Affordable, Efficient Solar Power For Our Homes?

(edited)

The biggest expense related to our home is the electricity bill that comes every month.  I worked hard, we scrimped and saved, and we paid off the mortgage in as short amount of time as possible (1 year, actually!).

Since we live in Thailand, sunshine is strong and available almost all year long, which would seem to make solar a very good candidate to not only reduce our consumption off of the local power grid but, more importantly to me and my family, it should be able to reduce our power bill drastically, freeing up cash for other parts of our lives.

Unfortunately, when pricing solar systems available in this market, I was very disappointed to find that the costs associated with installing even minor, let alone significant, solar systems was still in this day and age extremely expensive, with any probable ROI many, many years out into the future.  I even checked out the possibility of importing, but the costs simply go higher and the government restrictions are not insignificant, to say the least.  It seems to me that if "society" wants average folks to turn over a new leaf and make the switch, even in our own homes, the industry has a lot of work to do to get us there.  I don't want government subsidy programs or assistance, but I don't want to break the bank up front in order to get on board and get our ROI over many long years.

The cost of completely re-wiring our home (I had it done, twice, due to shoddy workmanship and lack of code enforcement, if there really is a code!) was less than $1500.  It was simple and fast to be connected to the grid when we first purchased the house.  In order to go solar:  I have to find competent workers with experience (I don't want to do it myself the same as I didn't want to wire the house myself).  I need to have a clear understanding of what systems are the best and that will require minimal maintenance over the next 50 years or so.  Basically, I don't want to deal with replacing the whole system, or even major parts of the system, for the rest of my life and I don't want my wife to have to deal with it if I die first.  If we sell the house and move, the solar system should be a positive selling point; not a negative that would scare off the average potential buyer. 

If we are talking about mature technology that simply works, none of this should be a problem.  But all of it is a problem.

On this website I see and participate to some degree in many discussions around renewables, and the people that are pro-renewables want us to believe we just don't get it, and that we would be easily converted if we just looked into it again to see where we are in the development of renewables.  Maybe I am mistaken and they only meant on large scale energy delivery, but I don't see how you're going to convert me and others if the above description of reality at the individual home level is still the reality.

Convert me!

Edited by Dan Warnick
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Dan, 

I do not want to defend solar, but it seems to me that your post does not have much to do with solar technology... It seem to have more to do with your personal preferences for your financial structure.

What is an acceptable ROI is up you. Maybe a way to look at it, is to compare to the ROI of paying your mortgage off early? I know here in Denmark (although I do not have solar installed) that ROI is approx 13 - 16 years depending on system. However, the financial institutions lets you mortgage 80 % of the value of the solar system over 30 years... 

As for the question on longevity and maintenance cost I cannot help.

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8 minutes ago, Rasmus Jorgensen said:

Dan, 

I do not want to defend solar, but it seems to me that your post does not have much to do with solar technology... It seem to have more to do with your personal preferences for your financial structure.

What is an acceptable ROI is up you. Maybe a way to look at it, is to compare to the ROI of paying your mortgage off early? I know here in Denmark (although I do not have solar installed) that ROI is approx 13 - 16 years depending on system. However, the financial institutions lets you mortgage 80 % of the value of the solar system over 30 years... 

As for the question on longevity and maintenance cost I cannot help.

Thanks, Rasmus.  I'd have to respectfully disagree.  I don't want to mortgage my electricity.  Why would I?

The point is, if solar/renewables are as good or better than existing sources of energy, why should a family have to take out a mortgage, either on the home or on the solar system itself, in order to use it?

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Just now, Dan Warnick said:

Thanks, Rasmus.  I'd have to respectfully disagree.  I don't want to mortgage my electricity.  Why would I?

The point is, if solar/renewables are as good or better than existing sources of energy, why should a family have to take out a mortgage, either on the home or on the solar system itself, in order to use it?

Sorry if I was not clear. 

What I meant was that you are comparing buying power from an external source to investing in a (very) small-scale power-plant. I realize that you are coming at it from a personal perspective, but I just don't think they can be compared. It is apples and bananas. 

Of course it will be cheaper to buy power from the existing powerplant. A more interesting question to me would be : if there was major break at the existing powerplant (that could not be fixed) and the generator got a big bag og insurance money - what would the be the best tech for them to replace the old plant with? that would be apples to apples. I do not have the answer to this by the way... 

I am pro O&G, but in fairness much of the infrastruture that traditional power-generators relies on were subsidized back in the day... 

