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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
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    Long Beach
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    1,084

    Solar power - WTF?

    A bit of a rant, but warranted. My wife and I both have plug-in hybrid cars now and for the first time our electric bill is large enough to consider solar. I hit the interwebs to try and find a price, learn about different panel types etc. and can get nowhere without first giving contact info and having them call me back. I reluctantly contact Pedersen Dean who I had heard good things about (turns out, meh, I wouldn't go out of my way). I then get a call back from Sempra (Elon Musk's company - seems to be the most legit so far) and Horizon (who I have since told to leave me the hell alone. 4 calls a day...seriously?!?).

    Seriously, WTF with solar? How come I can't get a streight answer from anyone? I get it, there are various government incentives, and rate legislation in the works, but just give me the fucking information and let me sort it out. No, I will not give you my last year's worth of power bills, because the majority of the power is going into two cars that I don't need to plug in and I haven't plugged both in consistently over the last year anyway. If electric rates go up I'll just run them on gas; the carpool sticker works either way.

    Has anyone else been through this circle of hell? All I want to know is what systems are out there, what are the reviews for those systems and how much do they cost. I don't want a no-cost lease because if I decide to move I would rather sell the buyer on the incentive of having solar, rather than having the disincentive of being stuck with a recurring bill (the house does not use enough electricity to warrant the panels on its own - the buyer would pretty much need to own at least one plug-in car). I also don't want the govt. incentives factored into whatever estimate I get - that's a bonus for me, not the company I buy the panels from. I can do the math. Oh, and no, I don't want your fucking financing. I own the house, my credit is good and you know damn well it is. I can get a loan if I need one.

    Jeebus, and I though I hated car shopping. Any advice or do I just shelf this until the dust has settled a bit more? Seems like the price can only go down. Am I right?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    Access to Granlibakken
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    7,108
    http://watchdog.org/212170/surprise-solar-liens/

    Doesn't appply to you, since you're buying not leasing, but I thought it was interdasting.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Long Beach
    Posts
    1,084
    ^ exactly. WTF?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    I smell poutine!!!
    Posts
    8,260
    Why do you hate 'Murica?
    Real VTers tap trees.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    General Sherman's Favorite City
    Posts
    18,354
    If I remember correctly Iceman looked into solar pretty extensively.

    PM him or as they say down here, "take a seat up on the porch, pull out the sippin' whiskey and relax. He'll be along any time now.".
    I still call it The Jake.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    14,822
    I almost need a new roof and because of that I started looking at solar as a roof array combo warranty is the only way I'd probably do it. I never answered a single call after doing online inquiry and there were plenty. Maybe look at an independent consultant:

    http://californiasolarconsulting.com

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    412
    DON'T THINK YOU ARE GOING TO SAVE MONEY.

    I've seen how much they cook the math on paybacks. It never works out, they over estimate its profitability.
    By the time you are in the money, the stuff is beyond its expected lifespan.

    Go find a meter man at an electric company worth his salt and ask if he has a system on his house.

    DON'T LEASE.
    If you lease it and then try to sell the house the new guy has to transfer the lease too or you're screwed.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Golden, CO
    Posts
    1,740
    You want a system sized for charging batteries appropriately sized to recharge the cars at night.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    5,380
    Quote Originally Posted by exsparky View Post

    Go find a meter man at an electric company worth his salt and ask if he has a system on his house.
    Good idea, but where in the hell do you find one to talk to?

    Besides Grindr?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    base of the Bush
    Posts
    10,953
    All smart meters here, meter man is in a cube looking at porn instead of working.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    ECO
    Posts
    3,998
    This new company is allegedly coming out that can make more efficient cells with less waste. Rayton Solar. Don't know what price point will be, but may not matter if Elon smokes everybody with his product.
    If we are not really farther along in solar in the next 5-7 years, it will be really disappointing. The fossils are keeping us down.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    2,487
    It's fucking sad....It's turned into a MLM sales scam in sovt. " Reduce your cost by referrals to friends and family" Small print....." Only on completion of solar lease packages" etc etc

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    2,135
    I don't have a recommendation. The highest cost for solar companies is customer acquisition, so thats why they want to talk to you.

