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Solar Panels on Roofs, are they worth it?

Discussion in 'The OT' started by Rich, Jul 14, 2012.

  1. Rich

    Rich DBSTalk Club DBSTalk Club

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    I'm gonna have a new roof installed next year and I've been considering solar panels. I'm kinda leery about the whole idea and my wife's not helping. She's talked to engineers where she works and they all expressed negative opinions for various reasons, from wrecking the roof to not getting any relief on our electric bill.

    I spent an hour talking to a salesman the other day and he assured me that the roof wouldn't be harmed, all repairs and maintenance to the solar panels would be covered by the installing entity, and I'd see a real reduction in our electric bill.

    I've got experience with Co-Generating turbines and I know if you can keep them working, the return is very good.

    What I'm looking for is real life experiences with solar panels and anything to do with them. The installation is free, the inverter and solar panels are free of charge, seems like a win-win situation, but it also seems to be too good to be true. My house has also been qualified for the panels.

    I do plan to schedule a meeting with someone more qualified than the salesmen I've spoken to, none of them could answer my questions when I started getting technical about the electrical parts.

    Any help, positive or negative, would be greatly appreciated. I realize this isn't the first thread about solar panels, but they've changed the way they are marketing them. I do see them popping up all over town.

    Rich
     
  2. PokerJoker

    PokerJoker Godfather

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    Not sure that New Jersey has enough total sun exposure to make it work effectively, as opposed to, say, Arizona.

    Another question: Who gets to go up on the roof and clean the panels?

    You're absolutely right to be leery. In my experience, anything marketed as "Free Free Free" translates directly to "Scam Scam Scam".

    Keith
     
  3. P Smith

    P Smith Mr. FixAnything

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    I would say it's good idea (include your part of being Green World), here we have a lot of sunny days and the free install has it merit - that energy what you are not taken going into local power company. Easy to understand.
    I would go to your neighbor (or ask the company to give you such referral) who is using the panels/equipment at least for one year (I'd like to see how it works during all seasons include snow time) and ask all details and just listen to his opinion. Or find a site where is your local ppl discuss functioning of the panels.
     
  4. veryoldschool

    veryoldschool Lifetime Achiever Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    A couple of years back I had a clown come out to estimate going solar.
    Rich I think you've seen a SAT view of that house, and you can't see it at all due to the trees.
    It was going to be a $35k investment too.
    I got ZERO feeling he understood my concerns about how much energy would be produced.
    Even a simulation of the lat/long, time of sun exposure, would have gone a long way.
    The SAT view of your house looks much more attractive than my house for going solar.
    I think some of the negative may stem from the older water heating systems.

    From the few TV programs I've watched where panels were installed, it looks like things have improved a lot.

    "I would think" every roof in the Sacramento valley should be covered with solar panels.
    AC is mandatory to live there and there's sun at the same time.
     
  5. komondor

    komondor Mentor

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    People i have talked to say the leasing deal is ok but they only install enough panels to break even not actually save you real money
     
  6. Shades228

    Shades228 DaBears

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    As with anything this is a long term investment. Some places it's great and others it's not.

    If you're looking at cutting monthly costs it's probably not the best cost effective option such as replacing water heaters with tankless and so forth. I do think that done properly they can save money over the cost of years but the initial expense is still significant and if you took the same amount of money to replace all lights with LED, tankless water heaters, new windows, and better insulation you could probably get the same savings.

    Now there is an added benefit for you because if you get the whole system setup you run it through batteries and a power conditioner. This would be your new UPS solution as well. You can have generators setup with the system so when your power goes out you're off the grid. You have to have it setup where you can be removed from the grid in case your electric company has to do maintenance you don't become a supplier. In the case where you generate more electricity than you use they are required to pay you for it however it's at whatever they pay bulk so it's not near what they charge you.

    My friend started with a 3 panel install just to see how it would go. He said it was worth the infrastructure to the wiring in the house but he wanted to save more. So he build a deck with a roof on it and put more panels on the deck roof that made him get some really decent savings. This was in northern IL.
     
  7. dennisj00

    dennisj00 Hall Of Fame

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    I installed 15 panels ~ 3 KW peak, last October. I used several 80% factors of published data - 5.7 hours per day for my Latitude and knowing my roof was 150 degrees instead of 180 and a slighter angle than my Latitide. . .

