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Solar Power
Old 09-07-2005, 04:21 PM   #1
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Solar Power

Several have asked about solar investments in previous posts.
Below is an extract from the stockbook email newsletter that offers a possibility. Sounds interesting, but I've got some DD to do before jumping.

__________________________________________________ _____________
Dear Pat: I bought an expensive Evergreen solar system, I love it when the electric meter runs backward. Is their stock a good buy?
..Readers: Evergreen Solar (ESLR-OTC $7) develops high end solar systems. (Electric meters run backwards when you are making your own energy).


Trendy - $70 oil opens eyes and solar markets.

Hot boss - New CEO in 2003 has led stock from $2 to $7.

Rubs the right elbows - Gov Arnold promotes solar for California and German Chancellor endorses Evergreen in Germany.

Dear MSgt USMC: Since the sun will be around for a while, innovators will use it to find alternatives to oil. A well managed energy company is a great bet and their new CEO has delivered. A bright future. $16 in 30 months.
* 5 Star rated Fidelity Diversified International Fund bought 571,000 shares.
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-07-2005, 09:35 PM   #2
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Re: Solar Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by JPatrick
Several have asked about solar investments in previous posts.
Below is an extract from the stockbook email newsletter that offers a possibility. Sounds interesting, but I've got some DD to do before jumping.
If that solar company is so hot (so to speak), then why is the newsletter wasting money on postage instead of buying shares on margin?

I'd recommend asking a solar supply company what suppliers they most prefer to deal with. Govt subsidies in Germany & Japan (not to mention New Jersey) are temporarily spiking worldwide demand (temporarily driving up prices) while the big companies are capitalizing bigger factories with more efficient production lines.

Today's panels cost about $6/watt and a 1 KW system (panels & inverter) is about $10K (before subsidies). Prices are starting to rise with this year's demands but labs are finally starting to bring new efficiencies to market (and this time they really mean it). In other words, everyone and his brother will be making money for about a year, followed by the big industries flooding the business with overproduction, making everyone's inventory obsolete, and driving the smaller companies under.

"High-end solar systems" are like slate roofs & copper rain gutters. Cheap solar systems are everywhere and they're gonna get cheaper. This is a commodity headed down the same path as the PC, the laptop, and the cell phone. And next year when the new generation of panels starts a price collapse, we're gonna scoop up a couple KW of the older models.

But those Ovonics thin-film roof tiles sure are cool...
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 09:04 AM   #3
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Re: Solar Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Today's panels cost about $6/watt and a 1 KW system (panels & inverter) is about $10K (before subsidies).
Nords, you are overpaying panels for $6/W.
$4/W easy - for example: http://www.sunelec.com/
My panels averaged about $3.40/W
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 09:36 AM   #4
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Re: Solar Power

Sailor, you missed Nords discussion from last year about his solar system!* I don't think he paid $6/w.
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 10:43 AM   #5
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Re: Solar Power

I dont think its quite there yet. I looked at a couple of different system options in the 3kw range. Even here in CA with huge rebates and credits, and with our high electricity costs, and with my wife who leaves the tv on while she goes to the store for 2 hours, it was an 8-10 year minimum payback.

Given that i'm unlikely to be here that long, and I'm a doubting thomas about whether a pva system increases the value of your home on a nearly linear basis, i'm still waiting.

Those pva panels that look like concrete roof tiles do look like fun though.
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 12:36 PM   #6
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Re: Solar Power

Isnt the new energy bill going to be giving tax credits on some of this stuff. I was waiting to look at it to buy a solar powered attic fan.
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 01:04 PM   #7
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Re: Solar Power

Supposedly. Unfortunately some of the rebates are limited to a certain number of customers and in some cases, they're all taken up the first day they're available.

Still, in my case the rebates/credits halved the cost of the system. About $16k total for my sample 3kw system, which would save me roughly 1200-1400 a year in electricity. Of course, thats at TODAYS rates.
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 01:30 PM   #8
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Re: Solar Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailor
Nords, you are overpaying panels for $6/W.
$4/W easy - for example: http://www.sunelec.com/
My panels averaged about $3.40/W
Hey, that's great! *My $6/watt prices were Hawaii retail last year. *We bought those 20 used 50-watt panels for $2/watt. *

This month I'm bottom-fishing among the sailor's & landscapers' leftovers and I can use Sun's prices (if they'll publish them). *I get hurt looks from people who are convinced that their still-in-the-box panels are worth anything close to what they paid for them. *Sun Electronics just has a "Call for Prices" teaser on their panels. *Can you tell me what brand/rating you bought at $3.40/W? *Did that include shipping?

