Solar Power??

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by barnyardfun, Jul 1, 2006.

  1. barnyardfun

    barnyardfun Happy Homemaker Supporter

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    I am new to solar power and really don't understand a lot of it, but before I start talking to DH about it I wanted to get an idea of what something like this may cost......

    I would like to go completly solar one day if possible. I run on the high side during the summer months of 1600kw per month. I normally only run about 800kw during winter months but those air conditioners really kill ya!

    Can anyone give me ideas on what kind of system I would need (trust me I get plenty of sun where I am at) to run my whole house off solar and any ball park est. on how much it would cost??

    Thanks for ANY info you can give me!!

    Shawnna
     
  2. canfossi

    canfossi Well-Known Member

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    Hi Shawnna, I got a price from the company that will be installing my PV (photovoltaic) system and it was around $27,000 Can includes everything as well as installation. You won't be able to us any AC as well as electrical ranges with a PV system and will have to seriously cut back on your energy consumption. A propane stove will be required for solar as well as possible a propane fridge. Google PV systems or off-grid power, you should get some good info. Hope this helps, I'm kind of new to this also. Chris
     

  3. cfabe

    cfabe Well-Known Member

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    Going solar when you are already grid ties does not make financial sense. Typically people using solar use it because the cost of getting grid power is extremely expensive, and those that do go solar adjust their lifestyle to minimize power use. Forget things like air conditioning, electric range, space heaters etc.
     
  4. Lisa in WA

    Lisa in WA Formerly LisainN.Idaho Supporter

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    We are off-grid and have solar power and we do have a free-standing AC that we use sparingly in our loft bedroom. Luckily, when the heat is worst, the sun is shining brightly. Or we supplement with our generator. No need to melt if you're off the grid.
     
  5. Micahn

    Micahn Well-Known Member

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    You can build you a system that is just like a normal on grid home. But it will cost you some big bucks to set it up.
    I would say a system like that would start at around 40 to 50 grand and up. Now if you had a combo deal like a solar/wind or hydro deal then that would be different. My dream is to have some land with a nice swift moving year round stream on it. Then you can easily set up a system that has all the power you would ever need. and the cost would not be all that high compared to Solar.
     
  6. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    I considered it before building my new house, but it was an insurance/builder thing to go conventional and it worked out better that way for now. I still may implement some solar power to supplement down the road.
    But, I got an estimate for a basic system around $8,000. It wouldn't allow use of much except lights and power the well pump and forced air funace system. (no dishwasher, no dryer or any 220 volt appliances, etc.). That was with the basic battery storage system but any back up generator would cost extra (about $3500 more). The guy selling this solar ware lives next door (about a mile up the road). He runs his generator about every other day because there isn't enough sun power for 100% operation. In winter it's more often. What he spends on fuel for the generator, he might as well have conventional. I notice now he has a high tower windmill, but that's only going to provide maybe 2 kw output max and nothing on a calm day. On calm cloudy days I hear his generator kick in for a good half part of the day. :shrug:
    I don't know if I'm totally sold on the concept. I do however conserve by use of low wattage lighting, hang clothes outside to dry, and use microwave or toaster oven cooking when the large oven isn't needed.....stuff like that to save energy and timers on the lights. Currently the provincial government is giving rebates to almost fully pay for timers and most of the cost of all the fluorescent lights.
    Solar power for the outside small rechargable patio or night lights is a good idea that I like to incorporate more.
     
  7. Micahn

    Micahn Well-Known Member

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    About 20 years ago I took a weekend class on solar give by NASA. At that time it was cheaper to run a whole house on solar then to run the power lines 100 yards to the house(I think that was the distance but I could be wrong on that number). They had a house that was run on 100% solar set up that had every thing a normal house had. But it did use gas for HW heater and dryer as well as stove and oven.
    To me anyone that owns their own home is foolish not to have solar Hot water as long as they live in a place that gets enough sun. Here in Florida any home can be set up that they will get at least 90% of their year round hot water for free. If it is just 2 people I would put that up to 100% of it.
    Before I became disabled my father and I ran a plumbing company. We always tried to get people to put in solar for their water heaters because we know it was such a good deal. The government paid for a large part of it and the rest would pay for itself in just a couple of years in most cases.

    Today solar has came a long way from when I was doing a lot of it. The PV panels are a lot better then back then as well as all of the rest of the solar products. When the wife and I are able to buy our next home it will have solar water heating at the least as that is a big part of anyones electric bill.
     
