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Has anyone else had this question; What is the payback time on your solar panels?  RSS feed

 
Sam Nelson
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As a bit of brief background i'm renovating a house, everything except the walls more or less. When i try to describe solar hot water systems to people and everyone seems to ask, Whats the payback time?

I haven't worked this out and don't really want to. My aim is to make a bill-less system. So free heating and free hot water with these being the most energy demanding systems in the home.

My view of the whole thing has always been, whats the payback time on a new boiler based system?

Has anyone else come accross this

 
David Livingston
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Impossible question too many variables
1 where are you ? How much sun do you have ?
2 how much energy do you need ? What are you using at the moment ?
3 are you going off grid ? If so home much storage will you need ?
4 are you staying on grid and how much will you get paid for your surplus electric?
5 how big a system you buy Sometimes for a little bit more cash you can get a disproportionately bigger
system
6 are you going to mix a water gravity based system and have a photovoltaic one . Remember in the winter it might not provide enough heating for your needs nor heating .


General advise I have seen and follow is that it most cost effective to reduce your requirements to a minimum first then look at how big a system you need
 
Judith Browning
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Sam Nelson wrote:As a bit of brief background i'm renovating a house, everything except the walls more or less. When i try to describe solar hot water systems to people and everyone seems to ask, Whats the payback time?

I haven't worked this out and don't really want to. My aim is to make a bill-less system. So free heating and free hot water with these being the most energy demanding systems in the home.

My view of the whole thing has always been, whats the payback time on a new boiler based system?

Has anyone else come across this



I think you are asking if anyone else is asked by others  "what's the payback time" for solar, rather than you yourself wanting to know 'what is the payback time'? 
We don't have solar but other areas of our life get questioned ....I used to try harder to explain and justify those choices.  Now it depends on the person questioning...sometimes they just want to prove you wrong out of defensiveness for their own life choices, sometimes they are sincerely interested...I think.
 
Sam Nelson
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This is my point there is no way of knowing what the "payback" period is and that any system that is a near to free to run is better than the conventional options. Yet a lot of people seem to associate renewable energy technology as getting this payback as a way to justify putting in a system rather than the actual benefits of generating your own needs so you don't have the reliance on what is fragile system at best.

As i said just working on hot water and heating for now. I'm using solar and rocket stove water heat as a heat source for heat storage tank which then heat and hot circuits remove heat as needed. Pv is a further down line project at the minute.


You could be right about the defensiveness thing. I've always tried to give cohesive answers when people question way i'm doing this strange thing. but normally they just nod and smile politely.
 
Chris Wells
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I have, and I explain it much as you have to us.

The fewer bills you have, the more disposable income remains at the end of a day, month, or year. I'm trying to reduce or eliminate as many bills as possible. Think of how comfortable life would be if your only bills were property taxes and maintenance.

The payback for solar is not easily determined. World leaders are pushing hard for clean energy, and stating our bills will rise as they do. Nobody knows how much costs will increase, but that'll only matter to those who still use it. Solar eliminates this risk.

There are a lot of other risks solar eliminates as well, such as blackouts (common here). When the grid goes down, I still have power. Life here goes on as normal, while others wait for power to be restored. I like that.

I can't say how many years it takes before the total cost is less than grid power, but it does get there. And as I shift to solar power, solar water heating, and other renewable forms of energy, my bills just get smaller and smaller and smaller. That's the plus. It's not the payback period, but the fact that once each system is installed, I'll never pay for that energy again.
 
Michael Bushman
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Sam Nelson wrote:As a bit of brief background i'm renovating a house, everything except the walls more or less. When i try to describe solar hot water systems to people and everyone seems to ask, Whats the payback time?

I haven't worked this out and don't really want to. My aim is to make a bill-less system. So free heating and free hot water with these being the most energy demanding systems in the home.



It is a very important question and one you should know the answer to.   You are talking about hot water, not solar PV, correct?   You need to see what you are currently paying to pay for heating water, a cost that is going to depend on various factors but still, a very easy number to come up with.   You then compare it to your planned expense for using solar hot water and see how many years it takes to equal each other.   If you are paying $10 a month, which means $120 a year and in ten years $1,200 and your solar hot water system is going to cost $5,000 you might consider just banking the money, but if your bill is $30, which means in ten years you pay $3,600 and your solar hot water system is $1,500 then it is a no brainer to go solar.

You can get fancy and start factoring in inflation, energy costs (fracking will soon start to be regulated which will drive up natural gas prices), equipment repair and replacement costs, etc.  Another consideration is resale value and the value of the system.   Hot water systems add little value and depending on the type, flat plastic matts vs evacuated tubes, the cost varies widely but it is still an asset purchased with money that was otherwise lost. But the simple math above should give you a rough idea if it is worth it.

I wholesale solar PV nationwide and the value of solar depends mainly on what your local utility charges for power, there are places in the US where it is under $.10 a kw and in places in California it is over $.40 so payback time varies considerably.   Solar PV systems add value to homes and, like hot water systems are an asset so again, the math gets a bit fuzzy but it is good to have a rough idea as solar is not always a good choice.
 
K Putnam
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I get asked about the payback period for my solar panels anytime anyone sees them.  I don't mind talking about it at all.

Payback period is an important tool when comparing multiple options.  Most of us have finite resources, so we have to choose certain ways to spend our money and need some sort of framework to make those decisions.

