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Old 06-11-2015, 12:27 PM   #41
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Just a curiosity question on the people who have the micro inverter systems...

What is in place to protect linemen from getting feedback from your system You state that all you need is a breaker in the panel....

From what I understand, you are supposed to isolate your system if there is a power outage (thinking backup generators here)....
Microinverters will shut down if the line is dead. They need to see a live line in order to synchronize to it, and to source a current into it. In fact, any grid-tie inverter needs to do the same.
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Old 06-11-2015, 12:48 PM   #42
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Microinverters will shut down if the line is dead. They need to see a live line in order to synchronize to it, and to source a current into it. In fact, any grid-tie inverter needs to do the same.
Thanks for the info....

So, solar cannot work without a line charge... so if there is a power outage then you do not get any benefit of having solar
I guess unless you get off the grid that is....

Does that mean all solar just connect up to the breaker box?
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Old 06-11-2015, 12:52 PM   #43
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There are many websites out there for those who want to dive deeply into the 'how to strain glass from a broken jar of peanut butter' school of frugal living. There are even more websites devoted exclusively each of the many flavors of market investing. I find both to be a bit extreme and lacking in diversity.

My opinion is this board has a nice balance of LBYM and investment discussions which has been a key to its success.
I don't know why anyone would strain glass from peanut butter. If I had peanut butter with glass in it I would throw it away.

But I am happy to see threads like these on using alternative energy and conservation. The savings on recurring expenses over 40 years or so of retirement for one time purchases or improvements can be quite significant.
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Old 06-11-2015, 01:12 PM   #44
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I agree, and I think cutting expenses like energy bills tends to be underrated topics here compared to topics like stocks. I can't control stock market returns but we've cut our energy bill by around $2,400 a year so far. Over a potential 40 years that is $2,400 X 40 = $96K in after tax money.

Personally, I'd rather be home sitting on the patio reading energy conservation books from the library and trying out thermal cooker recipes than commuting and working in an office 7 am - 7 pm or longer to earn the equivalent of that kind of savings in after tax money. ...
I think the reason you consider cutting energy bills as under-rated here is that I think most of us use far, far less energy than you were using before you went on a mission to reduce it.

I can't possibly save $2,400 on my annual energy bills, as they are closer to $1,800 (NG & Electric) - and that is for a large-ish house, in an area of the country where we need heating for 6-7 months, and summer A/C as well.

IIRC from your earlier posts, there was a lot of low-hanging fruit for you in terms of energy savings. I very much doubt (and I believe I expressed this before) that many of the things you do (thermal cookers, etc), have any significant savings - it was the low-hanging fruit you did early on. Many (most?) of us don't have the low-hanging fruit to pick, so there just isn't that much opportunity for financial return, and hence, not so much discussion.

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Our roof isn't the best location for solar and we have lots of trees, and at current prices panels just aren't cost effective for us. Our current electric bill is only around $600 a year. But I do have some books on interesting solar projects that do not involve panels.
And this supports the idea that (conceptually at least), it would be far better for people interested in solar to invest in a 'share' of a commercial grade solar farm. You'd get economy of scale; it would be placed away from shade; and either on the ground, or on an industrial roof with a lifetime > solar installation.

-ERD50
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Old 06-11-2015, 01:25 PM   #45
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I think the reason you consider cutting energy bills as under-rated here is that I think most of us use far, far less energy than you were using before you went on a mission to reduce it.
What I posted was "I agree, and I think cutting expenses like energy bills tends to be underrated topics here compared to topics like stocks." and " The savings on recurring expenses over 40 years or so of retirement for one time purchases or improvements can be quite significant."

