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egads! I just looked into solar for my home  RSS feed

 
Leah Sattler
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...at this site http://www.affordable-solar.com/gt-estimator.htm
it tells me I need a system that costs $55,000 to cover 50% of the energy needs of my home. Does that sound right!! that'll never happen. But i'm suspicious because it told me the same thing to cover 100% of the homes energy needs. Maybe that are overstocked on that system can anyone reccomend a solar company that would sell kits that can be installed by the homeowner? I don't like the idea of "renting" equipment, too dicey for me.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
 
Leah Sattler
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I've checked out their site. Haven't got an email return (as per husband) the closest rep was in littlerock (husband travels there weekly so he might try to track him/her down). I can't find pricing on the website. Maybe it says something about it on a clip but I really get annoyed having to listen to the whole speil to get the one piece of info I need before bothering to take further action and dig info. Our electric provider isn't on the net metering list in our area. They have a "solar savings calculator" but it isn't clear on how they come to that figure imo you just have to take it at face value, not something I intend to do. I'll figure my savings on my own thank you, I want to have the numbers to do so.  aside from the expensive part, the website I posted has a calculator where you enter the kwh you use and it tells you what it would cost to get a system to provide that in my area. (whether it is accurate or not obviously is not known and would require some faith) The rental idea really puts me off too. I would rather finance it and own it (at least eventually) rather than make payments forever. this statmenet is a red flag for me

"Your estimated monthly rent will be explained to you before you sign a Forward Rental Agreement (FRA)."

Gives the impression I don't get to find out how much it costs until I have a rental agreement in front of me. Rather like the car salesman that won't tell you the price of the car until he sees your trade.

my hunt continues.
 
Kelda Miller
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oh gosh, calculating just by kwh is tricky!

You might be fully aware Leah, but for other readers: Lots of things will change about your house if you want to do efficient solar. You'll want all your appliances very efficient. You'll want to change your habits so the house is efficient too. You Won't want to do totally electricity-sucking things like laundry dryers.

Anything that heats or cools takes a big load of power. Think of other options (wood pellet stove heat, propane fridge, solar hot water at least to supplement, etc), and then you'll get closer to a photovoltaic system that costs something reasonable.
 
Leah Sattler
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I know there would have to be lots of changes but I still wasn't expecting it to be that high! According to that calculator even if I cut power usage by 50% (which I think I could do by adding appropriate features if I had the  $) it says I still need that system. My house is old and was built cheaply without efficiency in mind for sure. I might start with just getting a system that can power the hotwater tank but then again I want to get a hotwater on demand system for that. Gosh when I think about all the things I need to do to this house It just seems easier to build somwhere and start from scratch and just sell this place for whatever we can get or rent it out. ok I'll stop complaining now
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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The citizenre stuff was clearer back when I first learned of it. 

It sounds like they average out your electric bill for the last year.  Then they say that is what you will pay them for electicity for ever more.  So if your local electric rates go up by a factor of ten, you keep paying the same. 

So your "rent" would be whatever your current electic bill is.

Granted, it's not as good as owning, but it is a possible path.  And a really easy path.
 
Kelda Miller
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Don't despair Leah

Try calculating out how much electricity you use without heating/cooling. (music, lights, computer, blender, etc.)

Using photovoltaics to heat water just isn't efficient. But using passive solar to heat water definitely is. These solar hot water heaters work great.
http://solarhotwater.siliconsolar.com/evacuated-solar-tubes-20.php
 
Leah Sattler
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If I used passive solar heat for water would the best thing to do be to tie into the existing tank? a wood stove is on the list but there is not much I can do about ac. Opening the windows around here in summer is like turning on hairdryers and humidifiers.

It looks like on the months (november/october)that use the least heating and cooling we are using about 1200 kwh. That would be running a chest freezer, fridge,clothes washer/dryer, dishwasher, hotwater, lights and appliances. In the hottest and coldest months that almost triples. wow! heating and cooling eat us up! maybe that woodstove needs to be bumped to the top of the list.
 
John Meshna
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Location: Vermont
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A statistic that that hasn't changed since people started thinking seriously about heating and cooling costs is this.
  40% of a home energy budget is for domestic hot water.  That's why you see most people investing in solar hot water for domestic hot water heating first.  I't's the one place where you can get a noticeable almost immediate pay back. 
  A good landscape plan with the right trees and shrubs properly placed can help reduce heating and cooling costs too.