I was hemming and hawing about putting in solar.   It initially seemed like a BIG investment.  So, I did the math.

1) Federal tax credit immediately reduced cost by a third.
2) Local incentives to by Washington-made products means I get a check in the mail every summer until 2020.  Cash in hand!  Like $1500 last summer.  That's a really nice check to be getting in the mail.
3) I can choose to pump a bunch of energy back into the grid and extend the months I have no electrical bill OR I can run the AC on my heat pump essentially for "free" all summer long.  Last summer, that's what I did.  Massive increase in my quality of life.
4) Slightly lowered electrical bill in the winter.
5) Increased property value.
6) Intangible benefits to environment and my local economy.

Now, all the sudden, when compared to the outlay for purchasing a new car, putting up solar looked like a really reasonable and smart thing to do.  I don't mind talking to people about that, if they ask.  I feel pretty smart.  HA!

But, I could also compare permaculture options.  For the $30K I invested into the solar, I could have put in one heck of a water catchment system with a pump which would have allowed me to do A LOT more personal food production last year.  It would have also improved my fire safety during a drought.   I would have had money left over that I could have used for any number of projects, earthworks, better fencing, you name it.  In fact, I could have probably funded just about every other important project I want to do for the cost of the solar.  So, tradeoffs. 

If I spend it here, I can't spend it there.  And that's why people ask about payback.  It's just good finance, which really should be considered in all design decisions.  Finance is a great design tool if you include all of the externalities that are often left out of most models.




 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I'm firmly on the side that pay-back time doesn't matter... As far as I'm concerned, the first time that I take a shower with hot running water from a system that is not connected to the grid, it has already paid back every bit of the investment. With the very first shower!!!

What is freedom worth? How does one calculate the true cost of being a slave to the power-grid? How does one calculate the cost of getting/having the licenses and credit rating necessary to be connected to the grid? There are all sorts of externalities connected to taking a grid-connected shower... They all have a cost, even if it isn't readily apparent. Grid power has a tremendous reliability risk. It's great when it works. It really, really sucks when it breaks down. When it breaks, it does so catastrophically for whole communities, not just for an isolated house here or there.

I get the same question all the time regarding food. Why would I grow potatoes when they cost $0.15 per pound in the store? Why would I grow anything? The dollars and cents return on investment simply isn't there... I can't compete with the mega-farms in California... But I guarantee that even the worst tasting strawberry that I grown on my own farm, always tastes better than anything shipped in from California. And I'm not poisoning myself by eating it.

It's like owning a house outright rather than having a mortgage... I know a rich man that always kept the biggest possible mortgage on his house because of the "tax advantages". A month after he died, his widow paid off the mortgage, because she liked the freedom of not having to worry about paying a monthly payment. That sort of security is priceless.

Being dirt poor has a lot going for it if it's associated with not needing to work to pay for utilities, because the utilities were already paid for many years ago.



 
Sam Nelson
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I am talking about hot water, and where i have moved i don't have a base line for what i use, started with as black a canvas as you can without a bulldozer. old heating system got condemned quickly so started from scratch. I don't use masses of hot water and heat the house with the rocket stove by itself no uhf was connected at this point.

As far as i can tell putting in boiler with gas and replacing existing pipe work rads. etc would cost about 10% less that fitting uhf and using rocket stove and solar tubes to supply a heat store to feed any hot water needs.

I don't think finances aren't important but the impression i get when people (generally not permie inclined people)  ask what the payback on this system you get the impression that they think it is the only thing that matters. It normally comes to a point in the conversation of, "yeah but a boiler cheaper and quicker to install easier to run has 'guarantees'. where as your thing is cost more to buy and install its odd, you did it yourself, will it work? and the payback is really long why would you do that?"

I feel like there is a deeper issue with the What the payback question? I don't know how solar products are marketed outside the uk but over here it is the main selling point and it feel like it really shouldn't be
 
Tyler Ludens
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Sam Nelson wrote:
I feel like there is a deeper issue with the What the payback question? I don't know how solar products are marketed outside the uk but over here it is the main selling point and it feel like it really shouldn't be


I agree.  Nobody asks when the coal or nuke plant will pay for itself (answer - never, the real costs to health are too high).
 
K Putnam
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I don't think finances aren't important but the impression i get when people (generally not permie inclined people)  ask what the payback on this system you get the impression that they think it is the only thing that matters.


The reality is that, for most people, it's an important factor and they're not being irrational because the system does not factor negative externalities into the cost of the product.  It's a great chance to talk about the negative externalities of running a hot water heater on propane or gas, the experience of using the energy from the sun, etc.

Or, in my case, "it's 100 degrees outside and 70 inside all thanks to the sun."  Pretty cool.
 
Michael Bushman
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Sam,

I used to sell residential solar in California where the rates are very high and people are very green.   I sold ZERO systems to people for whom the math didn't work.   I sold ZERO systems to people for whom the math was okay.  

I only sold systems to people for whom the math was a no brainer and even then more than a few said no.

People love to talk about the intangibles but bottom line is called that for a reason, its an accounting term!


Someone mentioned growing potatoes even if they are cheap, but I bet that they are not your FIRST choice...you do a cost benefit analysis using things like taste, space, cost, time, etc.   I would grow everything myself if I had time and space but as all are limited, I grow the things that taste the best fresh and or are expensive which is why I don't bother growing red or yellow onions but I do grow green ones even though they are cheap because they take up very little space.

