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Solar energy - your experience?
Old 09-22-2021, 11:35 PM   #1
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Solar energy - your experience?

We live in the desert and are considering the installation of solar on our roof. Up front cost is roughly $35K less $9K tax credit, net $26K. That’s quite a nut. Electricity bill savings would likely be $3.5K to $4K annually at today’s rates. So payback is 6-8 years depending on time value of money and other assumptions.

We are not very predictable when it comes to where we live. We aren’t planning to move, but our move from the beach to the desert two years ago wasn’t planned either. We can lease the system or buy it so if we decide we may not stay here, we could still save $100-$150/month leasing.

Has anyone else installed solar? Has it been a good investment for you? What questions should we ask and what are some considerations we may not have thought of beyond basic payout period?
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Old 09-23-2021, 12:03 AM   #2
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Based on your numbers, that's a very good breakeven point. For my location, with the system we've considered, the payback period is closer to 20 years, and so every time the question comes up, we've not moved ahead with solar.

I look at leasing more as "I'm renting out my roof to the solar company". Just remember, when the lease ends, they're going to uninstall - so they will need to patch (or do something to) your roof where they've nailed or bolted through it to secure the panels.
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Old 09-23-2021, 01:01 AM   #3
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Do not lease!
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Old 09-23-2021, 01:36 AM   #4
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Do not lease!
+1

We installed solar panels 2 years ago and love it. Just discussing this with my BIL yesterday as prices for electricity are set to soar, showing him the installation and last year’s spreadsheet of consumption and bills. We exported more electricity than we consumed and since we get paid for export, our bill was almost zero. Payback should be about 8 years, sooner if prices do keep rising.
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Old 09-23-2021, 02:38 AM   #5
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Do not lease!


If you lease & later decide to sell your home, it can complicate the sale.
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Old 09-23-2021, 04:54 AM   #6
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I've got a 39 panel 10 kw system and battery backup system to capture energy to use at night. We don't feed back the grid but are grid tied and have certain things like the clothes dryer and air conditioner than only use grid energy.

I didn't install the system, original homeowner spent $70k on it 10 years ago. I would not do solar again. I don't like the complexity, don't like looking at the panels, don't like thinking about it. Preferred home without it where we just used energy efficient lights and appliances and annual electricity cost was less than one days income.
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Old 09-23-2021, 06:32 AM   #7
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If you lease & later decide to sell your home, it can complicate the sale.
From what I've read it can also complicate the sale if you buy them. Most people take out a loan, which has to be repaid one way or another if you sell. So, you have to pay it off at closing or the new owner has to take out a loan for the balance.

Find out who's responsible for maintenance and repair and what that night cost if it's the homeowner.
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Old 09-23-2021, 07:43 AM   #8
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Agree, don’t lease. I don’t know what electrical rates are where you live, but in general SoCA is a no brainer when it comes to installing solar if you have a pool and other energy hungry devices. My only hesitation would be that you talk about liking to move… Still, we moved 4 yrs after adding it in our last house. It was a selling point for our house. First thing we did when moving into the new house.

We installed a battery backup system to bleed back into to the house during peak grid $ periods. In retrospect, I’m not sure we’d do it again. Because of the way our panels are laid out, we couldn’t back up some key circuits, so the backup power is less useful to us. And now there’s been an issue with the batteries, so we’re waiting on replacements from the company. All under warranty, but it’s $ out of our pocket when they aren’t bleeding back in.
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Old 09-23-2021, 09:23 AM   #9
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I had guessed that having solar tied you to your home more tightly than not having solar. This theory was proven correct by some friends who had spent (IIRC) something like $50K on a system 10 years back. When they "gave up on Hawaii" and moved to NC 6 years ago, they had problems selling their (roughly) $1.5Mil house. Lots of lookers didn't want the system (which was still being paid for, by the way.) I think PV installations are a bit like pools. More folks DON'T want them than DO want them. So, selling properties with expensive features NOT wanted by everyone is an "anchor" tying one to the old place.

Then my son who lived on Big Island installed a system. "Managing" it turned out to be a bit like owning a pet. Leaving it left it vulnerable to "issues", not the least of which was theft. In fact, his system WAS stolen when he left the Island for a few months. Naturally, the neighborhood would be critical in such an installation. He was relatively remote which I had guessed could cause problems - and it did.

I've often wondered how folks go on vacation when their systems are integrated with the grid (or not, for that matter.) Who "manages" it? We have trouble just having our cars started occasionally when we're on extended vacation. Having solar seems like another level of complexity to manage. Maybe you just turn it off - if that is possible.

Not against solar. I think it's the future (at least in part) for our grid. But, it's still in transition, meaning early adopters will learn all the issues the hard way. 20 years from now, I'm guessing every new construction will include solar. Now, every area is different. In the Islands, solar is limited by what the electric company can "absorb" and manage unless you are off-grid.

