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post #1 of (permalink) Old 08-17-2003, 06:10 PM Thread Starter
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Solar Power?

Any of you energy concious folks out there have solar panels on your homes? While out for a drive today, I noticed quite a few on them on houses, and just wondering what kind of savings they offer, like investment versus savings, in from a dollar or percentage point of view. Just curious.

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post #2 of (permalink) Old 08-17-2003, 08:21 PM
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Re: Solar Power?

I was talking to a contractor awhile back and this subject came up... one thing I didn't realize is that they are not maintenance free, so that takes a bite out of their already mediocre savings. I really don't know much more than that, I'd like to hear from anybody that uses them because "free" energy sounds nice, though "free" usually has a downside somewhere.
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post #3 of (permalink) Old 08-17-2003, 08:33 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Solar Power?

Maintenance, I never even thought of that, I was only thinking of how long it takes to get back the investment, and if it was worth it or not. What kind of maintenance? Cleaning the surfaces I suppose [img]images/graemlins/smirk.gif[/img].

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post #4 of (permalink) Old 08-18-2003, 12:57 PM
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Re: Solar Power?

what type of solar power are you talking about? i worked on some solar systems when i was going to school . the kind used to heat pools, water heaters , houses etc... Von Warner
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post #5 of (permalink) Old 08-18-2003, 01:47 PM
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Re: Solar Power?

Old ones are pretty crappy. I had one of the old heat kind on the side of my barn that I got from my Aunt and Uncle. It was 4'x8'. It'd heat my barn but only in certain parts of the day. I don't know why it worked so well but it actually did better than if you painted something black.

Modern solar cells are 18% efficient which is pretty impressive. And they're relatively cheap. The expensive part is the storage. Storage, on a good day, is 99% efficient. Then once you get it stored you need to turn it into AC which creates a ton of cost and depending on method can be less than 70% efficient.

I figured out one time that you'd need to completely cover your roof (both sides, which is kind of stupid) with solar cells and have 12 hours of heavy sunlight to run your house. The average 4 person home burns through 40 kwh a day. So, if you were to manage that you could pretty much eliminate your need for the power company. So let's say your power bill is $120/month. It'd take you forever and a day to pay off all your equipment.

And since you would still need power from the power company you'd still have a bill coming from them. However, I suppose you could get "interruptable power" and then they'd cut your rate by like half.

So, for now, it is still cheaper to run geothermal energy or wind energy. Geothermal you basically run a heat pump. They are pretty much useless for anything but heating and cooling a home. Wind doesn't hack it if you don't have wind above 15mph continuously.
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post #6 of (permalink) Old 08-18-2003, 02:27 PM
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Re: Solar Power?

For the most part, a Solar "Powered" system takes from 8-10 years to see a return on your investment.
However, that return time keeps dropping, as the price of electricity goes up, and the efficiency of the panels improve.
Most States (and at the Federal level as well) offer grants and no/low interest loans to help with the conversion.
There's gobs of information out there if you look.

We have a few people in our area using the panels for their electricity.
Generally, the panels are around 100 sq ft to power up a 2000 sq ft home.
Total cost, including the cells, storage batteries, and DC/AC conversion components,
has typically been between $10,000-$12,000 for those home's systems.
Every one of them has the meter running backwards more often than not.
They are hooked to the grid, and feed power back to the grid when the demand is less than the supply.
Virtually, free electricity, sans the system cost.
Maintenance issues have dropped dramatically in the last few years as well.

Granted, energy saving devices were also incorporated into these systems.
I.E. Front loading washers. Energy saving lighting. Good insulation in the home. Turn off devices not in use. Yada Yada. It all helps.

Now, for the real good return on investment using the "sun":
Solar "hot water heating" barely takes 3 years to pay for itself versus gas/oil/electric heat.
These would be the panels/boxes you see on roofs with water plumbing running through them.
Again, loans/grants are available for the systems.

Our first "conversion" will be the solar hot water heating.
Since we have a gas boiler, and hot water radiant heat (albeit wood-stove now, see below), we'd see the biggest gain.
Hot water for washing/showers/etc has been the biggest "energy" appetite for us.
Especially, since the well water that goes into the tank is so cold all year long.
In the last couple years, we've used a high-efficiency wood-stove for heat.
2 cords of wood each year @$65 a cord, has been cheap enough for me.
However, we're also in a pretty small space at 1200 sq ft.

Gees, sorry about that. Didn't realize I had that much to say. [img]images/graemlins/blush.gif[/img]

Before you go looking to do any major "energy production conversion";
Make sure you've also done all the other chores, like,
insulation, stop outside air intrusion, energy star appliances, low "E" windows.....etc etc.

Another thing to think about when using Solar Panels for electricity, is to utilize 12 volt lighting and devices when possible.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 08-18-2003, 05:30 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Solar Power?

Thank you very much gentlemen, that about sums it up.

I was really just curious, and wondering what the dollar value was.
I could see where it may be a decent investment on a new R-2000 home, but I live in a 40 year old bungalow with a crawl-space, that for all intents and purposes, is somewhat in-efficient, and less than air tight.
As for the wood heat, which I do like the "feel" of, I grew up with it, had it in my first house, and will have it no more....he he he. Since I'm never home, my wife always was left with the pioneer-esque hauling all the wood into the house, and keeping the wood-stove going. She grew tired of that very quickly, and didn't waste any time informing me of it. I'll stick with the old oil heat. (No gas here for us easterns yet, we sell it all to the US)

Anyhow, thanks a bunch guys, it was informative to say the least. Maybe I'll consider it for my new garage, but not the house. I'll dig up a little info, and do some reading.

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