    Musk's company is Solar City. In California you should have a ton of choices. I wouldn't buy batteries yet. Best option is to charge your ride during the day if you can, but I know thats not always practical.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    The Cone of Uncertainty
    Posts
    46,962
    Quote Originally Posted by BmillsSkier View Post
    If I remember correctly Iceman looked into solar pretty extensively.

    PM him or as they say down here, "take a seat up on the porch, pull out the sippin' whiskey and relax. He'll be along any time now.".
    haha. was traveling today, sorry.

    It's not like I'm some huge expert but I did do some research and came to some conclusions for our situation. First of all, our place is in Massachusetts and that's a big leg up on getting the things to pay for themselves since Mass has both net metering and SREC's (Solar Renewable Energy Credits). Under the Mass. system SREC's are valuable and have gone a long way to paying for the system already, we've gotten more for the credits than we have achieved in bill reductions. But SoCal has dramatically higher solar potential than Mass., so you'd have that working for you on the plus side.

    CA has net metering but not SREC's but they do have some sort of credit-trading program that I don't understand so look into that. We do business witha company called SRECtrade, based in CA, and they have some info on the CA market here: http://www.srectrade.com/srec_markets/california

    I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to be in a lease situation so we bought panels from and had then installed by a great small Mass company who handled all the paperwork in getting us set up with the electric company and SREC trade and they've been great. We got proposals from 3 similar companies, there must be many similar ones in CA. Variables in the proposals were the panels being spec'd, install cost, services provided, the companies' stability (admittedly a guess as none of them are that old), basic business stuff like that.

    This article does a pretty good job of outlining the various factors involved in panel selection: http://www.reviews.com/solar-panels/ but basically it comes down to cost, efficiency, warranty, and whether the company will be around. Along with the panels is all the controller electronics, modules etc etc. that you need to make them work and we went with Solarworld and have been happy so far, with zero issues in over a year. I don't have a copy of the proposal here where I am so I couldn't tell you which model they are offhand.

    I'm pretty leery of the whole leaseback model and I know the OP is too but I guess if you could get your bills reduced without spending any money out of pocket (and it doesn't bite you in the ass later when you try to sell the house or whatever) then it could still be worth pursuing.

    In our situation, with the money from the SREC credits and the cost reductions on our bills I'd say our system is roughly 25% paid for in a little over a year. But these economics aren't possible in most of the country. We wired for battery installation (just roughed stuff in so we wouldn't have to rip shit up later) but decided it was too early to buy them.

    We really didn't have any trouble getting three companies to come to the house, measure, look at sun angles etc. and give us proposals but they were smaller local-ish companies hungry for business, not big guys like Solar City or whatever. And when you get a proposal is the time to evaluate the system proposed instead of trying to do it the other way around doing a ton of research and driving yourself crazy. All of the proposals addressed expected ROI etc.

    edit: Have you talked to these guys, they're right in Long Beach and they carry good brands and seem pretty legit at first glance: http://solarsourceinc.com

    These guys are also local to you and seem legit at a quick look: http://solarexpert.com
    Last edited by iceman; 05-31-2017 at 10:04 PM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    Stuck in perpetual Meh
    Posts
    35,288
    So your power bill went up but your gasoline expenses went down. If A<B then why the fuck do you care?

    Solar is a shell game. Watch the credits go "Poof" if tax reform happens, too.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    West Coast of the East Coast
    Posts
    6,503
    Lots of snake oil salesmen in the construction/ home improvement game. Unfortunately, selling water filter systems to old stupid people didn't work out for these guys, so it was on to solar. Sorry to break it to you, but at least 90% of the solar guys I have seen at trade shows are scumbags looking to cash in.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    A LSD Steakhouse somewhere in the Wasatch
    Posts
    10,756
    been 3 years for us
    pretty painless a few bids a few meetings
    the 10 year no questions asked warranty was the main selling point of the company we went with, that and a free goal zero tailgate party off the grid unit
    givin my choice of a hundy a month to rocky mountain power to continue to gank our air with a coal burning power production model
    vrs. $92 monthly note for a system that takes a cleaner renewable source of power was a I dont want to be a part of that problem any more no brainer
    factor in the 7-14% yearly rmp rate increases i have no say over and are going to line fat cat pockets instead of figuring out how to move away from the coal and yeah id rather have a tax deductable note that never changes and will end or could be paid off early
    the funny thing is selling our systems surplus power to our neighbors aint enough for them and they keep trying to raise the $8 a month grid hookup charges
    is solar a scam?
    may be but less of a scam than the power company ,their business model, all the lobbyists they pay millions to in order to continue their is no climate change or clean air problems scam
    "When the child was a child it waited patiently for the first snow and it still does"- Van "The Man" Morrison
    "I find I have already had my reward, in the doing of the thing" - Buzz Holmstrom
    "THIS IS WHAT WE DO"-AML -
    ski on in eternal peace

