Solar Power Costs

Rent or Buy a Solar Power System

The rent or buy a solar power system questions basically comes down to two issues. This assumes that you have already made the decision to become involved in solar power generation for reasons of conservation or to get some control over your electricity costs. This issue is discussed on several other posts on this website. What are the issues. The first is the main one and concerns whether you have the ready cash to pay for the installation and operation of the system? The second is what are the terms and conditions for renting vs. buying and which one makes the most economic sense for your situation.

Rent or Buy a Solar Power System – Rent

Renting a solar power system is really no different from leasing a car. You do not own the system, you might place a down payment which lowers your monthly fee and you get the use of the system to lower your electrical costs. There will be a rental fee, there will be an assumed interest rate since the lender must charge an interest rate to make money and of course the seller is making a profit as well which is built-in. Your rental may or may not come with maintenance. All of these details should be considered and built into your analysis. If you do not have the ready cash to invest then renting is probably the best option.

Rent or Buy a Solar Power System – Buy

Buying with cash or buying and borrowing the money is another option. There is a cost of borrowing if you need to take out a loan and of course there is the interest income that you will not be earning because you invested into a solar power system. You still need to incorporate a maintenance fee to keep the system running.

A solar power system calculator should be provided by the solar power system seller to help you analyze your options to determine which option is the best approach and provides the largest savings along with the quickest payback for your investment. Again if you do not have the ready cash, then a loan is needed or you rent the system.

Issues to Consider When You go off the Grid

off the GridBelieve it or not, it is illegal in some states to go off the grid! At a time when conservation, alternative energies and being responsible, some states are actually saying you must be attached to the electrical and water grid. We wonder why this is the case and the only reason we can think of is control of our private spaces and being able to monitor even if it is in a small way our activities. This will be an ongoing battle, however in the mean time there are more practical issues to think about when you go off the grid or are considering taking this approach. Many people will consider going off the electrical grid to save money or in some cases there is no service provided in remote areas. We will explore some of the issues to consider in this post.

Issues to Think about When You Go off the Grid

Getting Started Cost – For many people the initial up front cost may be a show stopper. Obtain several quotes so that you fully understand what it will cost to have your system installed and become operational. Costs vary across the country, but numbers in the thirty to forty thousand range are not unreasonable.

Payback Time Frame – Once you know the get started cost and have added the DC appliances cost you need to calculate the total cost and how long it will take to repay all of your costs from the savings in electrical costs. If it is more than 8 to 10 years, and your system will last 15 to 20, your risk is going up quickly. Look for the shortest payback period you can obtain.

Cost of Major Appliances – Appliance such as your fridge are quite inexpensive if it operates on AC power. However they can cost 3 times the normal cost if they run on DC power. You want DC because you lose a lot of power converting from DC to AC power.

Cost of Minor Appliances – Factor in the cost of small DC appliances such as toasters, lights etc

Monitoring Energy Use

Once your system is installed, consumers should monitor the system to ensure that it is operating as advertised. How long do the batteries last, do they fully charge during the day and do you need to fully charge them once a month.

System Maintenance – Consumers will need to keep the solar panels clean, check the batteries and fully charge the batteries according to the instructions you receive from the company your purchased them from.

Heating Water and Cooking – Many consumers will use propane to heat water and cook with to conserve electrical power and manage the overall cost of your system and appliances. You will need to purchase a propane stove, perhaps a propane water heater and a propane furnace for heating.

This all works if your electrical rates are high since it drives the payback period to a smaller number. Do the math and make the right decision.

Solar System Installation DIY

Solar Panel DesignIn our last post we discussed the need to get a solar system design and to get approval for permits from the city and the electrical organization in your area. It is extremely important to have all the permits in place and approved before you start installation.

Solar system installation is pretty straightforward however you do need to know what you’re doing and be able to follow and electrical design. There are also practical ways to install cables and mount hardware on your roof. You do not want to damage your roof in any way which could cause water leakage or deterioration of the roof material.

Solar System Installation

It is often better to hire a qualified solar installation professional to ensure that everything is done according to the electrical code, according to the permit that has been approved, and according to the solar system design that has been laid out.

If there are any damages caused by the solar system installation, and you attempt to claim against your home insurance, you want to make sure that everything meets the electrical quote, and installation procedures.

In fact before you begin installation you should confirm with your insurance company that they will ensure your home and the electrical system. You may have to add a rider to your insurance for proper coverage.

We also suggest that you discuss the installation with the installer to make sure that you’re totally 100% comfortable with everything that they’re going to do, particularly with any mounting hardware they’re going to install on the exterior of your home as well as penetration through any walls for cabling and installation in the interior of your home.

Most installation companies will be more than happy to explain all of this before they begin.

For more thoughts and ideas about using solar power, click here.

Solar Panel Design & Permits

Solar Panel DesignDetailed Plans that are designed specifically for YOUR solar installation must be prepared for a number of reasons.  The plans are used to prepare an estimate of the cost for the material and the labor to install your system. They are also used to guide you or your contractor in the installation of your system once it is approved by your local electrical company. Another reason these plans need to be prepared is that a permit must be submitted and approved by the city before any work can begin.

