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tofu
2006-Oct-09, 03:15 PM
Has anyone here put solar panels on your house?

I might be interested in putting a braket and a plug on my roof so that I can attach a solar panel and plug it in, then when a hurricane comes I could easily take it down.

I mention the braket and taking things down because so far, anyone around here that I've discussed this with has quickly responded, "it wouldn't stand up to a hurricane." Which seems like a cop-out response to me.

I know I would need an inverter and probably other gear too, but that's a one-time expense. Then after that I could add a new solar panel each time the previous one pays for itself.

I guess I just don't understand why this isn't a good idea. There must be something I'm missing.

Demigrog
2006-Oct-09, 03:59 PM
I guess I just don't understand why this isn't a good idea. There must be something I'm missing.

It depends on how you define a good idea; you can do it either for purely environmental reasons alone or because of economics.

Economically, the solar power will pay for itself eventually depending on sunlight, weather, up-front cost, lifetime of the equipment, and maintenance costs. It is a non-trivial calculation and typically site dependent. If it takes 15 years to recoup the cost of the investment, that may or may not be a good idea depending on your desired rate of return. :) Someday we should have it down to 5-7 years in a good sunny area.

tofu
2006-Oct-09, 08:08 PM
I found an interesting site, but I still have a lot to learn:
http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/bldg/active/zeh/n_smyrna/index.htm

Ronald Brak
2006-Oct-09, 11:40 PM
You can get hurricane rated panels that only come off when your roof comes off, but I imagine that would increase the cost of installation. Having at least one panel you can put in a safe place when a hurricane comes does sound like a good idea however. Do you have a solar hot water system? It's the most economical source of solar power. They typically pay for themselves in seven years or less here in Australia, and even sooner if they are put in when the house is built due to lower installation costs. Interestingly enough, they can pay for themselves sooner in the less sunny, cooler parts of Australia as people there use more hot water. If you use very little hot water solar hot water may not be economical for you.

Solar hot water is one of the cheapest sources of energy available. I'm surprised that more people don't have them in Australia, but then most people have discount rates of over 20%. That is, they'd rather spend the money now than invest in almost anything. I'd like the government to encourage all new houses to have solar water heaters installed when built. Already the government hands out money and benefits to first home buyers so there is already a system in place for interferring with people's decisions.

Tunga
2006-Oct-10, 06:48 PM
Around 6 or 7 years ago, I installed a solar cell system for my pole-barn. It was something I always wanted to do, so I did it. The system consisted of two large solar cell panels, a mounting mast, a large pole, a disconnect for the DC side, a disconnect for the AC side, a converter, a charging control unit, 4 deep cycle lead acid batteries. I use the unit for florescent lighting and electrical outlets in the pole-barn. This was the barn's sole source of electricity.
* I found the installation to be difficult. The manuals for each piece of equipment were satisfactory but there was no directions or guidance for properly attaching each of the units together. The system is complex and the lack of this information seemed to drive anyone who might be interested into the hands of professionals installers.
* The solar panels are holding up well. They have stood up to hail. They survive winter subzero temperatures O.K. along with 100 degree F heat. The winds haven't affected it. But thus far, the units have not experienced hurricanes or tornados winds.
* The unit has been operating for the past several years. It died this summer. I checked the batteries and they were bone dry. I refilled with distilled water and they are now performing well again.
* I live in Indiana on the back side of a hill that only has very limited sunlight especially in the winter. For me this was an experiment. It was not an economically feasible venture. In a true installation, I would use around a dozen panels and incorporate a system where I could send electricity back into the power lines driving my meter into reverse and as a result reducing my electrical bills. (Such an installation would require an automatic disconnect, to preclude energizing the power lines when they are down in a storm.)

Frantic Freddie
2006-Oct-10, 07:03 PM
I've given it some thought,not as a main source,but supplemental.My advantages are that I'm in New Mexico,at 6800 (2072 meters for you metric folks) feet,no trees,my house faces west & we average 320 sunny days a year.The downside is the initial investment & the fact that we'll sell this place someday & it would add exactly $0 to the selling price,I know that because I'm a Realtor & have refused to list a coupla houses because the owners wanted up to $20,000 over what the house should sell for because of the solar,it's just not that big a selling point to people.

When they develope a PV panel that generates 10,000 watts at 130 amps,doesn't cover 5 acres & costs $500 then I'll buy one.

tofu
2006-Oct-10, 09:39 PM
it would add exactly $0 to the selling price,I know that because I'm a Realtor & have refused to list a coupla houses

wait wait wait. You know it wont sell because YOU refused to try to sell it??

Why not just put it on the market and let it sit until someone makes an offer?

jaydeehess
2006-Oct-10, 10:29 PM
Around here it would only be feasible in the summer. We get easily 16 hours of sunlight for much of midsummer but that goes down to 7-8 hours in the winter.

