Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Switching To Solar Power — Six Months Later

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the it-burns-my-eyes dept.

Power 591

ThinSkin writes "Slashdot readers may remember an article regarding ExtremeTech's Loyd Case's experiences with solar power for the home after one month of usage. During that time six months ago, it sure seemed like a great deal, but the tables have turned significantly once winter approached. While it's no surprise solar power generation is expected to dwindle during the winter, Loyd compares solar power data of the last six months to determine if solar power is still worth the time and money."

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Heh we should all switch to solar (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26448775)

Then all the niggers reliant on centralised power production won't have any power. and they'll die lulz

One Fourteen NEVER FORGET!!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26448777)

1/14/04, we lost a true Internet hero [wikipedia.org]

we miss you sir!! keep it tight!!

XOXO,

Slashdot users

Re:One Fourteen NEVER FORGET!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449049)

Is that when Klerck suicided?

$400 a month? (5, Interesting)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 5 years ago | (#26448781)

Who the hell uses that much electric power?

Re:$400 a month? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26448837)

You ask how he uses $400 a month in electricity? His tech is EXTREME!

Re:$400 a month? (4, Funny)

doti (966971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449509)

Extreme Tech, and they still can't put the article in a single page.

Re:$400 a month? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26448843)

People who live in colder places. Unless if they love freezing to death.

Re:$400 a month? (4, Interesting)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449129)

My January bill was $170.00 for Upstate NY That was for electric and Gas, in a building over 100 years old. That is Not in any way energy-star complaint.

Re:$400 a month? (1)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449701)

That is Not in any way energy-star complaint.

$170 sounds exactly like a complaint is necessary.

Re:$400 a month? (2, Informative)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449389)

Actually it's usually the opposite - Air conditioning is almost always powered by electricity and AC load can't always be reduced with insulation (e.g. heat-generating devices need their heat removed regardless of external insulation), while heating has numerous options - gas, oil, electric, wood, downstairs neighbors, solar thermal (much cheaper and easier than PV), and upgraded insulation.

Re:$400 a month? (5, Interesting)

drunkennewfiemidget (712572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449439)

I live in Canada. The weather today is -25c or so. My power bill never exceeds $46/CAD a month when I have a window AC unit going in the summer, and my gas bill never exceeds $70/mo.

The # of kWh/mo he's using would suggest to me he'd be a lot better served putting the time and energy into replacing bulbs with CFLs, turning off computers that don't need to be on, and buying higher efficiency appliances rather than those solar panels. .. or both, of course.

Re:$400 a month? (1)

Luthe_Faydwire (700369) | more than 5 years ago | (#26448847)

umm, I often do during the summer with the air running and 3 people with 2+ computers each.

Re:$400 a month? (3, Funny)

d3ac0n (715594) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449353)

Man, you BOTH must have either HUGE houses, electric heating systems, or stupidly high power taxation in your area.

My last electric bill, with a family of four, 6 PC's and sundry other electronics (server, smoothwall linux firewall running on an old PC, my Desktop, the wife's Desktop + two laptops + networking devices connecting all the above) only amounted to $250.00 in November. I expect December's bill to come out only slightly higher. $400.00 for Electric is INSANE.

I live in the Buffalo NY area, so Solar is out of the question for me (clouds, many trees in the region and, oh yeah, SNOW) so while an article like this is nice for people that live in desert areas, for the rest of us it's basically worthless.

Dang blast it, it's nearly 2010! If Science isn't going to give me a flying car the LEAST it could do is provide me with a "Mr. Fusion" to power my house!

Re:$400 a month? (5, Informative)

drunkennewfiemidget (712572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449475)

The house I currently live in was powered with solar panels here in Southern Ontario before I bought it. The guy who sold it to me took the panels with him. They did just fine at consolidating his hydro to the point where he was paying almost NOTHING to the power company. They're not worthless at all. A large investment that might take longer out here to recoup costs, but definitely not worthless.