Same goes for our residences.   If time and money were not issues, I would not buy any food or power and own my property and vehicles outright, most of us call that dream "winning the lottery" and make choices.  
 
Cristo Balete
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Sam, there's generating solar power to sell back to the utility company, and there's generating power to store in batteries in an off-the-grid system.  Not sure which one you are talking about.  The ability of solar power to work in different parts of the country is not a given.  Solar is all about location, location, location.  There has been so much hype about solar I think it's very misleading.  We've had lots of discussions about it on this forum, so there's lots for you to read.   Until Arizona settles its lawsuit about leased panels, and the possibility of homeowners being charged as a business for generating power, it's better to own panels.

solar hot water is probably the least effective thing to get from solar, unless you are in San Diego where it doesn't get very cold in the winter, and it's sunny most of the year.  Panels can only get power between the hours of approx. 10:00 and 4:00 in the summer, and 10:00 and 3:00 in the winter.  What they call "sun hours" means nothing to panels.  It's the absolute direct sun on the panels that counts, and that's a very limited number of hours a day.  If it's overcast, if there's even a thin cloud layer, the panels cannot generate what they are capable of.  Every single day is crucial in a solar setup, usage every single day has to be kept track of.  If there's a 5-day storm, you've got to make adjustments to usage.  Unless you  have a backup generator, but that uses a lot of gas, so that cost has to go into the total.  A good, reliable generator is several thousand dollars, not to mention a separate shed for it, and separate wiring into the house.

Solar equipment is expensive, so just because you don't have a monthly bill doesn't mean you haven't paid thousands of dollars to generate electricity by buying solar equipment, including the inverters, frames, controllers, and a very large bank of very expensive batteries, one shed for the batteries, and another for the electrical equipment, and your ability to maintain it all.   You just paid the money all at once, instead of a monthly bill.  Amortized out it is likely to be more costly than paying a utility company if you have an onff-the-grid system.

If you want to be independent, and not have a monthly bill, depending on where you live and how much you downsize, you might be able to do that.  It's unlikely to be cheaper.

I agree with Joseph.   Solar it is something that we commit to, learn a lot from, and are more happy with the use of it, and are willing to maintain it and keep track of it,

-------------------------

K Putnam, if you get a $1500  check once a year, that averages out to a little over $100 a month.  What is your average monthly electricity bill?  Probably more than that once it's averaged, so it's more likely to be an offset of the cost, not $1500 over and above paying nothing for power..  And your rebates seem to have gotten you a good chunk of the payback, not the solar.    People in San Diego would have a very different story from those in Wyoming or Michigan.

 
Michael Bushman
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Another thing against solar is that most of us here have fairly low energy usage.   Most states have some sort of tiered cost system and unlike most things where the more you buy the cheaper it gets, most utilities charge homeowners MORE money when they use more electricity.   Another way to put this is that if your energy use is low, your rates are artificially low because you are being subsidized by those who use more electricity.   It also means that the economic reasons for buying solar PV are LESS if your usage is less and the more you use the better the payback is.

Put another way, in California, if your electricity bill is under $100, your payback is going to be TWICE as long as someone who's bill is $200 even though their system will be twice the cost of yours.

Other than the special subsides of a handful of states like Washington, selling power back to the utility does NOT pay.   In fact, the fastest payback is achieved by sizing a system to ONLY cover the higher cost tiers and continuing to pay the lower subsidized tiers.   

Of course, giving the finger to the power companies and eliminating your entire bill feels good but its going to be harder on your wallet.

 
K Putnam
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K Putnam, if you get a $1500  check once a year, that averages out to a little over $100 a month.  What is your average monthly electricity bill?  Probably more than that once it's averaged, so it's more likely to be an offset of the cost, not $1500 over and above paying nothing for power..  And your rebates seem to have gotten you a good chunk of the payback, not the solar.    People in San Diego would have a very different story from those in Wyoming or Michigan. 


Between April and September, I barely have an electrical bill.  I went and pulled my total payments for the last year: $787.   So, let's call that $700 cash in hand.  And that doesn't include the benefit of what my electrical bill would have been without solar.  In Washington, we get paid simply for production, whether that went back into the grid or not.  So, I get the benefit of keeping my bill down as well as getting paid for my overall production.    All those things are part of the payback calculation.   Without the federal tax credit and the local state incentives, I would not have chose solar at that time.  That would be a lot of money to pay for morality, too expensive for me. I'm willing to pay what I can for a moral choice, but that money would have gone a lot further in other moral choices than in solar.


 
Cristo Balete
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K Putnam, it does seem that Washington is making it all worthwhile for you, and that the cost of power in WA apparently isn't too high if you don't have much of a bill  for 6 months out of the year.   So we are, again, at location, location, location 
 
K Putnam
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Yes, Washington has made it great.  BUT, I choose to live in a small one-bedroom house and work to keep my energy costs down.  I could have bought a bigger house, but I went out of my way to find a small one.  I put in a heat pump, which dropped my bill by at least 50%.  I dry most of my clothes on lines most of the year.  Windows and doors open in the summer, sweaters and wool socks in the winter.   This is obviously still a much higher energy usage than say the ants living in their wood houses, but I do make a conscious effort to keep my usage lower than a lot of folk while solar helps with the production side of things. So, consumption down, production up, overall footprint down, all without wrecking my finances. 

I would love to have a wood stove for winter heating.  That would drop my electrical bill to minimal levels, but that would require some rather extensive remodeling of my little house at the moment and I don't have the cash for that. 
 
