Author Topic: Solar panels  (Read 1507 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Solar panels
« on: February 04, 2016, 10:51:19 AM »
I'm not sure if this question is right for this group or another but here goes:

I want to get solar panels on my house.  We live in NC and for a total investment of about $18,000 ($14,000 after tax incentives) I can get a system that will cut down my electic bill by about $100 per month.  I've done the math and that works out.  But the question I have is: are prices for solar panels still coming down quickly?  Also, are technological advances still happening quickly?

I don't want to make a major investment just to have something like like a Blackberry phone three years from now.  Anyone who has insight on these to help me answer the ultimate question of: Is now the right time to buy solar panels?  I would really appreciate it.


  • Bristles
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    • Growing The Green
Re: Solar panels
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2016, 01:42:42 PM »
Something else to consider: I don't know how handy you are, but if you've got a basic understanding of home improvement projects, solar panels are totally doable by yourself. You could even hire out the connection to your electrical service to an electrician if you're uncomfortable with it. It would save you a ton of money. Have a coworker that did this... It ended up costing him $5k out of pocket and got a lot back the next year with the tax credit.

He found a company that came out and have a free quote. That free quote basically Alex's everything out for him which made things much simpler.

Just a thought :)


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Solar panels
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2016, 02:02:15 PM »
I installed 28 solar panels on my (previous) home in early 2012. Total cost for the system was 15K. I installed everything myself and saved roughly 12-13K over our quotes. Everything was inspected and permitted. System still runs flawlessly today. I am an Electrical Engineer by trade, so the electrical aspect was fairly simple.  My brother-in-law is a roofer and he helped me deal with the roof penetrations and flashing. Total it took only 2 weekends to install everything. Quite honestly installation was the easy part.

Solar panels have come down in price, but maybe not as rapid as some might suggest. For example I paid $0.78/Watt for panels in 2011. Today you can get equivalent panels for roughly $0.55/Watt. Would have saved me about $1300 on the panels. But would have taken 5 years to save that much. I was saving roughly 1K per year in energy. That's 5K savings in those 5 years. I don't think waiting is going to save a ton of money. 

It's best to do the math, factoring in everything that you can. Does NC have an SREC program? Do you need to replace your roof before hand? There are a lot of things to consider Also we more than recouped the cost of our solar array when we sold our house. It was a huge selling feature. Contemplating installing them on our new house.

One more thing, as a word of advice. It's much cheaper and easier to make your house as energy efficient as possible before installing panels. I spent a year making our home as energy efficient as possible before I even considered solar panels.


  • Stubble
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  • Posts: 153
Re: Solar panels
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2016, 03:27:46 PM »
It's the installation and other equipment that makes up most of the cost, and that's not gonna change much. A site like physorg shows solar innovations from various labs all the time... yet none of it seems to end up in production (thin film printed panels for ~10 cents a watt was a recent fantasy several years back). But what's already for sale in typical panels is efficient enough, durable and very cheap.

Yeah... SUPER nice if you can install it yourself. I'd fall off the roof, make the roof leak and electrocute myself in the process.

I almost had 18 panels installed a couple years ago for the dirt low price of ~$7K. But I still ended up not doing it. For me it came down to big two factors...

One, is that it was still simply a better deal to not bother and have that $7K sitting in the stock market giving me a better long term return than I'd probably save off my elec. bill.

Are you sure you'd save $100 a month?? That's ~$1,200 a year. $14K ought to get you ~$1K a year compounding annually in the stock market, beating inflation. Meaning over 20+ years, you'd save more by just investing. If your elec. bill is only ~$80 cheaper, you'll just be losing money for all the effort.
Then the fact that inverters don't last 20+ years, so factor in a future $2K+ cost (plus labor) for a new one and that blows your savings, too. Factor in having to call an electrician out even once to replace a panel or take one off to get at the roof (from a bad storm, or wiring issue, or whatever) and your savings are gone.

Sorry to be a bummer, but that's what stopped me from doing it.

Two, is that the installers (usually trying to get everyone to lease the systems) and electric companies are quietly at war. And both are trying to take advantage of you.

There was just a fight in Arizona and another one in Nevada over elec. companies imposing a special fee on solar owners to pay for maintaining the grid you're still hooked into. It was like a 3/2 vote narrowly axing it in AZ (political note -the Reps sided with the elec comp. while the Dems sided with home owners). But I think it went through in NV and people were PISSED.

This sort of proposed fee usually wipes out all (or most) savings from installing solar -another thing making all the time, cost, risk, effort completely worthless. Will any of this happen to you in the future? You ought to make a very good guess before jumping in.

Too many big risks for me.

Note -the electric companies do have a reasonable point... they have to buy all your electricity which you only make during one narrow, partly-'lull' time of day, while they have to give you power 24/7 like a perfect battery. If you pretty much kill your electric bill, they're doing all that for you for free.

I think the future solution is that power companies (electrical generation) will become storage companies (large-scale battery plants). They can continue to maintain the grid while buying massive, efficient, long-lasting 'flow batteries' (chemical vats or liquid metals) that won't ever be practical for individual houses.

But massive greed and lack of a unified vision for a 100% renewable energy America will make that transition suck IMO.