Author Topic: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, Solar, etc.  (Read 9004 times)

MacGyverIt

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 233
  • Location: Not in a tropical, underpopulated location. And that's just wrong.
  • What Would MacGyver Do?
I'm doing all right on the heat/AC front - hasn't been on since December. How are you doing? What solutions do you have?

AC/Heat?
For winter, I purchased an oil-based electrical heaters to heat my bedroom and living room, rather than heat the entire house.
This summer, I've considered purchasing window fan units to bring in the cool air at night. (Just not sure about the pollen/allergy issues, we'll see how that goes.)

Dishwasher?
I don't have a meter to confirm or deny savings on hand washing versus using a dishwasher. I've found more articles online stating dishwashers are more energy efficient... but that is trusting the wisdom of the crowd. So far I'm using the dishwasher and running it at a time of day when energy costs are lower. Am I wrong? Am I right? If loving my dishwasher is wrong, maybe I don't want to be right...?

Fireplace? Fireplace insert?
Originally I'd considered using my fireplace to avoid running the heat pump... until I called around for wood cord estimates. YIKES. And fireplaces aren't typically heat efficient, so what about a fireplace insert? Again, I called around and got lukewarm (pardon the pun) responses from local vendors. Looked like it'd run a four digit amount to put a fireplace insert into the current fireplace which didn't make financial sense to me. Anyone have any better ideas or better experience in this regard? I've a buddy in Rhode Island who put in a small wood burning iron stove in his small townhouse and they never fired up their heat over the winter (in RI, that's saying a lot!).
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 08:24:40 AM by MacGyverIt »

Eristheunorganized

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 85
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2012, 07:54:17 PM »
I'm afraid my only experience with fireplace inserts is anecdotal. My brother heats his house with an insert, using firewood he gets for free over the summer. You have to hit craigslist when people are downing trees during spring and summer.

Note- only viable if you can obtain a truck. 

JJ

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 117
  • Location: On the road, Australia
    • A Philosopher and A Businessman
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2012, 11:17:26 PM »
Wood-burning ranges are great.  You can combine stove, oven, room-heating, clothes drying and hot water heating in one unit.  You don't need a gym membership either if you get in big logs (which you will probably be doing if you are getting your wood for free) - nothing beats splitting logs for a good workout.  Legs, core, shoulders, arms, grip - all get a good going over.  No idea if http://www.travhotec.com.au/wood_fired.html are any good, but they give you an idea.  Of course, if you have hot summers you may not want this running to get hot water so you may need a plan b (solar?).

Parizade

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1030
  • Location: Variable
  • Happily FIREd
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2012, 05:43:17 AM »
For me the worst part of being too hot or too cold is how it disrupts sleep, so I thought this looked intriguing:

http://cozywinters.com/shop/chilipad.html

This would keep me cool in the summer and warm in the winter while I'm trying to sleep, without the need for a furnace or AC. Might be worth the investment.


palvar

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 73
  • Age: 7
  • Location: Philadelphia
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2012, 08:46:15 AM »
For me the worst part of being too hot or too cold is how it disrupts sleep, so I thought this looked intriguing:

http://cozywinters.com/shop/chilipad.html

This would keep me cool in the summer and warm in the winter while I'm trying to sleep, without the need for a furnace or AC. Might be worth the investment.

That sounds pretty great - but $1000!  That sounds a bit hard to justify.

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1797
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2012, 09:37:36 AM »
A/C / Heat:

I never used to worry about or ration either, as I have a very small total volume of air to heat - until they changed the old meter and it turned out the old one was broken, and I had been using more electricity than I thought!  (I double checked with a Kill-a-Watt, and the new meter was accurate)

But by a happy coincidence, it was not long before that I had read Jacob's (of ERE) post about heat, and I decided to try his method.
Living in the SF Bay Area, it never gets more than a degree below freezing, and usually not too much below 40.
In the summer it rarely goes far above 100 (F).

So I tried just shutting them both off entirely.  If I can go outdoors and be reasonably comfortable, then I should be ok indoors at the same temperature.  I just dress in layers inside exactly the same as I would outside.
It definitely took a little getting used to, but I actually don't mind it anymore.  I find myself very uncomfortable when I go somewhere that has artificial heat now!

