General Question

philosopher's avatar

Does anyone have solar panels on their roof? What company did you use?

Asked by philosopher (9152points) June 5th, 2014

Are you getting your monies worth? What are the ups and downs?
There is so much to learn and I do not trust these companies.
I hope you can tell me your experiences.

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13 Answers

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

It’s very unlikely that the installation cost will ever be paid back from the use of the panels. If you do this do it because you just want to, not for any money or energy savings. I spent a couple of years installing grid-connected arrays. The economics is not favorable for them yet. For a while it was cheaper to DIY them but the prices have come down enough to make them cheap enough to buy commercially. The maintenance, install cost and environment keep them out of reach for most people. If you are willing to give up certain conveniences like resistive heat (clothes dryer, electric stove, heating coils, water heater…) then it’s not unreasonable. I have built several using the method linked and they work great.

rojo's avatar

All I need is enough power to run my AC. Is that feasible?

Judi's avatar

Excuse me @ARE_you_kidding_me , but depending on where you live the cost could be recouped in as little as 5 years.
I see it like buying a car, except when you get it paid off it still has 20–50 years productive life in it, AND you’re not paying the utility companies.
Look at your bill. If you are blowing through the lower tiers (the cheapest utility cost) very fast then you should consider solar. In most applications it ties into your existing utility grid. If you produce more than you use in the daytime it is put back on the grid and “banked” for future use.
Sizing your solar system requires a years worth of utility bills, an analysis of your property (will it be shaded at any time during the day?) and someone who is knowledgable about how weather effects solar in your area. The panels come with an output rating but all those factors d rate your system.
You don’t want a system that offsets your lowest tiers of electricity because that is usually really cheap.
If you can afford it, I would advise against leasing companies like Solar City and buy your own. If you finance it, when it’s paid off it’s all yours and no one can come remove it because your lease is up. You also aren’t stuck with the payments for 20–30 years.
My husband got his license to be a solar installer but the industry is very competitive. We couldn’t compete. I’m not sure if there are still tax credits but when we did it I think it was 30%! Many local jurisdictions also have rebates. On our last house we installed our own.
We bought our current house off grid and that is a different animal. We are not connected to the grid and store our excess electricity in batteries. We have upgraded the system here, adding panels, buying new awesome batteries and getting a propane generator back up. It is all controlled by a central brain that knows when the generator needs to come on and monitors our batteries. We live in Southern Oregon now and lived in central California before.
The cost of solar panels has come down a lot in the last 5 years. I would find a local contractor that has been in business no less than 5 years. Use micro inverters if you can. They invert the power fro DC to AC right at the panel. The advantage to that is that inverters are kind of like the old christmas lights. If one panel is shaded the entire system on that inverter goes down. If you have 1 central inverter one shaded panel would negatively effect the performance of the entire system. With micro inverters if one panel is shaded the other ones will continue to produce.
I’ve probably told you more than you want to know, but I’m kind of passionate about it.

JLeslie's avatar

I do have a concern that solar companies overcharge because of the tax credits. Or, what I co sider to be overcharging. Having said that, I do know people who are very happy with their solar systems for their house and pool, I plan on getting a solar heater for my pool, and I would seriously consider solar power for my house if I felt more confident I will be there several years. I wish solar was more of a standard in the construction of houses where I live. I live in FL and it is ridiculous not to harness the sun’s power here. If every new construction house had solar here then the property values would reflect it accordingly, and the cost of the investment would be less of an issue. Although, it might prevent the home owner from taking the tax write off if the builder is specking the home. I am not sure how that works.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Judi it’s true where you live makes all the difference. Where i am an installation will typically last 25 years and the average home will require a 10kw array if keeping all the luxury items. A diy install will break even or turn a small net gain. Add professional installation and retail markup then it’s about a 75% payback.

Julian17's avatar

I got a quote for a 7.5 kw system for $27,000. The installer gets $7,000 incentive from New York State reducing the cost to $20,000. NY State gives a $5,000 tax credit to me and the Feds 30% tax credit of the total bill which leaves about $7,000 for the entire system. NYSERDA offers a 3.5% loan for 5,10 or 15 years. If you pay that loan instead of an electric bill, we are talking about $65 a month for an electric bill. Would I be better off paying an average of $240 a month? The main problem is laying out the money or getting a loan until the tax credits are received. Tax credits are a dollar for dollar refund on your taxes, not a tax deductions.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Julian17 That is about half the cost of what it would have been just several years ago. At that price initially just think of it like a car loan. I knew prices have come down but that’s dramatic.

philosopher's avatar

It is hard to know who to trust. I basically trust very few people. They have a right to make a fair living. I have a right to accurate information.
I want in writing what the cost will be and what my monthly rate will be. Every installer gives us a different price for installation and a different monthly rate to pay the loan off. When we show better quotes they adjust things. That does not make it accurate.
I also need to know how much I will have pay Con Ed.
NYC pays more for electric than anyone in the US. Con Ed is over priced.
NY has a NY Serta loan and Green Sky.
These companies call daily and knock on my door. They were even before we started investigating.
If I am not going to decrease my monthly bill I will not do it. I will not do it without a contractual grantee.

philosopher's avatar

We have a similar situation..
What company are you negotiating with? They have all been here.
Where are you?
My husband is better informed than me. He has been studying this.
Message me if, you prefer to chat privately. I find that sharing information is good for consumers.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

We can’t really help with that. This is something that you will have work out. However, I would start by getting an itemized list of materials and model numbers of what is being proposed. If they will not provide it then I think it’s fair to say they will not be trustworthy. Research the hardware first. look at quality, wholesale prices and it should then be readily apparent if you’re being screwed or not. Quality and price of this stuff changes rapidly…even more rapidly recently as I have just learned.

philosopher's avatar

I know your right. I am trying to learn.
Thank you for taking the time to write.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@philosopher Good luck with it, please let us know how it turns out! I would love to do an off grid home, I’m in suburbia at the moment and it’s not an option. Someday… sigh.

DAVEJAY100's avatar

I got my panels fitted in April 2012, at 23p tariff fixed for 25 years. I’ve already been paid around £750 cash per year for the last 2 years, plus free electricity when the sun shines or even on bright cloudy days. The cost in 2012 was £8000. Can anyone show me a better tax-free investment than a return of £750 per annum for £8000 laid down ?? If so I’d love to know about it.

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