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Posts
    9,259
    Have you considered a coal fired or diesel generator?
    "timberridge is terminally vapid" -- a fortune cookie in Yueyang

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Bend, OR
    Posts
    189
    Individual context matters but it definitely isn't necessarily a scam. If you have plenty of sun (climate, no trees blocking) and good tax incentives, it can be a great deal. We got panels here in Bend 2 years ago and couldn't be happier. The initial cost for our home, covering current electricity consumption at the time and then some was $16.4k. 14 panels, almost 4k watts. Winter consumption goes up quite a bit because we have an electric water heat for radiant floor heating downstairs.

    Energy Trust of Oregon knocked off $2.6k from the start that we never saw, went straight to our local company who installed it (Sunlight Solar, great people and highly recommended), using panels made just over the hill in Oregon also (although they're having trouble due to Chinese competition). So once installed we had to pay $13.8k. That year's tax bill had $4.2k federal tax credit, and we have a $6k state tax credit that has to be spread over 4 years. Our net cash cost after all incentives (which take 4 years to fully realize) is $3.7k. This should pay off in about 3-4 years for a system that should last over 20 years.

    It's been zero maintenance, no issues, they look nice and get compliments, and without going into the lifecycle production costs, here in the PNW most of our energy is hydro and wind, but there's still some fossil fuel combustion on the margin.

    I wouldn't go with a lease but if you can't handle the up-front funding, these private companies will for the sake of the tax incentives. I thought about it but the ambiguity on ownership of the panels at the end of the lease was enough to turn me away.

    Edit to add that our utility (Pacific Power) allows the net metering for us so they function as our battery on a 12 month cycle (we can store up credit all summer and have to use it by end of March). We pay $10 a month to stay hooked up. They had to install a new meter but if there was any cost to us it was part of the price listed above.
    Last edited by markb; 06-01-2017 at 07:39 AM.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Wa wa..tatic
    Posts
    3,150
    You should buy one of these

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Down by the river, Terrace, BC
    Posts
    3,071
    So what's the dealio on the solar roofs. I see Tesla is advertising them as the same price as conventional but I do the math and it's $25000 (and that could be USD). to do my roof with the solar panels, while its about a $12,000 CDN conventional.... any beta on these roofs?
    I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different.
    ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

    www.mymountaincoop.ca

    This is OUR mountain - come join us!

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    958
    Like Iceman recommends, find a small local company with a good reputation. There's a lot of snake oil out there, but also a good number of guys in the business because they believe in it. Find one of them.

    When I've run the payback numbers it's about break even over the life of the panels, but we're in Idaho with poor incentives and cheap (.07/kwh) power.

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Location
    Shuswap Highlands
    Posts
    2,336
    Quote Originally Posted by garyfromterrace View Post
    So what's the dealio on the solar roofs. I see Tesla is advertising them as the same price as conventional but I do the math and it's $25000 (and that could be USD). to do my roof with the solar panels, while its about a $12,000 CDN conventional.... any beta on these roofs?
    Isn't Terrace the place where refugees who are allergic to the sun go to live?

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    The Vil
    Posts
    559
    Buddy in denver has em and said between the tax incentives and the check they get each month from the power company for feeding back into the grid, they will be even money wise in 2 or 3 more years. They put them up 2 years ago and have had no issues and they even made it through that huge hail storm a month or two ago with no issues

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Posts
    4,269
    What happens to y'all when your roof starts leaking?

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