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i'm going solar


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13 replies to this topic

#1 of 14 OFFLINE   Micah Cohen

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Posted August 25 2008 - 03:59 AM

Of course, it's funny that today is the cloudiest day of the last two weeks... But today I am going solar. Not completely solar, but I'm getting started.

In our huge, wasted-space attic there was an electric fan. This fan ran on a thermostat, so when the attic became an oven the fan would switch on and attempt to ventilate it. This is supposed to be a good thing; keeps the roofing healthy and makes it more economical for the CAC unit that's idiotically built into the attic. Anyway, the electric fan died a couple weeks ago. The original installer said that they don't "repair" these fans, they replace them; just not worth the repair. Disposable technology. The installer admitted that even if I replace the electric fan it will again burn out in two years max.

So I found this solar attic vent fan: SOLATUBE. Same "pull" as the electric fan, according to the specs, and a long warranty against breakage and roof leaks... and no electric at all.

After reading lots of science about this, some magazine reviews of the product, I have the guy up on my roof right now installing two of these things. The fan is pretty neat. He took it out of the box in the driveway and it immediately started spinning in the ambient cloudy-day light right in the driveway! I am also having him install a solar skylight tube in a cave-like hallway in my poorly designed house.

When I was young, my parents (on Long Island) had a big solar panel array installed on our south-facing roof. This must have been back in the 80s. It was to heat our water. But, it must not have worked well because a few years later they removed it and went back to a gas-fired water heater.

I am astonished at the cost of these minor things I'm having installed in my house now. It's over three times the cost of simply replacing the electric fan. No wonder solar remains not a viable large scale option. It's too costly to get into. (How am I doing it? I dunno. I am gonna be eating Ramen noodles for a few months, tho; breakfast, lunch and dinner.) It's out of the reach of most consumers, I'm guessing. I do plan to download some tax break forms from the state energy commission, which gives me some small incentive. And I plan to get on my local electric utility's short list for taking advantage of any upcoming energy technology they may need guinea pigs to test.

I'm looking forward to cutting my electric bills. (Even tho that cut is sort of offset by this initial high cost outlay. When will I recoup this?!)

Anyone else going solar?

MC
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"There's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight." - Lon Chaney

#2 of 14 OFFLINE   hodedofome

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Posted August 25 2008 - 05:20 AM

That's the one thing solar needs to overcome, cost-effectiveness. Once they are cost-effective people will move to it in droves. If they can get the panels to be cheaper than coal per kilowatt you'll see it in the commercial market as well.

#3 of 14 OFFLINE   Micah Cohen

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Posted August 25 2008 - 07:18 AM

An update... later in the day.

It's raining, of course, on the day I go solar. But, in the attic, the solar fans are spinning away (ambient light powers them!). And this cave-like dark hallway has been transformed by the solar skylight into the brightest area of the house! The whole rest of the stupid house looks dark and cave-like now! I want a solar sky tube light in every damned room!

The cost of these small solar improvements was staggering. I will never recoup this damage. But -- in the spirit of the other post -- I do not regret it at all. And now I have to start saving money to install another skylight!

Amazing! The sun. Who knew?

MC
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"There's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight." - Lon Chaney

#4 of 14 OFFLINE   BrianW

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Posted August 25 2008 - 02:01 PM

Congrats, Micah! I got a similar solar-powered fan for the storage attic of my workshop (a shed, basically) to keep things cooler. Mine didn't have an integrated panel, though. It had a separate 10-watt panel that you mount beside the fan on the roof. But my workshop is already solar powered, so I just hooked it into the "12VDC mains", and it runs great. It keeps the workshop attic at least 25 degrees cooler in the summer heat.

The fan I got is available at Lowe's. I plan on getting at least one more and putting it on the house.
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#5 of 14 OFFLINE   Jay H

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Posted August 25 2008 - 11:32 PM

Does HD/Lowes sell solar powered fans? I might have to check it out, I use a basic box fan in my upstairs bedroom window (which faces south). I have it set on a timer to blow hot air out from my upstairs and then suck cooler air from the downstairs... It would be perfect for a set of solar powered fans there, could just run it all day long..

