Solar power for the home

DaveF

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It appears the last thread was Sam's solar thread from 2014. So I'll start a new one for myself.

A few homes in my neighborhood have gone solar and that got me a bit interested, but I was lazy and didn't followup on it. Then two friends, one a neighbor and one a coworker, told me they're going solar and both on contract. So I took advantage of their research to save myself the effort -- because I didn't have the time currently to properly dig into the topic myself.

A big help is EnergySage.com. It's a consumer education site and also a sales aggregation site. You create an account, enter your info, and companies give online bids. You can talk online, research their solutions, and go from there. It's not the end all, but it's truly useful.

I did some research, talked with friends and neighbors, made a spreadsheet (because you can't properly research any home upgrade without a spreadsheet). I've got an unobstructed, south-facing roof. It appears I can build a system that will provide 100% of the electrical power I need, on an annual average. Some months I'll over produce and sell to the utility; other months I'll underproduce and buy back. Over the year I should break even. Combined with the 30% federal tax credit, a system should pay for itself in about 12 years, assuming minor annual rate increases. State laws and utility regulations prevent me from overbuilding and selling back for a profit; a homeowner here wants a system that meets their needs and no larger.

At this point I've got a great quote from a local installer. And I'm talking with Tesla Energy (formerly Solar City) to see if they can provide a good quote. I'm hoping to make a decision and be on contract this month, and be operational by early next year.
 

Scott Merryfield

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That's interesting, Dave. Solar panels are almost non-existent on homes around here. I can only think of one house that has them. Detroit Edison did build a large solar panel field along the M-14 freeway in Ann Arbor a year or two ago.

Please update this thread as your project progresses.
 

DaveF

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Another interesting resource is the solar calculator from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory
https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/index.php

And I have a Numbers (macOS and iOS) spreadsheet to estimate cost and savings from going solar. I could create a shareable version if someone wanted it.
 
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Clinton McClure

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I read earlier this year that there are less than 1000 homes and businesses in Arkansas that have gone solar. Without going into the politics of it, the initial buy-in is too high and ROI is a negative number for at least 19 years.

I despise paying my local electric company close to $300/mo year-round and would love to go solar but I simply can’t afford to lose money on the deal for the next two decades.
 

Richard V

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I solarized my home about 2 yrs ago. Cut my utility bill by 80% or more. One month bill was 25.00 for a 3300 sq foot home.
 
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DaveF

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I read earlier this year that there are less than 1000 homes and businesses in Arkansas that have gone solar. Without going into the politics of it, the initial buy-in is too high and ROI is a negative number for at least 19 years.

I despise paying my local electric company close to $300/mo year-round and would love to go solar but I simply can’t afford to lose money on the deal for the next two decades.
Part of that is your electricity price is about the lowest in the nation. It’s more than 20% cheaper than my rates, which will extend your payback duration for solar.

I’m guessing you have electric heat (heat pump), if you’re paying $300/mo? I pay half that for electricity, but I’m NG for heating and hot water and kitchen.
 

BobO'Link

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I read earlier this year that there are less than 1000 homes and businesses in Arkansas that have gone solar. Without going into the politics of it, the initial buy-in is too high and ROI is a negative number for at least 19 years.

I despise paying my local electric company close to $300/mo year-round and would love to go solar but I simply can’t afford to lose money on the deal for the next two decades.
That's pretty much what I found when I did some research on it a couple of years back, but the ROI was even longer for us as we have a city owned power company which has some of the lowest rates in the country.

I pay ~$150/mo average for a ~2400 sq. ft. home (that price includes electricity, water, sewer, and weekly trash pickup). We have natural gas heat, stove, and water heater (that runs ~$100/mo average). We keep the house at 72 deg. in the summer and 68 deg. in the winter.
 

DaveF

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Some states do a much better job of incentivizing people to go solar. Unfortunately, mine doesn’t appear to be one of them.
Virginia doesn’t have any real incentives for solar. But they at least have net-metering, so I can sell and buy into the grid monthly at basically retail rates (but can’t sell back excess over the year at retail).

I take it AK doesn’t even have something like that?
 

Richard V

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Interesting. When will your break even point be?
Hard to say, my summer utility bills were cut from about 500 dollars a month, on the average, to 80 dollars a month. Live in Texas, need AC much of the year. Paid about 15,000 after rebates, also cut my annual income taxes by about 5,000 the year I did it. So, effectively cost about 10,000. So saving about 470 dollars a month, for about 7 months a year, is about 3290 a year. So break even in about 3 years. Rough estimate.
 
