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Old 10-31-2012, 02:50 PM   #61
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Anyone have any info on buy vs lease solar? My buddy paid his leasing costs of $6000 up front and reduced his electric bill by $100 a month. I won't be selling my house, ever, so don't have to worry about complications. The leasing company guarantees his return, monitors it, and will make any needed repairs. Lease duration 20 years with the option of buying it at that time.

I have the $6K sitting around and love the idea of making a 20% return on my money. Anything wrong with my math?
I'd ask for other references, maybe someone who has had this arrangement for several years. See how they like it now. Also, check out the company, make sure they will be around to svc system.
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Old 10-31-2012, 10:41 PM   #62
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete View Post
Anyone have any info on buy vs lease solar? My buddy paid his leasing costs of $6000 up front and reduced his electric bill by $100 a month. I won't be selling my house, ever, so don't have to worry about complications. The leasing company guarantees his return, monitors it, and will make any needed repairs. Lease duration 20 years with the option of buying it at that time.
I have the $6K sitting around and love the idea of making a 20% return on my money. Anything wrong with my math?
The leasing companies supply a need for customers who don't have the savings to buy a PV array, or who think they'll be moving before they reach payback.

"Monitors it". "Needed repairs". That's pretty funny. It's like the good ol' days when you could pay the (landline) phone company a few bucks a month to "monitor" the phone lines inside your house and guarantee that they'd repair them.

In general you'll make a better investment by purchasing the entire PV array up front, and not dealing with any leasing companies. But again you have to have the money (many people do not) and you'll only come out ahead if you stay in the home long enough for the payback.
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Old 11-03-2012, 08:26 PM   #63
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I recently went with a solar lease for my solar installation. The price for the one-time lease payment was $1,000 less than if I purchased the system fully myself and got all of the available federal and state credits. Plus, I would have to lave out the before price and wait for the credits on my next year's tax return. Also, if I bought myself, and wanted monitoring, they charge $500 for that. When you lease, the monitoring is paid for in the lease price, and is still less that purchase outright cost. My lease is with the finance arm of SunPower. I think the real money in solar is on the finance side, not in equipment sales. Since the leasing company maintains ownership, they get to depreciate the asset, and also claim any energy credits. My lease is still new, so I don't have any long term experience, but so far I am pleased. They cover all equipment, including the inverter, for the full 20 years of the lease. I like the fact I have a clearly spelled out guarantee of how much power I will generate, and if the system does not meet the targets, they pay me back. Since they are on the hook for underproduction, my guess is that they estimate very low. My goal was to eliminate all tiers above tier 1 rates (we are covered by PG&E in CA).
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Old 11-03-2012, 10:54 PM   #64
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I recently went with a solar lease for my solar installation. The price for the one-time lease payment was $1,000 less than if I purchased the system fully myself and got all of the available federal and state credits. Plus, I would have to lave out the before price and wait for the credits on my next year's tax return. Also, if I bought myself, and wanted monitoring, they charge $500 for that. When you lease, the monitoring is paid for in the lease price, and is still less that purchase outright cost. My lease is with the finance arm of SunPower. I think the real money in solar is on the finance side, not in equipment sales. Since the leasing company maintains ownership, they get to depreciate the asset, and also claim any energy credits. My lease is still new, so I don't have any long term experience, but so far I am pleased. They cover all equipment, including the inverter, for the full 20 years of the lease. I like the fact I have a clearly spelled out guarantee of how much power I will generate, and if the system does not meet the targets, they pay me back. Since they are on the hook for underproduction, my guess is that they estimate very low. My goal was to eliminate all tiers above tier 1 rates (we are covered by PG&E in CA).
We got the wireless monitoring included in the price of our system. I think the lease program is potentially a very good way of going solar. We will be looking into it for our Atlanta House. If it will help us sell our home in a few years it will be worth it.
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Old 11-04-2012, 11:25 PM   #65
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Also, if I bought myself, and wanted monitoring, they charge $500 for that.
That's absolutely brilliant upselling pathetic.

I "monitor" my PV array by going out to the inverter after sundown on the last day of the month and checking the total KWHr number. The electric company does it for me again a few days later when they read the meter.

Almost every string inverter has a USB port (or, for you old-school inverter owners, an RS-232 port) for monitoring real-time performance. Microinverters can also be configured for that.

As you've pointed out, the big advantage of leasing is that you don't need the up-front money. The company gets to depreciate the hardware and take the tax credits. You can remain blissfully ignorant of the whole process while still paying a lower electric bill. The difference is that you'll be paying a contracted rate for 20 years. Our array paid for itself in less than six years and we've been enjoying nearly-free electricity since late 2010. We still pay HECO $13/month for their rock-steady grid voltage. Well, steadier than our home voltage, anyway.

