Going Solar: How To Edition

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GeddyWrox
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Going Solar: How To Edition

Post by GeddyWrox »

I have been thinking for several years about going solar. But every time I start to try to research it I get inundated with what looks like BS articles and fluff and I get discouraged.

How do you start? Who do you go to and trust? Is it financially sound yet?

If there is already a thread for this, sorry. I saw several posts scattered across many topics, but nothing quite like suggestions on how to start, trustworthy resources, etc.

I saw Wart say he did it. And IMA said he's been wanting to as far back as like 2017 I think... how many have done it? Advice? TIA.

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IMADreamer
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Re: Going Solar: How To Edition

Post by IMADreamer »

Our farm shop, bit machine shed, and barn are solar except my air compressor. (it's three phase) My cabin is also solar. We will do our house soon. Our first step was to contact our electric co-op. They helped point us in the right direction. For our farm it 100% made financial sense because electricity is pretty expensive at the farm, but it's only used rarely when we are in the fields and fairly often in the winter and spring when we are servicing equipment. Because of that we basically end up with free electricity as far as our shop needs are concerned. Again taking the compressor out of the equation. It was also a business expense. Which brings me to another point, you might talk to your accountant as well.

As for my we put in a much smaller system, which has saved us on bills but there is a minimum fee for properties like that so it really hasn't saved us any there. Basically financially it didn't make sense, but it's good for the feels. We think it makes sense at home for us but we are going to run the numbers again with out accountant next year and see. If so we will definitely pull the trigger.

Here's a solar FAQ page from our co-op's site. It might help you some.

https://www.touchstoneenergy.com/technology

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mikechamp
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Re: Going Solar: How To Edition

Post by mikechamp »

I can help you out, GeddyWrox. This is partly what I do in my job.

We went solar about 38 months ago. Haven't paid an electric bill since (with the exception of the monthly grid hookup fee).

Here is the one-page summary:

Federal tax credit - It still exists, but unless Congress renews it, it will expire after 2021. It's 26% for systems installed in 2020, but you wouldn't be able to meet that timeframe. So you're looking at a 22% tax credit on the installed cost of the system (installed in 2021).

Electric bill - It depends on the size of the installed system, but this could go away (except for the aforementioned monthly grid hookup fee, which is usually somewhere between $14-18/month). A solar professional should be able to examine your last 12 months of utility bills and determine the size needed to get you to net zero. The size of your roof, and which directions it faces, will also be factors.

SRECs - This stands for solar renewable energy credits. Think of them as carbon credits. Our system generates a certain amount of solar power each day/week/month. 1 MWh of power = 1 SREC. We get paid for the sale of those credits at 4 different intervals throughout the year. The annual amount varies due to sunlight, but we typically earn about $1k a year from them. Here's a link to a page that isn't 100% applicable to residential applications, but I choose to share it because of the "Solar Markets" map. I believe you live in MO, which means no SRECs for you yet (unless you live in an eligible area, and I don't know how to determine where those areas are).

Municipal/county incentive programs - Our area, and in recent years St. Louis City and County, has had an incentive program going during certain months of the year. It was a sanctioned group buying program whereby you could engage with a pre-determined solar installer. This installer has the monopoly within the incentive program, but here's the benefit to you: They agree to provide discounted pricing, and if certain thresholds are hit for installed solar over the incented geographic area, you get a rebate. Example: 250 kWh installed = 1% rebate; 500 kWh = 2% rebate; 750 kWh = 3% rebate. We went through said program in year 1, and got 3% of the cost back because people flocked to the program. Having said that, from what I hear, they hit the 2 or 3% threshold in every year, so I would bank on getting at least 1% back if you live in an area that has such a group buy program. The link earlier in this section has a searchable map you can use.

Bi-directional meter - Your utility will need to install a bi-directional meter, since your meter will need to have the ability to spin backward. They should install this at no cost to you.

Inverter - You'll need to have an inverter installed somewhere in your home. The basement is typically recommended, since they aren't exactly an interior design feature. Depending on the size of your system, you might need more than 1, but you probably won't need more than 2. Fun fact: The inverter comes with its own outlet that can be utilized in case the traditional power goes out, but the sun is still shining. Your panels will provide power to said outlet.

Batteries - Everyone wants to know about battery backups. They are coming down in price, but unless you have power outages routinely, I would just use the grid as your battery for now. You can always add a battery (or two or however many) later on.

Here is a link to an organization that has a lot of helpful information and is spearheading a lot of the group buying incentives, but they also have training events in case you want to try to DIY it.

Hope that helps get you started, and if you (or others) have other questions, just use this thread.

AWvsCBsteeeerike3
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Re: Going Solar: How To Edition

Post by AWvsCBsteeeerike3 »

Appreciate the information.