The only thing that is unpleasant is my hands get cold when I'm typing.

I've gone 2 winters with no heat and 1 summer with no A/C so far, and I doubt I'll be using either again anytime soon.  In fact, I put my heater in the storage shed, and I wrapped my roof A/C with plastic wrap inside and out to seal out any rain or breeze.

More or less about the same time I stopped using hot water except when I really need it (i.e. basically only for showers) because I realized I would turn on the hot tap, wash my hands, and be finished before the hot water even reached the bathroom faucet.  So I installed broken handles on the bathroom and kitchen faucets (they work, but the fact that they are broken reminds me not to just turn them on out of habit).


sleep Now that I don't use heat, I sleep in pajamas, with a cap, and under about 5 blankets.  In the summer I just use a sheet and turn on a fan, and if its really hot, maybe crack the window or roof vent.

Dishwasher: how could it possibly be more energy efficient than handwashing?  Handwashing uses no energy at all! 
It can supposedly use less water, but I suspect that depends on how you hand wash.  If you run the water the entire time, sure.  If you totally fill the sink with water, maybe. 
I wash dishes the way the Navy takes a shower: soap up with the water off, then rinse. 

I never really used the dishwasher when I lived in a place with one.  You have to scrap the well stuck on gunk off anyway, so what is the point?  I don't like doing lots of dishes, so my solution is to have exactly 1 bowl, 1 plate, 1 cup, 1 fork, and 1 spoon, for each member of the household.  That way the most dishes that need to be washed at once is usually 2 and they never build up and never get crusty or stinky.


Fire:
I think the point of a fireplace is at least as much ambiance as it is warmth, as the majority of the heat goes out the chimney. 
A woodstove is definitely a lot more efficient than a standard fireplace.  I suspect that could be improved much farther by having a chimney designed like a radiator, but I haven't ever seen such a thing - I may have to just design and build it myself once I have a house to put it in.  (That's basically what a masonry heater is, but it has to be built into a house during construction)
Maybe you could find a used insert or woodstove, and install it yourself?



I imagine if I lived in a climate that was less temperate (I did that once, it sucked, I moved back to CA in a year) I would use heat, possibly even A/C, but I would set it to emulate the conditions I have now - set the heat to 40F in winter, A/C to about 95F in summer.  Enough to be tolerable, but not particularly comfortable.

Somehow the inhabitants of the modern developed world have gotten the idea that it is essential in life to be comfortable at all times, which I dare say is the polar opposite of developing one's badassity
« Last Edit: March 21, 2012, 09:52:21 AM by Bakari »

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3957
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2012, 12:50:50 PM »
Fire:
A woodstove is definitely a lot more efficient than a standard fireplace.  I suspect that could be improved much farther by having a chimney designed like a radiator, but I haven't ever seen such a thing - I may have to just design and build it myself once I have a house to put it in.  (That's basically what a masonry heater is, but it has to be built into a house during construction)

I have to admit, ever since finding out about these things, I've been itching to try and build one for myself, and given their efficiency when built right had even tried to work one in as part of the design for my parents new place. Apparently, rocket mass heaters when properly constructed are so efficient at burning wood and transferring heat that you can stick your face in the exhaust and smell/feel almost nothing but warm moist air, making creosote buildup a non-issue. They're also dirt cheap to build, as little as $30 in scrap materials if you don't want it pretty.

MEJG

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 276
  • Location: Northeast US
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2012, 01:50:26 PM »
Rocket mass heaters are definitely cool.

A masonry wood stove has a radiator like chimney, and you can pay big bucks to have one retrofitted, but generally are built with the house.

menorman

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 178
  • Location: SoCal
    • Marven's Money Musings
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2012, 04:44:15 PM »
Fireplace? Fireplace insert?
Originally I'd considered using my fireplace to avoid running the heat pump... until I called around for wood cord estimates. YIKES. And fireplaces aren't typically heat efficient, so what about a fireplace insert? Again, I called around and got lukewarm (pardon the pun) responses from local vendors. Looked like it'd run a four digit amount to put a fireplace insert into the current fireplace which didn't make financial sense to me. Anyone have any better ideas or better experience in this regard? I've a buddy in Rhode Island who put in a small wood burning iron stove in his small townhouse and they never fired up their heat over the winter (in RI, that's saying a lot!).
I took a class on energy efficiency and one of the topics was biomass as a fuel, including wood. Apparently, the average fireplace gives a net loss of 5% due to the fireplace sucking in air and sending it up the chimney. Throwing glass doors on it increase efficiency by 10%, for an average 5% efficiency in getting heat into the house. Replacing the open fireplace w/ an insert (which could still have glass doors if people really want to see the fire) definitely increases the efficiency by quite a big, into at least the 60% range IIRC.

