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Where to start - converting from generator/UPS to more reasonable solar / powerwall?

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  • #46
    Another brief update: oddly both the Sense and Smappee were reading about the same total consumption level, but when I was looking at some individual circuits and devices I couldn't reconcile the numbers. So I took pictures of the meter over the course of a few days and it turns out both devices were only reading ~1/3 of the real load. The Sense because the clamps couldn't close all the way on the main 400a line and the Smappee for some other reason (I suspect it's set to 3 phase incorrectly or somesuch - their tech support is trying to figure out why). So, while disappointing, that means my bogie isn't what I thought, but it's still a bill that should be in the range of $3k to $5k (depending on summer A/C) vs the $6k I've actually been getting.

    Had one big surprise and one wakeup call; there is a fume hood over the range which is silent and vents to a spinning fan in the roof. You can't tell if it's on or not. As it turns out though, it consumes 3,000W when it's on, which is 1 out of every 4-5 minutes. It probably also takes heat out of the house and causes the furnace/ac to work harder. So disconnecting that at the breaker is worth it. I'll switch it off and see if anyone notices. The wake up came as I saw my chandeliers in dining and kitchen running real-time on my sense app. All in they are about 1000W when on. Those are going to LED bulbs. They already would be but I don't like the asthetics of the candelabra bulbs with the half-plastic base. I found out now they have the filament style now so problem solved - have them on order to ship next week. Other LED bulb will cut another chunk, and switching off the broken security cameras and related computer is another chunk while not compromising my security system.

    So all in maybe 10,000kwh per year savings with guesstimate hours of consumption, or about what I was hoping for.

    The next challenge is the appliances; hard to compare the existing ones to what the latest and greatest in that space are doing energy wise. That said, since they're all about 15 years old, and expensive to replace when I don't otherwise have to, I suspect only the two refrigerators run often enough that you'd make up the savings for it to make sense to replace them.

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    • #47
      Another update, potentially final:

      Generator: Turns out nobody will buy it anyway since it's too small for the resale guys. Got 1 offer for 20% of what it's worth, 10% of buy-new price, so it is getting repaired. I'm up to $500 in replacement parts (battery and electrical panel) and $800 for labor so far. I was able to find someone willing to work on it but they aren't a "Cat certified" repairer, hence the (somewhat) lower cost since they don't have to drive 2 hours each way. I'm taking a risk going with a non-name brand repair shop but I think it's worth it. Famous last words.

      UPS: basically dead / eating batteries feverishly since it actually had to be used as I flipped breakers on and off recently. I'm selling it for $700. I will replace with a whole house battery to cover the genset startup time but will size the battery lower since I have the generator. Due to solar credits, I get to save 30% on the cost of the battery and another $700 from the UPS it's very reasonable to do, cost wise.

      Solar: I'm proceeding. The sweet spot based on the incentive structures in new york state is either a $20k system (before credits) which ends up around 7.5KW, or a 25KW system. I'm collecting various quotes to see what the better of the two sizings is from an ROI perspective. Humorously, I need to cut down trees to install it, so by "going green" I'm harming the environment. Economically I save money on day 1 as long as I finance it since the savings more than pays for the PITI. If I stay here without selling the house I break even in ~10 years and if I end up using solar until they die I save about 50% of my total electric costs -- assuming electricity prices remain flat. If they go up then I'm even better off.

      Electricity monitors: a bit of a bust; I was able to isolate quite a few things but not the real big draw stuff, and not in a way that gives me more knowledge than any run of the mill current transformer at half the cost could. The "pattern recognition" that is touted isn't ready for prime time and is confused by varying draw levels. I would need circuit level monitoring and I have 128 circuits, which only one company out there offers, and that is for ~$2,000 + $1,000 per year. No thanks! If Sense gets better / more capable in the future I might take another look. It's certainly the best of what's out there today.