Re:$400 a month? (2, Interesting)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449515)

The efficiency of your appliances comes into account a lot. I once had a $400 bill in an *2 bedroom apartment* the on the ground floor because the AC unit they had was just that horrible. Then we had a crackhead kick in our door and steal shit so we moved ;)

Re:$400 a month? (2, Informative)

mark_hill97 (897586) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449537)

I live in Florida, in the summer my bills approach $500 for A/C set to 76 and 4PCs in a 2 story 4400sq ft house with 4 adults. The house is less than 2 years old so it should be decently insulated though the windows are only single paned. Even in the winter when we have the A/C off we are still looking at high 300s for our power. This is because cooking, cleaning, and heating water for 4 people does take a decent amount of power, also after a certain point we hit a conservation cap and our rate for power soars for each kilowatt hour. The cap isn't reasonable at all as well, its quite low.

Re:$400 a month? (2, Informative)

Kevin72594 (1301889) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449685)

clouds is definitely not a reason to not use solar in Buffalo NY.

See this article showing that Buffalo is one of the sunnier places around.
http://www.buffalonews.com/home/story/545065.html [buffalonews.com]

Re:$400 a month? (3, Informative)

Logical Zebra (1423045) | more than 5 years ago | (#26448863)

It depends on the area of the country. In some areas, tariffs, taxes, and the actual cost per kilowatt hour can easily equate to a $400 monthly electric bill for a decent-sized house.

I have a small apartment, and my monthly bill is almost $100/month.

Re:$400 a month? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26448953)

also depends on how well insulated your house is (a cheaper improvement with good benefits if it is not done well). Heating and especially ac can take alot of energy (especially if you set it high for that really comfortable temperature).

Re:$400 a month? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26448879)

Al Gore?

Re:$400 a month? (-1, Troll)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449063)

Al Gore?

He spends 20 times [snopes.com] the national average for one of his houses.

Re:$400 a month? (2, Insightful)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449397)

I'd be surprised if he didn't make 20 times the average salary per year as well.

News Flash: Rich people consume more resources per capita! News at 11:00!

Nothing like being pro-environment; doesn't matter how much you invest in environmental initiatives...if you don't live in a shack eating raw organic food and making your own clothes, you're a hypocrite.

Re:$400 a month? (2, Interesting)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449503)

The objections of the world are just that. They are in shacks, eating raw organic foods (if any at all).

The US's energy consumption per capita is through the roof. There is an idea that there has to be curve of diminishing returns where your energy use to work and sleep in a house tops out.

I don't know what Mr. Gore is running to produce a bill like that. It is obscene, even for an American.

Re:$400 a month? (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449541)

Actually, I seem to recall that all of his energy is now pretty much offgrid; solar and wind combined with a geo-thermal HVAC.

Re:$400 a month? (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449623)

While it's true that the US's energy consumption per capita is through the roof, keep in mind that much of the US lives in an environment where a certain amount of energy consumption is almost a hard requirement in order to live with any semblance of comfort, at least in wintertime. The alternative to electricity/oil/gas would be wood or coal.

Folks living near the equator (which is a LOT of the world's population) don't generally have that requirement.

Even here in the Atlanta area, we'll be seeing temperatures in the teens Fahrenheit this week. :-)

Re:$400 a month? (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449539)

No one expects Al Gore to live like a monk. But using *20 TIMES* more electricity than the average person and then going around lecturing *us* about conservation?!?!?!? I mean, Jesus Christ, that's like a guy telling you not to liter as he's dumping a barrel of toxic waste into the lake.

Re:$400 a month? (1, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449605)

Clearly, Al Gore should be living in a small, average house, or perhaps an apartment if that more matches the average person, just so he can be close to the national average of electricity use regardless of his actual net worth or funds.

Oh wait, that's stupid.

Re:$400 a month? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449819)

I'd be surprised if he didn't make 20 times the average salary per year as well.

Woot! Rich people deserve to be treated differently! I bet you're a hypocrite.

News Flash: Rich people consume more resources per capita! News at 11:00!

Um, no. News flash, high income people do not have to consume more than middle or lower income people. In fact, the oppose should be true. Those with more disposable income can, in fact, invest in more costly "green" products. They can afford that Prius. They can fully renovate their homes to use Geothermal and for greater solar efficiency as well as afford to replace crappy windows with high efficiency windows.