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You make a good argument, Rasmus.  My perspective is one of "why should I convert" whereas yours is "you've decided to convert, but you need to look at costs and indepence from a different perspective", I believe.  And you make a good argument from that perspective.

Yes, the subsidization arguments routinely go nowhere and your point kind of makes it clear why that is the case.

Thanks for your contribution.  Much appreciated.

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1 hour ago, Dan Warnick said:

You make a good argument, Rasmus.  My perspective is one of "why should I convert" whereas yours is "you've decided to convert, but you need to look at costs and indepence from a different perspective", I believe.  And you make a good argument from that perspective.

Yes, the subsidization arguments routinely go nowhere and your point kind of makes it clear why that is the case.

Thanks for your contribution.  Much appreciated.

Yes and no. 

My argument is actually that you should not compare pros / cons and of installing a solar system to buying from the grid,  but rather compare it to having a diesel generator in the backyard. There are pros and cons to both and they have different economics. Personally, I would think that energy independence would be a massive plus, but downside being uncertainty about the reliabillity of the technology. 

As to reasons for converting - this discussion never made sense to. It can certainly not be boiled down to simply economics. A simple example : when comparing the diesel generator to solar panels - the solar panels are a lot quieter...  

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12 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

The biggest expense related to our home is the electricity bill that comes every month.  I worked hard, we scrimped and saved, and we paid off the mortgage in as short amount of time as possible (1 year, actually!).

Since we live in Thailand, sunshine is strong and available almost all year long, which would seem to make solar a very good candidate to not only reduce our consumption off of the local power grid but, more importantly to me and my family, it should be able to reduce our power bill drastically, freeing up cash for other parts of our lives.

Unfortunately, when pricing solar systems available in this market, I was very disappointed to find that the costs associated with installing even minor, let alone significant, solar systems was still in this day and age extremely expensive, with any probable ROI many, many years out into the future.  I even checked out the possibility of importing, but the costs simply go higher and the government restrictions are not insignificant, to say the least.  It seems to me that if "society" wants average folks to turn over a new leaf and make the switch, even in our own homes, the industry has a lot of work to do to get us there.  I don't want government subsidy programs or assistance, but I don't want to break the bank up front in order to get on board and get our ROI over many long years.

The cost of completely re-wiring our home (I had it done, twice, due to shoddy workmanship and lack of code enforcement, if there really is a code!) was less than $1500.  It was simple and fast to be connected to the grid when we first purchased the house.  In order to go solar:  I have to find competent workers with experience (I don't want to do it myself the same as I didn't want to wire the house myself).  I need to have a clear understanding of what systems are the best and that will require minimal maintenance over the next 50 years or so.  Basically, I don't want to deal with replacing the whole system, or even major parts of the system, for the rest of my life and I don't want my wife to have to deal with it if I die first.  If we sell the house and move, the solar system should be a positive selling point; not a negative that would scare off the average potential buyer. 

If we are talking about mature technology that simply works, none of this should be a problem.  But all of it is a problem.

On this website I see and participate to some degree in many discussions around renewables, and the people that are pro-renewables want us to believe we just don't get it, and that we would be easily converted if we just looked into it again to see where we are in the development of renewables.  Maybe I am mistaken and they only meant on large scale energy delivery, but I don't see how you're going to convert me and others if the above description of reality at the individual home level is still the reality.

Convert me!

At present domestic solar systems are cost viable only in certain markets and situations. Take for example Australia solar makes economic sense for many due to high costs for grid sourced electricity. I'm hoping to self build again in Oz in two years, there is no way I want to be grid connected. I may have to burrow money to have the system installed but even with the interest rate and paying as consumed for grid connection it makes economic sense.

At present as this is a rapidly changing field with new technologies and prices falling dramatically and each market and consumer different there is no one simple reply. And a fifty year out look with technology trends that are rapidly speeding up really is impossible, the world will be very different in 20 years. With domestic solar you are making the long term investment normally taken by the conventional supplier, so costs are up front and profit is some way down the line, that's the nature of it. It's not a simple operation to compare costs of apples to pears.

So it's a question that needs to be asked repeatedly as the situation changes, domestic solar is rapidly becoming the economical model that's best in many markets and as costs drop they take over more markets. This process is a cycle that self feeds at an increasing rate.

Then of course some like to take a responsible unselfish outlook and add on external costs of the considered sources of electricity and this pushes the economics of renewables considerably.

