Solar Panels have been heavily promoted recently. Of course, they only
do this to save you money on your utility bill and have no interest
other than saving the environment.
This explains a bit how it works.
That doesn't explain solar panels. It's a site arguing that leasing
solar equipment is a bad idea. That probably is true for the average
homeowner (heck, car leases are a bad idea for the average car owner),
but some of the claims it makes about leasing are contradicted by
other sites, such as this one
I'd say it's the typical buyer beware, YMMV, yada yada, same as any
lease for anything.
Something I've always wondered is what the effect a solar setup might
have on one's homeowner's insurance coverage and premium costs,
especially in Tornado Alley. Every time I see the roof arrays, I
visualize wind damage. The replacement costs have got to be steep, and
a disincentive to go solar in areas where windstorms are common. Maybe
those community solar arrays would be preferable for that reason -
shared infrastructure like the power grid, but on a neighborhood
level, with the expenses spread out over several households, instead
of just one.
I like the idea of having solar for backup power since our local grid
is old and poorly maintained. Thing is, my electric usage/cost is so
low, there's no economic incentive for me to buy into it -- yet.
It's not just buyer beware on leases, it's buyer beware on buying too.
Here is what I've learned in looking into solar panels. Some of it
applies mainly to California in general and to for-profit power
providers with high rates.
Consider the following:
1. What's Your Monthly Usage? Unless you have some high consumption
stuff like air conditioners and pool pumps, or a Tesla or Leaf, your
bill probably isn't high enough to ever break even. I don't think many
people in this area have electric water heaters, electric heat, or
2. How Long Will You Live There?
3. Is Your Roof Suitable? You need sufficient south and west facing
roof, some east is okay too.
4. Are your taxes high enough to get the federal tax credit
5. Do you need an electrical panel upgrade. A lot of 1960's era houses
in Cupertino need an upgrade if they have only a 100 amp panel Newer
houses will not need an electrical panel upgrade. An electrical panel
upgrade adds about $2000 to the cost. But if done when the system is
installed you get the 30% tax credit on the panel too. You can look at
your panel and see the amperage of the main breaker.
If You Do Go Forward
1. Buy don't lease.
2. Get monocrystalline panels not polycrystalline panels
3. Get panels that are at least 325 watts per panel so you need fewer
panels even though the cost per watt may be slightly higher.
4. Go direct to the panel manufacturer, who will assign a local
installer, not through a local installer reselling that panel
manufacturer's panels. The reason for this is because a good panel
manufacturer is going to be around a lot longer than most local
installers and the panel warranty is through the manufacturer.
5. Avoid micro-inverters, there is no need for them in this area
(California) and they add complexity and additional points of failure,
and they want to charge you for system monitoring.
6. Look at the financial health of the panel manufacturer since the
warranty will be through them. A lot of panel manufacturers have gone
bankrupt and a lot are barely hanging on.
7. The way PG&E is doing the tiers, increasing the KWH rate for the
lower tiers and slightly lowering the cost for the highest tiers, means
that it may make sense to offset most of your bill and not just tiers 3
& 4 & 5. It used to be that the base rate was very low and it made no
sense to offset the base tier (or second tier) but this is not so clear
anymore. The break-even time is greater if you offset the lower tiers
but it may still be worthwhile.
8. Get an inverter that works off-grid as well as on grid. If the power
goes out, in the daytime, you'll still have power though not enough to
run multiple high current devices simultaneously.
Avoid at All Costs
2. Prepaid Power Agreements.
3. “One Year Same as Cash.”
4. Companies that advertise: “Save 20% on Your Electric Bill”
5. Any Provider with Infomercials
1. Prices are Highly Negotiable.
2. Net cost, after all rebates and credits, should not be more than $3/watt.
3. Look for “Friend's and Family” Rebates.
4. Get multiple quotes
5. Each vendor will likely propose a different configuration.
6. Most salespeople know very little
7. Salespeople will create all sorts of bizarre configurations of panels
to fit what they sell
8. What they don't want to sell you is what you probably want to buy
9. Beware of phony discounts (senior, veterans, cash, 1 year same as cash).
10. If they take credit cards, and don't offer cash discounts, then get
a 2% cash back credit card (Citibank Double Cash). Ask for a big credit
limit so you can charge the whole system. This is a better deal than
"one year same as cash" if you have the money to pay for the whole thing
11. Beware of companies that do excessive advertising.
12. Beware of companies that want to talk only about your usage and how
much you'll save, and not about the equipment they want to sell you.
On Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 4:56:53 PM UTC-4, Moe DeLoughan wrote:
I agree. It all depends on the particulars of the deal.
I would think they probably have special endorsements for solar panel
coverage, but IDK.
The typical solar system like the one in that article and all the ones
I've seen installed here, don't work without the grid so they can't
be used for backup power. That's a common misconception. When you
need it the most, it doesn't work.
They can be completely off grid and have battery storage. I saw one
control panel, inverter, etc. that alone would probably be 10 years of
electric bills. I've not done any serious looking, but the payback
seems to be very long, like 15+ years in the northeast. Maybe Arizona
would be better.
it makes more sense to put in hot water heating
or pre-heating as that pays for itself quickly
enough and if you set it up right you can also
get some supplemental heat on winter days that
you don't need a huge amount of solar panels to
run the pumps. they are only used on sunny days
so there is no need for battery backup and you
can set up insulated tanks to capture and store
heat. fewer solar panels, no battery backup
makes for a much less expensive system.
our hot water cost for the electricity used is
around 1/3 - 1/2 of our electric bill and if we
can get some extra heat from sunny winter days
that also cuts the propane bill.
Some of the newer grid-tied inverters also supply a limited amount of
power, in the daytime, when the grid goes down. See
No batteries so you only get as much power as your panels can produce at
You can also create a combination system with a devices like
Practically speaking, if your grid is pretty reliable, using a generator
is a much cheaper back-up system.
The payback on grid-tied solar systems is typically 6-8 years, but it
depends on how much of your usage you want to offset and it depends
tremendously on your KWH rate. For example, in my city, the top tier is
33¢/KWH from PG&E, a for-profit utility. If I go a couple of miles east,
the city of Santa Clara has a municipally owned and operated utility and
the top tier is 11¢/KWH so solar makes absolutely no sense.
You need all of these to make solar financially attractive:
1. Heavy usage
2. High KWH rate
3. Lots of sun and proper roof exposure
I want to scream when I see the Solar City people inside the local Home
Depot. In my area A/C use is rare, most houses don't even have air
conditioners and the few that do run it only for a couple of weeks per
year, and most houses don't have swimming pools. Almost everyone uses
natural gas for furnaces, water heating, and clothes drying. So
electrical use tends to be pretty low. When you eliminate air
conditioners and pool pumps from the equation electricity usage is low,
especially with greatly reduced usage with LED and CFL lighting; unless
you need to charge a Tesla or other electric car.
That's interesting. I didn't know they existed. Looks like it's new.
We had this discussion here a few years ago, and I was pretty much
convinced it was impractical, if not impossible. I wonder how it will work
I can see it working great in say NV, CA, AZ, ie where there is a lot of
full sun. But what happens in the rest of the county when clouds come and
go? You would think having intermittent power wouldn't be a good thing.
I guess they could have some intelligence in it, where if it sees it's
cutting out too much, it just stops trying for awhile until conditions
improve. But I guess whatever it does, if you can get it for basically
free, it's good to have.
If your focus is backup power, I agree.
Yes, it depends on the numbers. I just did a quick estimation for here
in NJ. Electric is 12c. Assuming you have an average bill of $150/mth,
that's $1800 a year. NJ has a system where the electric companies are
required to get an increasing percentage of power from renewable, so they
hava auctions where the power comanies buy credits from homeowners that
accure them based on how much solar they generate. Five years ago,
homeowners were making like $3000 a year off of that. Now it's more like
$750. So, assuming you wiped out your electric bill and got the going
rate for your credits, that's worth $1800+$750 = 2550 a year. I would
think a typical system here is probably $25K now, not sure though.
