Author Topic: Get solar panels?  (Read 3628 times)

hoping2retire35

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Get solar panels?
« on: December 09, 2015, 08:30:28 AM »
typical electrical bill for all heat and electricity ~$150
january can get into the $300+ and even in septmenber or April is no less than $110. I know there is some fat hiding somewhere, just not sure where.
1700 sq ft house, modern construction
we don't use gas for anything

regional cost per kwh ~$0.075
my monthly usuage~2000kwh+

So I called this company Dividend Solar, they have 0 down, 20 year term, and "low" interest rate. Told them my information and they said I would need a 7kwh system which would cost mid $20k and with instant rebate I would owe $18500. Not eligible for additional tax credits since i have a lot of kids and not as much income. So the question is, "is it worth it?" On the face of it it seems like it is but I am still hesitant. Using a mortgage calculator with 4% interest it is a 112 a month.

Home is in SE USA and SW facing home with almost no trees with decent proximity, prime candidate. If I could find some kind of Bell Curve of performace by month/week with watts peak and hours in the day, I could be a little more sure but I know there are other factors, clouds and rain etc. Even in mid summer, JUNE 21st, it would be tough for it to cover my entire electric usage, I would need over 10 hours of peak watts(maximum performance) in order to cover the typical bill, this is if it is not too hot and the AC does not run more.

I wonder if I just like the idea of having solar panels and maybe one day going off the grid, but in reality this does not make sense. Has anyone had success? What is your specifics?

The other idea i have is to get a wood burning stove. Cheaper(lots) and winter is when my bill really spikes. The other idea is if I can get an equity line and make the interest rate even lower on a 30 year term.

cambridgecyclist

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2015, 01:46:03 PM »
  I am in Massachusetts. I was surprised to learn that here there's a program called SREC II that makes solar a no-brainer in terms of ROI. I'd check your state's solar incentives and adjust the math accordingly.

hoping2retire35

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2015, 02:27:53 PM »
  I am in Massachusetts. I was surprised to learn that here there's a program called SREC II that makes solar a no-brainer in terms of ROI. I'd check your state's solar incentives and adjust the math accordingly.
All the other tax benefits are based on income and because of dependents and lower income this is not going to happen.

andy85

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2015, 02:32:09 PM »
i think Sol (forum member) installed some on his house. I don't feel like looking for the thread but try a search for it and see if it's any help.

tonysemail

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2015, 02:33:49 PM »
nothing beats conservation and there are many threads on the forum with tips and tricks.
here's one that's fun to read (although I can't stomach following every step myself)
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/my-guide-to-saving-lots-of-energy-with-little-to-no-up-front-investment/

this one made me laugh too.
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/thermostat-at-63/

like a lot of things (mortgages, cars, etc), it really pays to shop around for solar quotes.
Be sure to talk with at least 3-4 companies because it's a very competitive market.
They will use aggressive sales tactics, so be ready for that and ask them to beat the best offer from their competitors.

I decided to sign up with sungevity because I bought a nissan leaf this year.
In CA, sungevity is giving away a free level 2 charger installed in your garage.
That's kind of a nice bonus and the one that sealed the deal for me.
I can send you a referral code worth $750 off (PM me if you're interested).

Some credit unions offer financing for projects like solar, so that could improve the ROI.

Another Reader

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2015, 02:45:55 PM »
If you are paying $0.075 per KWH, it makes no sense to buy a $20k solar system, especially without usable tax credits.  Conservation efforts, yes.  Get an energy audit.  Borrow a Kill-A-Watt.  Seal the house - check your weatherstripping and caulk your windows.  But skip the solar. 

hoping2retire35

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2015, 03:15:17 PM »
If you are paying $0.075 per KWH, it makes no sense to buy a $20k solar system, especially without usable tax credits.  Conservation efforts, yes.  Get an energy audit.  Borrow a Kill-A-Watt.  Seal the house - check your weatherstripping and caulk your windows.  But skip the solar.

yeah...at least $100 bill (plus regular electric) every month, even the cloudy winter ones. I think I am being too optimistic about the systems performance.

On the other hand he said the price for installation was 3.5 per Wh, not KWH, which is about 3-4X the price of just those panels. This got me to thinking. Has anyone ever installed solar panels themselves? Just the labor(time) and technicality would be tough, not to mention paperwork. On good side the rebate would almost cover the material cost.

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2015, 03:50:45 PM »
Is that 7.5 cents per kWh your utility's price to compare, generation costs, or just your bill divided by your usage? I ask because that seems low for a total variable cost.