MacGyverIt

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 233
  • Location: Not in a tropical, underpopulated location. And that's just wrong.
  • What Would MacGyver Do?
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2012, 08:18:47 AM »
Rocket mass heaters are definitely cool.

A masonry wood stove has a radiator like chimney, and you can pay big bucks to have one retrofitted, but generally are built with the house.
I've looked at that link for the rocket mass heaters before but can't quite make sense of their construction, do you have one currently?

MacGyverIt

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 233
  • Location: Not in a tropical, underpopulated location. And that's just wrong.
  • What Would MacGyver Do?
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2012, 08:24:15 AM »
Fireplace? Fireplace insert?
Originally I'd considered using my fireplace to avoid running the heat pump... until I called around for wood cord estimates. YIKES. And fireplaces aren't typically heat efficient, so what about a fireplace insert? Again, I called around and got lukewarm (pardon the pun) responses from local vendors. Looked like it'd run a four digit amount to put a fireplace insert into the current fireplace which didn't make financial sense to me. Anyone have any better ideas or better experience in this regard? I've a buddy in Rhode Island who put in a small wood burning iron stove in his small townhouse and they never fired up their heat over the winter (in RI, that's saying a lot!).
I took a class on energy efficiency and one of the topics was biomass as a fuel, including wood. Apparently, the average fireplace gives a net loss of 5% due to the fireplace sucking in air and sending it up the chimney. Throwing glass doors on it increase efficiency by 10%, for an average 5% efficiency in getting heat into the house. Replacing the open fireplace w/ an insert (which could still have glass doors if people really want to see the fire) definitely increases the efficiency by quite a big, into at least the 60% range IIRC.
Yeah... I didn't spent a lot of time on the math but it doesn't seem that investing in a fireplace insert would make sense, at least not unless we have years of terrible winters (this year was wonderfully "warm" compared to previous years). The inserts are very efficient, have thermostats to adjust the burn rate and temperature and I like the wood pellet stoves since the pellets are made from recycled materials. (And bags of pellets would be easier to move/store.) So for now, the fireplace is only used on the rare occasion I need to burn personal documents.

If only solar were more practical and affordable! Not sure it'd work for me in this area but my family down in Florida could really benefit, they are all ready running the AC. May still do a little research on solar for their house, cost of installation, etc. They just get far too much sun to not look into that option!

sol

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8492
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Pacific Northwest
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2012, 08:52:02 AM »
They just get far too much sun to not look into that option!

We've looked into solar here and the killer isn't the (low) amount of sun we get, it's the crazy low prices we pay for electricity.

If they're buying wind power, then solar definitely makes sense.  If they're buying natural gas or coal, then it usually makes sense in very sunny places, in the long run, assuming you can grid-tie the excess at elevated rates.  If they are buying hydropower like the NW corner of the country, then power is so cheap that solar systems don't make any sense.  They just can't be cost competitive with giant powerplants that run easily variable output 24/7 with no fossil fuels or greenhouse gas emissions. 

Damn you hydropower, for providing clean green energy and thus suppressing the generation of clean green energy.

