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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    New England
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    118

    Default questions re: installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs

    Our community is promoting solar panel installation to help homeowners reduce electricity costs - they've selected three different vendors and are advertising federal and state incentives (to make it more attractive).

    We've received quotes from one vender (out-of-pocket cost would be between $5800-$7500 after incentives - depending on type of panel and inverter). Now the question of "design" has come up. The ideal location would be a SW facing garage roof - would fit 14 panels and again, depending on panel, they would provide between 85%-95% of electricity usage. The electric meter is located on the NW side of house - there's a family room in between garage and "main" house, in order to reach meter.

    Vendor wants a deposit - agreeing to proposal BEFORE discussing design. Said if we can't come to agreement on design, they'll refund the deposit. ?????????? My thinking is design is part of the initial proposal - one doesn't give a contractor a deposit BEFORE seeing the design.

    My biggest concern is running wire(s) along roof from panels to meter - there is no attic in family room to run wires. Its a Cape, so there is very little attic space along back wall of upstairs. Is running wire outside, along roof, down side of house to meter a good idea - roof is 4 years old so won't be replacing anytime soon.

    Any solar panel contractors/installers in the ToH group have any suggestions?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    6,537

    Default Re: questions re: installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs

    First of all, don't be quick to give a deposit and don't bow to pressure tactics. The contractor must include a plan or design with his estimate, otherwise he'll claim that everything you want is "extra".

    #2. In most states, the amount of the deposit is limited to 10% of the amount of the job or $2,000 - whichever is less. If you're not sure, check with your state board of contractors.

    #3. There is nothing wrong with wires running outdoors, if done to code. They can even run underground.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    118

    Default Re: questions re: installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs

    The neighborhood has underground utilities - so am quite familiar w/such. But can't run under the buildings or interfere with underground natural gas, cable, telephone, internet, & electric already there. Concern is about "done to code" (cuz haven't seen any plans yet) and the length of running what is basically electrical current (isn't that what comes off these panels?) in a conduit along the roofline .... aside from the "look" of it, would think being exposed to elements 24/7 could present issues that wouldn't occur if one could pass through attics and basements.

    Granted no one as a crystal ball, but wondering if running a current, outdoors, this distance along roof is a good idea in a solar panel design?


    Quote Originally Posted by dj1 View Post
    First of all, don't be quick to give a deposit and don't bow to pressure tactics. The contractor must include a plan or design with his estimate, otherwise he'll claim that everything you want is "extra".

    #2. In most states, the amount of the deposit is limited to 10% of the amount of the job or $2,000 - whichever is less. If you're not sure, check with your state board of contractors.

    #3. There is nothing wrong with wires running outdoors, if done to code. They can even run underground.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Columbiana, Alabama
    Posts
    711

    Default Re: questions re: installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs

    Quote Originally Posted by crylakel View Post
    The neighborhood has underground utilities - so am quite familiar w/such. But can't run under the buildings or interfere with underground natural gas, cable, telephone, internet, & electric already there. Concern is about "done to code" (cuz haven't seen any plans yet) and the length of running what is basically electrical current (isn't that what comes off these panels?) in a conduit along the roofline .... aside from the "look" of it, would think being exposed to elements 24/7 could present issues that wouldn't occur if one could pass through attics and basements.

    Granted no one as a crystal ball, but wondering if running a current, outdoors, this distance along roof is a good idea in a solar panel design?
    I agree with Dj1 such wiring can be legally done by licensed installers.

    I do wonder about the efficiency claim.
    Some 2x4 ft panels only produce 15W each so 14 panels may only supply 210W of power, not even enough to supply a microwave oven.
    Last edited by The Semi-Retired Electric; 03-12-2014 at 12:57 PM.
    Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
    Maurice Turgeon, Hidden Content

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    118

    Default Re: questions re: installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs

    here's what they claiming w/the American made panels:

    "This system will eliminate more than 95% of your electric bill with a payback of only 9 years! Of course, as pricing increases, you are saving even more!!

    With this current project would use 14 Solarworld American made 270 watt panels with 14 Micro Inverters. In the 25 year period you will save over $27,846!!!"



    here's what they claiming w/other panels:

    "This system will eliminate more than 89% of your electric bill with a payback of only 9 years! Of course, as pricing increases, you are saving even more!!

    With this current project would use 14 Phono Diamond 250 watt panels with 14 Micro Inverters. In the 25 year period you will save over $26,052!!!"