Nothing like being pro-environment; doesn't matter how much you invest in environmental initiatives..

Particularly when said environmental initiatives benefits (conveniently) a COMPANY HE OWNS!

Al Gore, the guy who's schemed the world and profits heavily from it. Maybe Obama should start Windfall Profit Taxing Al Gore?

To think I once voted for this guy.

Of course, you should put "irony" in your Sig, if you keep posting like this.

Re:$400 a month? (2)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26448951)

California residents... Cal is notorious for having very expensive electricity.

Re:$400 a month? (5, Interesting)

je ne sais quoi (987177) | more than 5 years ago | (#26448985)

Look at the kWh, he's using 1,635kWh per month. While it is high, it's not surprising if his house is especially large and he has a heat-pump. Those things are notoriously inefficient if the temperature drops below 40 degrees F. It getting that cold should be rare in silicon valley, but it does happen.

What I found interesting was that, while December was bad for solar power, he says:

My total power consumption cost for the last six months is $389.39--less than my utility bill for January, 2008.

Basically, his solar power does what it's supposed to more often than not. But then again, we've always known that about solar power, the big problem with solar is the large up-front capital cost of installing it.

(Or other strange things, like my mother just moved into a retirement community and her housing rules say solar panels are not allowed because they're unsightly, but directTV antennas and satellite dishes are just fine. One must have priorities I suppose. Television is obviously more important than renewable energy.)

Re:$400 a month? (1)

LordKaT (619540) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449035)

oprah.

Re:$400 a month? (3, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449197)

The dishes are allowed because federal law says that they have to be:

http://www.fcc.gov/mb/facts/otard.html [fcc.gov]

Given time and lower installation costs, I would imagine that similar legislation will be applied to solar cells.

Re:$400 a month? (5, Interesting)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449425)

"but directTV antennas and satellite dishes are just fine"

After a couple of legal battles, there are some federal laws that say that banning antennas and dishes in a housing development is not permitted. Many developments try to do it anyway but you can fight it if you know the right laws.

Re:$400 a month? (2, Funny)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449801)

Hey, just install some concentrated PV disgussed as a very big antenna.

Re:$400 a month? (4, Interesting)

Joe Snipe (224958) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449459)

Dishes are allowed because someone paid the FCC to enforce the right to install one. If you can come up with a solar panel that generates ad based revenues and is steeped with kickbacks and non-compete contracts, someone will pay the FCC to enforce the right to install those on your moms roof too.

Re:$400 a month? (4, Interesting)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449517)

It's not just being paid off - external television antennas were part of those laws too.

The whole thing is disgusting to me though. We're not living in any semblance of a free country when your neighbors can tell you what things you can and can't have on your property simply because they don't look pretty.

Re:$400 a month? (4, Informative)

Muad'Dave (255648) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449469)

Restrictions on the installation of DirectTV and other satellite dishes are explicitly preempted by FCC regulation [fcc.gov] in the US.

Re:$400 a month? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449713)

I would like to see the same Federal government protections from homeowner association governance allowing anyone who wishes to invest in installing renewable (solar, wind, etc.) energy sources.

The big difference here is that the US Federal Government didn't subsidize satellite television dishes. There is speculation that they may aid first-time renewable energy projects.

Re:$400 a month? (1)

orsty3001 (1377575) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449023)

I weld all the time, I mean Aluminum weld all the time, takes a lot more power than steel. I have tons of computers that I never turn off and a 7500 sq foot house to heat and cool. My highest power bill ever was ~$190. This guy must eat power for breakfast.

Re:$400 a month? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449333)

My highest power bill ever was ~$190. This guy must eat power for breakfast.

Or, you live in an area with low cost electricity, and this guy lives in a high cost area. A more meaningful comparison would be KWh.

Re:$400 a month? (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449489)

A 7500 sqft house? How many dozen children do you have?

Re:$400 a month? (5, Informative)

dfdashh (1060546) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449039)

Here's why, from his initial article [extremetech.com] :

Our power usage is unusually high for a typical, four person nuclear family. A big part of that is because I have a PC lab and network in the basement. Both my wife and I work out of the house much of the time, with her time almost 100% in the home office. Plus, we have two teenage girls and a pretty beefy HDTV and home audio setup in the family room.