menorman

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 178
  • Location: SoCal
    • Marven's Money Musings
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2012, 10:29:50 AM »
Fireplace? Fireplace insert?
Originally I'd considered using my fireplace to avoid running the heat pump... until I called around for wood cord estimates. YIKES. And fireplaces aren't typically heat efficient, so what about a fireplace insert? Again, I called around and got lukewarm (pardon the pun) responses from local vendors. Looked like it'd run a four digit amount to put a fireplace insert into the current fireplace which didn't make financial sense to me. Anyone have any better ideas or better experience in this regard? I've a buddy in Rhode Island who put in a small wood burning iron stove in his small townhouse and they never fired up their heat over the winter (in RI, that's saying a lot!).
I took a class on energy efficiency and one of the topics was biomass as a fuel, including wood. Apparently, the average fireplace gives a net loss of 5% due to the fireplace sucking in air and sending it up the chimney. Throwing glass doors on it increase efficiency by 10%, for an average 5% efficiency in getting heat into the house. Replacing the open fireplace w/ an insert (which could still have glass doors if people really want to see the fire) definitely increases the efficiency by quite a big, into at least the 60% range IIRC.
Yeah... I didn't spent a lot of time on the math but it doesn't seem that investing in a fireplace insert would make sense, at least not unless we have years of terrible winters (this year was wonderfully "warm" compared to previous years). The inserts are very efficient, have thermostats to adjust the burn rate and temperature and I like the wood pellet stoves since the pellets are made from recycled materials. (And bags of pellets would be easier to move/store.) So for now, the fireplace is only used on the rare occasion I need to burn personal documents.

If only solar were more practical and affordable! Not sure it'd work for me in this area but my family down in Florida could really benefit, they are all ready running the AC. May still do a little research on solar for their house, cost of installation, etc. They just get far too much sun to not look into that option!
Not sure where you're located, but if you're here in CA, there's a company called SolarCity [MOD EDIT: FIXED LINK] (and I'm sure others like it) that offers to either install a solar system that one buys from them outright or they will also install one w/ various monthly payment options that they promise will be lower than current conventional electricity rates. It also comes w/ the right to purchase the system after five years or upgrade it and continue paying (probably a combination of the two as well). They do mention that there're tax and rebate incentives that could possibly cover up to 50% of the purchase price in some areas. While it might not make the most sense not for some, it would be a very smart move for others. Given the current CA self-imposed mandates of power sources and the cost of putting up the massive solar plants in the desert (mostly due to having to move the tortoises) as well as the price increase of fossil fuels that will continue, the price of electricity will be going up in this state and anyone who doesn't have to buy (much of) it will be in a better position. I'm sure that scenario will play out across the country over the next decade or two, and solar will become far more popular. However, I do believe the tax credit expires in 2016, which in current form gives an automatic 30% off. One thing that might help would be if CA changed the law that mandates that utilities buy back any excess electricity at market instead of wholesale rates and they'd be more inclined to support small-scale installations. If changed to a tiered system where only excess electricity above a certain threshold or time of day got market rates and the rest wholesale, they wouldn't have to worry about having to pay out more than they charge people.
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 03:02:39 PM by arebelspy »

velocistar237

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1422
  • Location: Metro Boston

MacGyverIt

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 233
  • Location: Not in a tropical, underpopulated location. And that's just wrong.
  • What Would MacGyver Do?
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2012, 02:50:25 PM »
Not sure where you're located, but if you're here in CA, there's a company called SolarCity (and I'm sure others like it) that offers to either install a solar system that one buys from them outright or they will also install one w/ various monthly payment options that they promise will be lower than current conventional electricity rates.
Wow... this was the company I'd heard advertised on the radio but couldn't remember, googled around and couldn't find it and here you've provided it to me! I'll def take a look, can never hurt to ask or investigate.

Bakari

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1797
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Veggie Powered Handyman
    • The Flamboyant Introvert
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2012, 03:57:16 PM »
Dishwasher: how could it possibly be more energy efficient than handwashing? Handwashing uses no energy at all!

I always thought this would be a great science fair project.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/The-Simple-Dollar/2011/1110/Dishwashers-vs.-hand-washing-Which-is-cheaper

http://www.landtechnik.uni-bonn.de/forschung/haushaltstechnik/publikationen/dishwashing-under-various-consumer-relevant-conditions-ht10

The article already concludes handwashing to be superior (even using the fill-the-sink method) - but since I don't use hot water to wash dishes anyway, it's not even a close call.  In theory warm water is supposed to have more cleaning ability, but in practice I haven't found it to make any difference at all.


Regarding the cost of solar:  the only option you are ever going to find aggressively advertised is large scale utility intertie systems, which provide enough output to completely power the home and have some left over to sell to the power company, because these large complex systems are the ones which are most profitable for the solar companies to install.
But just while those systems may have a prohibitively high start-up cost, that doesn't stop you from making use of ample sunlight.