Quote:
Originally Posted by maddythebeagle
Isnt the new energy bill going to be giving tax credits on some of this stuff. I was waiting to look at it to buy a solar powered attic fan. *
Here's an excerpt from an article on the energy bill: *"The bill also creates a new 30 percent tax credit for residential solar installations for two years; capped at $2000; applied to all property placed in service after December 31, 2005 and before January 1, 2008."

Quote:
Originally Posted by ()
I dont think its quite there yet. *I looked at a couple of different system options in the 3kw range. *Even here in CA with huge rebates and credits, and with our high electricity costs, and with my wife who leaves the tv on while she goes to the store for 2 hours, it was an 8-10 year minimum payback.

Given that i'm unlikely to be here that long, and I'm a doubting thomas about whether a pva system increases the value of your home on a nearly linear basis, i'm still waiting.
Oh, I totally disagree, it's quite there now, especially if you're buying last year's models instead of the latest fashions. *

You gain by waiting until next year's credits kick in, but you might want to consider the investment as a dividend-paying stock. *A 10-year payback is a 10% tax-free dividend, right? *And even with that number, the math is flawed because it assumes that your utility bill will stay constant over the next 10 years. *In other words, your original investment will continue to pay dividends that will rise each year with PG&E's fuel costs. *A $16K investment with $1200/year saving is still a 7.5% dividend and a straight-line 13-year payback. But if fuel prices rise push up PG&E's utility rates by even just 5%/year you'll be seeing savings of $1200/year, $1260/year, $1323/year, ... that alone cuts the payback to 10 years. * *

Even at 15 cents/KWhr I'm hampered by Hawaii's "net metering" laws that limit my savings to my monthly power consumption. *If I'm not mistaken, PG&E will actually buy everything you produce, not just rebate your consumption. *So you have an incentive to buy a much bigger system if you want a faster payback.

Even if you don't stay in the house for 10 years you can advertise the savings and the "cool" factor of not paying an electric bill. *Your system's costs raise your home's basis (and lower your cap gains) and every year the cost of the improvement is reduced by the savings payback. You don't get that benefit from a new kitchen or bathroom, and I think that a PV array payback is worth at least as much as the impact from kitchen & bathroom improvements.
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 02:26 PM   #9
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Re: Solar Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
This month I'm bottom-fishing among the sailor's & landscapers' leftovers and I can use Sun's prices (if they'll publish them).
Just scroll down on their main page ( http://www.sunelec.com/ ) - they post prices there- don't go to the individual panel pages.

Quote:
Can you tell me what brand/rating you bought at $3.40/W?
I haven't bought from SunElec, a while ago Alt-E store had a sale.
I've got Photowatt (now Matrix) PW-1000 (95W) and PW-750 (80W)
And the price (averaging $3.40 per W) included shipping if you bought it in pair quantities.
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 04:48 PM   #10
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Re: Solar Power

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Originally Posted by sailor
Just scroll down on their main page ( http://www.sunelec.com/ ) - they post prices there- don't go to the individual panel pages.
I haven't bought from SunElec, a while ago Alt-E store had a sale.
I've got Photowatt (now Matrix) PW-1000 (95W) and PW-750 (80W)
And the price (averaging $3.40 per W) included shipping if you bought it in pair quantities.
Boy, they hid that well. Thanks.

OK, so $3-4/watt. I'll work craigslist & eBay for a while...
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 05:09 PM   #11
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Re: Solar Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
You gain by waiting until next year's credits kick in, but you might want to consider the investment as a dividend-paying stock. A 10-year payback is a 10% tax-free dividend, right? And even with that number, the math is flawed because it assumes that your utility bill will stay constant over the next 10 years. In other words, your original investment will continue to pay dividends that will rise each year with PG&E's fuel costs. A $16K investment with $1200/year saving is still a 7.5% dividend and a straight-line 13-year payback. But if fuel prices rise push up PG&E's utility rates by even just 5%/year you'll be seeing savings of $1200/year, $1260/year, $1323/year, ... that alone cuts the payback to 10 years.
Maybe i'm tired, although Mr. Gabe has been sleeping all night lately, but he likes waking up at 5am regardless, but wouldnt it be a 10% dividend AFTER I get my money back from the install? In the interrim, wouldnt I be losing the 5-6% lost opportunity on the money until its paid back?

Do you REALLY get the money back on resale? I've never bought or sold a house with a PVA on it.