Re:$400 a month? (4, Interesting)

SBrach (1073190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449111)

Anyone in the southwest running a 3-6 ton heatpump in the summer when it is over 100F and the winter when it is below 40F. My house is 1400 sq. ft. and even though I have one of the cheapest electricity rates in the country (APS combined advantage 7am-12pm)I still pay $250-350/mo. during the summer. So far my bills for Nov. and Dec. have only been around $150/mo but I also have a load controller on my house which many people say cuts their bills in half. Basically I set a maximum demand limit in kW's and the unit prevents either my A/C, dryer, and/or hot water heater from running if need be to stay under that limit depending on the priority set for each appliance. Currently I have it set at 2.0kW but during the summer it needs to be above 5.5 for the A/C to run enough to keep the house cool. The unit does not restrict anything during off peak hours.

Re:$400 a month? (3, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449229)

Let alone the man did it half assed.

I used to have a solar home. Step 1 is knowing your EXACT load before you start.

Step 2 is to understand the solar rating for your location, then cut it by 1/4 and use that number.

The man did neither. he should have a 35-50% excess for summer and have a 10-20% lacking in winter. Supplement that with a single decent wind generator and your intertie.

Finally your biggest step to solar is you REDUCE YOUR CONSUMPTION. We bought all low energy appliances and got rid of silly crap like plasma TV's and huge servers. you have to change your lifestyle or have a never ending supply of money to buy 4X the solar gear than you think you need.

It's a half assed install that was doomed from day one, and now he's bitching about it.

Re:$400 a month? (4, Insightful)

drunkennewfiemidget (712572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449565)

It's a half assed install that was doomed from day one, and now he's bitching about it.

Of course, technology marches on, and there will no doubt, with higher efficiency panels available at lower prices in the coming years. Alas, that's the price one pays for being an early adopter. But when I look at my power bill, I still have a nice, warm feeling inside.

... he is?

Re:$400 a month? (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449635)

I used to have a solar home. Step 1 is knowing your EXACT load before you start.

Electrical load varies by time of day, time of year, and what the occupant feels like doing at the time. At best you can find a decent average.

Finally your biggest step to solar is you REDUCE YOUR CONSUMPTION. We bought all low energy appliances and got rid of silly crap like plasma TV's and huge servers. you have to change your lifestyle or have a never ending supply of money to buy 4X the solar gear than you think you need.

If it requires that much work, then why not simply make those reductions without going to solar power and gain your savings right there? A lot of people are looking for a way to "help out" or "save money" without drastically altering their lifestyle. Be happy with what you can convince them to do. Throw some panels up on the roof for free, clean power? Sure, they might give that a try. Go through and replace every device in their home with new "green" versions just to make the damned thing work? No, you lost me there. I'd rather keep paying my old bill.

Re:$400 a month? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449471)

Basement "gardeners"

Re:$400 a month? (3, Informative)

winkydink (650484) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449485)

He is a PG&E customer in Northern California. That's how he spends $400 a month on electricity.

PG&E = Pricks Grabbing Everything

Re:$400 a month? (4, Funny)

afabbro (33948) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449611)

Who the hell uses that much electric power?

His other hobby is recycling aluminum.

Re:$400 a month? (2, Informative)

tweek (18111) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449613)

Read the article a little more closely. He isn't a standard run-of-the-mill electricity consumer. He runs benchmarks on hardware from his home requiring multiple pcs running at full bore (I'm inferring the last part based on experience in the load testing arena). Additionally, he DOES live in CA so he probably runs the AC more than someone who lives in MI.

If you look at my power bill, you might say the same thing. I have running at home right now, the following:

- Dell M1710 laptop
- Dual-CPU Opteron workstation with all slots filled (650W power supply)
- dual proc p3 (yes pentium 3) file server with attached storage array
- dual-core 1CPU myth-backend with hdhomerun tuner (so external power)
- celeron myth-frontend upstairs
- wife's dual-core desktop
- wife's laptop in charging mode
- laserjet printer
- inkjet printer
- wife's lcd
- two lcd's on my desk
- WAP
- 3 network switches on different floors of the house
- External (eSata or FW) drives on both desktops
- DSL modem

That's just the computing stuff. Let's not forget the consoles, dvd player, amp and tv.

