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Residents Association of Greater Lake Mathews

RAGLM Board > General Discussion > To Solar or Not to Solar - THAT is the Question
4/23/2013 10:04:55 PM
Another thought on solarReply: Michelle Randall
You might want to evaluate your electrical load and do it yourself.  We have 12 acres with two wells. Our bill was consistantly + or - $300.00 per mo due to watering our trees and yard. We did not deal with either a solar installer or the utility company. We bought storage tankes, built our own frames and put solar panels up next to or wells with a solar pump in each well (Grundfos pump) in 2008. Our bill now consistantly runs under $100.00 per mo. and is sometimes as low as $40.00. The whole setup paid for itself long ago and should serve us well into the future. Michelle Randall
4/22/2013 6:17:05 PM
To Solar or Not to Solar - THAT is the QuestionPost: jimb
Sorry for the length of this, but TRULY due diligence is required before committing to any of the mass market solar system being sold today, under the guise of helping the environment and taking advantage of fading gubmint credits to make it less painful.

I used to live in GH and sold solar for awhile.

Being a true believer in the "there's no such thing as a free lunch" theory of life, I am not an evangelist for any particular alternate source of energy - they ALL (like any medication) have some pretty nasty side effects, and for the most part, all they TRULY do is move the point of pollution from one site to another.

TBS, there are a few things to keep in mind about solar, particularly in rural areas:
1- DUST is your enemy and will seriously reduce the system's ouput if the panels are not kept clean.  I drove past one over near WOOD AVE the other day and for the life of me can't understand how they could be getting ANY significant output when there was a SOLID layer of real dirt on all the panels.  (Have you ever LOOKED in your rain gutters or flushed out the dirt from your roof?)

2 - BE AWARE, that any time the grid drops out YOUR solar system will shut down and will require an ONSITE UTILITY REP VISIT at THEIR convenience to re-connect it to the grid. (There's a legitimate technical/danger reason for this that I won't bore you with unless asked.) Waiting time for a reconnection visit to a property in the boonies may be longer than desired at times.

3 - Unless you start out with an off-grid system (mucho $$$$), your solar system is a way to REDUCE your utility supplied electricity consumption DURING SUNNY HOURS ONLY and hence their bill to you. You cannot run ANYTHING at night/dark sky/rain/snow without grid support.

4 - Present technology is about 25 years for the panels (with gradual but measurable decaying output over that time) and about 10 years for the DC (solar panel output) to AC (elctric grid) converter box.  The inverter, depending on size runs anywhere from ~$1,000 to $5K or more to replace and replacemnt may or may not be included in the installation price.

5 - Roof condition and loading is also an issue to be concerned about.  Support for the panels WILL require drilling through the roof covering and into the rafters.  Unless your roof's remainaing conservative life span exceeds the panels, you will be in for some unpleasant costs when the roof has to be replaced or even repaired.

6 - All the sales models for solar systems (or wind) REQUIRE contiued escalation of average utility charges.  Obviously, that IS the most likely scenario, on the other hand, so was the "forever" rise in real estate values.

My ultimate view of home solar is that IF you:

- want to reduce your SCE (or DWP like agency) bill
- have a roof with 30 years or so of life left in it
- have a way to ensure the panels get cleaned REGULARLY
- have a roof orientation and size compatible with optimum power generation
- don't care about where pollution occurs
- are willing to live without the benefit of your system for a significant period whenever there is a grid glitch
- are OK with the inverter replacement issue
then by all means, go for it.

One last issue.  From everything I've heard, this has not changed since I was actively selling.  There are FIVE entities involved in getting solar generating power online at your property.

1 - YOU - tryingto SAVE $$$
2 - Solar Company - trying to MAKE $$$
3 - Utility Company - trying to SAVE $$$ (by reducing upgrades to the grid) while trying to satisfy gubmint meddlers
4 - Local Building Department - trying to JUSTIFY their job/$$$$
5 - State & Federal Gubmint - trying to SPEND as much of our $$$ as possible

The Solar Company will want to get paid as soon as the system has been installed or maybe even before (down payment???).  They are NOT going to wait until YOU start saving $$$, if EVER.

The Utility Comapany has no immediate benefit from sending someone out to certify your system - could be serveral weeks, I've heard sometimes months, and the Solar Company is not going to wait for their $$$ until the connection occurs and/or you start saving $$$.

The Building Department has NO motivation to move your plans through the approval process quickly - in fact they're ALWAYS "overburdened".

The least impacting entity in this particular case is usually the gubmint. Most sales models have any gubmint funds going DIRECTLY to the Solar Company, NOT the homeowner, so unless the fine print can hammer you, the risk on the issue of any gubmint policy changes gets absorbed by the Solar Company once the contract is signed.

Bottom Line  = it's NOT a Slam Dunk decision like they want you to believe.  Be careful, think it through, peform your Due Diligence and DO NOT fall victim to the ONE CALL IN-HOME SALES CALL.

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