Sam Nelson
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Cristo Balete wrote:Sam, there's generating solar power to sell back to the utility company, and there's generating power to store in batteries in an off-the-grid system.  Not sure which one you are talking about.  The ability of solar power to work in different parts of the country is not a given.  Solar is all about location, location, location.  There has been so much hype about solar I think it's very misleading.  We've had lots of discussions about it on this forum, so there's lots for you to read.   Until Arizona settles its lawsuit about leased panels, and the possibility of homeowners being charged as a business for generating power, it's better to own panels.

Solar hot water is probably the least effective thing to get from solar, unless you are in San Diego where it doesn't get very cold in the winter, and it's sunny most of the year.  Panels can only get power between the hours of approx. 10:00 and 4:00 in the summer, and 10:00 and 3:00 in the winter.  What they call "sun hours" means nothing to panels.  It's the absolute direct sun on the panels that counts, and that's a very limited number of hours a day.  If it's overcast, if there's even a thin cloud layer, the panels cannot generate what they are capable of.  Every single day is crucial in a solar setup, usage every single day has to be kept track of.  If there's a 5-day storm, you've got to make adjustments to usage.  Unless you  have a backup generator, but that uses a lot of gas, so that cost has to go into the total.  A good, reliable generator is several thousand dollars, not to mention a separate shed for it, and separate wiring into the house.

Solar equipment is expensive, so just because you don't have a monthly bill doesn't mean you haven't paid thousands of dollars to generate electricity by buying solar equipment, including the inverters, frames, controllers, and a very large bank of very expensive batteries, one shed for the batteries, and another for the electrical equipment, and your ability to maintain it all.   You just paid the money all at once, instead of a monthly bill.  Amortized out it is likely to be more costly than paying a utility company if you have an onff-the-grid system.

If you want to be independent, and not have a monthly bill, depending on where you live and how much you downsize, you might be able to do that.  It's unlikely to be cheaper.

I agree with Joseph.   Solar it is something that we commit to, learn a lot from, and are more happy with the use of it, and are willing to maintain it and keep track of it,

-------------------------

K Putnam, if you get a $1500  check once a year, that averages out to a little over $100 a month.  What is your average monthly electricity bill?  Probably more than that once it's averaged, so it's more likely to be an offset of the cost, not $1500 over and above paying nothing for power..  And your rebates seem to have gotten you a good chunk of the payback, not the solar.    People in San Diego would have a very different story from those in Wyoming or Michigan.




I don't want to nit pick but i've just done the hot water thing in the uk so a bit different laws, tax etc. but the equipment to put solar panel with 2000l insulated thermal store with a natural loss of 0.25C a day and rocket  stove for winter production is the equivalent price of an average boiler and radiator system over here. in the region of £2000 installation costs differ due to skills required but if I can fumble my way though it and it works then most can.

Solar tube is the most efficient collection method of collecting solar energy, in the region of 98% of energy hitting the panel is collected by the water system. A good PV panel is down at 35%ish.

With a thermal store the 5 day storm issue is negated it has to be cloudy for a couple of weeks to empty the tank of heat and then you just turn the rocket stove on to heat water. being the uk its cloudy here alot but we still get enough sun for using solar

The rocket stove is the back up but man enough to heat the house by the heat emitted with out solar at all.



I haven't studied pv in detail yet but surly the less you use the smaller system you need therefore the smaller system you need and cheaper and making your payback time proportionally the same as a big system for someone who uses a lot.

We have a green energy incentive program here but its only here so the government can it try to meet its green energy generation targets by 2020 and will minimise the fines they receive when they fail. They are only paid to those who have there panels professionally installed by certified companies that charge 3x as much as an electrician would can do, so its just the government paying itself to give money out.
 
Cristo Balete
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K Putnam, I love woodstoves and their dry heat, and the ability to heat water on them in a kettle.   There is something very primal and satisfying about a fire in an efficient stove, the ones with a window you can watch the fire.  I never tire of it.   I wouldn't hesitate to head for it.  

Maybe you know this, but be sure you have some reinforced foundation for it, a brick or stone hearth with brick or stone walls behind it, at least as high as it is.  There are large ceramic tiles that are quite inexpensive for the hearth and walls.   It should go through the wall with a special piece that insulates it through the wall, rather than out the ceiling.  The higher on the wall it goes out, the more hot pipe you have inside that also provides heat.   The pipe needs to extend 3 feet beyond the peak of the roof.  There needs to be a solid piece of fireproof hardware cloth around the chimney piece because birds will get into the chimney and get stuck.   The wire mesh that came with my chimney piece rusted away within a few years, and became a problem, needed new wire mesh.  With your small house you could get a small stove, make sure it can easily take 18"  sized pieces of wood, which are the most standard.   I've got a Yotul 3, it's a great little stove.

I can see the bigger picture of your setup affects how solar works for you.   We have downsized a lot as well, and that's when solar seems to work the best, or is at least easier to live with.
 
Cristo Balete
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Sam, well, if you have a rocket stove in the mix, then it seems that changes your question about solar as the water heater.   And, yes, the requirement for a professional installation doesn't really make the rebates worth it.