Now in all fairness, much of that gear is in low-power/powersave mode but you might look at my power bill and wonder the same thing.

Re:$400 a month? (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449689)

FYI, I just looked and the August power bill from last year was $243. I live in Georgia and that's pretty much the hottest time of the year.

I'd leave the windows open more but humidity is terrible for books and the wife and I have a rather large personal library.

Re:$400 a month? (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449753)

We had a $400 electric bill once in our 1725 sq foot home. It was in the Central Valley of California where temperatures can breach 100 degrees regularly in the summer. We had two teenage boys who took long showers (electric water heating) and left a lot of laundry. On top of that, our doors weren't great and for part of that time the AC unit in the garage closet was bleeding cold air.

So...after the boys left, and the AC unit was wrapped up with ducting tape, and the doors were replaced...we haven't cracked $200.

The real use case for solar is electric vehicles. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26448865)

If you can plug in your car overnight and have it charged from a bank of batteries in the basement that is where you'll start seeing a decent return on your investment.

Location (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26448881)

Just goes to show that solar power should only be considered in Tropical climates.

Re:Location (1)

drunkennewfiemidget (712572) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449627)

Wrong.

The author is missing something... (3, Insightful)

Carik (205890) | more than 5 years ago | (#26448911)

There's an important step that this guy missed: cutting consumption. I have a roughly 3000 square foot house, and the most I've used since August '07 is 700kWh in a month... and that was a month when I had visitors for basically the whole month, so we used a lot more power. My average is around 500.

Now... we don't know how big this guy's house is, or how many people live there. But really... 1,635kWh? That seems pretty excessive for any reasonable house. Maybe if he's got a bunch of servers on all the time, and has electric heat, and lives in a cold climate, but it still seems high.

Re:The author is missing something... (2, Informative)

Logical Zebra (1423045) | more than 5 years ago | (#26448961)

He did say that one month he was doing a benchmarking test involving several computers running 24-hours per day.

Serious geekitude.

Re:The author is missing something... (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449059)

Yea, but regular desktops don't pull that much power honestly. I bought a watt-meter and mine only pulls about 100 watts average. My wife's laptop only pulls about 30 watts! I have light bulbs that use more than those combined.

Re:The author is missing something... (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449465)

"100 watts average"
Did you miss the part about the PCs being used for a benchmarking test? Benchmarking tests usually result in average power consumption equaling peak consumption for the duration of the test...

Re:The author is missing something... (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449171)

Yep yep. Living off the grid gets more and more challenging as your consumption increases. Not that the guy in TFA was ever looking to get off the grid. IIRC from the first article, he doesn't have a battery system or anything, he's just using the panels to offset some of his massive electrical bills.

Given his initial outlay of 45k, it's going to take a decade or so to break even, but the active life of the panels is longer than that, so no biggie (Of course, he's going to look silly when we discover profitable cold fusion next year, but that's beside the point).

Re:The author is missing something... (2, Informative)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449267)

It's probably more efficient and economically viable to eliminate the bank of batteries and feed it back into the grid with a utility hookup. This won't help when the power goes out, but you'll utilize all the energy collected one way or the other without having the need for batteries which need to be maintained/replaced.

And if you have an electric car which needs to be charged, charge it during non peak hours.

Re:The author is missing something... (2, Informative)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449581)

Agreed. The batteries are a massive recurring expense that pretty much makes the investment impossible to break even.

Additionally there is so much research going into batteries and super capacitors, that I'd be hesitant to invest in a big battery infrastructure without a clear and pressing need.

Insightful (2, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449091)

Yes, he spent $36000 up front on the system, which means that even with 25 year life on the panels an eventual payback is uncertain. He must surely also know that in a few years those same panels will probably cost no more than half that, so he has heavy depreciation to contend with. Of course people do waste money on big toys- I plead guilty myself - but you don't get much actual enjoyment out of a solar panel.