Just a thought since OP suggests their home may not be permanent to them. IOW they may have to sell it before their pay-off for solar. It might be money better spent to reduce electrical needs (improve insulation, windows, appliances, solar hot-water heater, room shut-offs, etc.) than installing solar PV. If I were offered the choice between a house that was "inefficient" but had "gobs" of solar and a house with an uncharacteristically (and documented) low utility bill history, I'd buy the latter at this point.

Several folks here have and love their systems. So listen to them more than to me. I love the technology and the promise of "free electricity" as well. I just don't think I'm in a situation where I could manage (or would WANT to manage) it. Very much a YMMV situation.
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Old 09-23-2021, 09:32 AM   #10
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EUp until this past May we lived in the SW desert. In 2012, we had a ~7KW rooftop system installed (our home was 100% electric - natural gas not available in our area). Our payback was 8 years. What we fed-back to the grid offset the entire cost of our electric bill with APS.

A couple of things to consider. First off, if you are considering rooftop solar, assess the condition of your roof before installation. Depending on the size of your system, removing and reinstalling panels to complete roof repairs can cost you several thousand dollars.

Second - rooftop solar did not factor in to the assessed value of our home. It might be considered a deciding point for certain buyers, but will not necessarily affect the home's market value.

Edit to add: I agree 100% with previous posters. Do not lease.
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Old 09-23-2021, 09:54 AM   #11
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I don't understand the posts about complexity in managing rooftop solar panels. I talked to my neighbor before deciding to go ahead with ours. His has been installed for 8 years now and the only thing he has ever done is have them washed occasionally. Once a year he responds to a request from a utility company to enter his reading from the meter recording how much has been generated since it was installed, and they pay money directly into his bank account (approx £600/year). Other than that when the light is good enough it supplies his house with electricity and it pulls from the grid when it needs to.

With ours we have a smart meter so don't even need to send in readings, once a month we get a pdf bill e-mailed to us. We've only had ours 2 years but no management of the system is needed, it just works. Unlike my neighbor I choose to maximize its use by choosing to be on an agile tariff meaning the price/kWh varies every half hour so we will run washing machines and dishwashers when the panels are generating for free or overnight when the prices are cheapest. We also have batteries to ensure that we never pull from the grid during the most expensive time of day which is always between 4 and 7pm.
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Old 09-23-2021, 10:11 AM   #12
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I don't understand the posts about complexity in managing rooftop solar panels.
Apparently, I was thinking too much about what my son told me. Also, reading some posts here suggests there is some monitoring and switching of activities (as you have mentioned) to take full advantage of the PV produced electricity. In short - I'm a hack when it comes to solar - so do not listen to me.
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Old 09-23-2021, 10:33 AM   #13
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Then my son who lived on Big Island installed a system. "Managing" it turned out to be a bit like owning a pet. Leaving it left it vulnerable to "issues", not the least of which was theft. In fact, his system WAS stolen when he left the Island for a few months. Naturally, the neighborhood would be critical in such an installation. He was relatively remote which I had guessed could cause problems - and it did.
Anyone know what these panels add to the cost of Homeowner's Insurance? I hadn't though of theft but since our church just had to replace two HVAC units at a cost of $12K (insured but $1,000 deductible) because someone vandalized them for the copper, it's something to consider.
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Old 09-23-2021, 10:37 AM   #14
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Anyone know what these panels add to the cost of Homeowner's Insurance? I hadn't though of theft but since our church just had to replace two HVAC units at a cost of $12K (insured but $1,000 deductible) because someone vandalized them for the copper, it's something to consider.
Zero for us in the UK.
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Old 09-23-2021, 10:50 AM   #15
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No increase in cost for solar with insurance for us. I don’t understand the posts about having to ‘do stuff’. It just sits there, on the roof, collecting energy. Other than logging into our app to look at how much energy we’re producing/using, which is awesome to be able to do, there’s zero interaction with our system. When we leave, it does the same. It’s 100% background. It wouldn’t even occur to me that there was anything to do

The app has also been incredibly useful to understand our power usage and be able to optimize our use to maximize what we get.

The only way I could see solar being a negative in our area would be if it was leased. As a buyer, it’s like any other debt. Up to the seller to pay prior to purchase.

Ours are installed on the roof. If you need any roof work done, this often gets bundled into the cost of the system install, so receives the rebate as well, though I don’t know how kosher that is.

And fwiw, while we wouldn’t necessarily pay extra for a home with solar, we certainly factored in the cost of adding it when looking at homes without. We set it up to over produce and now have plug in EVs, so it’s cut our gas costs too.
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Old 09-23-2021, 11:00 AM   #16
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Apparently, I was thinking too much about what my son told me. Also, reading some posts here suggests there is some monitoring and switching of activities (as you have mentioned) to take full advantage of the PV produced electricity. In short - I'm a hack when it comes to solar - so do not listen to me.
Homebrew systems like mine take tinkering. If you spend more money, certified systems would have a lot of smarts built-in for automation and management of the battery. Battery management, not just for safety but to optimize the charging/discharging operation for the most dollar gain without wearing out the battery too soon, is the most complicated part of the system.