So if you are luckier enough to live in a market where you can get relatively cheap electricity just on a personal selfish economic point of view, no solar doesn't make sense, YET.

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11 minutes ago, DA? said:

So if you are luckier enough to live in a market where you can get relatively cheap electricity just on a personal selfish economic point of view, no solar doesn't make sense, YET.

So as far as you're concerned, economically and otherwise, it may make more sense ($$ & sense) to stick with the electric company in my case and at this point in time.  Thank you for that frank assessment.  But then you kind of ruin your assessment by labelling that choice, if I choose to make it, as "selfish"?  Good salesman, in a "self-righteous" kind of way.  Buttons, buttons, buttons.  Which button shall we push?

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1 hour ago, Dan Warnick said:

So as far as you're concerned, economically and otherwise, it may make more sense ($$ & sense) to stick with the electric company in my case and at this point in time.  Thank you for that frank assessment.  But then you kind of ruin your assessment by labelling that choice, if I choose to make it, as "selfish"?  Good salesman, in a "self-righteous" kind of way.  Buttons, buttons, buttons.  Which button shall we push?

I'm no sales man or diplomat, I'll just give it as it is. The "selfish" part refers to the part we don't factor in the damage done environmentally or in human health/deaths coursed by various forms of energy, not that I'm saying solar has no impact but less than most forms. The decent thing to do is to factor in to any choice you make the impact it has on others and the environment. You don't like the way I put it, fine push any button you like.

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4 hours ago, DA? said:

I'm no sales man or diplomat, I'll just give it as it is. The "selfish" part refers to the part we don't factor in the damage done environmentally or in human health/deaths coursed by various forms of energy, not that I'm saying solar has no impact but less than most forms. The decent thing to do is to factor in to any choice you make the impact it has on others and the environment. You don't like the way I put it, fine push any button you like.

I got what selfish means, DA.  It just seemed odd for you to add it to your comment, that's all.  Was it necessary to label me such?  It does test my ability to take a conversation in good will when such a label is put upon me.

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It occurs to me that my opening questions may be taken as adversarial and anti-solar/renewables.  That was not my intention, although I cede that I may have failed in my writing.

My hope, when writing, was to find enlightenment about the availability of solid solar products/technology that would allow me to take full advantage of the same, and move to both energy independence and an easing on the burdens of the grid, if possible.  

Again, please forgive me if I failed in my writing and/or my "tone" if you will.

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52 minutes ago, Dan Warnick said:

I got what selfish means, DA.  It just seemed odd for you to add it to your comment, that's all.  Was it necessary to label me such?  It does test my ability to take a conversation in good will when such a label is put upon me.

I didn't mean to direct it to you but generally to all that do not consider how there actions affect others and the environment.

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3 minutes ago, DA? said:

I didn't mean to direct it to you but generally to all that do not consider how there actions affect others and the environment.

Fair enough.  Thanks.

My thoughts?  I think the majority of us do consider how our actions affect others and the environment, although that may not be at a fast enough pace for others at times.

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If the country has no barries on entry to install a solar system at home, very likely we will see in California hundred of thousands of solar systems at home. I'll try it once a the cost was so high I couldn't belive. Massive solar systems as well as eolic turbines  play a role in a few parts in each country but nothing else so far

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On ‎10‎/‎26‎/‎2018 at 10:17 PM, Dan Warnick said:

Thanks, Rasmus.  I'd have to respectfully disagree.  I don't want to mortgage my electricity.  Why would I?

The point is, if solar/renewables are as good or better than existing sources of energy, why should a family have to take out a mortgage, either on the home or on the solar system itself, in order to use it?

Don't know about Thailand but in the UK many people make the decision to install Solar on financial grounds alone. They compare the return which is usually >15% tax free each year against the 1% interest they get on cash in a deposit account from the Banksters.

Even without feed in tariffs that return will be 8-10% each year.

Of course there is always someone who compares this against the gadzilion % (BS in most cases)  return they get each year on their Bitcoin or derivatives but many people like the steady gauranteed return year in year on and don't have the time to gamble trade in financial casinos.