I don't know about the position in the US, but in Europe there is a market in energy efficient appliances, and a small change in cost for things like freezers can buy one with half the power consumption. It would be interesting to know if he did the exercise you suggest, and if so did a cost benefit analysis. After all, in Northern CA it might be that he is using air con which could be avoided by improved ventilation, planting, modifications to windows etc., or electric heating for part of the winter which could have been replaced more efficiently with roof thermal absorbers rather than PV.

Re:Insightful (4, Insightful)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449391)

Yes the panels will drop in cost, but you are forgetting that Electric bills are going to go UP in price over the same time. 10 years from now, he can generate the same amount of power, and save more money than he does today.

Of course, those that wait will have a MUCH quicker payback, since their equipment goes down in cost, and rates go up. But then again, you probably don't own a computer, do you? Cause there is always one that is faster/cheaper coming in another few months. Sometimes you just gotta jump in.

Re:Insightful (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449603)

Yes, he spent $36000 up front on the system, which means that even with 25 year life on the panels an eventual payback is uncertain.

Yes, but assuming the both the price and efficiency of panels go up, would he be able to either outright replace the panels for a fraction of the initial outlay, tapping into the other components that the installation needed (and selling the panels on a "used" market to recoup a piece of the cost), or add a second set of panels onto the array with, again, a relatively small outlay compared to the initial cost for the whole system?

Re:The author is missing something... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449165)

Move down to a Southwestern state: Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, etc.

With a programmable thermostat (keeping the house at 85+ degrees daytime in the summer) and only moderate consumer electronics use, a 3000 sq ft house can still easily top 1500kWh of usage. And it'll mostly be the A/C.

That is, unless you have several thousands of dollars of upgrades (newer, more efficient A/C, additional insulation, radiant heating barriers, etc.).

Re:The author is missing something... (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449557)

There is that... I live in New England, so even though we complain about the heat in the summer, I mostly don't bother with A/C.

On the other hand, my house is pretty tightly built, and heavily insulated (for its age -- I'll be making it better over the next few years), so it stays reasonably cool. I've lived in places where A/C was vital, and they were a lot more expensive.

Though a few grand in insulation and awnings could save you that much in a couple of years of reduced air conditioning, so I'd be inclined to say it's worth it if you live in the southwest.

Re:The author is missing something... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449683)

Skip the AC; go with geo-thermal HVAC. But the important one IS insulation.

Re:The author is missing something... (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449211)

One Word: Insulation.

Badly insulated houses leak energy like no other. Re-insulate, make sure there's no spaces throwing off wanted heating or cooling. That's probably your best initial investment in any house, especially if it's old. Old insulation (blown in or otherwise) usually lasts only 50 years.

Re:The author is missing something... (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449281)

``But really... 1,635kWh?''

I think that's more than I use in a whole _year_. And that's with my computer on 24/7. I guess all these power-saving measures I've implemented go a long way.

Re:The author is missing something... (1)

stellar7 (309788) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449379)

I used to live in a 1500 sq ft house (built in 2001) in the southern part of Georgia. I did run my PC 24/7, but I had compact fluorescent bulbs in nearly every fixture (including outside lights).

January was usually the highest energy consumption month (I know I've hit 1200 kWh), but the summer wasn't far behind. In the summer, the rates are higher and the bills were significantly more.

Why so much electricity in the cold months? In that area most houses use heat pumps for heating (no natural gas infrastructure) with electric heating elements in the unit for when the temperature is too low for a heat pump to work (below 40F?).

Re:The author is missing something... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449535)

That's 2270 watts per hour average. If he's going totally solar, that means heat as well. My electric consumption is much lower, but I cook and I heat my house and hot water with gas. I imagine if it was an all electric house (and it's a small house) I'd use that much electricity, or nearly so.

Re:The author is missing something... (1)

tripmine (1160123) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449639)

A bunch of servers can serve as electric heat.

installation and Maintenance cost ? (2)

heatseeker_around (1246024) | more than 5 years ago | (#26448937)

I would have been interesting to see some numbers or estimates for the installation and maintenance cost... and the cost of the insurance. It's like a car. Even if you succeed to find the money to buy a Ferrari, will you have the money to pay the insurance and the maintenance costs over the years ?

