Solar Power: Guess I’ll have to wait until another Time
I had a consultant come to my house and take some measurements to see if I would benefit from solar energy. That’s getting to be a more common sight you sometimes see on roofs, not to be confused with solar heating which has been long used for heating water in a home, especially water for the pool.
Solar heating panels are usually solid black, while solar panels for electricity have silver solar cells in the panels and are not solid black.
Many of the parameters the consultant was figuring I had already roughly figured out in my head or calculated on paper before he came. There were not many surprises. I had roughly figured it would be marginal whether I would benefit by going solar.
After he did his calculations we talked a short while, he showed me some installations in his presentation book, then left saying he would be in touch with me in a few days. Because their solar power installation involved two companies he had to submit his figures to them so they could calculate their costs. They also have a computer program calculate several variables and rates along with savings you should expect.
A few days later I received their proposal. Glancing over it I saw several, what I call “mistakes”, which would ultimately make it unfeasible to switch. I made remarks about the “mistakes” and suggested a slight change that would conceivably put me in the range of possibly switching to solar power. If it did make a difference, it would definitely be marginal, and I’d be taking a chance on electricity rates really going up fast in the next 18 years.
As far as I was concerned the proposal was greatly flawed, and if correct, it would show a net increase in cost over the use of electricity I currently pay. I re-sent the proposal along with my findings and suggestions some 14 days ago. I haven’t heard back from them. I really don’t expect to, but I’m always open to surprises.
I had noticed that most of the installations in his presentation book had systems of about 7 KWH or more. That means they generated 7 thousand watts per hour. The system he calculated for me was also a 7 KWH system and was to generate about 85% of the electricity I use on an average day (averaged over a whole year).
Here are my observations:
- I doubt I average 7kwh (AC) a day, except on the few real hot days in the summer with the A/C on. [He told me the rating is based on 5.5 hrs daily solar power generation] I also stay up real late with my computers and lights on almost every night, plus most nights the TV is on past midnight.
- The rates his program used to generate my current costs were estimates and were higher than my actual rates.
- The rate schedule for the solar power system would use a different rate schedule which seemed considerably higher than my current rate schedule. It would switch to Time-of-Day rates
- The final savings it showed for my bill was based on the time of day rates and was off by several hundred dollars a month. It showed savings of $200 to $550/mo. (but I only pay $221 average payments currently)
- Their estimate of my costs would be $203/mo for 18 years + a small electricity bill from Edison each month (system calculated to cover 85% of my electrical use)
- So. Cal Edison will not give you a check for the difference if you generate more electricity than you use (note- excess electricity is given to Edison).
- Overall I would be paying more for electricity than now, plus it would cost me many thousands up front to have the system installed, but their “savings” showed several hundred dollars a month savings.
- There was a definite conflict in their proposal and it didn’t indicate any savings if I looked beneath the surface of the proposal.
- All these calculations took advantage of the $30,000 Federal Tax Credit and the State (CA) rebate of $1.90 AC Watt. (solar cells produce DC and must be converted to AC with some loss of power occurring)
We have 5 to 7 adults in our home and try to conserve on the air conditioning when possible. It is not often possible since we have old people living with us and they are either too hot or too cold. Naturally in the summer when the air conditioning is blasting they are still too hot.
But we are on Edison’s summer savings plan and they remotely cut off the air conditioning unit on the hottest days. It doesn’t happen too often however. It is almost impossible to keep unused lights off, but most of the lights have been replaced with fluorescent bulbs.
My conclusions: Unless you use a lot of electricity it will not be cost effective in most cases to switch to solar power. If you are a large family and waste electricity it might be practical. If you are in an area of the country where the rates are considerably more than we pay here in Southern California under Edison it might be worthwhile.
Solar Power in 2013?
Update July 3, 2013
The past two years I have had at least a dozen people try to sell me solar power, over the telephone and in person. I refused each time, knowing that in my case it is not cost effective. As much as I would like to help the planet and save money at the same time, I still don’t think it is practical for me at this time. I notice now several companies in California are advertising that if your electricity bill is over $150 a month solar would save you money.
I’m not sure, but it seems like most of my electricity bills are right around $100 a month, some less some more, except in the 3-4 months of summer or fall. I am still on the summer savings plan that Southern California Edison has, but it is definitely not as good as the original plan they had 25 years ago. Now they can cut off the A/C more than a few times a year and for longer too.
If anyone in Southern California using SCE has found they actually save money with solar cells please contact me and/or add your comments.