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Old 12-14-2014, 08:40 AM   #21
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That is quite a significant reduction. What are the things that you did that made the biggest contributions to the overall reduction in gas and electricity?
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Old 12-14-2014, 09:49 AM   #22
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I haven't penciled out the numbers, but it seems that solar, in much of the southwest, "should" be workable. You have mostly sunny days, peak usage in summer for a/c, and miles and miles of otherwise useless desert-like land.

The economics of deregulation provides cheaper "current" energy, but does nothing in particular about optimizing other factors, such as geopolitical or environmental issues. And though the current dip in oil makes gasoline cheaper, the rapid price swings of ANY commodity cause economic disruptions that will result in lots of other problems. Whether oil, natgas, coal, solar, or whatever, there are huge capital requirements, and if the numbers suddenly don't "work" anymore...


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Old 12-14-2014, 09:54 AM   #23
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I haven't penciled out the numbers, but it seems that solar, in much of the southwest, "should" be workable.
I've penciled out the numbers on solar for our southwest location. The break-even point is ~20 years. Not workable from my perspective.
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Old 12-14-2014, 10:10 AM   #24
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I've penciled out the numbers on solar for our southwest location. The break-even point is ~20 years. Not workable from my perspective.

I came to the same conclusion for me personally, but I was thinking a commercial-type installation, and not residential.


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Old 12-14-2014, 10:22 AM   #25
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I came to the same conclusion for me personally, but I was thinking a commercial-type installation, and not residential.


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I'm guessing that REWahoo's 20 year payback number was based on subsidies. A large commercial install has some economy of scale, but probably not the same % of subsidies. So I doubt that commercial installs make economic sense. I think some of those doing these installs are doing it for PR/image (look how much we care - we spend your money (reflected in our product prices) to make us look green!).

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Old 12-14-2014, 01:41 PM   #26
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That is quite a significant reduction. What are the things that you did that made the biggest contributions to the overall reduction in gas and electricity?
Drying racks were the number one money saver instead of using the electric dryer. That was $40 a month. The second thing was to stop using the built in electric appliances. Ours were inefficient energy hogs. If it wasn't for resale I would have them removed and reclaim the space for storage and extra countertop space. I bought a bunch of energy saving small appliances instead at Amazon and thrift shops.

The last thing my husband was using the oven for was pizza and Trader Joe's stuff like french fries and onion rings. I just bought a Presto pizza oven for $5 at a thrift shop that cooks all the same stuff in less time at ~25% of the energy usage.

If we live 50 more years at $2K+ a year energy savings, that is at least $100K savings we can use for trips or whatever.

All the little energy saving gadgets on Amazon for us had a very high payback. For us installing tie into the grid solar panels would have a very low ROI since they cost so much. It is interesting because the local utility site has rebates on a lot of expensive contractor needed project stuff (insulation, solar panels, solar hot water) and for us none of those projects would have a high ROI compared to just assorted Amazon gadgets where the payback was easily a year or less (thermal cookers, LED bulbs, solar lights, rechargeable batteries, solar charger, countertop convection oven, Kill a Watt, thermal leak detector, weather stripping, draft stoppers, etc.) We live in a relatively mild climate so for us heating and cooling were not our biggest energy hogs - it was more every day activities like clothes drying and cooking.
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Old 12-14-2014, 01:59 PM   #27
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Drying racks were the number one money saver instead of using the electric dryer. That was $40 a month. The second thing was to stop using the built in electric appliances. Ours were inefficient energy hogs. If it wasn't for resale I would have them removed and reclaim the space for storage and extra countertop space. I bought a bunch of energy saving small appliances instead at Amazon and thrift shops.

The last thing my husband was using the oven for was pizza and Trader Joe's stuff like french fries and onion rings. I just bought a Presto pizza oven for $5 at a thrift shop that cooks all the same stuff in less time at ~25% of the energy usage.

If we live 50 more years at $2K+ a year energy savings, that is at least $100K savings we can use for trips or whatever.

All the little energy saving gadgets on Amazon for us had a very high payback. For us installing tie into the grid solar panels would have a very low ROI since they cost so much. It is interesting because the local utility site has rebates on a lot of expensive contractor needed project stuff (insulation, solar panels, solar hot water) and for us none of those projects would have a high ROI compared to just assorted Amazon gadgets where the payback was easily a year or less (thermal cookers, LED bulbs, solar lights, rechargeable batteries, solar charger, countertop convection oven, Kill a Watt, thermal leak detector, weather stripping, draft stoppers, etc.) We live in a relatively mild climate so for us heating and cooling were not our biggest energy hogs - it was more every day activities like clothes drying and cooking.

Wow, you must have some high rates for energy. During winter gas heating season from Oct through April, my electrical bill doesn't reach $35 a month for my entire house. My water heater is gas, everything else is electric.


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Old 12-14-2014, 02:08 PM   #28
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Wow, you must have some high rates for energy. During winter gas heating season from Oct through April, my electrical bill doesn't reach $35 a month for my entire house. My water heater is gas, everything else is electric.