      Lighting: My lighting conversion to LED is a bust too because the house was built with Lutron Homeworks. Which happens to have similar problems as the generator -- nobody near by who can deal with it, way overbuilt which means big bucks to repair, and you can't even "downgrade" to something economical without significant investment in ripping out the old system. Lutron itself needs to have the LED capable dimming feature or the lights buzz like a hornets nest. The only options are to rip out a system and install individual lights which don't connect to the central system (which means I need to wire the home for a number of switches that don't currently exist, at a cost of ~$5k), or I need to update the central system (~$3k+) and all of the associated switches (another $3k+ on top). This would make them "smart"/wireless and save ~$800/yr on electricity but that pay back doesn't make sense. Which is why I'm going the solar route instead. Unless the lutron system breaks, it's there for life per my pocketbook vote.

      I can't un-recommend Lutron enough. Stay away. My takeaway from these and other related experiences: never, ever, ever, ever install / repair non-standard or proprietary systems in a home. They will break or become outdated and then it's mega-big ticket to repair and even more to replace.

      Taking a final look at dishwasher, washing machine, gas dryer (don't expect to find anything since most of it is newly replaced) and the last big target - the boiler/water heating system. This thing is always on and is a beast - dual boilers dual water tanks and a wall of thermostats and piping. I'm cautiously optimistic.

      Good thing I enjoy learning about houses and systems or I'd be very stressed out at this point

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      • #48
        Maybe you're finding out some of the (other) reason(s) why you got the property for 30% of construction cost.

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        • #49
          Originally posted by 2tall4economy View Post
          Had one big surprise and one wakeup call; there is a fume hood over the range which is silent and vents to a spinning fan in the roof. You can't tell if it's on or not. As it turns out though, it consumes 3,000W when it's on, which is 1 out of every 4-5 minutes. It probably also takes heat out of the house and causes the furnace/ac to work harder. So disconnecting that at the breaker is
          What kind of range hood use 3000 watts? That is a 4 HP electric motor. Is it a huge commercial range hood? Why is it running 20% of the time? Are they using the range hood to meet some sort of energy code for ventilation in the house?

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          • #50
            Originally posted by reader2580 View Post

            What kind of range hood use 3000 watts? That is a 4 HP electric motor. Is it a huge commercial range hood? Why is it running 20% of the time? Are they using the range hood to meet some sort of energy code for ventilation in the house?
            A range hood with a built in microwave maybe?
            OutBack FP1 w/ CS6P-250P http://bit.ly/1Sg5VNH

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            • #51
              Had my home energy audit a few days back and learned a lot but not at all what I expected to learn; basically they told me the house was incredibly well insulated, appliances were energy star level, everything was safe and vented etc... they didn't even find leaks in the basement. The only comment they had was that my air con units were SEER 12 (which was known) but it didn't make financial sense to replace them.

              So that was nearly a bust. However, I did learn a ton about my HVAC system. I sort of knew all of this hadn't pieced it together:

              I have 3 blower units, which move both hot and cold air (no furnace, no air con unit as such). The boilers pipe into the water holding tanks (not water heaters as such), AND into the blowers themselves. So the blowers get their heat from the boilers too. And there is floor heating that the boilers also do.

              And when the AC runs, it also just goes to the blowers, through a similar system.

              The energy audit guys thought it was a pretty slick set up so I would hazard a guess that's the most efficient method one can get.

              However, it also highlighted the missing piece of the puzzle (and big DERP from me for not realizing it). There are ~20 of these little guys hanging around on the walls downstairs pushing all this heated and cooled water around all year long:

              http://www.supplyhouse.com/Taco-007-...FQyOaQodc9wLfg

              20 pumps * 115 volts * 0.71 amps * 365 days * 24 hours / 1000 watts in a kilo = 14,305 KWH / year = half of my electricity bill now that I've swapped out most of my lighting and have done the few other things I could.

              Apparently there is no solution to replace these in terms of lower power as they won't last. So really Solar is the only option. And I'm proceeding at pace there. Disappointing outcome perhaps but there is a certain satisfaction in finally understanding.

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