    I'd much prefer folks here question claims and raise concerns, cuz while we owned a home 20 years ago with a solar hot water heater (installed by previous owner and we never saved much $$$ w/it), we don't have much experience with such. Sounds almost to good to be true that one can save this much with panels ....

    and I doubt we'll be living in this house 25 years!!!!!!



    Quote Originally Posted by The Semi-Retired Electric View Post
    I agree with Dj1 such wiring can be legally done by licensed installers.

    I do wonder about the efficiency claim.
    Some 2x4 ft panels only produce 15W each so 14 panels may only supply 210W of power, not even enough to supply a microwave oven.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Maryland
    Posts
    1,588

    Default Re: questions re: installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs

    Quote Originally Posted by crylakel View Post
    here's what they claiming w/the American made panels:

    "This system will eliminate more than 95% of your electric bill with a payback of only 9 years! Of course, as pricing increases, you are saving even more!!

    With this current project would use 14 Solarworld American made 270 watt panels with 14 Micro Inverters. In the 25 year period you will save over $27,846!!!"



    here's what they claiming w/other panels:

    "This system will eliminate more than 89% of your electric bill with a payback of only 9 years! Of course, as pricing increases, you are saving even more!!

    With this current project would use 14 Phono Diamond 250 watt panels with 14 Micro Inverters. In the 25 year period you will save over $26,052!!!"


    I'd much prefer folks here question claims and raise concerns, cuz while we owned a home 20 years ago with a solar hot water heater (installed by previous owner and we never saved much $$$ w/it), we don't have much experience with such. Sounds almost to good to be true that one can save this much with panels

    and I doubt we'll be living in this house 25 years!!!!!!
    That to me pretty much answers your question.
    89% of your electric bill seems way beyond what can be expected in New England. Not known to be the sunniest area of the country.
    As much as they're pushed, photovoltaic panels don't usually live up to the hype. Many people in the business are there to make a quick buck from you and the government. we all pay for it of course.
    Last edited by ed21; 03-12-2014 at 03:45 PM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Columbiana, Alabama
    Posts
    711

    Default Re: questions re: installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs

    Quote Originally Posted by ed21 View Post
    That to me pretty much answers your question.
    89% of your electric bill seems way beyond what can be expected in New England. Not known to be the sunniest area of the country.
    As much as they're pushed, photovoltaic panels don't usually live up to the hype. Many people in the business are there to make a quick buck from you and the government. we all pay for it of course.
    True I would love it if those claims were real.

    Even at 270W per panel it would take every bit of that to supply a typical water heater having 4500W elements.

    Now if you were driving your meter backwards all day long with 4500W of power and only demanding that amount of energy for an hour a day the idea may work.

    Maybe if you could get the details in writing and have them put some money in a trust, it may work.

    Can they refer you to some happy users?
    Good Luck from Columbiana, Alabama
    Maurice Turgeon, Hidden Content

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Posts
    2,091

    Default Re: questions re: installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs

    If you measure the average annual output of a solar panel system in Santa Fe, NM it's going to be a lot more than the same installation in Syracuse, NY and all that most installers will have as proof is the manufacturer's salesman's specs, which relate to their own idea of what "average" means. Did they do the measuring in a lab or real-world conditions? Did they clean the panels frequently or only occasionally? How do the measured sites compare to your location, latitude, and normal WX patterns?


    The best solar installers are locals with a track history they are proud of, and they will have customers locally who will be happy to share their results with anyone who asks If they don't have that local track record and can't offer empirical proof of their claims then you shouldn't believe a word they say. None of them are going to back up their words with cash, but the good ones will come closer to their claims.

    Either pay your money and take your chances or let neighbors get a system installed, then a year later see what they think before you decide. There is still not a lot of regulation or oversight of the solar industry yet so it's "Caveat Emptor"

    Phil

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    New England
    Posts
    118

    Default Re: questions re: installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs

    Have asked for a list of homes these three installers have installed "on" - got one reply thus far.

    There's a community meeting next week re: program so perhaps some happy homeowners will chime in. This community program runs until mid-April .... but that doesn't mean one can't purchase a solar system afterwards, and from an installers outside of this program.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    6,537

    Default Re: questions re: installing solar panels to reduce electricity costs

    Asking for referrals, you are on your way to select a contractor, the right way.

    Then, take the time to contact these homeowners, ask them about the contractors and ask them about the "energy savings".

    There is a difference between promises and actual experience.

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