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  • can i buy materials and have an installer install solar panel system?

    hi..we are building a new single family home. about 3000sqft. i was wondering if i should get solar power assuming my average bill is $150month. i talked to an installer and he says he can get the permit from city and install a 6kw unit including labor and materials for $12000-17000.

    some basic questions. can such unit power A/C in summer? in winter can i have heater run on any solar power (its unlikely as there may not be much sun in winter).

    the installer said most costly components are the panels (he said he could do 265w panels) and inverter.

    how long does the panels work? he said inverters are the ones that can go bad but panels can last over 30 years.

    can i buy some reliable material myself from a place like (costco or whoever?) and have this guy install it?

    he said he installs Q cell brand modules but LG, Hyundai are bit more expensive.

    appreciate any guidance.

    thank you.

  • #2
    Originally posted by mvd94539 View Post
    can i buy materials and have an installer install solar panel system?
    In my state, all certified 'installers' are dealers. They will not install anything that they did not sell to you. Otherwise it cuts into their profit margin too much.



    ... hi..we are building a new single family home. about 3000sqft. i was wondering if i should get solar power assuming my average bill is $150month. i talked to an installer and he says he can get the permit from city and install a 6kw unit including labor and materials for $12000-17000.
    is this an off-grid system? or a grid-tied net-metering system?



    ... some basic questions. can such unit power A/C in summer? in winter can i have heater run on any solar power (its unlikely as there may not be much sun in winter).
    no.



    Generally solar power is a lot more expensive than grid power. If you have cheap access to grid power, it may be more economical to use grid power.

    Since you have not built yet, have you considered a 'net-zero' home design?

    If you are thinking about spending money for electric, why not heating / cooling. Make a home that powers itself, heats itself, cools itself.

    4400w, Midnite Classic 150 charge-controller.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thanks a bunch for replying. never heard of net-zero energy design. I'll read it up. Yes, since I'm only in drawing plans level for new single family home, I thought I'll explore the solar options.

      Sure, I can go with the brand name that this installer sells. Does it have to be grid tied? If the approvals or reviews don't take months I have no problem with grid-tied net-metered system.

      This guy says he has been installing for nearly 5 years. As long as it can cover bulk of the energy (say upto 70-80%) charges during sunny days, I could consider it. We are in california near San Jose and we do get good sun almost 8 months of year. Plus the house is going to be south facing.

      Im going to read up on net-zero.

      Thanks again.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by mvd94539 View Post
        Thanks a bunch for replying. never heard of net-zero energy design. I'll read it up. Yes, since I'm only in drawing plans level for new single family home, I thought I'll explore the solar options.
        Get a large southern-facing roof with no vents going through it. (Or slightly west of south)
        And no shadows from a 2nd story or nearby trees.
        And possibly put it slightly steeper than typical 4/12 roof (a 6/12 roof would allow slightly more roof area and is probably better angle for solar here - I'd have to look at what is the optimal angle.)

        Does it have to be grid tied?
        Only if you want it to be economically worthwhile.

        If the approvals or reviews don't take months I have no problem with grid-tied net-metered system.
        2-4 weeks for PG&E to approve.
        The city permit should also be less than 4 weeks (and can be done at the same time)

        This guy says he has been installing for nearly 5 years. As long as it can cover bulk of the energy (say upto 70-80%) charges during sunny days, I could consider it. We are in california near San Jose and we do get good sun almost 8 months of year. Plus the house is going to be south facing.
        You would want something that would cover 90% (or maybe 100%) of your total electric bill on a dollar basis.
        And you would look at it for the whole year - not just per-day.
        CA power companies do "net metering" with an annual "true-up". That means every 365 days there will be a reckoning of your bill - how much did you produce over the past 365 days and how much did you consume over the past 365 days. And with PG&E you will want to use their time-of-use tarriff because that true-up is mostly on a dollar-basis. So you'll be producing kwh during time when those kwh are worth $$$ and consuming some of those kwh during times when kwh cost very little.

        Probably the goal will be for you to produce about 60% or 70% of your needs on a kwh basis, but 100% on a $ basis.
        Your installer should be able to help you figure that out. The biggest problem is probably that you'll have no idea what your usage will be until you've lived there a year.

