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Picking a Solar System - Have spent months researching - head is spinning even more!

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  • Picking a Solar System - Have spent months researching - head is spinning even more!

    Hey all,

    I'm struggling here, and hoping someone can walk me through this like they would a 5 year old.

    In August we moved into a 3850 sqft house, powered by Edison. We have two HVAC units, 5K and 4K BTU. We have a pool, with a spa. The wife runs the AC 12hrs/day in the summer, and the heat 12hrs/day in the winter.

    Here is my running usage since we moved in:

    I have met with several installers. NRG, Semper, and a few other respectable installers.

    They all have the same pitch, only their equipment differs. I've been offered a wide array of panels: Solaria, Panasonic, Silfab, Canadian, you name it, it's been offered.

    The best price I received for a 15K+- system is about $3.05/W.

    I've had some weird pushback from several installers regarding the panel brands. For some reason, no one wants to install Panasonic, despite the fact that I've clearly stated to installers that I want Panasonic panels. Yes, the output is smaller (330 compared to 360 or 370), but I've clearly stated that I would rather cut back/make more efficient my home so that I can have Panasonic panels. Still, pushback.

    Here are my questions for you guys who've been through this:

    1. What size system would you install based on my usage?

    2. Why the pushback on the Panasonic panels? Are there incentives other brands offer to installers that are not being disclosed to me? I just cant wrap my head around why I'm getting so much resistance after clearly stating, in writing, that I can sleep easy knowing Panasonic will be here in 20 years to honor the warranty.

    3. That said, are the other panels worth the comfort loss? What I mean is, Solaria panels look amazing, and they do perform better than Panasonic, but will Solaria still be around in the years to come to honor my warranty?

    4. Is there any weight in the workmanship warranty provided by the installer or is the wise to just count on manufacturer warranty? They all look the same, but for example, I read through the Semper warranty (my #1 choice based on reviews, client feedback) and there are holes, and a very vague description of their coverage in case of damage or faulty installation.

    5. Are there any questions I'm not asking?

    I appreciate your advice here gents. Sending you each a bundle of good karma in trade for your assist here.


    Attached Files

  • #2
    I am wondering where the house is, and how well insulated it is? Pool(pump)s are big energy drains.
    And how old your HVAC equipment is? Your numbers are somewhat like mine, 15KW ground array
    here in northern IL.

    I started by cleaning up usage waste. That might mean a different pump. What is the SEER rating,
    or better yet the COP of your HVAC equipment? 8 SEER was used decades ago, I am now using
    33 SEER with corresponding energy saving. If your heat pumps can not cover your lowest temps,
    resistive heat will multiply usage many times. You will need net metering to make solar effective.
    Bruce Roe

    Comment


    • #3


      Originally posted by The Vazha View Post
      1. What size system would you install based on my usage?
      No one can really answer that without modeling your home and knowing the location.
      You will also need to give your annual usage or at least monthly average so far.

      Originally posted by The Vazha View Post
      2. Why the pushback on the Panasonic panels? Are there incentives other brands offer to installers that are not being disclosed to me? I just cant wrap my head around why I'm getting so much resistance after clearly stating, in writing, that I can sleep easy knowing Panasonic will be here in 20 years to honor the warranty.
      Likely they just can't get them. They are very popular.

      Originally posted by The Vazha View Post
      3. That said, are the other panels worth the comfort loss? What I mean is, Solaria panels look amazing, and they do perform better than Panasonic, but will Solaria still be around in the years to come to honor my warranty?
      The only ones higher in performance are a few LG models and Sunpower but I would not say sunpower are worth the price difference. LG maybe as the price is close.

      Originally posted by The Vazha View Post
      4. Is there any weight in the workmanship warranty provided by the installer or is the wise to just count on manufacturer warranty? They all look the same, but for example, I read through the Semper warranty (my #1 choice based on reviews, client feedback) and there are holes, and a very vague description of their coverage in case of damage or faulty installation.
      yes you want a decent installer to be around to cover their workmanship as they are drilling holes in your roof etc.