As far as buying last years model...any tips on doing that? I just skimmed a dozen or so sites and the install cost for the 3kw array were all around 30k (which given my experience with sales people means 40k) and california gives you back about half of that in rebates. I could go smaller than that, but in the midst of summer when our electricity is the highest, even a 3kw array would only give us about half of our total electric bill. 105 degree heat that starts out at 80 at 8 in the morning takes a lot to overcome...based on the cool graphs one company's web site gave me, our meter would never actually 'run backwards' until I got up into the 4.5-5kw array. I dont have enough southern roof for that.

How much wire and whats it look like that runs from the inverter to the power panel? Reason why I ask is because I have a nice hunk of land that gets sun all day on one side of the house, but the power panel is on the opposite side. There are two very substantial clothes line "T" posts over there which would easily support several hundred pounds of array...
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 05:50 PM   #12
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Re: Solar Power

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Originally Posted by ()
Maybe i'm tired, although Mr. Gabe has been sleeping all night lately, but he likes waking up at 5am regardless, but wouldnt it be a 10% dividend AFTER I get my money back from the install?* In the interrim, wouldnt I be losing the 5-6% lost opportunity on the money until its paid back?
Hey, I've used that chronic fatigue excuse millions of times. Don't wear it out!

I'm just likening solar arrays to a stock or a commodity fund with a nice dividend. You earn a dividend on the Dow Select Dividend ETF (DVY) when you buy the shares and hold them past the ex-dividend date. You don't get your money back on those shares until you sell them (and maybe not even then), and you also have a 5-6% opportunity cost on that money. I wouldn't torture the analogy any further than to point out that both end up spending money in the expectation of getting a small percentage of it back as monthly income (or monthly expense reduction).

Quote:
Originally Posted by ()
Do you REALLY get the money back on resale? I've never bought or sold a house with a PVA on it.
Me either. Two local guys have made more than their initial PV investment selling their homes but we can't tell you that it was an array more than the appreciation of local real estate. $20K is practically a rounding error in a $500K home sale.

I CAN tell you that they heavily advertised their arrays (one guy even wrote articles in the local papers and gave a talk at the local library on equipping your own home with a PV array) and created a lot of buzz at their open houses. I'm sure some poor fool prescient speculator bought for the "solar ambience" as much as for the neighborhood location, good schools, quality construction, and other more important factors.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ()
As far as buying last years model...any tips on doing that? I just skimmed a dozen or so sites and the install cost for the 3kw array were all around 30k (which given my experience with sales people means 40k) and california gives you back about half of that in rebates. I could go smaller than that, but in the midst of summer when our electricity is the highest, even a 3kw array would only give us about half of our total electric bill. 105 degree heat that starts out at 80 at 8 in the morning takes a lot to overcome...based on the cool graphs one company's web site gave me, our meter would never actually 'run backwards' until I got up into the 4.5-5kw array. I dont have enough southern roof for that.
We scored our first 1.1 Kw through the newspaper classified ads and we keep looking. We see arrays in our neighborhood and put notes in their mailboxes ("If you're replacing your roof or upgrading, we'd like to buy your old panels"). I'm also scouring craigslist and local boards for arrays being sold by sailors and landscapers (people actually buy PV panels to run their waterfall pumps). I have yet to go to our local retailer (Interisland Solar Supply) and beg them to discount their clearance stock to us.

The biggest cost of the initial installation is the inverter (which you probably have to buy retail, it's certainly worth it for the technology upgrade) and it's quite easy to add more panels to the inverter's capacity. Our Xantrex is loafing along with that 1.1 KW and we strung enough wiring to be able to load it up to its 3 KW rating.

While it'd be nice to get entirely off the grid, or to sell power back to the grid, we're staying with a grid tie. We don't use A/C so 3 KW will probably handle our home load. But it's not about unloading from the grid, it's about a financial return. If you can find cheap panels and a reasonably inexpensive installer then you can start saving money off your electric bill-- and we're back to the dividend analogy.

We have enough southern roof to get up to about 4 KW, but after that I'd have to mount them in the yard or on top of the walls. Both have been done in homes profiled in magazines like "Home Power". Otherwise we have to wait for power densities to rise enough to match the roof space-- which admittedly could take decades.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ()
How much wire and whats it look like that runs from the inverter to the power panel? Reason why I ask is because I have a nice hunk of land that gets sun all day on one side of the house, but the power panel is on the opposite side. There are two very substantial clothes line "T" posts over there which would easily support several hundred pounds of array...
That may work quite well.

We used about 500 feet of twisted-strand copper 10 ga wire (I have to look up the exact specs if you're interested) and another 100 feet of solid copper 8 ga ground wire strung through UV-resistant (gray) PVC conduit. Our run from the panels to the inverter was about 80 feet but you could probably go further without substantial voltage loss; we only had a 3V drop over that distance. The individual panels were connected among themselves with about another 100 feet of XLP twisted-strand 10 ga wire (because the wire is exposed to sunlight) and the solid ground wire was routed through lay-in grounding lugs on each PV panel. The panels were just bolted to angle-iron frames resting on brackets bolted right through the shingles into the roof trusses.