You do get a fed tax credit, that could knock $7500 off. So, the net
cost is ~$18,000 giving a payback of 7 years. That actually looks
pretty good. But you may not wipe out the electric bill totally, so
that would extend the payback.
How many superfund sites do your think are in SV? I worked in SV for
15 yrs, for the biggest chip mfg equip company in the valley. I know
for a fact that ALL semiconductor mfg is incredibly toxic. They still
have an Intel wet chip fab waiting for superfunds to clean-up/remove
it, in Livermore. It's been waiting for 25 yrs! There were abondoned
superfund sites littering SV when I began work there, 24 yrs ago.
As for the grid-tied solar, what's that all about? Do those ppl wanna
be independent of the grid or make $$$$ off it?
On Friday, March 13, 2015 at 4:08:14 PM UTC-4, notbob wrote:
The key is "abandoned" and 24 years ago. Good grief. The standards
and practices have evolved over the decades. To get ground contamination
you have to be pretty much pouring the crap on the ground. You could
do that with oil and wind up with a similar result. Intel hasn't even had
a fab in silicon valley for decades now. Their suprefund site was due
to fabs back in the 70s. As long as the waste products
are properly handled, it's no different than many other industries that
I guess you don't know much about solar. All but a few percent of
solar systems installed in the USA are tied to the grid. The reasons
people are using them are for regular, clean energy, not because they
want to be off grid. Good grief.
On Thursday, March 12, 2015 at 10:52:11 PM UTC-4, Ed Pawlowski wrote:
They could, but the battery cost and related issues would be prohibitive.
There are a lot of solar systems here in NJ on lots of houses. IDK
of a single one that has batteries and/or works off grid.
I saw one
The cost of solar has continued to come down. It's probably about
half what it cost just five or seven years ago. Payback is complicated.
Back then, folks here in NJ were getting hefty payments. NJ has
a program where electric companies are required to get an increasing
percentage of their electric from renewable sources. One way they meet
that is by buying solar credits from homeowners in bidding auctions.
How many homeowners have the credits versus how badly the
electric companies need them determines the price. Five plus years ago
they were going for like $600, now they are more like $150. So, where
homeowners were getting $3000, now they are getting $750, etc. You get
those credits whether you use the generated solar yourself or put it
into the grid. You also may get some small payment for any excess
you put in the grid, but that isn't much. Of course you also greatly
reduce your electric bill.
Overall, my conclusion is that being an early adopter didn't get you
anywere here. You could install the system today and you'd be at
least equal, probably better off than if you had installed it 5 years ago.
And that older system is now 5+ years into it;s life.
The consensus seems to be "it depends". There are instances where
premiums go up by a couple percent and others where they actually go
down (some companies assume Green people are more responsible in general
and less likely to file frivolous claims).
“Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive,
but what they conceal is vital.”
I visualize all of those panels having to be taken off the roof when it
comes time to replace the roofing material (shingles, etc.). That would add
more effort and expense to an already pricey task.
I also wonder about keeping the panels clean up on the roof. Someone would
have to climb up periodically to clean off the pollen, pine needles, and
other dirt and grime that accumulates. Around here anyway, it seems like
you would also get limbs, leaves, and other debris building up under the
I would love to install solar for backup or supplemental power.
Unfortunately, on our forested property we only get about 2-4 hours of
I would prefer a standalone solar array down on the ground where it would
be easier to install and maintain. A few homes in our area have those, but
you need the space and the sunlight.
On Friday, March 13, 2015 at 1:38:15 PM UTC-4, HerHusband wrote:
Ideally you want them installed on a new roof. That way the two
lifecycles are aligned. Put them up on a 15 year old roof and then
your scenario will likely happen.
Per SMS's post, t looks like some systems with that capability are
becoming available. The ones installed on the typical houses the last
15 years only operate with the grid. If the grid goes down,
you have no power. IDK how well these new ones work, there are
obviously some inherent issues.
Same here in NJ. Probably 95% are on roofs. Some homeowners even
have them on the front side of the roof and it sure looks like hell.
IMO, the devaluing of property makes it a loss for sure.
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