      Originally posted by The Vazha View Post
      5. Are there any questions I'm not asking?
      really the PV modules are pretty much commodity at this point. Look at reviews of the installer, and other parts, like inverter and racking that they will be using. I would put a lot of weight on the inverter (maybe much more depending on the install)



      OutBack FP1 w/ CS6P-250P http://bit.ly/1Sg5VNH

      Comment


      • #4
        The best way you can get yourself informed rather than be spoonfed the necessary information is to start by reading.

        Decide what you want to accomplish.

        Download or buy (~ $20 at amazon or bookstores) a copy of "Solar Power Your Home for Dummies". Then read it.

        Next, understand how you are charged for power. This is a necessary PITA.

        Then, figure out how much electricity you use per year while learning that reducing your use is much more cost effective than throwing the most expensive way to generate electricity (residential PV) at it.

        Then, download PVWatts. Read the help/iunfo screens a couple of times so you don't input nonsense to the model. Make a few runs and zero in on a size that suits your goals.

        Then, come back here and fill in knowledge blanks your information quest generates. Do it that way and you'll learn more and waste less time separating practical reality from the hubristic fiction that's common on public forums such as this.

        Then, preliminarily size a system.

        See how ell that size fits your original goal(s). Iterate goals and size and adjust.

        Repeat the process with refined goals until you get something that makes sense to you.

        Only then call 3 or so vendors who are have been licensed electrical contractors for at least 10 yrs. and sold PV for at least 5 years or more. Tell them what you want and do not rely on them for sizing. With your newly acquired knowledge you'll get screwed less that way.

        In short, do the above and your questions will be answered by someone more knowledgeable of your situation than anyone here (You).

        Opinions:
        Vendors make money by putting product on your property, not looking out for your interests, financial or otherwise. In the best of idealistic worlds they will look out for their clients' best long term interests. however, the real world effectively makes such actions non cost effective for them. This is the real world.

        Beyond some basic quality level, panels (and most all PV equipment) are a commodity.

        Chasing low initial price is the errand of a fool. Look for most bang for the long term buck, and know the value of vendor quality and integrity and how to find it remembering that not everyone who tells you what you think sounds good is telling you the truth or is your friend. Education as acquired above will help separate reality from B.S.

        Solar PV is the least cost effect way to reduce an electric bill. The more you learn the more obvious that will become.

        Take what you want of the above. Scrap the rest.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by The Vazha View Post
          1. What size system would you install based on my usage?
          Depends on a lot of things. Is your usage tiered? Then absolutely enough to get down to the next lowest tier. Best bet is to do efficiency improvements FIRST then consider solar to get you out of the top tier(s.)
          2. Why the pushback on the Panasonic panels? Are there incentives other brands offer to installers that are not being disclosed to me? I just cant wrap my head around why I'm getting so much resistance after clearly stating, in writing, that I can sleep easy knowing Panasonic will be here in 20 years to honor the warranty.
          They could be hard to get. They could drive the price up for the installer, so he'd lose out to someone else. The installer could have a deal with a local distributor for Jinko panels.
          3. That said, are the other panels worth the comfort loss? What I mean is, Solaria panels look amazing, and they do perform better than Panasonic, but will Solaria still be around in the years to come to honor my warranty?
          Hard to say. But panels very rarely fail, so it's not a big risk.
          5. Are there any questions I'm not asking?
          Do you want backup power?
          Will you need an electrical panel upgrade? Will the installer do a line side tap?
          Is your exposure good and free of ANY shade?