        Comment


        • #5
          You can buy oil, filter and take it to a garage and ask for them to install it. see what they think. That's the response contractors will give you
          Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
          || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
          || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

          solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
          gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

          Comment


          • #6
            Here is my current usage in a smaller house with no energy star rated appliances, older bulbs, electric range (gas heating and no A/C in the house). i expect my usage in new home would be twice this.

            never had LED bulbs but i heard they don't consume lot of power like the old tech bulbs do. i intend to go with LEDs. in the new one builders are suggesting 2 condenser units for A/C.

            i can have the installer guy do it all that is grid tied, net-metered, approved by pg&e etc. he said LG, Hyundai or others offer 325W panels and they are bit more expensive. can a system cover > 80% of my pg&e bills? during planning review i have to provide title24/cal green reports. could they help in deciding if its worth getting solar or not?

            reg slope of roof, i don't know if 6/12 or 4/12 is steeper. but i don't want something that is too steep. if peak of roof is about 3ft from base, would that be good enough? there are no trees around and its in clear view of sun.

            thank you.




            Screen Shot 2016-11-12 at 12.02.16 PM.png

            Comment


            • #7
              i can have the installer guy do it all that is grid tied, net-metered, approved by pg&e etc. he said LG, Hyundai or others offer 325W panels and they are bit more expensive. can a system cover > 80% of my pg&e bills?
              How big will the roof be, how many kwh will you use?
              There are 320W panels from LG - there will probably be 325's by the time you're doing your install (might be some already but not on LG's website yet)
              Right now a 320W panel costs $354 and a 285W costs $263. So just for materials you spend >30% more and get 12% more production. (with labor and everything it may only be spending 15% more on the total system to get 12% more production.)

              If you can fit enough modules on the roof to produce enough power, you are probably better off with using 300W modules.

              reg slope of roof, i don't know if 6/12 or 4/12 is steeper.
              4/12 is 4 inches of rise for every 12 inches of run.
              6/12 is 6 inches of ries for every 12 inches of run.
              12/12 is 12 inches of rise for every 12 inches of run (ie. 45 degree angle)

              6/12 is steeper than 4/12, but still IMO a walkable roof. 6/12 is still a "normal" looking roof - more normal looking IMO than the roofs on eichlers that are 2/12 or so.

              pictures of buildings with different roof pitches:

              http://www.chasenw.com/blog/chase-wp...h-examples.gif

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Mike90250 View Post
                You can buy oil, filter and take it to a garage and ask for them to install it. see what they think. That's the response contractors will give you
                I think most installers would be less inclined than that...
                Oil and filters aren't a big markup item for mechanics.
                I seem to recall one of my HS classmates would only trust a specific brand of oil - so he would buy the oil and the mechanic would use his oil for the oil change.

                OTOH, asking a solar installer to install modules you bought elsewhere:
                A> they lost the markup they'd have on the modules.
                B> Now if there's a problem they have more of a headache - they're installing something you bought, so it's not as easy for them to call up the supplier and get things fixed.

                Short answer: don't expect a net benefit by hiring installer for labor and buying modules elsewhere. Buy the system from the installer - should be able to get under $2.85/W for 300W modules with Solaredge inverter in San Jose area.

                Comment


                • #9
                  thank you for roof slope pics! here are some houses in my neighborhood. i'm thinking of similar slope..from the pic you sent, these look like 4/12.

                  i'm easily 4-6 months away from getting there. if price between 265w and 300w aren't much i'd go with 300w and reduce number of panels. along with price is the reliability. does name brands make any difference or are they all equally good? if there are no trees around would the panels still need any maintenance? if we use A/C in summer when we have maybe 3-4 weeks of 90-100 degrees, would these panels help in reducing the power drawn from pg&e? since central heaters run on gas, i guess solar panels won't help there.


                  Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 6.29.09 PM.png Screen Shot 2016-11-09 at 6.26.17 PM.png

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by mvd94539 View Post
                    Thanks a bunch for replying. never heard of net-zero energy design.
                    Paying separate bills to power a home, to heat a home, to cool a home, is rather obsolete with today's technology.

                    Anyone who is designing and building a new house should really design their home to be self-powering, self-heating, self-cooling.

                    Otherwise you are tying yourself to those extra bills.



                    ... Sure, I can go with the brand name that this installer sells.
                    I do not know if there is any real difference from one brand name to another brand name.

                    Anyone can buy any equipment from any wholesaler these days. They all offer sale prices.

                    We got our equipment for a lot lower priced than what our local installers were willing to charge.



                    ... Does it have to be grid tied? If the approvals or reviews don't take months I have no problem with grid-tied net-metered system.
                    Grid-tied is up to you.

                    In my state that tends to cost a lot more though. Grid-tied systems have financing available [so a bank gets a cut of the profits].

                    The rebates have been available for both grid-tied and off-grid systems.



                    ... We are in california near San Jose and we do get good sun almost 8 months of year. Plus the house is going to be south facing.
                    Do you get 'bad' sun the other 4 months/year?

                    I am in Maine, we get plenty sun light here for solar-power [and for solar-thermal heating]. But I understand that down in California you might not get enough solar to be able to heat your homes through winter.