    My initial calculations were about an 8 year payback at CURRENT electricity rates WITH the Federal and State rebates. (65% in NC)

    While it was about a $12,000 expenditure - I (and my wife) installed them. . . so far this year, I'm running 10-15% above my projections and can get maybe 20% more production with some tree topping.

    So even if the rates stay the same over the next 10 years - not likely!! I'll still have less than 8 year payback.

    Between the panels and Leaf we purchased last October, we're not buying nearly as much oil or coal as before.

    The installation was very easy if you don't mind getting on your roof. I used Enphase micro-inverters which is installed under each panel. The system gives a minute by minute report of performance. PM me if you want more info.
     
  8. djlong

    djlong Hall Of Fame

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    Things to consider.

    - Panels are far more efficient and cheaper than just a few years ago.
    - Get a GOOD installer. Cheap installations will NOT produce power when you lose "the grid" during a blackout because they'll be trying to power your neighborhood (from the circuit that feeds your excess power back into the grid). Even a good installation might have certain restrictions during a blackout.
    - Understand that they payback period is going to be a while.

    But, to me, the best reason to do it, even if the bottom line doesn't quite line up...

    I'd rather be giving money to local companies and installers than paying more money in my utility bill to send overseas for imported energy sources to people who want to kill us. (Never mind the fact that it's good for our trade deficit to be more self-sufficient)
     
  9. veryoldschool

    veryoldschool Lifetime Achiever Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    This caused me to think/google a bit.
    From here: http://www.powerscorecard.org/tech_detail.cfm?resource_id=8

     
  10. klang

    klang Hall Of Fame

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    Yep, Most of our power comes from home grown coal and natural gas. I wonder where the solar panels are manufactured?
     
  11. dsw2112

    dsw2112 Always Searching

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    I'm not sure that this is the case. I don't know the setup for solar, but home generators are installed with a transfer switch (to prevent electricity from backfeeding to external electrical lines during a blackout.) This can be dangerous to anyone working on the lines.
     
  12. P Smith

    P Smith Mr. FixAnything

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    China, as usual ...
     
  13. Shades228

    Shades228 DaBears

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    Anytime you have a self sustaining energy source you have to do this. So yes with a solar panel installation you are required to have a transfer switch so they can disconnect you when they need to do maintenance.
     
  14. P Smith

    P Smith Mr. FixAnything

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    How they do that ? Coming to each home to turn off the transfer switch ? Or remotely ? By WiFi ?
     
  15. dsw2112

    dsw2112 Always Searching

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    I'm going to guess that anybody selling electricity back to the grid has to have an automatic transfer switch.
     
  16. P Smith

    P Smith Mr. FixAnything

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    I'm thinking of maintenance period, when your neighbor grid must be off to avoid electrocution of workers.
     
  17. veryoldschool

    veryoldschool Lifetime Achiever Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

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    No real facts for this "but" would guess if there is no voltage on the output side to the grid, that the switch would trip.

    PG&E had something like this where I used to live to bridge circuits.
    We could get switched to another one of their feeds as long as it had power. Once that feed also lost power, we were screwed [for days] when it had power come back, but we didn't from our "normal" circuit.
     
  18. dennisj00

    dennisj00 Hall Of Fame

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    The micro-inverters on my system are considered 'Grid-Tie' - no battery storage and no generation if you lose the grid.

    Battery storage is still very expensive and more than doubles the payback period. And they require transfer protection to isolate from the grid as necessary.
     
  19. Rich

    Rich DBSTalk Club DBSTalk Club

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    The last guy I talked to did have a monitor to check my house out and it is very well situated for solar panels. He couldn't answer any of my electrical questions or talk about the roof installation because we were in a Home Depot and they wouldn't let him discuss roofing in any detail for fear it would take away from HD's roofing business. As if I'd use HD for a roofing job, but I guess a lot of people do.

    In my case, no money would be spent and all I'd have to worry about is the roof itself and the actual savings on electricity. Installation and the inverter and the cost of the panels are without charge. Still seems too good to be true. I gotta talk to my roofing guy, and someone from a solar company that can answer my questions, the salesmen can't.

    Rich
     
  20. Rich

    Rich DBSTalk Club DBSTalk Club

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    The salesman did say all services to the solar array would be covered by the solar company. Just sounds too good to be true. I don't trust salesmen working on commission.

    Rich
     

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