One frequently forgotten area is hot water.  A simple solar batch or thermosyphon system that routes your water across the roof before going to the hot water heater is a project a DIYer could do any a day or two. 
http://homepower.com/basics/hotwater/

You can buy a fancy pre-made system for around $1000, or build one for under $100
http://www.instructables.com/id/Solar-powered-Preheater-for-Tankless-Water-Heater/
http://www.instructables.com/id/Build-your-own-flat-panel-solar-thermal-collector/
http://www.instructables.com/id/Solar-Hot-Water-Pre-heater/
http://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-Solar-Water-Heater-for-your-Home-300/

As far as electricity, a lot of the cost of the commercial systems comes from the intertie meter, the inverter, the labor of installation.  If you build a 12V stand alone system, you avoid all of those costs, and you can build a smaller system to start with a scale it up later.
I have a 12v stand alone solar system (it is powering the internet connection I am using to send this post, and it will power my computer too before long...)
I wrote my own instructable about how to do it:
http://www.instructables.com/id/NON-grid-intertie-independant-solar-photovoltic-/
Mine cost me about $400 and saves around $15 a month, so it should pay for itself in a little over 2 years (as opposed to the 10-20 year projections for a grid-intertie system. 
(Not living in an RV, the equivalent system would be a couple hundred more, but the cost per-watt of the panel itself drops sharply as the system grows)

Plus, if the power goes out at night, I don't even notice!

Lavender

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 37
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2012, 08:01:52 PM »
Not sure where you're located, but if you're here in CA, there's a company called SolarCity (and I'm sure others like it) that offers to either install a solar system that one buys from them outright or they will also install one w/ various monthly payment options that they promise will be lower than current conventional electricity rates.
Wow... this was the company I'd heard advertised on the radio but couldn't remember, googled around and couldn't find it and here you've provided it to me! I'll def take a look, can never hurt to ask or investigate.

I just came across this company and looked in the forums to see if anyone had used them/recommended them, and found this thread. Did you (or any other MMM readers) look into this option? If so, what are the pros and cons? It seems a good alternative to the prohibitive cost of installing solar panels. Thanks for your input!

Nords

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3187
  • Age: 58
  • Location: Oahu
    • Military Retirement & Financial Independence blog
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2012, 09:27:01 PM »
I just came across this company and looked in the forums to see if anyone had used them/recommended them, and found this thread. Did you (or any other MMM readers) look into this option? If so, what are the pros and cons? It seems a good alternative to the prohibitive cost of installing solar panels. Thanks for your input!
Here's the business model: 
1.  Homeowners don't have the savings to pay for the capital expense of solar.  If PV companies want to move more product, they have to figure out how to subsidize it.
2.  Just as the entire world ramped up panel production, Germany removed a bunch of subsidies.  New tech and new manufacturing processes also cut down on costs, leaving wholesalers with a huge overhang of product.  Prices of some panels are selling for less than $1/watt.  When we were buying panels in 2005-2007, we were thrilled to find second-hand panels for $4/watt, so today's prices are Moore's Law on steroids. 
3.  Installation companies have to invest a lot of time & money in payroll, installation training, and special tools.  Their profit margins depend on how fast (and error-free) they can install panels.  It's hard work, their staff tend to have high turnover, and they need constant practice.  Even if they're installing PV systems at cost, they're getting some proficiency training and using more product (so that they can buy with a better wholesaler discount).

Keep in mind that PV installers are probably not getting rich off this business model, especially in a recession.  They might even be losing money and hoping to make it up on volume.  If they had a choice they'd rather install their panels on top of Wal-Mart or Costco.

They'll install their array on your roof, using a less-experienced foreman (or an instructor) and a crew of newbies.  They have to make it safe and they will, but they might have to fix mistakes and end up looking like a bunch of clowns in the process.  (You're getting what you're paying for.)  The nice thing (from your perspective) is that they have to run the construction permits and arrange the net-metering agreement with your local utility.  Ask them to give you a smart meter (if you don't have one already) and tell them that you want them to arrange the approval from your local homeowner's association.  Both of those are minor hassles and will give you an indication of how motivated these guys are.