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We have really high rates and a drafty older house.
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Old 12-14-2014, 02:15 PM   #29
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....We live in a relatively mild climate so for us heating and cooling were not our biggest energy hogs - it was more every day activities like clothes drying and cooking.
While your workarounds seem to be working well for you, we have a gas dryer and gas cookstove/oven and they are very efficient. Depending on the cost of gas in your area the might even be better than the workarounds once you get past the initial cost and they might improve your resale prospects.
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Old 12-14-2014, 02:42 PM   #30
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While your workarounds seem to be working well for you, we have a gas dryer and gas cookstove/oven and they are very efficient. Depending on the cost of gas in your area the might even be better than the workarounds once you get past the initial cost and they might improve your resale prospects.
We're in the energy efficient homes category now (bottom quintile) on the utility company reports, even among homes with gas kitchen appliances and dryers, and that also includes houses with only one occupant and/or homes where the household members are at work all day. So I think some of our other projects like more LEDs bulbs and going around with the leak detector will have higher ROIs than replacing major appliances and paying for new gas lines.
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Old 12-14-2014, 04:00 PM   #31
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I've penciled out the numbers on solar for our southwest location. The break-even point is ~20 years. Not workable from my perspective.
Because I live in a city utility area in the Tx hill country the numbers look more like 30 years (current electricity is about 8.5 cents per kwh). Plus the utility like many city and rec coops does not do net metering.
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Old 12-14-2014, 04:05 PM   #32
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A brief overview of some energy resources in my back yard.

Our town's power source. The only hydro power plant on the Illinois River in Illinois. We bought in and constructed it in 1996.
Peru's hydroelectric plant the sole power generating unit on the Illinois - The Times: Life Current KWH cost is $.0675.

One of several new cross country power lines. This one still in litigation.

Rock Island Clean Line | HVDC Project Overview

And this very interesting overview of the many wind farms in Illinois. The average $1,400,000 cost of a 1MW tower really adds up. If you go to the page, you can scroll down to see just how many of these windmills have already been built... Just in Illinois. Most people have a vision of the older wind power units from the 1980's in the Altamont Pass in Livermore CA...
The newer units are about 300 ft high. Illinois Windmills - Wind Turbines - Wind Farms

If you multiply the number of megawatts in each farm by $1.4 Million... you can get an idea of the dollars already invested in just this one state.
Here's a pic of one of the farms, near my camp in Sublette IL..
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Old 12-14-2014, 04:05 PM   #33
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Because I live in a city utility area in the Tx hill country the numbers look more like 30 years (current electricity is about 8.5 cents per kwh). Plus the utility like many city and rec coops does not do net metering.
Our REA co-op is charging ~9.5 cents per kwh but when you add in the fixed monthly "connection charge" it runs the average up close to 11 cents.
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Old 12-14-2014, 04:09 PM   #34
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I've penciled out the numbers on solar for our southwest location. The break-even point is ~20 years. Not workable from my perspective.
The payback for solar water heating can be pretty attractive in much of the country, especially if the alternative is electric resistance heating or even propane. Lower equipment cost than PV, higher efficiency. Even storing it (using a working fluid) for use over cloudy days can make economic sense.
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Old 12-14-2014, 04:51 PM   #35
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We have gas hot water so it only costs around $10 a month. Our top tier for electricity is 32 cents a kwh. We only use half the amount of electricity of an average household in the U.S., but even for us it is hard to not go into at least the Tier 3 rates, because our utility company must set the lower tier pricing levels based on average electric usage for an Amish household.

I like the idea of solar hot water, but for us the payback period, at least the last time I checked, was pretty far out there, even with utility company rebates. We get more bang for the buck focusing on cutting electricity usage.
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Old 12-14-2014, 06:46 PM   #36
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... I'm getting ready to build a small camping trailer, and one of the things I'll include is a solar-charged battery. One panel, one battery, and I will be able to run lights and charge the gadgets. A very viable economic situation.

More daunting is the motorhome solar scenario. A couple of batteries and a couple of panels, in order to add small appliances (no resistive heat or compressive cooling, too much draw)...
I have a 235W panel on my small motorhome, and it provides plenty of juice for the lighting which I have converted to LEDs. I also installed a 2KW pure sine wave inverter to be able to run the microwave for reheating food. This single panel is enough because I do not watch TV or use the computer much in our travel, else we would run out of power.

There's a fellow whose goal is to be able to run A/C with solar once he lives full-time in his RV. So, he bought a cargo trailer and super-insulated it before building out the interior. He has not updated the info recently, but last I read, after covering the roof of his trailer with solar panels, he was able to run a small split A/C system, and kept the interior comfortable in the 70s while the outside temperature was 100+. To minimize heat gain/loss, his trailer has no windows (I think he also wants some stealth when he goes full-time doing urban dry camping). This fellow also uses an expensive bank of Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries.

I have found a few bloggers with the above goal, but many of them abandoned their projects before getting very far. The above fellow got the furthest, and it looks promising.

Search for "solar cargo trailer blog" if you are curious.
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Old 12-14-2014, 09:11 PM   #37
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I think we may find that the best way to store solar energy is in chemical form, as a liquid. Use the sun to grow algae, refine the algae into biofuel, burn it when it is needed.
Advantages:
Power availability easily tailorable to power requirements
No serious disruption even with days of clouds
Uses the existing power production infrastructure (turbines, etc)
Zero net greenhouse gas emissions (the CO2 was taken out of the atmosphere by the algae, then it goes back when burned).

Even fairly efficient space-wise when modern methods are used to grow the algae:

green fuel.




This may become practical when oil prices go back up. Anyway, it's nice to know that we can have a ready replacement for petroleum fuels when they run low.
There are a lot of positives (doesn't use good agricultural land, can use less pure water, etc), and future developments may bring the price down considerably. Like you say, even if it isn't competitive until oil reaches high prices, at least it could be an alternative. $200/bbl oil raised process on things and hurt the economy, but at least it wasn't a Mad Max scenario.

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