Many cottages in the area have a solar system to run lights and maybe a small TV or radio. I have a small cottage but am close to the electric grid and therefore have regular power. I looked into it and despite Ontario having some of the most expensive electricity in Canada going solar would not see a payback for 15 years minimum(probably closer to 20 years) if all I used it for was lighting. I didn't bother to see how much it would cost to run the stove and refrigerator on a solar charged system as well but it would probably be outrageous. I really don't think that a system would last 15 to 20 years so in reality I'd never get the investment back.

I am toying with a supplemental heat for the in town house that would use the sun to heat a glycol mix and circulate it from the collector on the roof to a pair of automobile radiators in the basement with small electric fan to pass air through the fins. This would be helpful in spring and fall on sunny days. I have electric baseboards in the house. With the initial cost probably not that much and the cost of electricity so high payback time might not be so long but is more difficult to calculate than for a solar electric system. I might only use it for 4 months of the year(Sept/Oct & Mar/Apr).

The biggest hurdle though will be convincing my wife of the idea of such roof jewellery.

mike alexander
2006-Oct-10, 11:24 PM
I just rebuilt the solar collectors this summer for my swimming pool. During high summer and using a bubble sheet over the water when not in use the collectors will keep the pool around 82-85F, which saves me the money for aditional propane to swim farther into the spring/fall. Since it's a 30k gallon pool it ain't peanuts.

peter eldergill
2006-Oct-11, 05:47 PM
I thought of solar hot water...but that MASSIVE maple tree in my yard put a damper on that plan....

Pete

Kebsis
2006-Oct-12, 01:05 AM
Well, I recently built a solar power generator for my RCA Lyra music/video player.

Ronald Brak
2006-Oct-12, 04:33 AM
Well, I recently built a solar power generator for my RCA Lyra music/video player.

Now here is a person who will be entertained after society collapses.

Kebsis
2006-Oct-12, 07:06 AM
you can count on it. Although you're comment makes me think it would be a good idea to vary the media a little bit, as it's filled up with LazyTown episodes right now.

Krevel
2006-Oct-12, 11:44 AM
I thought of solar hot water...but that MASSIVE maple tree in my yard put a damper on that plan....

Pete

I really think that solar water heating is the way to go. It's inconceivable to me that more places - especially in the southern part of the country - don't use it. I saw a picture in The National Geographic of a Chinese city where virtually every building had a solar water heater on the roof.

Photovoltaics are nice and all (if you can afford them), but I'd bet that the return on your money would be much better for a solar hot water system.

Frantic Freddie
2006-Oct-12, 03:54 PM
wait wait wait. You know it wont sell because YOU refused to try to sell it??

Why not just put it on the market and let it sit until someone makes an offer?

Because it takes time & money to market a house but that's not the only consideration.In one case the seller was adamant that the house would sell in a week or so (at a time when the average house stayed on the market 3-6 months,I'm in a rural area,houses sell more slowly) & I knew he'd be mad at me.
2 years later the house had been repossessed by the bank.

mugaliens
2006-Oct-12, 08:33 PM
It depends on how you define a good idea; you can do it either for purely environmental reasons alone or because of economics.

Economically, the solar power will pay for itself eventually depending on sunlight, weather, up-front cost, lifetime of the equipment, and maintenance costs. It is a non-trivial calculation and typically site dependent. If it takes 15 years to recoup the cost of the investment, that may or may not be a good idea depending on your desired rate of return. :) Someday we should have it down to 5-7 years in a good sunny area.

An aquaintance of mine in Hood River, OR (not known for the sunniest days on Earth) recouped his investment in just under three years, breaking even in January of 06 by selling power back to the grid.

In Vegas? Money in the bank, if you can work it past your covenants. Why every home in Vegas isn't covered in solar-celled shingles is totally beyond any rational comprehension, as Vegas is sunny 24/7 and 345 days of the year. They could cut their power consumption of the dam to zip/zilch/nada and sell that sunshine to the grid, where it's much needed elsewhere.

Perhaps those who work for the dam have a huge hand in local politics..

Ronald Brak
2006-Oct-13, 02:30 AM
...as Vegas is sunny 24/7 and 345 days of the year.

24/7? Must be all them neon lights.

But you're right that it's a little strange how more people don't invest in at least solar hot water. For most homes a solar hot water system will have better returns than investing in the stock market without any real chance of a loss. I guess the problem is:

1. Careful investors don't think of solar hot water or solar electric when they think of investments.

2. Most people aren't careful investors and live from pay check to pay check and rely on automatic deductions from their salary for retirement savings.

The way I see around it is government incentives to make it worthwhile for almost all new houses to at least have a solar hot water system (where appropriate) an energy efficient design and possibly solar electric in areas where it can pay for itself. In my country we already have various incentives for home buyers so I'd like to see them altered.