If you've done a roof then you know more than I do. You have at least as much mechanical skill as me to handle it all the way up to the point where you're holding two wires and looking for an electrician to plug them into a breaker. Like me you may find a cooperative electrician who'll agree to guide you through the mechanical construction and the code issues (for a suitable fee) while they make the final electrical connections (which PG&E is rather insistent about.) You'll learn enough during the panel hookup to continue on your own when you procure additional panels and what PG&E doesn't know can't hurt you.

I'll do a Photobucket dump later and get back to you with the precise specs. My 12-year-old is standing over my shoulder complaining about her inability to pursue her education while I'm hogging "her" computer...
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-08-2005, 06:44 PM   #13
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Re: Solar Power

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Even at 15 cents/KWhr I'm hampered by Hawaii's "net metering" laws that limit my savings to my monthly power consumption. *
I'd love to buy something, but I can't justify it here. My rates are 6.62 cents / KWhr
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-09-2005, 11:40 AM   #14
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Re: Solar Power

Here's the photo album and here's the parts list.

The wire that runs from the junction box through conduit to the inverter is THHN. Internally it's the same metal as XLP but its external coating is high-temp plastic without the UV resistance. We stuffed five of those strands through the conduit (plus the 8 ga solid copper ground wire) and the wire/inverter can handle up to 600V DC on two wires. Four wires gives us enough to power 3 KW plus a spare. I'd like to say that it was our brilliant planning & foresight, but the 500-foot roll of wire was cheaper than buying four 100-foot rolls.

Most of the wiring & materials came from Home Depot. We had to go to an electric supply store for the XLP wire and the lay-in grounding lugs (little suckers were $1.75 each but that's the code that the electrician wanted).

Five panels on their roof rack weighs about 80-100 lb. It was heavy enough to be scary but light enough for me to muscle them off the seller's roof and drop them hand them gently down to spouse. Getting them back up on our roof was a different challenge but achievable without breaking them down into pieces.

You can see that most of the system's cost is the inverter, which admittedly is a marvelous black box that indiscriminately sucks in any kind of DC voltage and spits out perfectly sinusoidal 240V 60Hz AC. Solar installers make all their margin from their speed and their specialized tools. If you do the mechanical work yourself you can save a bundle on the labor but of course you have to find an electrician willing to work with you (or at least someone with a contractor's license) to persuade PG&E that your system won't burst into flames and take down their grid.

I'm off to see a man on his boat about his solar panels. Hopefully he understands that his $10/watt six-year-old purchase is now only worth about $2-3/watt. If not I'll keep watching craigslist & eBay...
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-09-2005, 06:31 PM   #15
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Re: Solar Power

Lets see...a series of comments.

Thems some hairy hands.

Wash that boot.

That roof is going to leak.

Nice panels.

Is that window usually left unlocked?

Did you actually make your daughter use that furniture? No wonder she's cranky.

I called my realtor and asked her what i'd see in the way of ROI on resale, and she said it'd probably be a negative to many buyers rather than a positive. Its too "whiz bangy" and it would create more questions than value for most folks. I'd have to wait for a specific buyer that understood and wanted a house with a pva system on it. Oddly, its a perfect thing for around here, with high electric prices, high summer cooling costs, and a whole heck of a lot of sunny days.

80-100lbs is nothing. You should try carrying sheafs of roof shingles up a ladder to a roof. And by the way, if you ever do your own roof, pay a little extra to home depot to give you 'rooftop delivery'.

Heck, when I was a kid, we looked forward to having the opportunity to haul 100lb pva's on and off of roofs, once we were done sleeping while hanging from the windowsills because we couldnt afford floors, eating hot gravel for breakfast, and walking uphill to school, both ways of course.
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-09-2005, 07:05 PM   #16
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Re: Solar Power

Design-wise there are a number of nifty "shingles" out there that don't blink "solar power".* If you are replacing your roof you should really look at these units.* On the net I found one that looks like Monier tiles, another that looks like slate, and another that blends in with asphult(sp) shingles.* The orientation of your roof will impact their efficiency.* If you consider that route ROI for you as the occupant should be primary.*

In some CA communities it may not be a difference in the price because values are going up rapidly, however, if you are in a technology driven community the customers are not likely to be put off by a solar system.* In fact, if you can show that your home has very low power costs it will be attractive for that reason.* I don't think your decision should turn on the opinion of a realtor.*
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-09-2005, 07:49 PM   #17
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Re: Solar Power

