Author Topic: Solar power as an investment in my home  (Read 10504 times)

Lans Holman

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Solar power as an investment in my home
« on: May 16, 2013, 10:27:56 PM »
Anyone have experiences good or bad with using solar power to cut down on electric bills?  There are some pretty solid tax incentives right now in my state, and it looks like a system that would cost about 17,000 to start with could pay for itself in about seven years between the rebates from the utility and the savings on bills.  We have no particular plans to move anytime, but even if we did it seems like having that would add a lot to the value of the house.  Any thoughts?

gooki

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2013, 01:27:15 AM »
7 year pay off is a return of approx 10%.

Sounds fucking good to me.

JamesAt15

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2013, 01:58:23 AM »
And then you get a bunch of power for free after that? (I think most solar systems conservatively claim that they're good for 20 years and output may drop to 80% of maximum by then.)

I want to get a solar system installed on our house, but planning to wait a bit until I get a more permanent job situation sorted. So count me as envious.

marty998

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2013, 02:44:25 AM »
Power prices go up much faster than you expect. Just ask any Aussie.

Your payback time will probably be less.

Only risk is governments or power companies changing the rules on how much they pay you for the power you generate.

Also obviously make sure your panels are covered by your home insurance, and don't exceed the weight your roof can safely handle.

GuitarStv

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2013, 06:35:01 AM »
We have just purchased a solar array for our house.  It's going to be installed in the next month or two.

Our break even point should be about 6-7 years with Ontario's microFIT program.  One thing that really surprised me was how the business equipment write-offs that you can do (since we're selling the power to the utility company, we're technically a small business) each year drastically improved the break even point.  Additional home insurance costs amount to about 50$ a year.  After crunching the numbers, it seemed like a no-brainer, providing you're expecting to stay in the house for a while.

Solar energy is too new to expect it to add much value to your house when selling in my opinion . . . but I could be wrong.

gdborton

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2013, 07:25:35 AM »
I'm not sure where you live, but Solar City (http://www.solarcity.com/) gives you solar panels and installs for free.  Then you pay a lower fee for the portion of power that they generate.

Insanity

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2013, 07:32:22 AM »
I'm not sure where you live, but Solar City (http://www.solarcity.com/) gives you solar panels and installs for free.  Then you pay a lower fee for the portion of power that they generate.

Has anyone used SolarCity?  I've seen cars around with their logos on it and been wondering whether leasing solar is the way to go as opposed to buying it.

One thing that I like is what DOW has done.  Integrated solar panels in roofing shingles.  From when I looked at it, the shingles interlock to form the circuit and then there's a set of wires that feed down to the control (so it isn't like each individual shingle is wired).  Sounds like it's much easier replacement and lower cost as well.  But I haven't done that analysis yet.

Unfortunately, I don't think that's everywhere.

Spork

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2013, 07:34:32 AM »
I saw someone's write up on buying panels from CostCo, too.  They designed complete turnkey systems based on your requirements.

Rural

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2013, 07:54:21 AM »
We're planning on PV laminate on our metal roof once we're at a stable point in building and have the money. Or, rather, we're planning to run the numbers on it. It looks promising, but there's too much left to be done to get the house itself more finished now, so we've decided to do our research when we're closer to ready since the technology is changing constantly.

Spork

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2013, 08:11:34 AM »
When I've looked at it (and it is changing constantly, so take me with a grain of salt) -- it really only pays if there is a government incentive (or disincentive by artificially high kwh charges).  I think there will be a time in the not-so-distant-future that this will change.

Personally, I am a bit of a capitalist pig -- and I have issues taking the incentives.  Although, there are some markets where the cost per kwh has been regulated up so high, it'd be hard not to.

Rural

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2013, 08:15:32 AM »
I hear you on that. But we are in a place where the electric co-op buys solar for more than it charges for "conventional" power, so we'll have some complicated numbers to run to figure it out. One of these days, anyway. It's low on The List. :-)

Lans Holman

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2013, 11:50:00 AM »
When I've looked at it (and it is changing constantly, so take me with a grain of salt) -- it really only pays if there is a government incentive (or disincentive by artificially high kwh charges).  I think there will be a time in the not-so-distant-future that this will change.

Personally, I am a bit of a capitalist pig -- and I have issues taking the incentives.  Although, there are some markets where the cost per kwh has been regulated up so high, it'd be hard not to.

