the fixed fee, which effectively penalized solar panel owners twice.  I now pay more in fixed fees and get paid less for the power I provide to the grid.  For most normal (non solar-producing) customers, this change was a slight to moderate cost savings, depending on their usage.

Faraday

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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #148 on: October 29, 2015, 12:24:40 PM »
...
Like every power customer here, we pay a $10/month grid connection fee, recently increased from $5/month when they lowered the retail cost of power a little bit.  I suspect too many people like me were taking advantage of the incentive program, so the utility lowered per kWh rates and raised the fixed fee, which effectively penalized solar panel owners twice.  I now pay more in fixed fees and get paid less for the power I provide to the grid.  For most normal (non solar-producing) customers, this change was a slight to moderate cost savings, depending on their usage.

Yeah, THAT is precisely the thing about the fees that has me bent out of shape. I am served by an Electric Membership Co-Op and their industry consortium, "Touchstone Energy", serves as the main lobbying arm for the industry. They seem to be able to get fees like that past the State Utilities Commission without so much as a whimper and I honestly don't understand.

OK, so NC doesn't have any production incentives like you enjoy. I can live with that. But damn, the power providers here  erected financial barriers to solar energy production. It's a shocking and aggressive move by the grid power providers....

Give me a little more time - I have more questions but need to get back to work. :-/

nawhite

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  • Location: Golden, CO
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Re: solar panel installation
« Reply #149 on: October 29, 2015, 12:57:26 PM »
1) I think your panels are on your roof, right? What kind of roof structure do you have - is it rafters or trusses?
2) Were there any special challenges your installers had with your roof?

3) You have a net-meter, right? And did it have to be installed, by the power company, BEFORE your array came online? Do you have to pay a monthly base surcharge for that meter? My power provider requires a $3/month charge for the dual-reading net meter.

1) I have rafters. The panels just screw into the shingles and the plywood under the shingles, no concern with connecting to a rafter or truss.
2) No problems that I'm aware of. My installation crew had about 6 people and did 12 panels in 4 hours. Got there first thing in the morning and were gone by lunch and I'm sure they did another install after lunch.
3) When the system was installed it was all ready except for a they had installed a second meter box but no meter. I had to wait a couple weeks for the power company to come out and put the second meter in the box and replace the old meter with a new "net" meter. This new meter measured power generated by the panels and the net meter measured net power usage by my home (usage - generated). I do not pay any additional fee for that second meter currently.