Solar Panel Design & Permits

A complete package must be ready to submit to the city for permit approval. If you go ahead with construction and installation without a permit, there is a very good chance that the city inspector could come by and shut everything down. You might have the installation complete only to have to remove it if you do not have an approved permit.

There is another even more important issue to consider. Insurance on your home covers all of the standard perils, however the installation and operation of an electricity generation system is not one of those things that would be covered. In addition if there is a claim, you definitely want to have all of the correct designs completed and the permit approvals you need to show that this is a professionally designed installation meeting all of the necessary building codes etc. If not the insurance company could easily decline to pay you in the event there was a claim caused by the solar system.

It is so important that every Solar Electrical Design is drafted to comply with city codes and NEC regulations for insurance purposes and for safety purposes. Safety applies to your home, your family and the electrical grid you are attaching too. If you were to cause some kind of damage to a portion of the electrical grid, to another home owners electronics etc due to spurious currents, you could be liable for very large sums of money. Always obtain the proper approvals to ensure the job is completed correctly and meets all code requirements.

You may also need to have some changes made to the plans based on these permit applications. Make sure that your solar design company is able and willing to complete these revisions so that the plans can be resubmitted for approval.

For more information about solar panels, costs, installation and more, click here.

Solar Panel Efficiency for Your Home

Embarking on a solar panel installation is a complex business with a lot of variables that are taken into account by the installation company. We happen to believe that consumers should be aware of these issues as well and should really look into them before they make the decision to select a particular vender to complete the installation. One of the variables is solar panel efficiency and we will spend some time on this post discussing this particular variable and how it relates to your business case for your new solar panel installation.

When you are considering a solar panel installation, you can impact your financial cash flow and business case in several ways. You can either control your costs and get them as low as possible and / or you can also increase your generation of electricity as much as possible by making sure that the efficiency is as high as possible. Obviously you want to make sure that both of these areas are dealt with in the best manner possible. We believe you actually should model this on a spread sheet and review how long it will take to repay the installation cost of the solar generation system based on the cost and the electrical generation. But that is the subject of other posts so we will move on to the main subject.

Solar Panel Efficiency – Specifications

Solar panels are manufactured with various specifications. Some are more efficient at generating electricity than others and of course the cost also varies as well. So the most efficient solar panels under laboratory conditions may not be the most efficient when you factor in the cost of these panels. Less efficient, lower cost panels may be actually better from a cost perspective per kilowatt generated. There are other factors to take into account as well when selecting solar panels and a solar installation firm. Here are five questions that we feel are important to take into account:

1. “How many solar panel systems has the company installed?”

Consider installers who have more than 50 installations under their belt. Consider installers who really understand the technology and can explain it to you. If they generalize too much, this should lead you to ask more questions. Take the time to educate yourself as well and know as much as the installers should know. You do not want to find out that the fence installer is now installing solar panels because there is not sufficient fence installation work.

2. “How long is the warranty on my solar panels – 25 years?”

Most solar panels on the market are high-quality and should have a guaranteed output of not less than 90% after 10 years and no less than 80% after 25 years. Look for this level of output from all brands. Also ask the installer how he will demonstrate this level of efficiency when the units are initially installed and how it can be measured in 10 years time.

3. “How long is the warranty on your labor – it should be 10 years or longer?”

Some installers will warranty their labor for 10 years in order for the system to be eligible for state rebates. They should also cover any potential damage to your roof as well. Any installer in the business for the long term should have no problem including this.

4. “How many kilowatt-hours will your system produce the first year?”

Assuming you have the warranty on labor and the efficiency on the panels, the next most important measure is how many kilowatts will the system produce every year. This is where the system will pay for itself. Sometimes less efficient systems that cost less, but meet the warranty measures will produce as much if not more kilowatts and significantly improve the business case for your solar installation.

5. “What will the total cost be for the system including components, installation, warranty and maintenance”?

The final cost or profit is going to be the income or energy saved in terms of dollars vs. the cost of the system, the labor to install and the annual maintenance plan. Don’t forget to include the cost of the loan if you have one or the cost of money that it takes to pay for this system. The money you spend could be used for other investments and gain a return so you have to take this into account if you are going to do a true business case.

For more information about solar panels, costs, installation and more, click here.

Estimating Costs for Solar Power Installations

Our last post discussed whether we would be a good candidate for solar power. This post is discussing estimating the costs for solar installations. From our previous post I think we concluded that we are probably good Solar Power Installationscandidates in the summer time, but winter time with snow on the roof it will be an entirely different matter. Never the less we need to figure out what the cost will be and how much energy will actually be generated to help pay for the cost of the solar panel installation. Solar Power Installations also depend on the size of the panels used.

Solar Power Installations – Roof Condition

One of the questions deals with the condition of our roof. It is in good shape and should last another 20 years. We just replaced the shingles 5 years ago and they are supposed to be 25 year shingles. Will they really last that long? Well for the purposes of this analysis, we are gong to assume that they will and that we will also have a payback period of less than 20 years. In other words the solar generation system will pay for itself in less than the 20 year time frame, other wise I need to replace the roof and the solar panels before they have generated enough power to compensate for the cost of installation.
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