I made a passive solar water heater out of an old water heater tank, put it in an insulated box, covered it with a glass shower door, tipped it into the sun.  It does a great job of getting the water hot only on sunny days that have direct sun for at least 6 hours.  The box is also up against the south-facing wall of the house, which reflects heat and protects from wind "chill."   I don't fill the 40 gallon tank full, only enough water for one day's use of dishes and short showers.  At best it is an offset, but a pretty good one for at least 6 months of the year.  there are YouTube videos about this type of passive solar water heaters.

Having lived with solar for 16 years, it's more about usage than the size of the system.  I've made my system bigger while lowering my use so it can recoup faster.  I have more panels that can bring the batteries back up more quickly, and get them into equalizing more often. 

the most efficient systems I've seen use wind and solar, so if there is a consistent source of wind, particularly at night, the batteries have two sources of input.
 
Jo Hunter-Adams
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I think it's a fair question, though I agree it's contextual. So I'll give our experience, as we have solar hot water and PV panels in a Mediterranean climate. solar hot water is relatively cheap and can be very low-tech, paying for itself extremely quickly (especially if you weren't previously using an instant hot water heater, but were constantly keeping a water tank with hot water), depending on usage. For us, a 150L low-pressure solar water system will pay for itself in less than five years.

Our PV panels, inverter, battery system is a much harder sell in terms of money. It doesn't make a lot of financial sense, as it wouldn't pay for itself until it's 20 years old, and we've already messed up our batteries pretty badly just figuring out how to make things work. On the other hand, we probably saved some money not having to wire the house for the municipal/grid system. We have also learned huge amounts about how much electricity we need, and how to curb our needs and desires, which we could never do if we weren't making complicated calculations about when to plug our laptop in. So the intangibles do matter a lot, at least to me-- especially if you have a small solar PV system. If one has a gargantuan system, I can't see how it's much better for the environment or for finances.

I write a bit about our experiences and choices, here http://www.concretegardener.com/2015_08_01_archive.html
 
Devin Lavign
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Well considering there is no power going to my property, I could either pay a huge sum of money to get the local electric utility lines up the mountain to my property then still have to pay them for electric. Or I could spend less money on a good solar and wind system with a back up generator and not have to keep paying for electric monthly.

So for me payback time is immediate. I will save a lot more money buying the alternative energy system than paying the utility company to string lines to my property then charge me monthly for their service. Which is why no one else on the mountain has bothered getting utility lines strung either except the one rancher at the very beginning of the road.
 
frank li
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Devin Lavign wrote:Well considering there is no power going to my property, I could either pay a huge sum of money to get the local electric utility lines up the mountain to my property then still have to pay them for electric. Or I could spend less money on a good solar and wind system with a back up generator and not have to keep paying for electric monthly.

So for me payback time is immediate. I will save a lot more money buying the alternative energy system than paying the utility company to string lines to my property then charge me monthly for their service.


So funny! People get wrinkled foreheads about solar, they dont think your decision is smart financially or practical. If you tell them that you bought a home theater system, new riding machines, mega lawnmower, bass boat, vacations, junk food and other amusements , all of the sudden you are the smartest person and they ask advice.
For many people, simply mentioning solar brings critisism. All of a sudden, your buddy who spends money like no tomorrow on all kinds of stuff, that guy turns into the chief economist of fossil-nuke industries, LLC. I will never understand it.

But then...i can understand it. We live off grid in Michigan on what is considered a "micro system" and is dwarfed by the machines that i build for my clients. I have been installing solar here since 2003 and repairing "orphaned" solar thermal systems that just needed a small issue corrected and are ready for another 25-35 years of operation!

The nay-sayers rarely have information that is not funded or distributed by the centralized utility companies and their fuel and parts suppliers, whom are the most heavily subsidized industry out there (welfare in on top of extreme profiteering and monopoly)

Read:

The Sun Betrayed: A Study of the Corporate Seizure of Solar Energy Development.

By Ray Reece, an eye opener and has the facts behind our feeling that utility power is a racket.

Then look at the magazine devoted to de-centralized power since the 80's.

http://www.homepower.com/

And this the book that started as a diy project for our retirement years and led me on my present occupation.

https://solarconduit.com/shop/consumer/the-solar-electric-independent-home-book.html

We had an issue with the utility being verbally abusive and pushy about me detecting an equipment failure on their end.
We were insulted and i told the rolex wearing goon disguised as a lineman, that i will disconnect and keep every watt for private use, he dared me and i just did it! It cost about $4,500 (plus maintenance)to never have a utility bill again. We did not take any rebate or other incentive.
Kicked the propane guy out too after they would not abide asking before filling my tank and charging me $1000 plus!...several times over three years.

And yes batteries are going to continue to be a part of our energy future. Boggles me, why people accept a pace-maker, emergency power ( also called un-interruptable power! Hmmm.), communications, life support in space, etc run on batteries and when it comes to my deep freezer and tv, " oh no way that works in Michigan"

Thing is we need the batteries to be OUR batteries, that WE set the price and terms for the utility to interconnect to, not the other way around. This is happening and quickly in places where net metering is defeated in order to benifit the utilities, whom are positioning to be in control of renewable energy generation, while telling the paying public, 'not only are you going to pay for the companies new conversion equipment, which substantially reduces company cost of operation well into the future, if you, the unwashed-pleb masses try it, it will be an utter failure and your friends will laugh at you'

Folks are smart, especially this group.

http://www.rmi.org/PDF_economics_of_grid_defection_4pager

Simply dirty tricks and sabatoge. It cant work if i have access to a calculator and some spec sheets.