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In the U.K. I installed solar panels in 2017 when the cost of lithium storage batteries and panels fell so that any excess home generation during the day could be captured. The U.K. government did not foresee home generators storing any unused electricity on site and pays a feed in tariff inome (FIT)to solar panel home owners which assumes that 50 per cent of electricity generated ends up going back into the national grid, plus a generation payment. The current ROI is currently just over 4%, writing off the inverter and batteries over the 10 year warranty period and the solar panels over 15 years. With inflation running at over 2 per cent a year, and electricity prices rising at above inflation I expect the ROI to creep up each year. My electricity generation costs are sunk costs. Only time will tell if this is a good investment. I believe for me this is

 

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12 minutes ago, Oldflyer said:

In the U.K. I installed solar panels in 2017 when the cost of lithium storage batteries and panels fell so that any excess home generation during the day could be captured. The U.K. government did not foresee home generators storing any unused electricity on site and pays a feed in tariff inome (FIT)to solar panel home owners which assumes that 50 per cent of electricity generated ends up going back into the national grid, plus a generation payment. The current ROI is currently just over 4%, writing off the inverter and batteries over the 10 year warranty period and the solar panels over 15 years. With inflation running at over 2 per cent a year, and electricity prices rising at above inflation I expect the ROI to creep up each year. My electricity generation costs are sunk costs. Only time will tell if this is a good investment. I believe for me this is

 

Nice explanation of your reality.  Thanks.  So do you still pay electricity bills?  If not, that's even more interesting.  If so, what percent of your previous bills do you pay now?

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I still pay for electricity all year, but from after Easter through to September my panels and batteries provide up to 70 per cent of my demand.

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18 hours ago, Oldflyer said:

In the U.K. I installed solar panels in 2017 when the cost of lithium storage batteries and panels fell so that any excess home generation during the day could be captured. The U.K. government did not foresee home generators storing any unused electricity on site and pays a feed in tariff inome (FIT)to solar panel home owners which assumes that 50 per cent of electricity generated ends up going back into the national grid, plus a generation payment. The current ROI is currently just over 4%, writing off the inverter and batteries over the 10 year warranty period and the solar panels over 15 years. With inflation running at over 2 per cent a year, and electricity prices rising at above inflation I expect the ROI to creep up each year. My electricity generation costs are sunk costs. Only time will tell if this is a good investment. I believe for me this is

 

If you have a hot water cylinder have you looked at getting one of those diverters that direct surplus electric to hot water rather than export? That way you get more FIT and offset the cost of heating water (by whatever method used) rather than getting the cr4p export payment.

https://solarimmersion.co.uk/solarimmersion-support/

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We recently built a new house and decided to install solar as part of the new construction, plus we also installed wiring and plugs for future EV charging. Last month my electric bill was $21, and it should be lower still this month as we only ran the A/C for a little bit in early October.

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4 minutes ago, Refman said:

We recently built a new house and decided to install solar as part of the new construction, plus we also installed wiring and plugs for future EV charging. Last month my electric bill was $21, and it should be lower still this month as we only ran the A/C for a little bit in early October.

That would seem to make a lot of sense.  New build, install the full setup.  Budget for everything as part of the new build.  $21/month for electricity!  That's a bonus I could live with.

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12 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

That would seem to make a lot of sense.  New build, install the full setup.  Budget for everything as part of the new build.  $21/month for electricity!  That's a bonus I could live with.

The question is how much did it cost for the addition of the solar?  Do you have battery storage that makes you independent of the grid?

I would consider it a great investment for young people who plan to stay in the home a long time, but not for those intending to recoup their investment upon resale. 

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7 minutes ago, ronwagn said:

The question is how much did it cost for the addition of the solar?  Do you have battery storage that makes you independent of the grid?

I would consider it a great investment for young people who plan to stay in the home a long time, but not for those intending to recoup their investment upon resale. 

I don't mean to speak over @Refman because he has the facts, and I look forward to reading what he has to say about @ronwagn's question, but what I'm kind of starting to feel overall from this conversation is that you first need to want to go solar, then his new build scenario would seem to be the ultimate way to get into it.  I mean:

  • You do your research into top of the line, cutting edge systems that integrate fully into the home.
  • You make your personal decisions about going EV for at least one of your autos.  If the decision is to go EV, you integrate that into your house building plan and budget.
  • You plan to use SMART tech throughout the house, including window tech and placement, thermostat management, water storage, electronics load requirements, etc. and add that to the plan.
  • Once the plan is finalized, and within your budget realities, you source your materials and contractors and get started.  

