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Alternative energy investments
Old 07-04-2009, 07:48 PM   #1
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Alternative energy investments

I'm not talking about buying stock in company's. Im thinking of the payback on solar, wind, ect. I am currently looking into Solar hot water as I believe this actually has a chance to pay off. I'm not sure but I believe this would also qualify for a 30% tax rebate.

I'm also concerned about energy cost rising. I currently pay about .08 per KW from our coal fired power plant.

Does anyone have any real world experience with a solar water system?
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Old 07-04-2009, 09:08 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by dm View Post
I'm not talking about buying stock in company's. Im thinking of the payback on solar, wind, ect. I am currently looking into Solar hot water as I believe this actually has a chance to pay off. I'm not sure but I believe this would also qualify for a 30% tax rebate.
I'm also concerned about energy cost rising. I currently pay about .08 per KW from our coal fired power plant.
Does anyone have any real world experience with a solar water system?
We've had a solar water system for over four years and a photovoltaic array for a bit longer. Depending on your location and your lifestyle the solar-water payback is as little as three years or up to about eight.

I think you can safely count on paying more than .08/KWHr for electricity in the coming years. Most solar sales calculations don't take inflation into account so the payback is usually shorter.

At your utility rate it may make sense to go with a tankless water heater. We don't have one but a search for that phrase will turn up a post or two.

Solar water systems are eligible for a 30% federal tax credit (which may be rolled forward if not used that year) and possibly state tax credits. The "rulebook" is at DSIRE: DSIRE Home . Some local utility companies may also subsidize or rebate the installation. If you really dig into the incentives there's also the "energy efficient mortgage".
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Old 07-04-2009, 10:52 PM   #3
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dm - which state/climate are you in? What do you use to heat water now, NG or electric?

If you don't have to worry about freezing, a solar water system will be cheaper and payback quicker.

I've been pricing out replacement conventional NG water heaters, and it looks like we would only pay ~ $250 ~ $300 annual gas costs at our ~ $1/therm. I'm having a hard time imagining that a system sized to cover, say half that usage would be cheap enough to install and maintain for a decent payback. A thing mounted on the roof, plumbing from roof to basement, controls, pumps running? Could I get all that for $1500? - and that wouldn't even be a 10 year payback when you consider the lost income on the $1500. At even 3%, that takes a $45 annual bite out of a $150 annual savings...

With my luck, it would leak and do $6,000 of damage


In a warm climate, and with electric WH and high KWh rates, I could see where the math could work out.

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Old 07-05-2009, 06:52 AM   #4
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I live outside St. Louis, MO. I'm all electric. I have a 3000 sq. ft home. My electric bills have run close to $2400 per year for the last 3 years.
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Old 07-05-2009, 07:28 AM   #5
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I think you can count on electricity going up, with cap and trade.

Do you know how much of that 2400 goes into the water heater? Frankly I have no idea how cold it gets in St Louis, but I'm sure it is a lot colder than Nords' place.

One good source to check out is HomePower magazine. They used to have a lot of good stuff online at homepower.com. Haven't been there in a while, so I don't know what is there now, but I do enjoy the magazine a few times a year. Lots of good, practical stuff about solar water heating, space heating, PV, and wind.

Good luck

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