Does North Carolina allow net metering? This might make a difference too.

ulrichw

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2015, 04:14:10 PM »
typical electrical bill for all heat and electricity ~$150
[...]
regional cost per kwh ~$0.075
my monthly usuage~2000kwh+
Based on these numbers it sounds like you're heating your house with electricity? Do you know whether you're using resistive heat or a heat pump? If you're using the former, this is a *huge* energy hog. A heat pump is roughly 3 times as efficient - i.e., it will generate the same amount of heat with 1/3 of the electricity usage. You may also want to look into gas heat if it's available in your area (though with your ultra-cheap electricity, the heat pump may be more cost effective).

If I could find some kind of Bell Curve of performace by month/week with watts peak and hours in the day, I could be a little more sure but I know there are other factors, clouds and rain etc.

The site you're looking for is here - it even takes your local weather into account: http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/

The point is somewhat moot, though - at $.075/kWh, your electricity is so cheap it'll be very hard to make Solar pay for itself. As another poster mentioned, conservation is probably more what you should be thinking about.

Since heating appears to be your main electricity expense, that seems like a place to focus first.

I wonder if I just like the idea of having solar panels and maybe one day going off the grid, but in reality this does not make sense. Has anyone had success? What is your specifics?

Off-grid vs. grid-tie are two *completely* different propositions. Solar won't produce energy when it's dark - meaning long periods of overcast, and every night pose big problems. You'll need a battery bank to make up some of the short-term shortages, and you'll need a backup generator for the longer-term low production periods. Given how ridiculously cheap your electricity is, this makes no sense. (National average is $0.125 per kWh, and here in California, it's $0.167+)

Here's a forum that'll give you a lot more information: http://www.solarpaneltalk.com


BTW: quick note on units:
kWh - kilo-Watt-hour - this is a unit of energy (similar to therms, BTUs, calories, etc.) and represents 1,000 Watts of power generated for an hour.
kW - kilo-Watt - this is a unit of power (similar to horsepower) and represents the capacity of the system to instantaneously generate power.

Solar system are usually rated on their DC power capacity - i.e., the maximum amount of DC power they can generate - this will be given in kW - so your system is quoted at 7kW, and the price is $3.50 per kW. Note that you will not actually get that many AC kW delivered to your house, since there are losses through the inverter and the solar panels will rarely (never) be operating at full efficiency.

pvwatts will tell you how many kWh you can generate per year (and per month) using your system - this replaces energy you would otherwise be buying from your power company.

hoping2retire35

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2015, 08:11:16 PM »
Is that 7.5 cents per kWh your utility's price to compare, generation costs, or just your bill divided by your usage? I ask because that seems low for a total variable cost.

Does North Carolina allow net metering? This might make a difference too.

I think I remember reading off peak is 6.8 cents and on peak is 8.2 or something so gave estimate symbol and said it was 7.5 cents. I also read the Atlanta region, out of maybe 20 cities nationwide, is a 8 cents kWh area. I noticed it was one of the cheapest. Yes net metering and some other option, from what I remember net metering was the better one.

sol

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2015, 09:21:38 PM »
i think Sol (forum member) installed some on his house. I don't feel like looking for the thread but try a search for it and see if it's any help.

Yes, I do.  They are profitable here in Washington only because of the tax rebate and state production incentives.  I make about $5500/year from them in addition to not paying for power.  Thread with installation and financial details is here:  http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/solar-panel-installation/

Other relevant reading from the forum: 
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/solar-panels-worth-the-investment/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/share-your-badassity/getting-solar-panels-installed-on-my-house-for-200$-initial-cost-0$/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/solar-panels-lease-buy-or-plain-no/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/why-would-i-not-do-solar/
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/anyone-installed-solar-panels-specifically-for-an-investment/ (old)
http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/solar-power-as-an-investment-in-my-home/ (old)


hoping2retire35

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2015, 09:05:07 AM »
ok, read through most of the post, and two big things stick out that are the difference between sol's situation and mine.

If I understand this correct, the State of Washington pays you $0.54 for every kwh that you produce using solar residential power, regardless if you lower your electric bill(or make it go away outright). You read that right folks. Granted this only last 6 years or something but still! If my state did this I would fill fields of solar panels collect the money for 6 years or whatever and FIRE for good!

Second thing I was pretty sure of but others confirmed is the tax credit is nonrefundable which means income/kids=no tax credit.


sol

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Re: Get solar panels?
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2015, 02:51:43 PM »
Yes, the state incentive program is good in Washington.  Our power costs are too low (lots of cheap hydropower) for solar panels to be otherwise cost effective.

The incentive payments are capped at $5k/yr, so it's not a path to early retirement unless you are a frugality badass.

The federal tax rebate is nonrefundable, but you can carry it forward to multiple years as long as you have SOME tax liability.  For people who pay no taxes at all, the federal rebate isn't helpful.