We need blocks of people, villages, towns, cities, then states to band together and install solar and batteries as micro grids and community energy projects and use our potential customer base to deny the utility our consumption until better terms are available and due respect that we are the patrons, is shown to us, just like we would any other service provider. We cant do it if we do not own our equipment.

Our planet is located inside a SOLAR system and all of the usable energy that we experience is from the sun. Wind, photovoltaics (solar panels), geothermal, and hydroelectric are all solar driven and the amount of energy in one hour of the earths exposure to sunlight is in excess of what energy all of humanity consumes in a year.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_energy

Most grid tied systems will offset their total installed cost in about 6-9 years, then last for insurance and lending purposes another 30 years before major maintenance is required. If you are off grid or have a back-up system payback is usually instant, either in satisfaction of being clean and independent, because you require power that is higher quality and more reliable than utility power, or because utility power is not available or is cost prohibitive at a proposed location.

These are the people i help. That is correct, i did say i build systems that produce power of higher quality and is more reliable than what the utility can provide, an installer of properly designed and high quality equipment can boast this!

One more myth to bust here, photovoltaic panels, in most locations will recoup all of the energy used to manufacture them in about one year and total systems will do the same in two to three years! This cannot be said for fuel based power, it is a destroyer and besmircher, a consumer of our very life support system...

Think about these things as you hit search on google and consume 30-50 watt/hours. Guys at google are pretty smart and have accountants...they are scrambling to install renewable capacity in order to stabilize their main cost...power, long into the future.


My least favorite scenario is "the bean counter" these people are not happy without profit. They pay no mind to benefits that are not money. They cannot be helped.

From now on i will tell people that i blew $4500 on radio controlled model airplanes and drinks at the bar and go back to being respectable again.


Payback period is generally 3-5 years for  solar domestic hot water...if utility power or gas is available or even considered as an option. Space heat is another story depending on location and assuming that the building envelope is efficient.

As another commenter said, this all depends on local cost for energy and solar resource on site.

The problem with utility energy price is that it is volotile and uncertain, even with subsidy.
 
frank li
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This is a long tabulation. People cannot make valid decisions on economics when all prices are artificially manipulated.

Gasoline is estimated to actually cost around $20-$25 per gallon! We pay $2.89 and complain bitterly. No mention of environmental cost.

Subsidies...if all subsidies were removed from industry, including solar, guess what would happen in a business quarter?

Our governments have been restricting efficiency of inverters and pv modules.

14% efficiency for modules and 80% for power handling equipment (inverters, charge controls!). Designers will recognize the time period where the national security restriction was lifted,  and we were "allowed" access to tech.

http://www.collective-evolution.com/2014/12/08/invention-secrecy-at-all-time-high-thousands-of-patent-applications-placed-under-secrecy-orders/

Your blood will boil.

(So what type of technology is under restriction under the Invention Secrecy Act? We don’t really know, but a previous list from 1971 was obtained by researcher Michael Ravnitzky. Most of the technology listed seems to be related to various military applications. You can view that list HERE. (6)

As Steven Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists reports:

“The 1971 list indicates that patents for solar photovoltaic generators were subject to review and possible restriction if the photovoltaics were more than 20% efficient. Energy conversion systems were likewise subject to review and possible restriction if they offered conversion efficiencies in “excess of 70-80%.” (source))

1971!!!

Happy Independence Day coming up!
 
Michael Bushman
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frank li wrote:

Our governments have been restricting efficiency of inverters and pv modules.

14% efficiency for modules and 80% for power handling equipment (inverters, charge controls!).  (source))



There may have once been truth to this conspiracy theory but not in this day and age.   Energy is POWER and China is not going to respect some stupid American government restriction, hell they steal our military and trade secrets, do you really think they are going to obey some patent restriction?

Solar PV is the future and for the major players, the US, China, the EU, India, they are going to do whatever it takes to seize the economic high ground and the companies making the most efficient panels for the best price will win billions in revenue and the rest will die.

 
Cristo Balete
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It seems the main idea about solar is that it's cheaper because the sunlight is free.   So that seems to be how most people approach getting solar.  Yes, solar works, but not to the extent we thnk it will, and it's not cheaper.  Most people don't know about electricity and aren't qualified to put together and maintain their own electrical system.  It's not a standalone system, you can't set it up and walk away.

These days everything that's "green" is more expensive, and people seem willing to pay the extra money.  Organic food is more expensive than traditionally grown food, low VOC paint is more than two times as expensive as a regular can of paint,  "biodegradable" products are more expensive (don't get me started on the legal meaning of biodegradable, it is almost nothing at all), bottled water is outrageously priced,  "green" deoderant, "green" toothpaste.  None of the things we think are better for us are cheaper.

I, personally, would never let a utility company near my batteries.  Suddenly when/where/how the batteries are, would have regulations attached to them that would be outrageous.   I wouldn't tie to the grid, because I don't want them keeping tabs on my power production, my equipment or my location.

I don't know if people are aware, but utility companies have right-of-ways on your property where they have underground lines and overhead lines.  In a rural setting that could be several hundred feet of right-of-ways, that would allow them to come onto the property unannounced and without your permission at any time to check your equipment, clear away trees and brush, etc.   In an urban setting we take it for granted that they will clear the trees away from the lines, accessing them from your sideyard, hauling out huge branches from possibly your neighbor's tree over your landscape, stomp over and drop giant branches on newly planted plants.  So while everyone is only focusing on how much money they think they're going to make off selling power to the utility company, remember that you are  allowing them to keep track of, and have access to your private property.
 
frank li
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(There may have once been truth to this conspiracy theory but not in this day and age.)