Re:installation and Maintenance cost ? (1)

Logical Zebra (1423045) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449181)

I agree. How much TOTAL did this system cost to install? Knowing that price would enable me to estimate how long the solar panel system would take to pay for itself.

The last time I looked into solar power, it would take over a decade to break even.

Re:installation and Maintenance cost ? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449575)

I installed mine 5 years ago (no longer live there) for less than $16,000.00 but then I was smart. I bought used panels and installed stuff myself. I did not do sun tracking.

my home was a dome house so heat/ac is very efficient and did not make a factor, but I swapped out appliances for energy efficient systems and cut my consumption by 50%.

you cant do what he did. you have to plan AND make lifestyle changes.

When will more panels make sense? (2, Interesting)

itsybitsy (149808) | more than 5 years ago | (#26448957)

Not only are you saving a lot by generating your own power (actually I'd like to see your annual generated power curve along side your savings from the years previous and the savings assuming you didn't have the solar panels installed) but you could still add panels to your roof to generate more power. I wonder what the break even point is for your system, when would more panels make sense or not? I also wonder if adjustments to your system to track the sun angle even in one dimension by lifting the panels with a motion system would be? What about adding solar water heating to your house?

ROI? (3, Interesting)

RyanSpade (820527) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449005)

Why didn't this follow up article include a Return on Investment number? It would be nice if he would have included the cost of the install and compare it to the difference in his electric bills. I'm curious to see how long it will take the install to pay for itself.

Re:ROI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449179)

He doesn't have a year's worth of data yet. Give it time, and I bet you'll get your answer.

Re:ROI? (4, Funny)

lucifuge31337 (529072) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449293)

Why didn't this follow up article include a Return on Investment number?

For the same reason that you NEVER EVER add up your receipts when you are restoring a car. It is sure to make you cry.

Re:ROI? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449487)

One thing that is important to remember when you think about ROI calculations is to include the potential interest lost. Many people look at a $5000 installation that saves 500 dolars a year and think that it has paid itself off in 10 years. Really though, you could have put that money into a CD or Money Market and made 3% interest on it over that time, which pushes the break even point out closer to 15 years. Not to mention that a CD is a nearly 100% safe investment, whereas I can imagine numerous senarios that introduce risk for the solar isntallation.

Engineers don't often think about present vs future value of their money, it's not something that we're wired for. I'm not saying that solar can't be economical, I'm just saying to keep in mind all the factors when running the cost effectiveness numbers through your head.

ROI is about 12.5 years (3, Interesting)

clonan (64380) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449519)

I went back to his original article (the instalation). He said the estimate is that his anual utility bill will drop from 4400 a year to 1100 a year.

So I made a few assumptions.

#1-his power use will not increase. Not really likely but a future increase shouldn't change the ROI on his current investment.

#2-Utilities will just keep pace with inflation (assumed 2%)...power costs will stay porportinally expensive in the future. This is probably not ture as power prices tend to increase slightly faster than inflation. So this assumption will tend to increase the ROI.

#3-I assume he is financing it through his mortgage at about 5%

Therefore when I calculate out to 25 years I find that he would spend about $141,000 in power over the 25 years without slar. With Solar he would spend $35,233.

The Payoff date comes at about 12.5 years.

Re:ROI? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449641)

I can just about guarantee he won't get any return ever. $36k up front for the install and I'm guessing he will save about $2k per year or so for the first few years (he predicted something like $3k a year but that ain't gonna happen). That's 18 years to at that rate just to break even. However, solar panels degrade over time and in 18 years the power output will be significantly less. I don't know what warranty he got but most monocrystalline panels are not warrantied for more than 20 years and it is expected that efficiency will drop over its lifetime.

Net effect: He might break even or have actually lost money in the long run

Unexpectet event (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449007)

but the tables have turned significantly once winter approached

Much like with coding: planning is everything

Holy Multiple Pages, Batman! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449095)

print link [extremetech.com]

fixed angle panels are sub-optimum (5, Interesting)

RichMan (8097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449097)

Who ever installed the panels mounted them directly flat on the roof. That is bad.