I think based on the number of solar panel pro and con threads many posters here are interested in reducing energy bills. We went from above average energy consumers to bottom 20% of similar home in terms of energy use for our area based on our utility company reports. Thermal cookers were one small part of probably a hundred or so low cost actions we took to reduce our bill. They are also time savers, do not heat up the house in warm weather (reducing the need for A/C), can be left unattended, do not dry out food like crock pots might do and do not let food spoil if the power goes out while we're out and about. I personally would like share ideas with others interested in similar topics. I am unclear on why it is not okay for me to express an opinion on topics I'm interested in and would like to see more of.
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Old 06-11-2015, 01:41 PM   #46
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So, solar cannot work without a line charge... so if there is a power outage then you do not get any benefit of having solar
I guess unless you get off the grid that is....

Does that mean all solar just connect up to the breaker box?
If you want solar power when the grid is down, you need an off-the-grid system. That requires battery storage. As I know, there is no off-the-grid system that does not use batteries. The power produced by the panels can vary a lot even during daylight, and you need energy storage to average out the power demand when appliances kick on/off.

An off-the-grid system that can power a residential A/C is BIG. I wonder how much I would need to run my 5-ton A/C.

PS. It's possible to have a grid-tie system that also has off-the-grid capability. Elon Musk's new system does that.
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Old 06-11-2015, 02:46 PM   #47
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I just check on the Web, and solar panels are incredibly cheap.

If you buy a 40-ft container worth (a semitrailer load), then the price is 54c/Watt. Anybody needs 588 panels of 280W each (164kW total)? You can have your own solar farm. Or how about splitting the order and its cost of $89K?
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Old 06-11-2015, 03:13 PM   #48
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What I posted was "I agree, and I think cutting expenses like energy bills tends to be underrated topics here compared to topics like stocks." and " The savings on recurring expenses over 40 years or so of retirement for one time purchases or improvements can be quite significant."

I think based on the number of solar panel pro and con threads many posters here are interested in reducing energy bills. We went from above average energy consumers to bottom 20% of similar home in terms of energy use for our area based on our utility company reports. Thermal cookers were one small part of probably a hundred or so low cost actions we took to reduce our bill. They are also time savers, do not heat up the house in warm weather (reducing the need for A/C), can be left unattended, do not dry out food like crock pots might do and do not let food spoil if the power goes out while we're out and about. I personally would like share ideas with others interested in similar topics. I am unclear on why it is not okay for me to express an opinion on topics I'm interested in and would like to see more of.


I honestly don't know how you got there from what I posted?

I merely tried to explain to you why you don't seem to see such an emphasis on discussions about cutting energy bills. I thought I explained that many/most of us simply don't have a lot of cutting to do there. As I said, your cuts are greater than my entire bill. So that could explain why it does not get as much emphasis as you might expect, right?

I never intended to say in any way that isn't 'okay for you to express an opinion on topics you are interested in and would like to see more of'. I'm interested in these topics as well, I might learn something about cutting my bill a bit.

So please continue to post (as if I can stop anyone!), and I will continue to read for any nuggets I can glean.

I also think the solar panel threads are more about payback, the environment, and general interest in technology. The payback is in the energy bill, but that's just a consequence. Heck, if a solar panel would reduce my food bill, or my property taxes, or my insurance rates and provide a 2 year payback, great - I don't care where the money comes from, ROI is what I'm mainly interested in (plus the other areas).

-ERD50
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Old 06-11-2015, 03:16 PM   #49
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I think the reason you consider cutting energy bills as under-rated here is that I think most of us use far, far less energy than you were using before you went on a mission to reduce it.
I did a Google search and there were 175 posts on this site containing the word "electric bill", 359 on "solar panels", 127 on "heating bills" and 90 on "LED bulbs" so I think I am not alone in my interest in reducing my energy bills.

I felt a comment like " I very much doubt (and I believe I expressed this before) that many of the things you do (thermal cookers, etc), have any significant savings" didn't exactly encourage me or anyone else to post more on the topic.

More on thermal cookers can be found at the link below. They are actually common in some other cultures outside the U.S. -

http://www.treehugger.com/kitchen-de...hout-cord.html - Treehugger calls them "A wonderful idea, and another example of a lesson from the past that can be a template for the future."