          Comment


          • #6
            I think you are putting too much priority into the panel warranties. That would be low on my list. Just because you believe that Panasonic is more likely be around in another 10+ years that doesn't mean they won't fight you tooth and nail to deny a claim. Employees in warranty departments are highly rewarded for denying claims, not for processing them.
            Dave W. Gilbert AZ
            6.63kW grid-tie owner

            Comment


            • #7
              Panasonic solar panels are high dollars/watt. Unless you are really constricted on mounting space, high efficiency panels afre not worth it. Panels are getting to be a commodity and any tier 1 or 2 manufacturer is going to be durable. Solar PV panels last a long time, don't worry about the warranty - it is difficult to get any manufacturer to honor them anyway.
              BSEE, R11, NABCEP, Chevy BoltEV, >2000kW installed

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by solarix View Post
                Panasonic solar panels are high dollars/watt. Unless you are really constricted on mounting space, high efficiency panels afre not worth it. Panels are getting to be a commodity and any tier 1 or 2 manufacturer is going to be durable. Solar PV panels last a long time, don't worry about the warranty - it is difficult to get any manufacturer to honor them anyway.
                I agree, although I had an anecdotal experience with BP with a recall. They paid me enough that I was able to increase my system size using Canadian Solar panel.. I wasn't constricted on mounting space and I realize a recall is different than a warrant claim. That decision to go with the less expensive panels also involved a risk management decision because that entity had a higher tolerance for degradation of production.

                At another location I did go with Sunpower panels because I was constricted on space.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Other's here have already covered all of the major points. Certainly we need to understand where you home is located (geographically) how much roof or ground mount space you have, the pitch and orientation of your roof, how many MWh you use per year and your cost per kWh.

                  Definitely steer clear of the "box box" solar retailers (SunRun, Solar City, NRG, etc.) and get quotes from reputable local installers (check out EnergySage, Angies List, Word of Mouth, etc.). Always buy, never lease. If possible, select a local installer which does both residential and commercial solar -- they'll have likely been / be in business longer -- and may be better suited to handle the larger install you're looking at.

                  Using tools like Solar Edge Site designer or PVWatts you can estimate the approximate PV Array size needed to offset your usage based on your location, climate, etc.

                  I cannot speak to panel MFG incentives, but panels are typically ordered in bulk by the pallet (at minimum) or shipping container. So installers often try to steer you to panels they have already bought (or have committed to buy) in order to get the best pricing. This significantly reduces their materials cost and lowers your price per watt (a little). Additionally, some panel MFG's do have special "partnerships" with select installers (SunPower, Panasonic, LG, etc.) in which the installer often gets some extra training (on how to sell) in exchange for better wholesale pricing. My installer, for example, had such agreements with LG and Panasonic, but not SunPower.

                  I have Panasonic panels myself (37x330W). I paid approximately $3.25/W (before incentives) for my 12.2kW array back in 2017. There shouldn't be a shortage. Panasonic has a huge plant in the Philippines and in Buffalo, NY. There was also a plan in Japan, but it has been idled for the past several years. The LG Neon R's look really nice, but these are even more expensive.

                  But, as others have said, you're unlikely to ever make a successful panel warranty claim, save for perhaps the occasional infant mortality. But, in my case, I chose the Panasonic panels for the following reasons:

                  1) Needed maximal efficiency given limited roof size
                  2) Reliable brand with very good warranty (I was also considering the LG Neon2 at the time -- The "R-series" wasn't released yet)
                  3) Excellent installed track record for longevity and consistently high productivity (>10yrs) -- zero PID, and very, very low LID. Excellent thermal coefficient.

                  But as others have said, if you have enough roof space and optimal orientation and pitch, you may not need such a highly efficient panel. You pay a premium for this efficiency (Watts / meter-squared)

                  Also keep in mind, some electric company residential interconnect agreements may limit you to a 10kW array or may make you buy liability insurance over 10kW. I'm fortunate that mine did not. However, mine did hold me to an array size which would reasonably offset no more than ~100-110% of annual historical usage.

                  Do you have a 200amp or 400amp panel? You'll likely need a line-side tap (which is what I have) and will likely need rapid shutdown capability per your local building codes. So most likely Solar Edge or Enphase solution.

                  Trina, Jinko, Hanwha, and LG Neon2 are all good lower cost panels. If you have the space, commercial 72-cell panels usually have the lowest cost per watt. but the frames tend to be aluminum in color.

                  -Jonathan

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