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Good, or not as good solar panels

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Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 6556
Location: New England (In the US of A)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 16 1:02 pm    Post subject: Good, or not as good solar panels Reply with quote

So..... finding an inexpensive arborist suddenly turned into considerations for putting solar panels on top of my garage. There are two popular installation companies in my area.

I won't get real proposals until my trees are actually out of the way, but here are the ballpark ideas (ignoring potential post-purchase income tax breaks):

Offer #1 is about 12 panels, installed, permitted, etc for ~$950 per panel, and then a $1k cash back incentive a couple months after final hookup to the grid.

Offer #2 I'm estimating to be more like $1,400 per panel, not sure if it would be the same number of panels.

Both companies' products can be purchased with similar financing (about 2.99%) and I could possibly get a less expensive loan from a family member (or pooled from several). There is currently incentive to have a deal inked before the end of the year as the net-metering rules are about to change here, and new agreements will only allow for summer surplus generation to pay for winter electric usage, and not for the entire bill (service fee, etc).

I know that company #2 uses better panels, that generate a bit more power. I'm also at a lower income than many making these considerations. A financed system from #1 would maybe be payments that are about $50 more than my average current power bill, while I'm estimating payments for system #2 to be maybe $100 more per month my average bill.

I haven't actually talked with company #2 yet, just know the numbers they gave to someone else. I'm assuming they would say we don't need as many panels (why generate more credits than you utilize in a year?). However, my building is a duplex, and the other half uses electric heat. Also, if I were generating my own electric there would be incentive to switch water heaters to electric in the future, and maybe invest in a heat pump for my unit, etc.... In other words, if I could generate some solar energy, I'd utilize it and reduce other bills (and therefore natural gas usage). It seems as though the world is quickly moving to electric cars as well, so I think additional generation capacity will be useful.

So, go with less power per panel but a quicker/easier payback, or more power per panel but more difficult payments?

Issue is further compounded by the fact that I may not live here for more than a couple more years, however I would likely keep the house and just continue it as a rental property. I feel like solar power is still a nice perk for future renters ("Low utility bills!") and I also feel a bit of moral obligation to keep reducing humanity's carbon releases.

Sorry for wall of text! Not looking for a complete solution, just peoples' thoughts and suggestions for how to consider the situation.

Thanks to any thought-givers!


Joined: 19 Apr 2007
Posts: 21301
Location: Bethesda, Gwynedd
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 16 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What is the likely pay-back time for each? If you're not going to be there in a couple of years time will you be able to add value to the rent of the property? Would other options be more viable such as solar hot water?


Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 45768
Location: yes
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 16 2:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

is PV or solar water a viable option in your climate? the stuff warren b. is investing in all seems to be in the desert states.

another consideration is that the pv equivalent of moore's law would seem to suggest wait a while as power out/power stored vs costs of installation is rapidly changing for the better.

solar hot water is good even in quite cool climates unless the system is frozen solid


Joined: 05 Mar 2006
Posts: 6556
Location: New England (In the US of A)
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 16 4:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Solar hot water works up here (at least with evacuated tubes) but I'm unable to place anything on my actual house roof, as it's slate and blah blah historical significance blah blah. Definitely a bit long of a plumbing run to get to the unattached garage.

As for PV, we do have a seasonal ability for real generation, however solar here produces the most in mid-summer when our regional power grid needs additional power output the most (for air conditioners). We don't use an air conditioner, so it doesn't align with our own personal power consumption as we consume more in the winter (lighting, more baking, some heating)

I like Vegplot's question of
What is the likely pay-back time for each?

Probably the best way to go about it. Get the companies to make their proposal and look at pay off (of course that's all changeable as loan terms can be longer or shorter, but when does the $ from electric generation pay off the panels)


Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 45491
Location: Essex
PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 16 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have solar thermal, if we went again we'd have PV feeding an immersion coil in the water tank. With solar thermal we've had to call out an engineer almost every year, plus when it's really hot and our cylinder is fully charged then the panel does nothing. At least with PV you're feeding back into the grid.

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