Van Rijn
2006-Oct-13, 03:09 AM
An aquaintance of mine in Hood River, OR (not known for the sunniest days on Earth) recouped his investment in just under three years, breaking even in January of 06 by selling power back to the grid.


Those numbers don't make sense unless your acquaintance either (a) lives somewhere where conventional electricy is unavailable or ridiculously expensive or (b) only paid a fraction of the cost of the PV system (possibly because of government subsidy). PV is far more expensive than conventional electricity.

I disagree strongly with their editorial political position, but I recommend Home Power magazine (http://www.homepower.com/)for practical discussion of home PV installations. They cover many off-grid installations, and the starting point is to reduce electricity demand. You won't see an all electric kitchen in a full solar house - too much demand. You probably won't see a conventional air conditioner for the same reason. A large TV is unlikely.



In Vegas? Money in the bank, if you can work it past your covenants. Why every home in Vegas isn't covered in solar-celled shingles is totally beyond any rational comprehension, as Vegas is sunny 24/7 and 345 days of the year. They could cut their power consumption of the dam to zip/zilch/nada and sell that sunshine to the grid, where it's much needed elsewhere.


No, not only would you have to deal with the high cost of PV, but you would also either have to store electricity for nighttime (more expense) or send much of it out of the state.



Perhaps those who work for the dam have a huge hand in local politics..

It's economics. Hydropower is one of the cheapest energy sources. PV is one of the most expensive.

I don't have a problem with PV. I like seeing it promoted, to help reduce long term costs. Heck, California is subsidizing it to such an extent that prices have gone up somewhat due to heavy demand. Hopefully, though, it will increase production long term.

Van Rijn
2006-Oct-13, 03:22 AM
But you're right that it's a little strange how more people don't invest in at least solar hot water. For most homes a solar hot water system will have better returns than investing in the stock market without any real chance of a loss. I guess the problem is:

1. Careful investors don't think of solar hot water or solar electric when they think of investments.

2. Most people aren't careful investors and live from pay check to pay check and rely on automatic deductions from their salary for retirement savings.


You saw a decent number of solar hot water heating systems in California 20 years ago, partly due to tax credits. However, it isn't unusual for people to have them removed these days. They are just far more expensive (including installation) than a high efficiency gas water heater, and the gas doesn't cost that much. Unless you really use a lot of hot water (large family, lots of baths) they likely would always cost more than gas water heating. They likely would need replacement or repair before they could achieve payback.

One place solar heating makes sense is for pools. The temperatures are low, the hardware simple, the pump already is in place, and heating that much water with gas is expensive. And, yes, I have solar pool heating.

Ronald Brak
2006-Oct-13, 03:40 AM
You saw a decent number of solar hot water heating systems in California 20 years ago, partly due to tax credits. However, it isn't unusual for people to have them removed these days. They are just far more expensive (including installation) than a high efficiency gas water heater, and the gas doesn't cost that much. Unless you really use a lot of hot water (large family, lots of baths) they likely would always cost more than gas water heating. They likely would need replacement or repair before they could achieve payback.

That's very interesting. I've just been looking at warranties for solar hot water systems here and they are only about 5-10 years which is somewhat disapointing. But it seems odd to me that people would remove an already installed system unless it had major problems. When you consider the number of people who are perfectly happy to purchase things using credit cards and pay high rates of interest, it's not so surprising that many people would opt for a low cost to install gas system and pay the higher running costs. But here in Australia at least a solar hot water system seems worth it if it is installed when the house is built to keep costs down, or the cost of installing one could be worth it for families that use a lot of hot water.

I would like to see longer warranties. I thought warranties were longer than 5-10 years as advertisments for solar hot water systems can display 20+ year warranties, but apparently that only applies to one component.

Van Rijn
2006-Oct-13, 04:51 AM
They tend to be removed if they need repair or would need to be removed and replaced when a new roof is put on. Aside from the cost, some people think they are eyesores (a bit like big tv antennas).

Ronald Brak
2006-Oct-19, 12:16 PM
I've just read about a company that says its solar electric system will have installed costs for early adopters of about $5 a watt. This means that even in a nice sunny location and with much of that power produced in peak periods, you would still have a pay back period of maybe 20 years. But if there is a subsidy available and/or you aren't interested in a high rate of return on your investment, it could still be worth it.

What is interesting is that the company says that in the future installed costs for large facilities should come down to about $1 a watt. If this is true then the system could pay for itself in five years with a 20% rate of return. I think there are few companies that wouldn't consider that a good investment. If costs get that low then you would expect every company with a decent amount of roofspace to install them. Even if the installed cost only comes down to $2.50 a watt they would still be a money saving proposition for many companies and private individuals.

http://thefraserdomain.typepad.com/energy/2006/10/solfocus_comple.html#comment-24102642