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Clinton McClure

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I’m guessing you have electric heat (heat pump), if you’re paying $300/mo? I pay half that for electricity, but I’m NG for heating and hot water and kitchen.
Nope. We just get raked over the coals by our utilities since we live in a very small town with no co-op.

Our heat, kitchen, and water heater are all natural gas. A long, long time ago, I signed up for levelized billing on our gas and electricity so I can expect to pay the same rate for each every month instead of a low gas bill in the summer and high in the winter and low electricity bill in the winter and outrageous ($800/mo+) during the summer. Our gas is normally about $60/mo year round and electricity is about $300/mo. It used to be cheaper but running a swimming pool pump 24/7 for 6-7 months per year jacks it up some. During the winter, we set the thermostat on 67 and during the summer, our house usually stays between 70-75°.

Water, sewer, and garbage pickup is bundled by the city and runs about $65/mo.
 
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Clinton McClure

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Virginia doesn’t have any real incentives for solar. But they at least have net-metering, so I can sell and buy into the grid monthly at basically retail rates (but can’t sell back excess over the year at retail).

I take it AK doesn’t even have something like that?
From what I understand, the power company here will buy excess electricity back, but at a wholesale rate... basically pennies on the dollar.

The next town over has a city owned co-op and they are much friendlier towards people wanting to do better for the planet. Here, the utilities just stick it to you.
 

DaveF

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Hard to say, my summer utility bills were cut from about 500 dollars a month, on the average, to 80 dollars a month. Live in Texas, need AC much of the year. Paid about 15,000 after rebates, also cut my annual income taxes by about 5,000 the year I did it. So, effectively cost about 10,000. So saving about 470 dollars a month, for about 7 months a year, is about 3290 a year. So break even in about 3 years. Rough estimate.
Wow! Three year payback! That's amazing! I'm a little bit (a lot :) ) jealous.
 

Josh Steinberg

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If I was a homeowner, I'd be looking into this big time. I'm not sure if the NYC area gets enough regular sun for this to work year-round but I'd be doing my research if I could. I remember when I was living in Boston about ten years ago that the state of Massachusetts was rolling out some good incentives for solar, but I was always a renter, so it wasn't something I could personally take advantage of.

Is it possible to store your excess solar power so that you don't ever have to buy power from the grid?
 

Scott Merryfield

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Wow, I am surprised at how high some of your utility bills are. We have natural gas for our furnace, water heater and clothes dryer, but electric for everything else. The thermostat is set at 70 degrees in the winter (67 at night) and 75 degrees in the summer. Our electric bills are between $70 and $180 per month (the higher amount in the summer), while our gas bill is anywhere from $20 to $200 per month, with only January and February approaching that high number. We have a 2500 square foot two story home - - about 3800 if you count the finished basement.
 

DaveF

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If I was a homeowner, I'd be looking into this big time. I'm not sure if the NYC area gets enough regular sun for this to work year-round but I'd be doing my research if I could. I remember when I was living in Boston about ten years ago that the state of Massachusetts was rolling out some good incentives for solar, but I was always a renter, so it wasn't something I could personally take advantage of.

Is it possible to store your excess solar power so that you don't ever have to buy power from the grid?
You can buy a battery backup. The most well known is Tesla's PowerWall. They're recommended if you lose power frequently (and should otherwise have a generator backup system). Or if you really want to be off grid as much as possible for personal reasons. But they don't make financial sense from an ROI perspective out here.
 
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DaveF

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Wow, I am surprised at how high some of your utility bills are. We have natural gas for our furnace, water heater and clothes dryer, but electric for everything else. The thermostat is set at 70 degrees in the winter (67 at night) and 75 degrees in the summer. Our electric bills are between $70 and $180 per month (the higher amount in the summer), while our gas bill is anywhere from $20 to $200 per month, with only January and February approaching that high number. We have a 2500 square foot two story home - - 3750 if you count the finished basement.
That's basically how it is for me. I estimate solar will save me $140/mo on average, $1700/yr, $20,000 over 12 years. That's about the price of a solar system after tax credit for me. If rates go up annually, the payback is faster.
 

DaveF

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Quick update: I'm on contract with a local solar contractor. I had some problems with my Tesla sales rep and decided to go with the "local" option. I'll explain further when time permits me to write it up.
 
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Dennis Nicholls

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You guys have really big electric bills. This year's max was the August bill, which was $125. I just paid the October bill at $38. At these prices household solar doesn't make much sense.

EDIT

I went back and checked my past 12 months' bills.
Total for 12 months $689
Average per month $57

Lots of cheap hydroelectric power helps the COL in retirement.
 
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