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 Post subject: Solar/wind energy on the cheap?
PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:37 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2008 12:06 pm
Posts: 53
Location: Fort Wayne, IN
For a while, I've been thinking about ways to "go green", so to speak--save up to get solar panels/windmills installed on the roof. Though with as frugal as we've been with electricity usage (less than 350 kilowatt-hours per month, even with our 20-year-old refrigerator), it hasn't really seemed that big a priority. Better to get our house insulated, new (i.e. non-leaky) front door and windows. However, the prospect of solar power hasn't left the back of my mind. So i did some searching, and came up with a few sites offering "how-to" guides to build/set up your own systems on the cheap; http://www.earth4energy.com is such an example. Does anybody have experience with this or any other such guides? Are they on the up-and-up? Or would I still be better off waiting and saving up for a professional job, or not bothering at all, given how low our bills already are?


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:50 pm 

Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2009 10:17 am
Posts: 123
Location: SC
I've been looking into solar myself, but I was specifically looking for a system that would feed the grid my extra power. That stuff is really expensive. I consider myself a pretty decent DIY'er, but I still wouldn't want to try that on my own. At the very least I'd like to get solar power to help out my hot water heater. I don't use much electricity as it is, but the heater is gas powered, and it takes up the majority of my power bills.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:54 pm 

Joined: Fri Jan 02, 2009 7:42 am
Posts: 269
As an electrician... I would advise hiring someone for the main service feed.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:10 am 

Joined: Sun Apr 29, 2007 8:11 am
Posts: 1088
Location: Sunny Florida
We've been looking at solar too, we have the perfect spot for panels and we get a ton of sun in South Fla. But, the prices and technology is changing so quickly in solar that we probably won't move forward for a few years.

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 5:30 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
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Another factor to consider in "going green" is how much impact you'll have by switching to solar or another renewable energy source.

I've long dreamed of running my office on solar power (I work as an environmental writer and editor, so it's a natural for me and a selling point for my services), but where I live nearly all our electricity comes from hydropower and thus produces no greenhouse gas emissions or conventional air pollutants. In my case, switching to solar would have pretty much zero benefit to the environment, and the cost of electricity here is so low that it would take decades to recoup my investment. My heat and hot water are electric as well, so really the only ways for me to reduce my emissions are in the areas of transportation, waste, and the food I choose to eat.

If you want to find out how clean your electricity is, use EPA's Power Profiler:

http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/how-clean.html

You plug in your Zip code and it gives you the result. Every region in the United States has a different power mix. What gets tricky is coming up with an average of the baseload mix versus the plants that are brought online only to provide power at times of peak demand. Some of those plants are really dirty (e.g., diesel), while others are relatively clean (natural gas).


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:44 am 
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Location: Chicago
My dad thought of putting panels on the roof of our house years ago when I was young but never did. And this was way back before it was mainstream. I'd love to do something like this but the costs are so prohibitive. It kind of locks you in if you put all that money into it, you'd like to still be there when it pays for itself. But then if you move....

I guess it creates value for your house too...so that's something that might even help it sell.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 11:09 am 

Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2009 10:17 am
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Location: SC
My dad did it for the hot water heater in our house in MA. In the 80s.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 19, 2009 7:42 pm 
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Location: NC
Solar Hot Water has a much better ROI (typically 4-5 years) and a much lower investment.

I hesitate to invest in Solar PV right now, as I think they need to get a good deal more efficient to make it worth while, since my electricity only costs $0.10/KWh. When I can get a 3 or 4KW system with the same footprint and cost as a current 2KW, it will start to make sense financially.

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2009 8:17 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 31, 2008 12:06 pm
Posts: 53
Location: Fort Wayne, IN
brad wrote:
Another factor to consider in "going green" is how much impact you'll have by switching to solar or another renewable energy source.

I've long dreamed of running my office on solar power (I work as an environmental writer and editor, so it's a natural for me and a selling point for my services), but where I live nearly all our electricity comes from hydropower and thus produces no greenhouse gas emissions or conventional air pollutants. In my case, switching to solar would have pretty much zero benefit to the environment, and the cost of electricity here is so low that it would take decades to recoup my investment. My heat and hot water are electric as well, so really the only ways for me to reduce my emissions are in the areas of transportation, waste, and the food I choose to eat.