They need to be angled for the best sun during the time the power need is greatest. Ideally they would be adjustable semi-annually/quarterly/monthly for the best angle. And if fixed would be biased toward the point of worst number of sun days and power need.

Doing a suboptimal installation and not accounting for sun angle is not a good installation and should be perform at a fraction of potential output.

A sun-tracking system is better (5, Informative)

msbmsb (871828) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449661)

MAKE:blog [makezine.com] has some descriptions of some DIY sun-trackers to move the panel with the sun during the day.

Sun angle (2, Insightful)

Peter Simpson (112887) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449137)

Given the 40 degree difference in the sun angle between Summer and Winter, would it make sense to change the tilt on the panels to optimize the angle for the two seasons?

Maybe a screw jack could lift the top of the panels as winter approaches, then lower them again as you move into summer?

It's not like snow or ice would be a problem and you could probably get the screw jack from an old satellite dish (or Boeing surplus!).

Just a thought...

Re:Sun angle (1)

doti (966971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449677)

Or an motor to automatically follow the Sun position, not only through the year, but also through the day.

A waste of time (1)

Mr. Firewall (578517) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449183)

"...Loyd compares solar power data of the last six months to determine if solar power is still worth the time and money."

And the article never answers that question. So while we still don't know how many years his installation will take to get to the break-even point, I can at least tell you that RTFA is definitely a waste of time.

Re:A waste of time (3, Informative)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449569)

Because this is a follow up article. The first article includes the Roi figures along with the fact that California Rebated half the cost of the system ($36,000.00 dollars), which explains his up front costs of $36,000.00. Not bad for the size system he had installed and yes I've read the first article and understood the reasoning for the selected installation method, which was to reduce peak Energy Usage during Peak Summer Cost. That's right, his goal was to cut the summer cost of energy during the most expensive part of the year from PG&E (his uutility company).

Note that PG&E has a variable Rate cycle that has the greatest impact during the summer cooling period. This is why he wanted to reduce his summer electric costs, which the system did quite successfully.

But... Why not make the panels adjustable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449189)

I don't understand... Why would you bolt the panels directly to the roof with a constant, set angle?

If it was me, I'd frame up some 2x4s and bolt the panels to the frame. Then I'd put a hinge on one side, and an adjustable support on the other.

Four times a year (or so) I'd go up on the roof and change the angle of the solar panel frame so it's orthogonal to the sun's position in the sky. At the end of each season, just adjust the angle for the coming season's conditions.

Or you could really go nuts and do it once a month.

Hasn't anyone thought of this yet? I mean really.

guy should try conservation first (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449259)

1,600 kwh per month is gargantuan.

Do the calcuation where you live (1)

Tilzs (959354) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449321)

You can calculate how much solar energy you get per year by using solar radiation data collected by the weather community. http://www.wunderground.com/calculators/solar.html [wunderground.com] . You can then use this information to do a calculation on what solar panels will do for your particular location.

GA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449493)

Atlanta, GA
1300sf condo with 2 common walls (shared)
summer average:
$100 electric
$ 30 gas

winter average:
$100 gas
$ 30 electric

electric AC
gas water/furnace

either way, i'm paying $100-200 a month for both

Re:GA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26449563)

Apartment living at its best.

buying panels over time (1)

hey (83763) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449553)

I wonder if it might make sense to buy the panels over time. Since the watts per sq foot and dollars per watt are only going to improve. What if you budget installing one new panel a year. Then
your initial costs won't be that high (would need all the electronics, inverter) and your panels would be better. One a downside your wattage would be low to start with.

Do you get credited for extra power? (1)

Xelios (822510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26449743)

If you generate more power than you use with solar panels, are you able to sell it to your energy provider? Here in Germany any extra power your panels generate has to be bought by your utilities company, at a price a lot higher than the market average for electricity. So as long as you're generating more power than you consume, your utilities company actually pays you. For many people this means they end up with a net gain at the end of the year, as the money they make in the summer more than offsets the price of the electricity they have to buy in the winter.

The only remaining downside is the high installation cost of the panels. Still, I see them everywhere here.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?