 
Leah Sattler
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I suspect that ours is lower than that because of our very poorly insulated house. But even if I could cut the energy by 20% I would be thrilled.  found some used panels that were part of a system but they need to be "reglazed" (according to the seller) I'm not sure what that entails and if they are worth the risk. I have  a long was to go before I have enough info to make any halfway educated choices/decisions.
 
John Meshna
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Location: Vermont
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I would say that unless you're highly skilled you would want to avoid panels with problems.  Large panels of glass are hard to remove  and move around safely unless you have specialized equipment and glass places charge a lot of money to do that sort of work.  I suppose if you got the panels for almost nothing and found a glass company that would work on them cheap enough or at all and had a truck to get them there then it might be worth it.  Even then you have to get them home and get them hooked up somehow.  Plumbers don't like working on used equipment but maybe you could find a plumber who would.  There's a lot of if's in the works there. If they all line up you might do okay but another thing to think about is once you get the panels apart there may be other damage you didn't see that can't be fixed.

There are some kits on the market for making your own.  Have you looked into that?
 
Leah Sattler
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I have sort of. I'm so solar dumb that I just don't feel comfortable buying anything. I like to have some idea how things work and how to install something so that I can have some reference for deciding whether something is going to suit my needs and not have to depend on someone who is likely looking to make a buck off me (and my ignorance). I find part lists in kits for example and I don't even know what it is.  I know its supposed to all work when its put together but....I couldn't even give someone a basic overview of how a solar panel works, I could only use buzz words. Might say a solar panel is a collection of photovoltaic thingys but I don't have a clue as to how they collect energy from the sun and somehow get it to where it can be utilized by me! The guy with the solar panels was explaining stuff to me. He had the whole system that was supposedly used to heat a 2000 sq foot house that was yanked out in a renovation that he was going to sell. Most of the time he could have been speaking a foreign language and I wouldn't have known the difference   I usually can assuage my fears and gain info through googling but its so far above my head and out of my comfort zone that I haven't made much progress in the research department. I need a "Solar For Dummies".
 
John Meshna
Posts: 111
Location: Vermont
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That idea of starting over might not be such a bad idea if you can swing it.  I just sold a house like yours.  I stopped working on it a couple of years ago because it wasn't much of a house when it was brand new and pouring money into it was a waste of time and money.  This is a bad economic climate though.
  One thing about a funky old house is that you can do things to it without regret that you might not ever do to a really nice house.  you can make home made hot water panels and install a water tank that's perhaps not exactly made for the purpose┬álike a water trough for watering animals or plastic sprayer tank and insulate it yourself and build your own heat exchanger for an old wood stove you can experiment with.  I did things like this at my old house and it saved me lots of money.
  You have to have tools and be handy though.
 
Leah Sattler
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I'm fairly handy but most importantly I always figure "if someone else could do it, why can't I?" I'm not in a position to sell the place at a loss so whatever I do has to make the house marketable so that if it needs to be sold I can do it in a hurry. The economic climate has stopped me from investing in anything that doesn't have potential to make a profit at this time. Plans and therefore ideas are on hold. 
 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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It seems that educating yourself about solar would be your first big step. Get some books that explain in a way that you can understand. [Always remember the old adage: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, you can always buffalo them with b*llsh*t" -- some can do the second far better than the first!]  Without some knowledge, you won't know if someone is ripping you off or not... until it's too late.

If you're not familiar with Interlibrary Loans, talk to your local librarian.  They can get books from all over the country.  If your library is online, you can probably order them that way, and they just notify you when they're in.

Another suggestion is to investigate low-tech passive solar first.  And thermal convection, the low-tech art of sucking cool air in from the low shady side of a house, and expelling heated air on the high sunny side of the house.

One book that tells about this in an interesting way is Solviva by Anna Edey.  She actually did it, with good results. (Disregard the subtitle.)

A place that has a good rep for solar is Real Goods, 30 years in business:  http://www.realgoods.com/

Sue
 
Are you okay? You look a little big. Maybe this tiny ad will help:
Ernie and Erica Wisner's Rocket Mass Heater Everything Combo
https://permies.com/t/40993/digital-market/digital-market/Ernie-Erica-Wisner-Rocket-Mass
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