Low Tech Magazine:
We Insulate Our Houses Why not Our Cooking Pots
http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2014/...e-cooking.html

"While modern cooking stoves are convenient, when it comes to energy use they leave a lot to be desired. As we have seen in the previous article, the thermal efficiency of an electric hob does not exceed that of a conventional open fire. In both cases almost 90% of the primary energy is lost during the cooking process.

Cooking food could be achieved in a far more energy efficient way, especially if the cooking pot itself is insulated. This is the principle behind the fireless cooker, a well-insulated box that keeps food simmering with only the heat of the cooking pot itself. A fireless cooker doubles the efficiency of any type of cooking device because it shortens the time on the fire and limits heat transfer losses."
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Old 06-11-2015, 03:21 PM   #50
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under $10,000 for a 5kWh plant that will reduce your utility dependance by 8450kWh per year. .
That would save me $675 per year. 15 years to break even, if I ignore the interest & earnings on the $10K, or if I could get a 0% interest loan.

Assuming no maintenance costs. Assuming nothing like a tree grew up and shaded the panels.
15 years is a long time to wait before seeing any net benefit.
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Old 06-11-2015, 03:31 PM   #51
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I'm somewhat interested in solar power as a self-sufficiency and geek topic but there's no way we could ever make it cost effective. Our entire electric bill runs about $30/month (for two adults) and we don't do anything special to keep it down other than turn off the lights.

Are the higher electric bills due to air conditioning (we don't have it)? or heating (we're on natural gas)?

Searching on Google, the average US monthly electric bill is $110. So I guess this counts as a "rebate" for the HCOL in California and other good weather states?
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Old 06-11-2015, 03:37 PM   #52
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I did a Google search and there were 175 posts on this site containing the word "electric bill", 359 on "solar panels", 127 on "heating bills" and 90 on "LED bulbs" so I think I am not alone in my interest in reducing my energy bills. ...
OK, I'm getting more and more confused. First you say that 'I think cutting expenses like energy bills tends to be underrated topics here', and now you're trying to tell me those post counts show there is a lot of interest in it?

I really don't understand, but this seems to be upsetting you which is not my intention in any way, shape or form, so I will drop out of this conversation. For the record, I think it's great for people to have discussions on this topic.

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I felt a comment like " I very much doubt (and I believe I expressed this before) that many of the things you do (thermal cookers, etc), have any significant savings." didn't exactly encourage me or anyone else to post more on the topic.
It's just a simple observation that a slow cooker doesn't use much energy to begin with ( ~ 100 watts for 8 hours is less than 1kw, so < 11 cents max for most people, and the food still needs the initial heating) , there isn't much to save with an insulated pot. I'm not saying there's anything 'wrong' with it, I just like to keep things in perspective.

That's all. Be happy!

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Old 06-11-2015, 03:42 PM   #53
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Are the higher electric bills due to air conditioning (we don't have it)? or heating (we're on natural gas)?
Size of house, age (older homes if not upgraded are usually less well insulated), number of people, A/C and heating needs, pool or not, local climate / temps, are people home all day or off at work / school, etc.

Are you in a condo or apartment? At $30 there isn't much to reduce after accounting for keeping a fridge running.
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Old 06-11-2015, 03:55 PM   #54
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It's just a simple observation that a slow cooker doesn't use much energy to begin with ( ~ 100 watts for 8 hours is less than 1kw, so < 11 cents max for most people, and the food still needs the initial heating) , there isn't much to save with an insulated pot. I'm not saying there's anything 'wrong' with it, I just like to keep things in perspective.

That's all. Be happy!