                    Originally posted by foo1bar View Post
                    ... Only if you want it to be economically worthwhile.
                    Economic viability depends on many factors.



                    Originally posted by Mike90250 View Post
                    You can buy oil, filter and take it to a garage and ask for them to install it. see what they think. That's the response contractors will give you
                    Very good analogy.



                    4400w, Midnite Classic 150 charge-controller.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Just wait till the week after the install, some of your purchased gear fails. Who finds it and replaces it ?
                      Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
                      || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
                      || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

                      solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
                      gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by mvd94539 View Post
                        Here is my current usage in a smaller house with no energy star rated appliances, older bulbs, electric range (gas heating and no A/C in the house). i expect my usage in new home would be twice this.

                        never had LED bulbs but i heard they don't consume lot of power like the old tech bulbs do. i intend to go with LEDs. in the new one builders are suggesting 2 condenser units for A/C.

                        i can have the installer guy do it all that is grid tied, net-metered, approved by pg&e etc. he said LG, Hyundai or others offer 325W panels and they are bit more expensive. can a system cover > 80% of my pg&e bills? during planning review i have to provide title24/cal green reports. could they help in deciding if its worth getting solar or not?

                        reg slope of roof, i don't know if 6/12 or 4/12 is steeper. but i don't want something that is too steep. if peak of roof is about 3ft from base, would that be good enough? there are no trees around and its in clear view of sun.

                        thank you.




                        [ATTACH=CONFIG]n335242[/ATTACH]
                        What's your logic in expecting energy use to double ? First off, your current use is about a slow as it gets. Looks like ~ 3,500 - 4,000 kWh/yr. Second, a new home will probably be much more energy efficient. Third, energy use is a somewhat weak function of building size - doubling the sq. footage does not mean doubling energy use, even with A/C.

                        I'd get a better handle on estimated energy use in what will be, by state mandate (if in CA), a much more efficient dwelling. If that estimate does come in close to current use and your graph is a correct representation of current use, your current annual bill ought to be something like $850 - $1,000 per year. Even if your use did double to, say, 8,000 kWh/yr., a 6 kW system, which might generate something like 9,000 - 10,000 kWh/yr. would grossly oversized. What's the zip of the proposed new dwelling ?

                        After you get a decent title 24 report, run PVWatts, face the array south or 5 -10 deg. west of south, tilt it at latitude minus about 0 to - 5 degrees (so, if located at 40 deg. latitude, tilt at 35 to 40 deg.), and use a system loss parameter of 10 % rather than the 14 % default value. Run a 1 kW size, and then run the size up until you get to the size you want. Tell the contractor that's what you want.
                        Last edited by J.P.M.; 11-12-2016, 08:28 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          zip code of new one is 94539.

                          yes, my existing rental is 60 years old. what you said maybe right...with LEDs and energy star rated fridge/gas stove/gas dryer, double/triple pane windows with low-e, if my bill ends up around $100, it wouldn't make sense to go solar. will have central A/C, probably an electric car in new house. so these things could suck up more energy.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by organic farmer View Post
                            Economic viability depends on many factors.
                            Sure - and a large one is whether you're paying for batteries for it.
                            If you don't need to pay for batteries then buying batteries and paying for batteries will quickly make using solar significantly less economically viable.
                            It'll go from "this is a great investment" to "I might as well stuff money in the mattress"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by J.P.M. View Post
                              face the array south or 5 -10 deg. west of south, tilt it at latitude minus about 0 to - 5 degrees (so, if located at 40 deg. latitude, tilt at 35 to 40 deg.), and use a system loss parameter of 10 % rather than the 14 % default value. Run a 1 kW size, and then run the size up until you get to the size you want. Tell the contractor that's what you want.
                              I would use actual orientation of the building (which is probably going to be strongly influenced by the street frontage)
                              And I would use the angle for a 6/12 slope (or 7/12 or 4/12 - whichever roof you plan to go with)
                              most likely he isn't going to have room for a ground-mount system - so it'll be at whatever slope the roof is.

                              10% instead of 14% I agree with.


                              if we use A/C in summer when we have maybe 3-4 weeks of 90-100 degrees, would these panels help in reducing the power drawn from pg&e?
                              Probably not the question you should ask.
                              The question you should ask is "Will it help reduce my bill from PG&E?"
                              Because with net metering it is the entire year's usage that's considered.
                              You won't have to pay any electric bill except once a year.
                              So it's really all about producing enough to balance out your consumption.

                              You might use 5kwh in a short period of the AC running - but then your solar will keep producing even when the AC is off. And it will be generating credits for you.

                              Comment

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