If you want to find out how clean your electricity is, use EPA's Power Profiler:

http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/how-clean.html

You plug in your Zip code and it gives you the result. Every region in the United States has a different power mix. What gets tricky is coming up with an average of the baseload mix versus the plants that are brought online only to provide power at times of peak demand. Some of those plants are really dirty (e.g., diesel), while others are relatively clean (natural gas).


Thanks for the link. It looks as though we're living smack dab in the middle of coal country, as that's the source of nearly 80% of our power, with nuclear filling in the remainder.

The thought of solar hot water hadn't crossed my mind at all; from what little I've read it sounds doable. Not sure how well such a system would hold up during the winter months, but it's something to keep in mind.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:33 pm 

Joined: Sun Apr 15, 2007 6:18 pm
Posts: 47
Solar hot water heaters are big in India, where the power grid is extremely unreliable. I saw a ton of them on rooftops.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 2:11 pm 

Joined: Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:01 pm
Posts: 30
Location: Boston, MA
Martacus wrote:
brad wrote:
Another factor to consider in "going green" is how much impact you'll have by switching to solar or another renewable energy source.

I've long dreamed of running my office on solar power (I work as an environmental writer and editor, so it's a natural for me and a selling point for my services), but where I live nearly all our electricity comes from hydropower and thus produces no greenhouse gas emissions or conventional air pollutants. In my case, switching to solar would have pretty much zero benefit to the environment, and the cost of electricity here is so low that it would take decades to recoup my investment. My heat and hot water are electric as well, so really the only ways for me to reduce my emissions are in the areas of transportation, waste, and the food I choose to eat.

If you want to find out how clean your electricity is, use EPA's Power Profiler:

http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/how-clean.html

You plug in your Zip code and it gives you the result. Every region in the United States has a different power mix. What gets tricky is coming up with an average of the baseload mix versus the plants that are brought online only to provide power at times of peak demand. Some of those plants are really dirty (e.g., diesel), while others are relatively clean (natural gas).


Thanks for the link. It looks as though we're living smack dab in the middle of coal country, as that's the source of nearly 80% of our power, with nuclear filling in the remainder.

The thought of solar hot water hadn't crossed my mind at all; from what little I've read it sounds doable. Not sure how well such a system would hold up during the winter months, but it's something to keep in mind.


Anywhere that it freezes more than rarely - ie most of the US - they use an "indirect" system with an outdoor loop of water/glycol and a heat exchanger in the storage tank so freezing isn't an issue unless it gets really, really cold. There's a lot of data on the Internet to help evaluate the solar resource available at your particular location. Here's one example:

http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/pubs/redbook/


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 8:12 am 

Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 9:38 am
Posts: 280
There are a couple of cooperative groups which do their own installation. One is in Cambridge, MA and the other is somewhere in NH, maybe around Plymouth NH. You might research it and see if you can recruit others to create your own cooperative.

My house is facing the wrong way to reap much benefit from solar. My husband has been talking about putting up a shed in our back yard. I've already told him that when he builds the shed, it has to go in, in such a way that we can install solar panels on it someday.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:14 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2008 8:27 pm
Posts: 591
Location: NC
Keep in mind that you aren't replacing your existing hot water heater. You're just feeding it with pre-heated (by the Sun) water, reducing the fiel costs to heat it. In the summer, this will reduce it almost completely, in the winter it will significantly reduce, but not eliminate, fuel costs for heating water.

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 Post subject: look for state incentives
PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 11:08 am 

Joined: Tue May 08, 2007 10:49 am
Posts: 16
Especially with the just passed stimulus package - keep an eye out for federal and state incentive programs.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:36 pm 

Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:05 pm
Posts: 1356
Here's a really handy list of all the stimulus-related tax incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_tax_credits

Note that for solar and geothermal installations on new or existing homes, you get a 30% tax credit with no upper limit (most of the other tax credits are capped at a certain dollar amount). This is a good deal!


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