How much does it cost to install a system for an average sized, say 1500 sf, house with typical energy demands?

We have a POA that limits the amount of panels you can put on the roof. It's on my list to talk to them about that...but, it's pretty low on my list.

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Re: Going Solar: How To Edition

Post by Popeye_Card »

Timely question. I was just doing some quick research yesterday into installing a solar kit on the roof of our guest house rental, and thought the same thing about the info on the internet being a bit confusing (and the sites selling kits a bit outdated / amateur).

I have a good south-facing roof at a good pitch (~8:12), that I probably need to replace the shingles on soon anyway so I was thinking of installing panels at the same time. But that roof section is only ~500 sq. ft. so I'm a bit limited on the size of system I can install. The electric draw is a bit higher for the square footage since it has all electric heat and water heater.

Worth the investment? Bills typically run around $60/mo., running up to ~$150 in the cold winter / hot summer months. I'd be able to write it off as a business (rental) expense, but does that negate being able to get the federal tax credit then?

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CardsofSTL
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Re: Going Solar: How To Edition

Post by CardsofSTL »

I thought this solar stuff got hacked by the Russians.

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mikechamp
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Re: Going Solar: How To Edition

Post by mikechamp »

CardsofSTL wrote:
December 17 20, 8:34 am
I thought this solar stuff got hacked by the Russians.
No. They only hacked the wind.

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mikechamp
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Re: Going Solar: How To Edition

Post by mikechamp »

Here's a couple "hot takes" on the questions posed:

AW: I wouldn't be able to quote or estimate the cost, since I am not a solar salesman/installer. It's going to depend on how many panels your POA/HOA allows. Does their language have any stance on ground-mounted arrays? If not, and you were wanting to supplement your roof-based array, you would be within your rights to install something there, too.

And don't get me started on HOAs. I am no fan of those things. I doubt AR has a solar rights law like IL and other states do, whereby a POA/HOA cannot reasonably infringe upon your right to renewable power (solar or wind) generation. If my assumption is true, then you don't have any recourse against their asinine policy because they are a legally enforceable entity. I've sometimes found municipalities and sometimes powerless, or at the very least reluctant, to infringe upon their sovereignty.

Popeye: With good solar orientation, even 500 s.f. of roof can generate a decent amount of power. Are you also in the STL area?

We also replaced our roofing at the same time, though I will tell you both contractors will advise you do the roofing before the solar panels. With all electric heat and water heater, I would think it would make even more sense for you to go solar.

You'd have to talk with your tax professional, but the fact that you own the rental house means you are the only eligible party to receive the tax credit. The renter would not be, and that's why solar is typically not as appealing to people who live in apartments or other rental properties. They can't take advantage of the tax credit, unless they subscribe to community solar, and even then, it gets tricky since they are not a part owner. They are usually a lessee.

Overall - because the sun doesn't charge for the power it generates, solar provides a bit of an insurance policy against future utility rate hikes. And like I say in some of the presentations I give, "Can I get a quick show of hands of the people who think, if we stay with the current model of power generation, their utility bills will go down in the future? Nobody? Maybe 1 or 2? Exactly."

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Fat_Bulldog
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Re: Going Solar: How To Edition

Post by Fat_Bulldog »

Thanks mikechamp.

I have a 3 story home that faces west with a huge roof. My electricity bills are through the roof..... with a pool, hot tub and west facing most of the time. Around $350 to $400/month. I think I would be a good candidate as all of one side of my roof faces west without any obstruction. I get a ton of sunlight.

I will be looking into Solar. I may ping you from time to time if that's okay.

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mikechamp
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Re: Going Solar: How To Edition

Post by mikechamp »

Fat_Bulldog wrote:
December 17 20, 11:32 am
Thanks mikechamp.

I have a 3 story home that faces west with a huge roof. My electricity bills are through the roof..... with a pool, hot tub and west facing most of the time. Around $350 to $400/month. I think I would be a good candidate as all of one side of my roof faces west without any obstruction. I get a ton of sunlight.

I will be looking into Solar. I may ping you from time to time if that's okay.
Please do.

And it's interesting that you bring up pools. Their pumps use a lot of energy. Depending on the age of the pool pump, it may be interesting to look into a more efficient pump (Pentair is one brand that is usually at the top of the efficiency lists) prior to theoretically sizing your possible PV system.

Do you have a solar cover for your pool? That can also offset some of the heating-related energy demand, if your pump also supplies heat to your pool. On the topic of covers, it is important to note that automatic pool covers work much better than manual covers, because the pool owners actually use automatic pool covers. It will also save you on evaporation losses, too, which means a saving on your water bill.

Also, keep in mind a west-facing system will generate a lot of power... in the 2nd half of the day. It's certainly better than nothing, but this is where a solar professional can do some math and model how much a system on your roof, at your specific site, could generate.

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