No, I think that's probably right.  Right now there is a 30% federal tax credit up front for the cost of the system.  Then the utility pays 0.36/kwH for everything we generate, whether we use it or send it back to the grid. That credit is due to expire in 6 years and only applies if we buy a locally produced system.  With a 4kw system, in an area that gets 1100 kwh worth of sunshine, that works out to about $1500 a year, before you even get to the savings on our bill.  So yeah, this is subsidized, and I could understand the free market fundamentalist objection in principle.  On the other hand, the market for electricity is not exacly a shining example of the free market at work in the first place.  If these subsidies are out there and it works out for our family, I'm not going to feel too bad about taking them.   

GuitarStv

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2013, 12:07:40 PM »
I'm not sure where you live, but Solar City (http://www.solarcity.com/) gives you solar panels and installs for free.  Then you pay a lower fee for the portion of power that they generate.

Has anyone used SolarCity?  I've seen cars around with their logos on it and been wondering whether leasing solar is the way to go as opposed to buying it.

Is the SolarCity company a solar lease, or do they sell systems outright?

Johnny Aloha

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2013, 12:16:33 PM »
Tons of people in my area do it.  In most cases, it's a 6-7 year payback.  We haven't yet because our electric consumption is pretty low, but we might later this year.  We always hang dry clothes, use CFLs or LEDs, etc.

Be aware that there are 2 types of programs:

1) YOU own the system and recieve all tax credits, reduced monthly costs, etc.  You also pay out of pocket for it.

2) a private company installs the system on your roof for free.  Then you sign a binding lease (usually 20 years) to purchase the electricity from them.  You pay no money out of pocket.  If your local electricity rates are $0.35/kwH, you are probably paying the company $0.28/kwH.  So there is some benefit but not much.

gdborton

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2013, 01:26:13 PM »
Quote
Is the SolarCity company a solar lease, or do they sell systems outright?

To my knowledge both, but you'd have to peruse the site and/or call to be sure.

Quote
2) a private company installs the system on your roof for free.  Then you sign a binding lease (usually 20 years) to purchase the electricity from them.  You pay no money out of pocket.  If your local electricity rates are $0.35/kwH, you are probably paying the company $0.28/kwH.  So there is some benefit but not much.

I'm not sure of the cost ratio of solar/grid, and I'm sure it varies by region.  The biggest benefit would probably be to lock in your rates for 20 years.

gdborton

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2013, 01:45:08 PM »
Also, I want to thank you for asking this question today.

As unmustachian as it is, I threw some fun money at SCTY after reading your post. Picked up and sold 20% in about 3 hours.

Lans Holman

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2013, 06:16:11 PM »
Also, I want to thank you for asking this question today.

As unmustachian as it is, I threw some fun money at SCTY after reading your post. Picked up and sold 20% in about 3 hours.

You're welcome.  Clearly the universe is voting yes to solar today.

Emg03063

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2013, 08:21:30 PM »
I just did it.  I calculate a 4 year payback for myself after rebates and incentives.  (5kw system). Of course, no sooner did I do it than I found do it yourself systems online for ~1/3 the cost:

https://www.anapode.com/content/Home

foobar

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2013, 09:26:40 PM »
I would ask a real estate agent if solar panels actually get you money. They seem like the type of thing that no one will really pay more money for. The might like it but I am not sure how many will add 10k to their offer because you have it. That is one of my concerns about solar city is that it complicates selling your house.   From a technology point of view, I would suggest waiting 3 years. The prices are still dropping sharply year over year. However no one can predicate how long the tax rebates will last.






Anyone have experiences good or bad with using solar power to cut down on electric bills?  There are some pretty solid tax incentives right now in my state, and it looks like a system that would cost about 17,000 to start with could pay for itself in about seven years between the rebates from the utility and the savings on bills.  We have no particular plans to move anytime, but even if we did it seems like having that would add a lot to the value of the house.  Any thoughts?

Abe

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2013, 12:21:02 AM »
I would not count on incentives remaining indefinitely, and electricity prices may drop if natural gas continues to be cheap. If the pay-off is in 7 years ( I would assume longer to be conservative), and you plan to live in the house at least that long, go for it.  However, do not assume that you will get more for your house because of the panels. People may not be willing to pay more for what they may perceive as a maintenance hassle and eyesore. 

little_owl

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #20 on: May 18, 2013, 05:19:55 AM »
This is cool stuff.  We looked into getting an 11kw system installed two years ago, and it was $60k!!!  So, we've put that on the back burner in the hopes that prices drop.