Solar companies make very little on the hardware, and they're driven by the speed at which they can install an array. They have the special tools, the training, and the experience to blaze through the process in a matter of hours. But it's still razor-thin margins with profits driven by volume. Pretty much like selling new cars.
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Old 01-11-2013, 03:27 PM   #66
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Update:

Local building permit/inspection folks took a little longer than anticipated.
We were not able to send the complete package to the power company until Weds. The power company was actually pretty quick at responding and came today to install our bi directional meter. As of 1:05 pm we were generating power. Should receive word back in the next week or so regarding the rebate status. They did acknowledge receipt of all the paper work.

Next week they will install the blue tooth monitoring so I can check out the production numbers from the computer.
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Old 02-02-2013, 01:14 PM   #67
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Our first electric bill came since we installed the PV system. The first 16.5 days it produced 407 kws. We still had a $47 bill for the entire month because of the first 14 days of the billing cycle. We received our notification from the power company that our check for the rebate is being processed. We are in the process of scheduling an install of a variable speed pool pump to replace our existing single speed pump. I wasn't going to replace it until it failed, but it is over 12 years old so the cost savings of running a more efficient pump outweighed the why fix it if ain't broke mind set I normally have. We are also putting heat control film on the windows in our home that get the most sun.

So far the only thing with the solar install that has been disappointing has been the blue tooth monitoring device. Each inverter gets one and I have a little device that should read them, not working yet. The contractor had to reorder one that was damaged in shipment.
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Old 02-03-2013, 12:38 AM   #68
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I've installed two small off grid PV systems by myself, and it really isn't that hard. If you can master the investing issues to FIRE then you can install most of a PV system yourself after doing a little research. When I looked into installing a grid-tie system on my rental building I was AMAZED at the high quotes I got compared to the price of the same components online. I believe that the only portions of a grid tie system that you are required to have done by a certified electrician are the actual connection to the grid (shut-off switch, etc). Panels are commonly available these days for under $0.80 per watt, including shipping ($800 per KW). Even if you're intimidated by the installation you should at least consider having just a small system (1KW?) installed by the solar installer, but with components sized to handle a much larger system (say 10 KW). You can then expand the system with no cost beyond the extra panels, and even have those installed by a handyman at minimal cost.
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Old 10-19-2013, 12:21 PM   #69
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Has anybody looked at SolarPods? They are supposed to be a modular way of adding solar energy ton one's home.

The homeowner can add the pods in units. Apparently, they can be self installed, though one might want an electrician to make the final connection to the home wiring. One unit might power a major energy user such as refrigerator as well as several smaller electrical devices, as I understand it. As time goes buy additional modules can be added when the homeowner can afford them and/or needs them.

What are SolarPods? | SolarPod

Supposedly, we can thank the Chinese for over producing solar panels resulting in a glut of cheap panels. Combined with cheaper installation costs (perhaps self installed by the homeowner) they are supposed to make economic sense even without a gubmint subsidy.
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Old 10-19-2013, 12:53 PM   #70
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Has anybody looked at SolarPods? They are supposed to be a modular way of adding solar energy ton one's home.

The homeowner can add the pods in units. Apparently, they can be self installed, though one might want an electrician to make the final connection to the home wiring. One unit might power a major energy user such as refrigerator as well as several smaller electrical devices, as I understand it. As time goes buy additional modules can be added when the homeowner can afford them and/or needs them.

What are SolarPods? | SolarPod

Supposedly, we can thank the Chinese for over producing solar panels resulting in a glut of cheap panels. Combined with cheaper installation costs (perhaps self installed by the homeowner) they are supposed to make economic sense even without a gubmint subsidy.
Their Grid-tie system (the cheapest) provides 1200-2000 kWh per year. At my ~ $0.10/kWh cost, even the most optimistic output would offset ~ $200 of power a year.

They show the cost as $3,500, plus shipping, and expect you will need to hire an electrician. So 3500/200 = 17.5 year payback w/o subsidies, but also not counting other costs. Not too exciting for me.

Even if subsidies cover half the total cost, the opportunity cost of $3,500/2 * a 4% WR is another $70 per year (increasing with inflation each year). So at half that cost, it's still > 10 year payback. Makes more sense for higher kWh rate areas, but I would still wait for prices to come down. I know many panels are still in good shape after 20-30 years, but I think those inverters have a lower lifespan, maybe 10 years, and they are not cheap - about $0.35/watt last time I checked.

Just to be clear, their 'power a refrigerator', etc comments are a little misleading. This thing just throws power into the grid, it isn't powering any specific appliance. And FYI, I would not call a refrigerator a 'major energy user'. Our cheap, new unit uses ~ $6 per month of juice - I've measured it. Our 20+YO one uses ~ $9/month.

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Old 10-20-2013, 10:00 AM   #71
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Interesting ... I am thinking of it more from the "back-up generator alternative". We loose power for more than 4 hrs half a dozen times per year (at the lake). If it could store some energy then use the "overflow" ... this would be a no-brainer compared with installing a gaurdian (NO payback on a generator).

The outages are bad enough that DW will throw away the fridge and freezer food if we're not there for a couple months.
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Old 10-20-2013, 10:52 AM   #72
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Interesting ... I am thinking of it more from the "back-up generator alternative". We loose power for more than 4 hrs half a dozen times per year (at the lake). If it could store some energy then use the "overflow" ... this would be a no-brainer compared with installing a gaurdian (NO payback on a generator).