A grid-tied system without a battery storage is a lot simpler. The solar array always produces the max it could, and pumps what you don't use into the grid. Depending on the locale, some utilities only pay you the price of wholesale electricity, which can be a few pennies per kWh. In the late afternoon, when you draw the power back from the grid, they charge you retail prices. Some people cry foul, and say it's not fair. But think about how water should be priced when there's a flood after a storm, and how it should be priced during a drought.

Without a battery storage, to maximize the payback, you would have to remember to use more power during the peak solar production. Run your washer/dryer in midday, for example. Lower your AC thermostat early in the day, and raise it in the late afternoon. You cannot do anything else with your non-storage grid-tied system.
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Old 09-23-2021, 11:09 AM   #17
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With the temperature here dropping down to the low 100Fs for the high, and mid 70Fs for the low, I am running a surplus of solar power again. My battery was able to carry all inverters through the night.

And I am now back to running the pool pump on the solar system. I already switched the water heater to the solar power last week.

My goal has always been to build an automation system, but I have been slacking off. However, I have been observing the changes through the seasons to see how and when things should be turned on/off. And I have been monitoring the battery for signs of wear/tear. The battery still takes a lot of babysitting. A loose internal connection can cause serious problems.

PS. What I am doing is a lot of work, for at most $2K/year in electricity bill reduction. I do this as a hobby, and it works out well the last few years when I am stuck at home and cannot travel.
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Old 09-23-2021, 11:28 AM   #18
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Anyone know what these panels add to the cost of Homeowner's Insurance? I hadn't though of theft but since our church just had to replace two HVAC units at a cost of $12K (insured but $1,000 deductible) because someone vandalized them for the copper, it's something to consider.
No idea what his insurance cost or if affected by addition of solar, but son came out okay on his theft loss (as well as the destruction by fire of a large out-building on his property.) I would have to assume that your "value" would increase if you added solar - thus requiring additional premium to cover it. But I have no direct knowledge so YMMV.
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Old 09-23-2021, 11:37 AM   #19
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I don't understand the posts about complexity in managing rooftop solar panels.
Not to be argumentative since I bring little but opinion to the table: Do see NW-Bound's response - I think THAT was (in general) what I was thinking about. Perhaps an "off the shelf" solar installation (buy it and forget it) is possible. NW-Bound optimizes his system which apparently DOES require management. Given that especially batteries are very finicky about the way they are treated, I don't know that I'd want to lock up and leave for a month and just let the system "do it's thing." Again, I have NO experience, so I listen to others.

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With the temperature here dropping down to the low 100Fs for the high, and mid 70Fs for the low, I am running a surplus of solar power again. My battery was able to carry all inverters through the night.

And I am now back to running the pool pump on the solar system. I already switched the water heater to the solar power last week.

My goal has always been to build an automation system, but I have been slacking off. However, I have been observing the changes through the seasons to see how and when things should be turned on/off. And I have been monitoring the battery for signs of wear/tear. The battery still takes a lot of babysitting. A loose internal connection can cause serious problems.

PS. What I am doing is a lot of work, for at most $2K in electricity bill reduction a year. I do this as a hobby, and it works out well the last few years when I am stuck at home and cannot travel.
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Old 09-23-2021, 11:07 PM   #20
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Very interesting information here, thank you all for sharing. If we go for solar, we will either buy with cash or lease. The loan terms do not seem that good to us.

Several posters strongly suggested not leasing. The only reason we are considering it is that instead of having a $35K cash outlay up front, with a $9K tax credit so a net of $26K and saving something like $350/month on electricity, leasing would allow us to save a net of around $150/month after the lease payment with zero down. Given our tendency to become restless and move, leasing seems lower risk than plunking down a huge wad of cash.

I appreciate that if we lease the solar, it would not be seen as a valuable asset when we sell like a purchased solar system would likely be, at least to a certain extent. Also after 25 years of payments, if we were still around and owning our house then, we’d have to extend the lease or they would come remove all the panels, so that’s another reason to own the system vs lease.

Regarding other energy efficiency improvements, in our recent home remodel, we already put in all new Low E dual paned windows and doors, new insulation throughout the home, and LED lighting everywhere. Also put in outdoor and indoor shades on western facing sides of the house. Our kitchen appliances are not the most energy efficient but we wanted them for other reasons. Can’t think of much else we could do to improve energy efficiency, except for altering our lifestyle in ways that don’t appeal to us.

We have appointments tomorrow to learn more from two other companies. If nothing else, this is an interesting learning experience for us.
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