The point was that for thirty years they did restrict patents. What are they restricting now?

And absolutely, yes pv is now and for some time going to be, the preferred technology.

Since 1956 or so an for some time, the phone companies used pv panels to amplify line signal across vast expanses where there was no other available power. Long before people ever heard of off grid pv.

Then we had "rural electrification" which was calculated to bust the first off gridders the farmers and ranch owners in the 30's had wind, i.c.e. generators, methate digesters, hydroelectric, etc.

Then during ww2, when much of the country had been enjoying solar domestic hot water on their homes for 40 years....
we scrapped the copper in them dutifully for bullets and wiring to waste all over the world.

This is not conspiracy theory and there are better articles about patent siezure of solar electric.

As my friend richard says, ' we are going backwards to the future' and its appropriate.
 
Chris Wells
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Most people don't know about electricity and aren't qualified to put together and maintain their own electrical system.


The same can be said for building construction, cooking food, basically anything. Learn or pay for the privilege of someone else learning on your behalf.

It's not a standalone system, you can't set it up and walk away.


I built my off-grid solar system in 2010. I check my water levels every two months but only need to top up every 2 years or so. I think it's proving rather standalone. The batteries are NiFe; they'll likely need an electrolyte flush after 25 year and replacement after 50. I spend less time on maintenance than one would spend on monthly bills. That's pretty much set up and walk away in my books.

 
Justin Dorr
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Almost impossible -without many hours of work- to conclude what the pay back could be at least on a global view, way to many variables. A locality by locality approach you'd most certainly be able to make some comparisons if buying a system and then comparison system by system, etc. However, as many industrious Permies members self build and self design again we run into another problem of how to calculate value and pay back time.

One way is to self build and self design or borrow a suitable design and mere decided that are going to build a solar water heater and bit by bit obtain those necessary components (low cost or no cost) and arrive at your destination. That way the actual cost shouldn't become a burden and then value far exceeds pay-back and the latter forgotten.
 
Brie Robb
Posts: 39
Location: Central Oklahoma area
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We had no power for so long, ours paid off the day they where hooked up.

But, the 24volt freezer.. (sigh).. that is gonna take many years to pay itself off. I still don't have a refrigerator  (almost 15 years now)
 
frank li
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Thats fun. On of our friends, a long time RE community member passed recently. He engineered high efficiency refrigeration and lived off grid.
He did not have a refrigerator or freezer and lived without them. He told me, "they have refrigeration at the store. If we want ice cream, we just bring some home"

We have a small, seasonal danby fridge that serves well.
Somebody threw it away and the only thing wrong with it was a highway 420 sticker we had to peel off! Instant payback.
 
Dennis Clover
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frank li wrote:Thats fun. On of our friends, a long time RE community member passed recently. He engineered high efficiency refrigeration and lived off grid.
He did not have a refrigerator or freezer and lived without them. He told me, "they have refrigeration at the store. If we want ice cream, we just bring some home"

We have a small, seasonal danby fridge that serves well.
Somebody threw it away and the only thing wrong with it was a highway 420 sticker we had to peel off! Instant payback.


oh does that mean he won't be able to store meat, vegetables for a long time?

i think a solar-powered (with battery) refrigerator would be so much easier on life
 
Su Ba
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First, I'll add my own story.......our payback was the moment we turned on the power. For real! The local electric company wanted close to $30,000 to bring their electric line to our house. The cost of an electrician would be added to that. We said, "No thank you." We bought and had installed a small solar electric system for $20,000. So we had a $10,000 saving the moment we turned the system on. Since then, in the past 15 years, we've purchased three replacement back up generators and 2 complete battery banks (12 golf cart batteries per bank) so far, and numerous gallons of distilled water. Not bad, compared to our neighbor who pays $200 every month for his grid electricity (we use a little less watts per month, but not a whole lot less.)

The pleasure of knowing we are off grid is priceless. I'm an independent, self reliant type. I'm totally happy not being bound to the grid.

We have both a frig and a separate freezer, both chest type and both DC. While I could live without these, they are super convenient. They allow me to store perishable food in a safe manner. I can butcher out my own pigs, lambs, chickens, and whatever else and eat my own meat. I can store surplus harvests without having to invest in canning equipment and cases of canning jars, nor suffer the losses, nor invest the time. The payback for the frig and freezer, in cash savings, might be years (I've never calculated it), but the convenience, ease, time savings, and the knowledge that I eat my own homegrown food year around is invaluable to me.

I'm often asked about my solar, and payback is one of the questions. There is no simple "one size fits all" answer, as can been seen by reading this discussion.

 
frank li
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Su Ba wrote:First, I'll add my own story.......our payback was the moment we turned on the power. For real! The local electric company wanted close to $30,000 to bring their electric line to our house. The cost of an electrician would be added to that. We said, "No thank you." We bought and had installed a small solar electric system for $20,000. So we had a $10,000 saving the moment we turned the system on. Since then, in the past 15 years, we've purchased three replacement back up generators and 2 complete battery banks (12 golf cart batteries per bank) so far, and numerous gallons of distilled water. Not bad, compared to our neighbor who pays $200 every month for his grid electricity (we use a little less watts per month, but not a whole lot less.)