  8. tulsamal

    tulsamal Well-Known Member

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    I've been watching and reading about this stuff for several years now. The expense has kept me out so far. IMO, the way it makes the most sense is if you go into thinking it is going to supplement but not replace your grid power. If your utility/state allows it, you produce extra power sometimes and sell it to the power company. (Your meter will actually run backwards.) At other times, you are just on the grid. In the high heat of summer you can still run your A/C and everything but you are using much less power off the grid. And you don't even have to HAVE any batteries with such a system. That lowers the cost and makes the whole thing much simpler.

    And yes, I think having solar and wind together makes sense. If you are doing it to supplement your grid power. At least the Feds and states are starting to offer serious tax incentives again. Maybe I will be able to afford a small system some day.

    Gregg
     
  9. Hammer4

    Hammer4 Well-Known Member

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    I think the grid tied system will be the way we go if we ever can afford it, that way you don't have batteries to mess with, just solar panels and an inverter to convert the voltage from the panels to household voltage. The grid becomes your battery, when you have more power coming from the solar panels than you are using, your meter goes backwards, when you are using more power than the panels can provide, the meter goes forwards and you draw power from the grid.
     
  10. katlupe

    katlupe Off-The-Grid Homesteader Supporter

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    I have lived off the grid for 7 years now. I would have used solar power even if this house had been connected. I wouldn't have had the power turned on either. I love living without the electric bill. Even here in NY, the rain capital of the US (my title), we usually only run our generator once a week to charge our batteries.

    We have a small system, and have been adding to it little by little. Here is a article I have written about it on my site:
    Solar Power


    As it gets bigger and we have more batteries and panels, and the wind turbine (brings in 200 watts full) we want, we will be adding more conveniences. Not a dryer or electric stove or even air conditioning (don't need it here) though. Though we plan on a dishwasher (I do like that convenience myself!) and some other items.

    Check out Home Power and Backwoods Solar . I have learned so much, just from those two sources. Backwoods Solar's catalog is full of information and you can call them and ask questions.

    I do know that in some states (most), you can apply for grants to help with the cost of installing a bigger system. Here in NY though, you must be grid tied to do that. No thanks! Right now my state is in a state of emergency with the flooding in the area, and I was never in danger of losing my power. Matter of fact, when I had a tornado hit my home, power was out for everyone else for over 6 days, but not our's. I see that in those storms, one of the biggest worries has been electrical.

    katlupe
     
  11. silverbackMP

    silverbackMP Well-Known Member

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    You may want to forgoe AC unless you want to spend major $. Check Kansas wind power for some very efficient ceiling fans. I would also plan on propane refrigerator (they are usually smaller) and gas dryer. I recommend propane generators over diseal. They are much much quieter and have just as long of a life span and just as efficient.
     
  12. Weho Dave

    Weho Dave Active Member

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    If you use the grid for a "battery," you lose the protection of having a back-up source of energy. If the grid goes down, so will your "battery." The idea of supplementing your electric usage is good with solar. You can add to your system down the road as finances allow. That way you can wean yourself off the grid. I have started my solar energy package with 3 panels that will output 36 watts and plan to have a battery storage system. I plan to hook up my well water pump first, because it makes sense to have something as vital as water at all times, even if the grid goes down. Then I will hook up my electronics because they don't use a lot of power (TV, cable modem, wireless internet) We already use propane for cooking and drying. Heating uses oil and wood. Water heating is electric now, but can be hooked to the oil boiler in the future.

    Right now, solar power is not a very economical choice because the cost is high compared to using the grid. But you have to remember that energy prices are only going to get more expensive. At some point, people are going to realize this and start buying up solar equipment, then it will become more expensive too. The time to buy is before the crowd realizes what is happening. Becoming self-sufficient in energy production is a reward in itself.
     
  13. SolarGary

    SolarGary Well-Known Member

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    Hi,

    Solar electric systems cost about $8 to $10 per peak watt of power. In a good sun area, 1 KW of PV panels will deliver about 6 KW hours of power per day.

    In the summer you are using 1600/30 = 53 KWH per day. This would require (roughly) 53/6 = 9 KW of PV panels. Such a system might cost (roughly)
    ($9/w)(9000 w) = $81000 !!