Jay
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#6 of 14 OFFLINE   Ed Moxley

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Posted August 25 2008 - 11:56 PM

We (stepfather actually) have used solar for hot water for years. It's done very well. Recently, the 118 gal. water heater started leaking. Turns out it had rusted through, from the inside. It had been there since the 80s. It took him awhile, but he finally found a plumbing company to replace it. He said it was pretty expensive, but didn't say how much. We rent our apartment from him, and it's our water heater too. Being on city water, which runs on city pressure rather than water pump at house (like a well), means we can take a hot bath, even if power goes out. So that's nice........... Posted Image

You'll like your fans better when the power goes out for a long time, and it's very hot and humid. The fans will help keep it cooler for you.
Enjoy your new fans.
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#7 of 14 OFFLINE   Micah Cohen

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Posted August 26 2008 - 12:33 AM

Hello, Fay... Of course, today it's raining and dark. So... the fans (I'm looking up the attic steps at one of them) aren't even moving. Oh well.

Funny, how I get solar and... it starts raining. :-)

MC
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"There's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight." - Lon Chaney

#8 of 14 OFFLINE   Jay H

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Posted August 26 2008 - 12:57 AM

So, what if you also get a hydroelectric plant running? fog??? Posted Image

Jay
You are the crispy noodle in the vegetarian salad of life

#9 of 14 OFFLINE   bobbyg2

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Posted August 27 2008 - 08:46 AM

I think that would cause a drought, considering his luck. Posted Image
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#10 of 14 OFFLINE   Micah Cohen

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Posted August 28 2008 - 12:42 AM

UPDATE: The rain's moved out of the area (after 6 or so inches...) and I am happy to say that the solar fans and, especially, the solar skylight work incredibly well. All hail stuff that actually works!

I would love to install a couple more of these skylights in the house (kitchen, bathroom, etc). It has turned a dark hall into the b-r-i-g-h-t-e-s-t place in the house! It's wonderful! (But they are helluva expensive, so that will have to wait.)

Anyway, I highly recommend this stuff. It works! Posted Image

MC
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"There's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight." - Lon Chaney

#11 of 14 OFFLINE   Richard Travale

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Posted August 28 2008 - 06:36 AM

Cheers to you Micah...it's little changes that each of us have to make like this to actually help ix things.
 "Cock your hat - angles are attitudes. "
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#12 of 14 OFFLINE   Mort Corey

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Posted August 29 2008 - 07:04 AM

I had a couple of the Solo-Tube skylight things installed and for the first month kept trying to turn off the light switch....good stuff.

Looked into solar electric last year but even with tax credits and rebates it would have taken about 70% of the panels lifespan to recoup the initial cost. If battery technology improves then I'd look into it again. Right now, you still have to be on the grid (and pay for the minimum service at least) though they do allow net metering....so far.

Mort

#13 of 14 OFFLINE   Micah Cohen

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Posted August 29 2008 - 09:16 AM

Quote:
for the first month kept trying to turn off the light switch
That's hysterical! We're doing the same thing! "Turn off that light!" HAHA!

It's amazing.

MC
ultramicah@yahoo.com

"There's nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight." - Lon Chaney

#14 of 14 OFFLINE   Jason L.

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Posted August 29 2008 - 08:46 PM

Micah,

I also remember as a kid on L.I. seeing Solar panels on some roofs back in the 1980's, and then one day they disappeared.

How much did this cost? I would like to see some pictures.

A very interesting set of articles on one person's journey into solar from Extremetech.com can be found here:

Checking Out Solar Energy - Gadgets by ExtremeTech

Going Solar: The Install - CPUs, Boards & Components by ExtremeTech

Going Solar Power: One Month Later - CPUs, Boards & Components by ExtremeTech

Solar Power: Questions and Answers - Opinions by ExtremeTech