The pleasure of knowing we are off grid is priceless. I'm an independent, self reliant type. I'm totally happy not being bound to the grid.

We have both a frig and a separate freezer, both chest type and both DC. While I could live without these, they are super convenient. They allow me to store perishable food in a safe manner. I can butcher out my own pigs, lambs, chickens, and whatever else and eat my own meat. I can store surplus harvests without having to invest in canning equipment and cases of canning jars, nor suffer the losses, nor invest the time. The payback for the frig and freezer, in cash savings, might be years (I've never calculated it), but the convenience, ease, time savings, and the knowledge that I eat my own homegrown food year around is invaluable to me.

I'm often asked about my solar, and payback is one of the questions. There is no simple "one size fits all" answer, as can been seen by reading this discussion.



Absolutely, refrigeration is a great technology.

We have constraints on budget and concept that exclude full time refrigeration.

One is, Michigan..., next we refuse the generator. Its constant requirements of input of fuel, oil, maintainence, replacement and its outputs of noise and other undesireable substance, put its use ouside of our budget and concept.

We have need for dehumidification and i am considering a reverse cycle chiller for providing solar electric ac while dehumidification is the target. The system may be able to provide supplemental space heat and heat water with pv excess as a total consumption tact, but one of the main utilities i will look into is chilling a food storage cabinet... a re-fitted fridge/freezer.

There are great off grid and high efficiency refrigeration appliances available where there is system headroom and budget for them.

We can meat and veggies. It works although i admit, i would like to freeze more...nutrients and resulting flavor.
 
steve pailet
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cost of solar water heating.. really depends upon if you are building your own.  If you are buying expect to pay $700 - $1200 per panel.  if you are planning to build first quality home built.  Expect to pay $100 -$200 per very similar output.  Question are you planning on home built heated water storage or are you buying $1000 tanks to hold the water?    Reality.. if you do it DIY  you can pretty well figure $1000 including pipe, insulation, panels, pump, and perhaps power hook up.    So it really depends upon how you wish to do this project.. Pay back time?  with out more information .. 18 months to 18 years. 
 
steve pailet
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PV solar has dropped in price dramatically.. If you are rural or have a large open land space that you can install panels  the Technology has changed things a lot .. micro inverters that can drop the price of cabling to the house.  Installing PV on your roof is never a good idea .. Why?  they have to be cleaned regularly.. I for one have had enough time on roofs to know that ONE roofs only last a finite period which normally is less than the life of the PV panels, this means at some point you will need to remove the panels when it comes time to re roof your house. Second more people die around the house from falls off of roof or ladders than you might want to know about.

If you ground mount you can do tracking mounts which means 20% less panels so less area .  Pretty interesting I have been getting emails to buy off grid equipment 5000 watt without the batteries but with inverter and charge controller for around $5000 who knew..   Turns out the batteries are actually more than the cost of the panels.. I am seeing wholesale pv panels in the range of thirty nine to fifty five cents a watt on panels

Once again this does not include any installation work or an electrician
 
Devin Lavign
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frank li wrote:We need blocks of people, villages, towns, cities, then states to band together and install solar and batteries as micro grids and community energy projects and use our potential customer base to deny the utility our consumption until better terms are available and due respect that we are the patrons, is shown to us, just like we would any other service provider. We cant do it if we do not own our equipment.


I have been saying for a long time, "smaller grids that are more locally controlled are a much better system than these huge power grids with centralized distribution." In our move to more sustainable energy, rather than investing in massive solar and wind farms we should be decentralizing the power system. Instead of building up the central grid system to profit off us, we should be building smaller grids to put the central systems out of business. A lot better system for powering people is smaller neighborhood systems of either multiple houses linked together sharing their energy production or each neighborhood investing in small central power production for their neighborhood. If we had these systems of small grids linked together sharing the excess to areas that might not have good ability to produce enough power themselves, we would be in a much better situation.

However, I know why there are big centralized power systems. It is about control and metering to the public. It is keeping a monopoly on power so that it is difficult to not deal with the companies who provide it. It is a sad state that so many people just don't seem to realize it.
 
David Baillie
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I try to judge who I'm talking to before I answer.  If they drive up in a pretty nice car I turn the tables and ask them what the pay back period is on heated leather seats?  If they are your rugged individual type it's more about controlling my own life.  My greenie techie friends will get the whole analysis including directly controlling my pollution not contributting to the mess,hidden subsidy of the energy sector, cool factor, intellectual stimulation and self reliance.  I do not think renewables can win in a money only comparison except where the conditions are perfect. That argument is reductionist which is what economics does.  People worth knowing will get it.  You will never convince the rest.
Humble opinion of course
Best regards, David Baillie
 
steve pailet
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I look at PV panels as not the real cost. It is a combination of things.  Conservation is the biggest life change for most of us.  Think the real cost outside of the ongoing working at conservation is the batteries.  Likely they will need to be changed several times over the life of the house. Granted there are some new solutions coming online.. Saline battery stacks. Inexpensive, can be drawn down to zero charge and not damage the batteries.  Non Toxic as they are salt solution with no lead sulfur or lithium compounds.  They do take up a bit more room physically But because they can be stacked that does help.  No real maintenance. So no need to be the rugged guy.  I anticipate the cost per watt for PV panels will continue to drop some over the next few years.  Currently seeing advertisement at 35 -39 cents per watt if bought in bulk
 
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