    Most people see numbers like that and either 1) run, or 2) cut way way way back on their electric usage. There is nothing like paying $10 per peak watt for PV to make you realize the value of conserving electricity :)

    If you want to learn more about PV, I'd take a look at the Home Power basics articles listed here near the top under PV basics:
    http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/PV/pv.htm

    ---------------
    You might also want to take a look at "the other solar" -- that is, using solar for space heating and water heating. And, also look at passive cooling methods.

    These are much more dollar efficient than solar electric (PV).

    For example, the solar collector I use to heat my shop produces about 32 KW of peak power in full sun (110K BTU/hr). It cost me $350 to build. That works out to $350/32000 peak watt = 1 penny per peak watt -- compare that to 800 pennys per peak watt for PV, and you see how much more efficient solar thermal applications can be than solar electric.
    This is the collector: http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/SpaceHeating/solar_barn_project.htm

    If this sounds interesting, I'd take a look around the project areas listed on this page:
    http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Projects.htm
    My site is aimed at people who want to build solar stuff themselves, but its also pretty good to just learn about what its all about.

    For your climate, the "Passive Cooling" might be of particular interest?

    Also, the biggest payoff of all (usually) comes from insulating, weatherizing, efficient appliances, efficient lights, conservation, ...
    http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Conservation/conservation.htm

    Gary
     
  14. katlupe

    katlupe Off-The-Grid Homesteader Supporter

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    So Gary, you can use that solar collector for heating your house in the winter? In Montana? You must get a lot more sun than we get. Do you still use a wood stove or some other heating system? I just can't imagine heating my house with the solar. I'd love it. But I like to be warm, and we use two woodstoves all winter (one is a cookstove).


    katlupe
     
  15. SolarGary

    SolarGary Well-Known Member

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    Hi Katlupe,

    The two solar heating collector I've done so far are for heating my two shops (first things first :) . And, they do a good job of heating with full or not quite so full sun -- this is how it does at -20F:
    http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/SpaceHeating/SolarGarageCollector/GarCol20F.htm
    Even my wife comments that this is often the most pleasant room in the house to be in -- toasty warm and great daylighting.

    Our part of MT is pretty a pretty good solar location. Not nearly as good as (say)Taos or Denver. You can get an idea how your area compares from the NREL "Redbook":
    http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/pubs/redbook/
    Just download your state, find your city, and see how it compares with other areas. Most parts of the US can do well on solar heating with good design. Take a look down this page for the "Cliff House" -- its a design by Norman Saunders that has been providing 100% solar heating in the NE for many many years.

    In most climates, its pretty easy to get 20% or so solar with simple collectors or solar passive features (windows) and no storage -- cheap projects. Its not so hard to get 50% solar heating with careful design of the house and some care to include thermal mass or heat storage in the house. Its hard to get 90 or 100% -- this involves systems that can collect enough on sunny days and store it over a period of cloudy days -- but it can be done -- much easier on a brand new design.

    I am working on a set of collectors for my house with some storage that (according to the simulations) will get me to about 50% solar heating. I think this is pretty good for my house, which is a solar design nightmare :) The collectors look this:
    http://www.builditsolar.com/Experimental/InWorkshop/SolarShed/solarshed.htm

    We have a propane furnace, and the heating bills are awful, which is why I'm determined to get something done for this winter -- on our last propane fill, it was going for $2.40 a gallon!


    Gary
     
  16. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

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    Great info, thanks Gary :)

    On the subject, unless one is independently wealthy, cutting way back and starting small is the only way to go. I currently have 365 watts in three panels. Even with just 365 watts, I produce way more power than I use. And just last year, I was looking at an electric bill charging me for about 32kw usage in my all electric home. I've cut WAY BACK :) Now I just smile when neighbors tell me they lost power the night before and couldn't watch television. LOL.

    While electric would have been expensive to bring up here, it would have worked out about the same price as solar when my set up is completed. My decision wasn't entirely based on cost.
     
  17. barnyardfun

    barnyardfun Happy Homemaker Supporter

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    All I can say is.........WOW!

    Thanks for all the info...I was pretty interested in the grid tied system because I would like to keep my conveniences but be a little more independent. That was if anything ever happened where we couldn't be on the grid anymore we could make it work with what we had in our solar system.

    I don't know! :rolleyes: I think I have a lot of research ahead of me!

    Thank you all for your great information! :)