If your electric meter is on the north side of your house, these guys may go cheap on the wiring and route fifty feet of conduit over the top of your house to reach the junction box.  You may not care for the look.  They may not care to spend any more money than necessary, and they don't care whether or not it looks good.

They'll get all of the tax credits (both state & federal) for installing your array.  Since they're a business, they'll depreciate the heck out of it during the next 10 years.  They did the installation so it didn't cost very much to begin with, and their payback is as little as 5-8 years. 

You'll sign a power-producing agreement (PPA), and it might be for as long as 20 years.  Ideally it'd be a flat rate for that entire 20 years.  There could be penalties for early cancellation.  I don't know what price you'd pay-- whether you'd be paying less than the current utility rate or more.  If you're asked to pay more than the current utility rate, then you could consider what inflation would do to your electricity costs over that 20 years (that's what usually happens around here).  Of course on the Mainland you can ship power in from out of state, so their contract rate might be lower than what you're paying now, or it might be tied to some sort of inflation/average-price index.

Every year you'll pay them an income stream on their array.  Ideally it'd be less than you'd pay the electric utility, so you're happy.  Their original goal was to be able to buy bigger volumes of equipment and practice installing it, while the tax credits & depreciation are just bonus.  Now you're like the dividend stock that never stops giving, and when you multiply that by a few hundred homes it keeps their company in business.  They can use your income stream to borrow money, buy more hardware, and underbid bigger projects.

If you have an electric water heater then ask them for a quote on a solar water heater.  If you have a gas water heater then you're better off just sticking with gas.

If you want to get them thinking about the size of the array, tell them that you're thinking of buying an electric vehicle in a few years.  They'll probably tell you that they can come back out to add another 1000-1500 watts of panels (with microinverters). 

Ideally they'd pay for all maintenance & repairs-- offhand the only damage I can think of would be a hailstorm.  The cover glass would probably handle even that.  Good thing because I think they'd be reluctant to spend any time on customer service.  After all you got it for free.  The worst case would be if they screwed up and made a hole in your roof instead of in a rafter/truss... in your neighborhood you wouldn't know about a roof leak for months.  My personal opinion is that roofing cement fixes a lot of mistakes.

If they're using microinverters then see if you can track each panel's performance on the Internet.

Keep in mind that you could probably do better if you put up the capex to buy your own PV array.  They may try to upsell you in that direction.  You'd get all the tax credits (http://www.dsireusa.org/) and it could pay for itself in 10-15 years.  However the downside is that you'd need to stay in the house for 10-15 years to realize that payback, and I don't think homebuyers are willing to pay for PV arrays.

http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/incentive.cfm?Incentive_Code=US37F&re=1&ee=1 The federal incentive is a 30% tax credit, which can be carried forward.  DSIRE also lists the state, local, and utility credits/rebates/incentives.


Lavender

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 37
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, Solar, etc.
« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2012, 10:32:08 PM »
Wow, thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed response, Nords.

One of the reasons I'm thinking of the PPA versus buying outright is that I live in Houston TX -  no state/local credits, just the 30% federal credit, which means that much longer to recoup the investment. If I knew for sure we would be in this house in 15 years, I'd go for buying the PV system, but there's no way to know that. In any case, you've given us a lot to factor in before making the decision, thanks!

Nords

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3187
  • Age: 58
  • Location: Oahu
    • Military Retirement & Financial Independence blog
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, Solar, etc.
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2012, 10:38:26 PM »
Wow, thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed response, Nords.
You're welcome; I copied it from my post on another board!

One of the reasons I'm thinking of the PPA versus buying outright is that I live in Houston TX -  no state/local credits, just the 30% federal credit, which means that much longer to recoup the investment.
I suspect that your state & utility might be a tad antagonistic to subsidizing photovoltaic... I don't know many in Texas with PV systems.  If Rice and Texas Medical Center aren't doing it then it's not worth the investment.

Nudelkopf

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 899
  • Age: 28
  • Location: Australia
Re: On Electrical Consumption: AC, Dishwasher, Fireplace, etc.
« Reply #20 on: July 17, 2012, 02:05:18 AM »
In the summer I just use a sheet and turn on a fan, and if its really hot, maybe crack the window or roof vent.
Shouldn't you open a window before turning on the fan?