I'm guessing anyone who goes to that much trouble is doing it for themselves and whatever personal reasons they have.  So they are more than likely planning to live there themselves for the next 20-40 years, if possible, and the tech they will have installed will easily make it that long, with updates and upgrades over the years.  The reality of banking so many energy cost savings and possibly even sales to the grid would certainly help ease the burden of updates and/or upgrades over the years.

Obviously, this would not be for struggling newlyweds, but maybe a professional couple in their late 20s to early 30s?

Just my thoughts.  I look forward to reading what @Refman has to add.

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48 minutes ago, Dan Warnick said:

I don't mean to speak over @Refman because he has the facts, and I look forward to reading what he has to say about @ronwagn's question, but what I'm kind of starting to feel overall from this conversation is that you first need to want to go solar, then his new build scenario would seem to be the ultimate way to get into it.  I mean:

  • You do your research into top of the line, cutting edge systems that integrate fully into the home.
  • You make your personal decisions about going EV for at least one of your autos.  If the decision is to go EV, you integrate that into your house building plan and budget.
  • You plan to use SMART tech throughout the house, including window tech and placement, thermostat management, water storage, electronics load requirements, etc. and add that to the plan.
  • Once the plan is finalized, and within your budget realities, you source your materials and contractors and get started.  

I'm guessing anyone who goes to that much trouble is doing it for themselves and whatever personal reasons they have.  So they are more than likely planning to live there themselves for the next 20-40 years, if possible, and the tech they will have installed will easily make it that long, with updates and upgrades over the years.  The reality of banking so many energy cost savings and possibly even sales to the grid would certainly help ease the burden of updates and/or upgrades over the years.

Obviously, this would not be for struggling newlyweds, but maybe a professional couple in their late 20s to early 30s?

Just my thoughts.  I look forward to reading what @Refman has to add.

Good points Dan, I tend to look at things from the average person's point of view. It is soon to become mandatory to have solar in new homes in California. Their housing is so expensive already it seems like a real price problem to me. Especially since it probably will not include batteries and full independence from the grid. Hopefully, that can be added. 

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(edited)

On 10/26/2018 at 3:28 PM, Dan Warnick said:

The biggest expense related to our home is the electricity bill that comes every month.  I worked hard, we scrimped and saved, and we paid off the mortgage in as short amount of time as possible (1 year, actually!).

Since we live in Thailand, sunshine is strong and available almost all year long, which would seem to make solar a very good candidate to not only reduce our consumption off of the local power grid but, more importantly to me and my family, it should be able to reduce our power bill drastically, freeing up cash for other parts of our lives.

Unfortunately, when pricing solar systems available in this market, I was very disappointed to find that the costs associated with installing even minor, let alone significant, solar systems was still in this day and age extremely expensive, with any probable ROI many, many years out into the future.  I even checked out the possibility of importing, but the costs simply go higher and the government restrictions are not insignificant, to say the least.  It seems to me that if "society" wants average folks to turn over a new leaf and make the switch, even in our own homes, the industry has a lot of work to do to get us there.  I don't want government subsidy programs or assistance, but I don't want to break the bank up front in order to get on board and get our ROI over many long years.

The cost of completely re-wiring our home (I had it done, twice, due to shoddy workmanship and lack of code enforcement, if there really is a code!) was less than $1500.  It was simple and fast to be connected to the grid when we first purchased the house.  In order to go solar:  I have to find competent workers with experience (I don't want to do it myself the same as I didn't want to wire the house myself).  I need to have a clear understanding of what systems are the best and that will require minimal maintenance over the next 50 years or so.  Basically, I don't want to deal with replacing the whole system, or even major parts of the system, for the rest of my life and I don't want my wife to have to deal with it if I die first.  If we sell the house and move, the solar system should be a positive selling point; not a negative that would scare off the average potential buyer. 

If we are talking about mature technology that simply works, none of this should be a problem.  But all of it is a problem.

On this website I see and participate to some degree in many discussions around renewables, and the people that are pro-renewables want us to believe we just don't get it, and that we would be easily converted if we just looked into it again to see where we are in the development of renewables.  Maybe I am mistaken and they only meant on large scale energy delivery, but I don't see how you're going to convert me and others if the above description of reality at the individual home level is still the reality.

Convert me!

Off topic Dan, but if we are talking battery backup why not just use a natural gas generator or home sized turbine (I understand they are available in Europe}. You would have to have good workmen available for repairs. Most homes have natural gas already. It seems like it might be much more affordable. It could be very low power if you are always charging the batteries. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al8elCF816g micro turbine

Edited by ronwagn
added reference
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