We were working with Astrum Solar.  I loved them, but it was not in our financial plan at the time.

I do think that Solar would be an incredible investment as we head towards FI. Outside of our mortgage, our highest monthly bill is the electric bill (as everything in our house runs off electric).  Cutting that back using that big 'ol day star would be sweet.

Lans Holman

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2013, 10:28:04 AM »
I would ask a real estate agent if solar panels actually get you money. They seem like the type of thing that no one will really pay more money for. The might like it but I am not sure how many will add 10k to their offer because you have it. That is one of my concerns about solar city is that it complicates selling your house.   From a technology point of view, I would suggest waiting 3 years. The prices are still dropping sharply year over year. However no one can predicate how long the tax rebates will last.



That's good advice, I know a couple of local agents and I'll ask around and see if any of them have any experience with what that does to your house price.  I live in a pretty liberal, eco-conscious city, so that helps.
As far as the tax breaks go, the federal one is due to expire in 3 years and I wouldn't want to count on it being renewed.  The one through the utility expires in 2020 and may or may not be renewed, so even though prices may drop from year to year it kind of makes sense to go for it now if the numbers work.

Lans Holman

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #22 on: May 21, 2013, 05:34:45 PM »
I did follow up by asking some real estate agents about sales with solar panels, and they agreed I shouldn't count on it increasing the home's value as I'm trying to decide.  It may still make financial sense just for our own savings, but as I'm trying to figure it out I'm not going to include any changes to the house's value in my calculations.

mikefixac

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #23 on: May 21, 2013, 08:33:41 PM »
I live in So Cal and just signed the contract with Solar City. Elon Musk is the founder of Solar City along with Tesla Motors.

So, if my numbers are right, the system pays for itself in 7 years. I figure even less because the cost of electricity goes up 7%/year. So that will be 13 more years of electricity afterwards with much lower costs. My present bill is $200/mo and projected bill will be $38. I'm paying $13,800 for the system and paying for it in full. Financing is available.

I will then have no bill from Solar City, and get a yearly bill from the electric company. When system gets installed, I'm also going to do a few things different in the house--unplug second refrig, and a few other things. So hopefully I can get my bill down to around $200/year instead of the current $200/mo. (But if I stay with the status quo, my bill will be $400/year.)

Even though I'm paying in full for the panels from Solar City, they will be removing them after 20 years. They explain that I'm buying a contract, not the panels. Whatever that means.

But I'm sure in the not to distant future, solar is going to be much better than it now is. It is fascinating that here's this ball 90 million miles away composed of helium and hydrogen and we can tap into it to create electricity to run our homes.

BTW, the solar panels don't directly run our electrical appliances. As the panels create electricity from the sun, it's fed through the lines via DC current, then converted to AC and then ties into the electrical grid. The meter keeps track of how much electricity the system is creating.

As far as increasing value of home, I can't see how new home owner wouldn't be happy with electrical bill of $20-$40/month, when most homeowners have bills between $200-$300/month. We also have tankless water heater and our gas bill is often under $10.

If you do purchase the Solar City product, tell them someone recommended you to Solar City and that person will get $400. Then you can work out a deal with that person and it will make your cost of the solar even cheaper.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2013, 08:46:20 PM by mikefixac »

Ozstache

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #24 on: May 22, 2013, 01:50:27 AM »
Only risk is governments or power companies changing the rules on how much they pay you for the power you generate.

Indeed. NSW has gone from paying you a whopping 60 cents/kwh a few years ago to a measly 8 cents/kwh currently.

happy

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Re: Solar power as an investment in my home
« Reply #25 on: May 22, 2013, 04:39:46 AM »
Only risk is governments or power companies changing the rules on how much they pay you for the power you generate.

Indeed. NSW has gone from paying you a whopping 60 cents/kwh a few years ago to a measly 8 cents/kwh currently.


Grrr yes - I missed the 60c offer and although I dearly would like some panels I can't make the sums work - sell it to them for 8c and buy it back for 25c AND pay the capital cost of the system. Pffft!

My 2c: do your sums for your local situation and also make sure there is some sort of contract to protect you if the market price for home generated electricity drops. Make sure also you will actually generate the amount of power they are rated for when doing the costs...panels are not 100% efficient and then there's shading,  rainy days and I think some panels don't perform so efficiently if they are too hot.