The outages are bad enough that DW will throw away the fridge and freezer food if we're not there for a couple months.
To use solar as backup power, you need to add a bank of (expensive) batteries, and a more advanced type of inverter. Those batteries will need maintenance, and will need to be replaced regularly ('m guessing every 5 years, maybe less).

Figure out how much battery you need to cover your appliances over a power outage, and I think you will find that purchasing the Guardian was very smart.

Unless the solar system itself actually provides a ROI, it adds nothing to your backup plan, as you can't count on the sun shining during your black-outs. So you still would need enough battery pack to cover you w/o solar. Just charge the batteries from the grid when they need it.

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Old 10-20-2013, 12:55 PM   #73
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To use solar as backup power, you need to add a bank of (expensive) batteries, and a more advanced type of inverter. Those batteries will need maintenance, and will need to be replaced regularly ('m guessing every 5 years, maybe less).
For what it's worth, I regularly see a 15 year life for deep-cycle "solar batteries", the types of batteries that can be used as the sole power source in the event of an outage. The batteries do have to be maintained properly, including installation where they will not be subject to freezing temperatures. (The remote radio relay sites using these often have a battery vault buried well below the frost line.)

5 years is a reasonable life expectancy for repurposed automotive batteries. Some hobbyist magazines promote this sort of usage. I don't like these as the storage capacity of these batteries tends to silently shrink away over time. They're really designed to provide a few seconds of cranking power, or operate the car's radio for a little while, and not much more.
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Old 10-20-2013, 03:41 PM   #74
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Interesting ... I am thinking of it more from the "back-up generator alternative". We loose power for more than 4 hrs half a dozen times per year (at the lake). If it could store some energy then use the "overflow" ... this would be a no-brainer compared with installing a gaurdian (NO payback on a generator).

The outages are bad enough that DW will throw away the fridge and freezer food if we're not there for a couple months.
A modern 18-cu.ft. fridge draws about 1 KWh/day. Running that off a 12V inverter means 83Ah/day.

A couple of golf-cart deep-cycle batteries will give you 12V at 220Ah, which can carry the fridge for more than 24 hrs at 50% depth of discharge. Low discharge is desirable for long battery life; you may or may not care in this case.

The batteries should be on a charger running off house power. Then, an optional solar panel will extend the time that the setup can sustain the power outage.

Approximate cost:

1) 2 batteries: $100 x 2
2) Pure sine wave inverter 2KW: $400
3) Smart charger: $150
4) Solar panels 200W x 2: $200 x 2
5) Solar charge controller: $100

Total: $1050.

PS. Apparently, you worry about losing power for more than 4 hrs. Else, it should not be a problem, yes? We never empty the fridge in our 2nd home, and we do have power outages for longer than that, when we asked our neighbor.
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Old 10-20-2013, 05:17 PM   #75
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A modern 18-cu.ft. fridge draws about 1 KWh/day. Running that off a 12V inverter means 83Ah/day.

A couple of golf-cart deep-cycle batteries will give you 12V at 220Ah, which can carry the fridge for more than 24 hrs at 50% depth of discharge. Low discharge is desirable for long battery life; you may or may not care in this case.

The batteries should be on a charger running off house power. Then, an optional solar panel will extend the time that the setup can sustain the power outage.

Approximate cost:

1) 2 batteries: $100 x 2
2) Pure sine wave inverter 2KW: $400
3) Smart charger: $150
4) Solar panels 200W x 2: $200 x 2
5) Solar charge controller: $100

Total: $1050.

PS. Apparently, you worry about losing power for more than 4 hrs. Else, it should not be a problem, yes? We never empty the fridge in our 2nd home, and we do have power outages for longer than that, when we asked our neighbor.
Thanx! Need to chase this one. For us the outages are 4 hours - 7 days. Only one line comes thru the mountains ... so any car accident/weather/tree incident reaps havoc. An epic ice storm 5 years ago (?) 7 days no power ... Irene 2 years ago 24 hours. Wind blows a tree down or a motorcycle hits a semi .... 4 hours.

I have a 5000 watt generator to back feed the panel when we're there. But I need a passive system for when we're not there (and the tenants can use).
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Old 10-20-2013, 06:48 PM   #76
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An outage of 7 days will be tough, particularly during a storm when your solar panel is of no help.

For shorter outages up to a couple of days, you can eliminate the solar panels and solar charge controller, and just add more batteries at $200 for a pair of 6V GC2 batteries at Costco or Sam's Club (actually lower than $100/each).

And with this set up, when you are there to run a small genset as needed to recharge the batteries, you do not have to run it 24 hrs/day.

The 2KW inverter has enough excess power to also run some lights, TV, computers, etc... No air conditioner though, other than a small 5000 BTU/hr window A/C, and even that will run down your batteries in a couple of hours. I would buy only a pure sine wave inverter, and a namebrand one.

And I forgot a 30A automatic transfer switch for your fridge when you are not there. That adds another $75.
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