Solar Power from Solar Energy: Is it worthwhile for me?
I have long been thinking about solar energy and getting solar power to supply the energy needs for my house. Back in 2009 I went to an exhibition in the desert in Indio, near Palm Springs. My sister Safari Kay had a showing of her safari items at a nature conservatory there.
Several Companies were Promoting Solar Power
There were several other displays. A few of which were about solar power. I spent over an hour talking with those companies to find out all I could about the current state of solar power. It seemed like it might be worthwhile because the cost of solar panels had come down in price. There were also government rebates, as well as a possible California State rebate.
June 2, 2009
A couple of weeks after the show in Indio California I decided to follow up on solar power. So I called one of the solar companies I had talked with at that show. Yesterday I had a consultant for solar power come by here to take measurements. I wanted to see if solar energy was cost effective for our house.
I’ll find out maybe today or tomorrow. It’s pretty costly, but right now there is a federal credit of up to $30,000 and a state credit of about $2.20 or $1.90. I live in California and their rebate program for solar energy is quickly being depleted.
My Preliminary Calculations Ruled out Solar Power
I had done some preliminary calculations on how much of a solar power system I needed. Was I surprised to see that they were very close to the figures the consultant got from his computer program.
I am hoping the system will be cost effective, but I doubt it. There are several plans available that make it easy and less costly than just paying some $30,000 – $50,000 for an outright system. I don’t have that and if I did I would not be willing to spend so much for solar energy (electricity).
However over the long term it may cost a lot over the years. The electricity bill won’t be going up for at least 18 years and that’s good. It should go down to a very low amount if the system is optimized properly.
There is a big problem that I see regarding solar power or using solar energy. That’s aside from the long term commitment for paying for it. It is likely that solar may become much cheaper over that long time period.
Also there may become other sources of power available that are also green and they would be cheaper and more efficient. I’d hate to get locked in to an older technology and not able to get out because of a long term payment plan.
Solar Power: 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. Don’t confuse that with solar heating. That has been long used for heating water in a home here in Southern California, especially water for the pool.
Solar heating panels are usually solid black. 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. Some I had 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. Their solar power installation involved two companies. So 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.
Solar Power: I Finally Received a Proposal
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. Changes 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. 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. 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. To date 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. It was to generate about 85% of the electricity I use on an average day (averaged over a whole year).
Solar Power Proposal was NOT Favorable
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. [The rating is based on 5.5 hrs daily solar power generation] Normally I stay up real late with my computers and lights on almost every night.
- The rates his program used were estimates higher than my actual rates.
- The rate schedule for solar power uses a different rate schedule. It seemed considerably higher than my current rate schedule. It would switch to Time-of-Day rates, a distinct disadvantage.
- Final savings showed my bill was based on the time of day rates and was off 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 plus a small electricity bill from Edison each month all for 18 years. (system calculated to cover 85% of my electrical use)
- So. Cal Edison won’t give you a check for the difference. So if you generate more electricity than you use (note- excess electricity is given to Edison) you’re out of luck.
- Overall I would pay more for electricity than now plus pay thousands up front to have the system installed. But their “savings” showed several hundred dollars a month.
- There was a definite conflict in their proposal. There were no any savings if I looked beneath the surface.
- 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)
Solar Power – My Conclusions for us
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. 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. 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. However, 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 it might be worthwhile.
Solar Power – July 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. I would like to help the planet and save money at the same time. But I still don’t think going solar is practical for me at this time.
I notice now several companies in California are advertising electric bills over $150 a month benefit from solar. However I think there are other things to consider.
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. 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.
Solar Energy – Nov 2015?
I keep checking my electric bills. They are normally too low to save money by using solar power. However, we are now off the summer savings plan. Southern California Edison now says we cannot receive the signal to shut off our A/C so we got kicked off the plan.
We are no longer qualified for the summer savings which saved us about $200 a year. It is true, now we no longer get that signal. That’s probably because there are a lot of new houses in the area blocking the signal. Some companies are now advertising electric bills over $150 benefit by changing to solar power. I have my doubts, but I could be wrong.
Also I heard at least one solar company advertising if your bill is over $100 per month you can save money by converting to solar power. I have a feeling that’s false advertising. They’d have to prove to me the savings are true.
Another Solar Energy Salesman Arrives
One day, like so many days someone came to our front door promoting their company’s solar installation. I shooed him away, but he wouldn’t go. Instead of getting angry I decided to ask him some questions. We talked for about an hour.
He didn’t convince me that it was worthwhile for me. But I agreed to have a company representative come by and check our usage. I’d see see if it would save us money. Well before they came I told my wife and she was fuming at the thought of solar panels up on our roof.
She thinks they look ugly and that’s that. No amount of convincing her anything different.
Actually I have seen some solar installations that look nice, even better than a plain roof. But of course my opinion doesn’t hold water compared to hers. So that ended that. No solar setup for us …at least for the time being.
If anyone in Southern California using SCE has found they actually save money with solar cells please contact me and/or add your comments.