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... and another that blends in with asphult(sp) shingles.
Brat,

Although this is probably going to get me lumped in with T-Al, can't help noticing your continuing struggle with the correct spelling of the word "asphalt". You also had problems with it here: http://early-retirement.org/forums/i...64296#msg64296

Now that you know the correct spelling of asphalt is "asphalt", hopefully you won't have to struggle with spelling asphalt next time... (My HS English teacher said if you used a word three times in a sentence, you would "own" that word. But I'll let you use it whenever you want... )

And yes, I do know that you can easily find "phalt" with my "as" for pointing this out, but I'm really just trying to help...
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-09-2005, 08:30 PM   #18
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Re: Solar Power

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Originally Posted by ()
Lets see...a series of comments.

Thems some hairy hands.
Yes, they're manly electrician contractor hands.* They were $75/hour.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ()
Wash that boot.
I was told that clean boots would raise the rate to $100/hour.* It's a good thing that the supervisor didn't show up...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ()
That roof is going to leak.
Too late, we've already replaced the flashing under the 2nd story window.* It looked like it had been used on six or eight other roofs before it got to ours.

The panel mounts did require drilling a total of eighteen holes in the roof.* No one was more surprised than me when I hit a truss every time.* We used lots of roofing cement in, below, above, & around the brackets & bolts.* I wish there was a better way.* That roof is only about eight years old so I'm hoping to get another 10-15 years out of it before I have to start chasing leaks.

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Originally Posted by ()
Is that window usually left unlocked?
Only when we're home.* But we usually open a door for our guests!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ()
Did you actually make your daughter use that furniture?* No wonder she's cranky.
Well, she was pretty thrilled when we bought it for her eight years ago.* I think we're going to unload sell the last piece this afternoon.* The replacements came from the "Inspirations" store and we told her it was free as long as she agreed to leave the house when she finished high school.

BTW I used to define "cranky" by the "terrible twos", which I believe lasted less than a year.* Now I define CRANKY by the seemingly infinite timespan between teenagerhood and when the kid finally moves out.* We've been making her watch "Brat Camp" and "Kicked Out" to ensure that she understands the concept of leaving the nest...

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I called my realtor and asked her what i'd see in the way of ROI on resale, and she said it'd probably be a negative to many buyers rather than a positive.* Its too "whiz bangy" and it would create more questions than value for most folks.* I'd have to wait for a specific buyer that understood and wanted a house with a pva system on it.* Oddly, its a perfect thing for around here, with high electric prices, high summer cooling costs, and a whole heck of a lot of sunny days.
Yeah, it's like a home with a swimming pool.* Some customers wouldn't touch a house with the world's #1 killer of preschoolers, but others wouldn't live in a home without one.* The trick is attracting the right customer.

I spoke to one of the new homeowners of the two guys who've sold their PV homes.* The homeowner doesn't know a thing about his system except that his monthly electric bill is $16.* He's pretty thrilled about that and he has no interest in learning how the hardware works.* It was a big selling point for him but I don't think enough PV homes have changed hands yet to give an indication either way.

If you're not living in the home for the payback then you're assuming a certain amount of risk.* We're planning to live here forever because we probably can't afford to buy a Hawaii home ever again.

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80-100lbs is nothing. * You should try carrying sheafs of roof shingles up a ladder to a roof.* And by the way, if you ever do your own roof, pay a little extra to home depot to give you 'rooftop delivery'.
I've been watching the neighborhood roofers.* (Kids, stay in school.)* While I believe that everyone can learn how to do a roof, I think I'll pay full retail to make sure that I don't miss any good surfing!
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-09-2005, 09:01 PM   #19
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Re: Solar Power

So sorry about my spelling, it has been an issue before I started school almost 60 years ago.* I have always blamed it on the fact that I learned to read at a very young age using the "see-say" readers promoted by educators in the early 40's.* However, the reality is that is my fault because as a child I didn't learn phonics.*

Give me numbers (theory, statistics, financial) any day!!!

Give me a spell checker, please.
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Re: Solar Power
Old 09-09-2005, 10:56 PM   #20
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Re: Solar Power

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Brat,

Although this is probably going to get me lumped in with T-Al, can't help noticing your continuing struggle with the correct spelling of the word "asphalt".* You also had problems with it here:* http://early-retirement.org/forums/i...64296#msg64296
Yikes, REW, talk about leading with your chin!

Now at least "Total Members: 1660" and who knows how many unregistered guests & lurkers will be checking your spelling & grammar for free..


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