Hey H, we've been running our cottage on the wind and sun for 17 years now, and also have a small solar array at our primary home. I'll cut to the chase and say if you are going solar just to save money, I wouldn't bother. You might get a few dollars ahead in 12 years or so, as we have, here's the...
Best answer: Hey H, we've been running our cottage on the wind and sun for 17 years now, and also have a small solar array at our primary home. I'll cut to the chase and say if you are going solar just to save money, I wouldn't bother. You might get a few dollars ahead in 12 years or so, as we have, here's the problem with it: Let's say you have an average electric bill of $100 a month. I'd guess your usage is around 600 Kwh per month, or 20 per day. To generate that amount of power would require an array of maybe 5 or 6 kilowatts. The panels would likely cost $7200, plus or minus a little, and then you would need mounting racks, combiner boxes, wiring and at a minimum an 8kw grid intertie inverter. All that would bring your cost, just for equipment, to about $11,000. With installation you'd be close to $14,000. There are certainly schemes to finance, borrow, offset, or whatever to limit your up front cost, but nobody is going to loan you the equipment, or the money to buy it, for less than what it would cost you in cash, so in the end it would only cost more.
Once you're all in, your electric bill would be around $10 per month, like ours is at the cottage. The still charge you a small fee to stay connected, and then there are taxes and federal fees too, usually a few dollars a month, plus you will likely have a month here and there where you need to buy a little power to make up for the week long blizzard. In the end, you would save $90 per month, and in 12 - 14 years you would break even, after that you would be money ahead. You could also take $14,000 and put it in a long term bond fund, and just pay the electric bill with the monthly interest. (about 1/2 % per month) At the end of 12 years, you would still have the $14,000 in the bond fund, so you wouldn't be out anything anyway. Understand also that a pure "grid tie" system like this will not power your home in a power outage, that type of inverter needs an incoming sine wave to synchronize to, so if the grid goes down, so does your home, even if the sun is shining on the solar panels right now. Many people don't know about this when they buy their first system. Your panels will last for 30 to 50 years, but the inverter and related items generally need replacement or repair every 15 or so years, that cost is an unknown.
I'm not trying to discourage you, but you have to decide what you want your solar array to do. If it's just save money, there are better ways. We converted most of the lighting in our home to LED over the last 8 years, including LED strip lighting in areas that worked for it, that run on 12 volts DC, they are powered directly from our battery bank, that is charged by a small array. Nice lighting, that doesn't cost us money to run, and continues to work in a power failure. We can also charge cell phones and tablets from the batteries, run MP3 speakers and portable DVD players and such. That system cost me around $600 for parts, installed myself. There are better places to spend your money to save on electricity, more efficient appliances, lighting, programmable thermostats and high efficiency furnaces, insulation, I could go on. It's easier and cheaper to save one Kwh this way then to generate one with a solar array.
There are other reasons people go solar, for some it's environmental, or reliability, you can install household sized systems that run when the power is out, they just cost more, like ours at the cottage. Lots of people grow tomatoes in their garden, and need to water, fertilize, weed, till, etc etc, even though buying tomatoes at the store is easier and cheaper. We just grow electrons in our garden. Our systems are here for all these reasons, and because we are those people who like to do for ourselves. You just have to decide who you are. If you're still interested, I'd start with a subscription to Home Power Magazine, we did 19 years ago, here we are today. Links are below, take care, Rudydoo
4 weeks ago