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Old 06-01-2014, 10:02 AM   #1
Patrol OP
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Solar power at home

My hydro bill is consistently higher than my mortgage (I'm in Ontario, Canada, where hydro is notoriously overpriced). In fact, it is higher than my mortgage, insurance, and car payment combined.

It seems like all the houses around me are installing solar panels. Everyone, even Costco, are selling them now. Are you using them? I know they aren't a passing fad but do they need more development time? Can you power an entire home with them?

Any info/thoughts/opinions welcome.
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Old 06-01-2014, 04:37 PM   #2
bisbonian
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We have 10 panels, sorry but I don't know the capacity. We are grid-tied so have no type of battery storage.

At the moment we are generating about three times the power we use, but summer is here and we are getting ready to turn on the air conditioner.

All or our daytime power is generated by the sun, once the sun goes down then we feed from the grid. At some point, the power company will reconcile our account, if we have delivered more power to them than we've used then they'll cut us a check. I'm not sure at what point this happens yet, perhaps once or twice a year.

I am also in southern Arizona, we get a ton of sun.
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Old 06-01-2014, 06:21 PM   #3
Andyinhilo
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My house has 17 panels, and over a year we feed somewhat more into the grid than we consume. I live in Hilo, Hawaii where it rains a good bit, so we probably need more panels that some places.
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Old 06-01-2014, 06:28 PM   #4
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I've been looking for my RV, these guys seem to have good prices(I am not affiliated).
http://solarwholesaler.ca

I think you have to watch the quality when you buy solar equipment at costco, can tire etc.
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Old 06-01-2014, 07:27 PM   #5
broncobowsher
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OK lots of links to follow...

First off take the past year's worth of electric bills (hopefully they are representative of normal use) and find how many kWh (kilowatt hours) you use every month. There should be a seasonal swing.

Find out how Hydro handles excess energy. Will they buy it? If so at what rate? best is "net metering", they buy it at what they sell it to you at. Maybe they are dicks and refuse to buy it off you or only offer pennies on the dollar back.

Plug in some numbers here http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/calculat...index.html#map
Just get a feel for it, don't worry about getting it all sorted on the first time through. You will be stabbing numbers in blindly at first, but get a feel for array size and power generated.

Warning!!! Everyone I talk with ALWAYS gets confused over kWh (kW/H) and kW rating of the panel. One has a time factor, the other does not. A panel rated a 5kW can make 5kW of DC power IF exposed to 1,000 W/M2 solar radiation. That is the standard for testing panels. Depending on the time of the day, day of the year, aim of the panel, etc. is what the actual sun on the panel will be. The link above take that into its calculations. If the sun is only shining to 500 W/M2, the 5kW system will max out at 2,500 of continuous DC power. If you make that power for a whole hour, that is 2.5 kWh. In short, kWh is cumulative and how you are billed. kW is like a light bulb watt rating, only in reverse.

OK, some links to parts
https://www.ecodirect.com/
http://www.civicsolar.com/
http://www.renogy-store.com/default.asp

The panels are typically around 250 watts each (again at that mythical 1,000 W/M2 sunload). They work best if they are all aimed together and get equal loading. If you have some aimed differently they run unbalanced and reduced output on one can actually hurt the performance of other panels that should be doing fine. For that break the system up into like groups. If real ugly (lots of angles, sweeping shadows, etc.) micro invertors on each panel are a way around it.

Decent panels can be had for about $1 per watt of rated power. But you also need an invertor, that too is about $1 per watt or rated power. Brackets, installation, electrical... Around here a good deal is just over $3 per rated watt.

In sunny AZ, with my 5-12 roof pitch aimed WSW ~240. Good quality invertor I can get about 8,000 kW/h total for a year out of 5kW of panels. My electrical needs for a year are 10,000 kW/h. State law requires net metering. So a $15k investment (before tax rebates) will cover 80% of my electrical demand for the year. That gets me break even at about 8 years. Base price for electricity is 9 per kWh with almost 3 of "energy surcharge".

I plugged in 5kW of panel to Toronto and the rest of the default settings and it came back with 5414 kW/h per year.

Another part of it, what are the base charges for power? Just to be hooked up without using a single kW/h of juice? That will still exist unless you go totally off-grid. Off-grid gets more complicated. Now you are needing to know your energy consumption day and night for the whole year. Storage to cover the night time demands (battery) and a panel system large enough to cover the worst days of the year. This adds considerable expense on making it oversized enough, which turns into a bit of a waste most of the rest of the year as it is not fully utilized. And the large collection of batteries isn't cheap to buy and keep up either. Possible to add a generator for the low points in solar power, takes away a little of the need for oversizing the panels but adds another cost. Usually not worth it.