-ERD50
Okay, truce, ERD50. I am happy, my thermal pots are happy. Actually my husband tracks our energy usage, we get graphs on it by hour, plus we have a Kill a Watt. It is not the thermal pots alone that make a huge difference - it is finding 100 little things like the thermal pots that all add up X 40 years. Plus the thermal pots are time savers. There are old books online on the convenience of "fireless cooking" -

Fireless Cookers
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Old 06-11-2015, 03:58 PM   #55
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We were living in 1200 sq. ft. 1930's home in San Jose (2 adults + 1 dog). No A/C, no pool, cooking/heating on natural gas, and we were working most of the time. For cooling we used window fans which was quite effective.

However after firing last year, we've been moving around. Most recently in a small short term apartment in Colorado but our electric bill is also coming to around $30/month.
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Old 06-11-2015, 04:56 PM   #56
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Eh, we my wife uses a thermal cooker too. It is mainly for the convenience of not having to babysit the pot, as the energy saving is offset by the price of the pot (more than $200 as I recall).

I think the best way to save energy, and water too, is to live in a small house. But, but, but you will need a lot better insulation than what's in my small RV, because if you need to heat or to cool it, man, the poor insulation will gobble up energy like you couldn't believe.

I think a larger home will have a better energy usage, something about higher volume per surface area, the same way hot blooded animals must be of a certain size. But that larger home must be filled up with people; energy consumption should be measured per capita, then a larger home but filled with people will win. We should go back to having 3 generations under one roof.
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Old 06-11-2015, 05:12 PM   #57
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We have an approx 2000 sq ft house built in 1959. I've done some things to save energy (new windows and added attic insulation, plus CFLs, etc), but saving energy is not a hobby of ours--it's 72 degrees all summer (70 at night) and that's where it is staying. I consider our $75-$150 electric bill to be a terrific bargain, I'll cut expenses lots of other places before I try to save two bucks per day by living in an uncomfortably hot house.
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Old 06-11-2015, 05:53 PM   #58
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That would save me $675 per year. 15 years to break even, if I ignore the interest & earnings on the $10K, or if I could get a 0% interest loan.

Assuming no maintenance costs. Assuming nothing like a tree grew up and shaded the panels.
15 years is a long time to wait before seeing any net benefit.
But, you haven't included likely increases in electric rates, so that knocks off a bit. And the savings are tax free, so that would have to be compared to the after-tax interest you'd get on the $10k. And, it seems there's a fair chance they'd last longer than the 25 years (esp if they are modular so one failed panel won't cause much ripple effect).

I'd kinda like to have a few panels--I could mount them on top of a small low-slope metal patio roof and they'd get good exposure and wouldn't be visible from the front of the house. I could fit 4 panels there, so a max output of about 1000 watts and a cost of less than $3K total (incl help with installation, incl fed subsidies). It would only save us about $15 per month in electricity at today's rates, but it would be an interesting hobby. It might even add a bit to the value of the house when it is sold as we get carted off to the nursing home.
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Old 06-11-2015, 06:06 PM   #59
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I am seriously tempted now to get just one panel and one microinverter, spend 1 hour to wire them up then to record the power output to see what kind of output I can get over a day of summer, a month, a year. It's as you say, an interesting hobby. And if it looks promising, I can scale it up.

Here's the cost: 1 250W panel ($275 new, $180 used), 1 microinverter ($155), a 110/220 1kW transformer ($45), hardware ($10). Total: $380-$485.

The transformer is needed because I want to plug this into a normal wall outlet of 110V, while the microinverter works with 220V output. This allows me to use a common Kill-a-Watt to log the power output.
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Old 06-11-2015, 09:57 PM   #60
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Eh, we my wife uses a thermal cooker too. It is mainly for the convenience of not having to babysit the pot, as the energy saving is offset by the price of the pot (more than $200 as I recall).
I bought all of mine used, the last one for $6 at a charity shop. I think the cost savings also depend on how much they are used, how many people in the house are meals being prepared for and the cost of electricity. Our top tier for electricity is 34 cents a kwh, or three times the national average. YMMV.

Plus I want to look like the woman in this ad for a fireless cooker - -

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