So looking at your hydro bills, what is your energy consumption?

For my plans, it would have to be a grid tie system. I don't have enough good roof space to cover a year's worth of electricity demands. and my summer power spike for the A/C load is massive. My winter 300 kW/h/month spikes to around 2,000 kW/h/month in the summer. I need grid tie to cover my high demand and avoid excessive capitol in equipment and battery expenses.
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Old 06-01-2014, 08:34 PM   #6
Manuel Garcia O'Kely
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Have you considered alternate fuels for any loads you can change? We get cheap electric but propane is pretty dear, so we use an electric water heater - other places, cost of electric is much higher than natural gas hot water, and of course, space heating?

If we had to heat with Propane, I'd have to make some big deals to get the cost down, so we heat with wood and wood pellets - pellets are convenient and thermostatic control. You need some electric power to run the thing but that would be a trivial load for a solar panel system.

The above post summarizes all the basic information you need to make some intelligent decisions. Let me say, going off-grid makes sense IF your area is subject to long, and regular power interruptions since grid-tie systems are required to go off line when the power goes down. Of course a generator might be cheaper than a battery bank since in an emergency you probably won't need to run the dryer or the oven if electric.

JOOC, what are you paying per KWh? I lived in CA where we were paying upwards of $0.15 which is at least double what I'm paying here in CO.
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Old 06-01-2014, 09:30 PM   #7
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You have "Net Metering" in Ontario, meaning you can hook the panels up on your side of the meter, and excess beyond what your house is using at any given minute runs your meter backwards. Google Hydro One and Net metering and all your questions will start getting answered. There's a whack of companies who will do all the hard work figuring out the cost/benefit and capacity of your site.

With this system you don't need an expensive battery bank. You won't be making money, but your panels, inverter, and wiring can pay for itself in a reasonable period of time if you have good exposure.

It's catching on in BC now. No subsidies, but people buying electric cars find themselves bumping into a second tier power rate and it's starting to make economic sense to put a bunch of panels up.
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Old 06-02-2014, 04:55 AM   #8
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The last I heard Hydro 1 will do an audit then mount solar panels on your house for free, and pay you for the energy for the next 20 years at some exorbitant rate.


Do you have electric heat or something? My Hydro Bill runs about 50 bucks a month, but I have NG heat and hot water.
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Old 06-02-2014, 05:13 AM   #9
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$50/month? Wow, that's great. Mine is hundreds. No electric heat but it's a large house with a couple of outdoor water features (which we now only turn on for parties etc).

Great info here, I'm researching all of it.
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Old 06-02-2014, 06:08 AM   #10
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Turn down, or up, your hydroponics...

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Old 06-02-2014, 06:42 AM   #11
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We also have a water feature in the back yard, which runs constantly. It doesn't pull much power.

House is only about 1100 sg/ft, and only two of us here.
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Old 06-02-2014, 08:13 AM   #12
NJjeff
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Oh? I thought a Hydro bill was water.

So you have to clarify, an electric bill is in the thousands a month?
How is that possible???????????????
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Old 06-02-2014, 08:41 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by NJjeff View Post
Oh? I thought a Hydro bill was water.

So you have to clarify, an electric bill is in the thousands a month?
How is that possible???????????????
People have no idea about the concept of conservation.

In the US, we pay good money to subsidize those people by paying for their panels.
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Old 06-02-2014, 10:54 AM   #14
Patrol OP
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Sorry, hydro as in hydro-electric, or Hydro-One, the provider here. As for "thousands", not sure where you're reading that. Hundreds, yes.

I had one bill so high (over $700 for a month) that the hydro company sent a technician to see what was happening. He found that the pumps in both water features are quite old and inefficient, but would be $3000 each to replace. They are massive steel pumps that could keep a battleship afloat, total overkill for residential use.

Even with those shut off I'm lucky to see a bill in the low $300s.
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Old 06-02-2014, 11:07 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Patrol View Post
Sorry, hydro as in hydro-electric, or Hydro-One, the provider here. As for "thousands", not sure where you're reading that. Hundreds, yes.

I had one bill so high (over $700 for a month) that the hydro company sent a technician to see what was happening. He found that the pumps in both water features are quite old and inefficient, but would be $3000 each to replace. They are massive steel pumps that could keep a battleship afloat, total overkill for residential use.

Even with those shut off I'm lucky to see a bill in the low $300s.
Ever thought about doing the math on replacing those pumps?

This ranks right up there with the guy in CSM complaining about high bills who insisted he needed 20+ lights, 16 hours a day, in his living area. In New Mexico.
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