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-   -   My DIY Solar Experience and Break Even Calculations (https://ecorenovator.org/forum/showthread.php?t=5352)

antdun 08-02-17 05:10 PM

My DIY Solar Experience and Break Even Calculations
 
3 Attachment(s)
Last week my solar installation passed its final inspection, so now I'm only waiting on my local power company to install my net meter then I'll have "free" electricity from the sun for the next 25+ years! It's painful waiting for them considering how simple a meter swap is and they're estimating it's going to take them 3 weeks to do it! The rep on the phone said they're very busy right now, having done 800 meter swaps in June alone. The net metering policy is about to change here so I expect there is a lot of people installing right now in hopes of being grandfathered into the current more favorable net metering policy. (You can read more about that here if you're interested https://utahcleanenergy.org/componen...tering-changes in reading about it.)

I created a YouTube video outlining all my costs which you can review here, or read below: https://youtu.be/XXqE_glr69g

Now that all the costs are accounted for I ran the numbers to see what my break-even point will be. Below are all the calculations I went through, but in short if you don't want to read all that just know it should be 5.8 years or less!

I took care of the permit, system design and installation of the rooftop components (attachments, mounting and panels) and I hired an electrician to replace the main service panel and conduit/wiring between main panel to inverter and inverter to roof junction box. Since my main service panel had to be upgraded from 100 Amp to 200 Amp to support the solar the numbers below aren't purely just solar related parts/labor. The majority of the electrician's labor was spent on the main panel replacement. I've compiled some numbers based on my experience in case you've been considering installing a solar power system on your own rooftop.

The system design I went with is a 6.38 kW size system using the SolarEdge 7600 Watt inverter paired with SolarEdge power optimizers since from what I can tell that's the best technology available today for getting the most energy from the sun and avoiding problematic micro inverter failures from being in the heat on the roof. I oversized the inverter in anticipation of adding additional panels in the future, plus it's the smallest size inverter that I can later retrofit with the StorEdge components to add a battery system in the future. (I wish I could have a setup where my panels could function independently from the grid during the day if the grid goes down, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet.)

The solar panels (REC TP2), optimizers, inverter, attachments, and SnapNRack racking cost $10,114.20
Permit fees were $410
Parts for main breaker and miscellaneous solar parts $646.29
Electrician labor for replacing the main breaker and connecting the main breaker to inverter and inverter to roof junction box $1,237.50

The total cost was $12,408.03 for my 6,380 Watt system. (My average quote from a solar installer was for $23,200 for the same size of system.) Which after federal (30% off) and Utah ($2,000 off) tax rebates will be a final cost of $6,685.62 which is 53.88% of the total cost.

Our household electrical consumption average for the last two years has been $67.54 per month, or $810.52 per year. At this rate the solar system cost will break even in 8.24 years. However the system I installed is 30% larger than needed to produce our average electrical needs, and I'm saving up for a used 2013 Nissan LEAF (I've found LEAFs on local classifieds for as cheap as $6,000 used for a 2013 S model with close to 50,000 miles) to commute to work. In short it'll cost me $337.08 per year to commute to work and I intend to drive this electric car as much as possible when it'll fit the number of people to be transported. (The commute calculation is that I travel 6.3 miles to work, so multiplied by 261 working days per year that's 3,288.6 miles per year divided by 23.6 miles per gallon of an average vehicle multiplied by $2.419 which is the average price for gasoline in Utah according to GasBuddy, that comes out to $337.08 of gasoline per year to commute to work.) With household electricity, and commute gas combined that's $1,147.60 per year going into the break-even calculation.

In conclusion when including cost to commute to work in a gasoline powered car combined with our past household electricity usage I expect to break even on the solar installation cost in 5.8 years. That's not including other maintenance costs of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars like oil changes or the additional miles I intend to put on the electric car in addition to commuting to work. One other item I left out is that going forward there will still be a $6 per month account maintenance fee with Rocky Mountain Power for net metering plus taxes. I've heard from someone else with solar that it costs them $8.96 per month for the maintenance fee + taxes being grid tied. I also didn’t try to calculate in any forecasting of electricity or gasoline costs going up. I also didn’t try to factor in possible solar equipment failures past their warranty period. I’d do the part replacement myself easily since I know how the system works and goes together so labor isn’t an issue. Warranty period on the inverter is 10 years, and for the panels it’s 25 years for power output, or 10 years for the "product". From what I've heard the expected useful lifespan of solar panels is 30-40 years, but only time will tell for sure.

Overall I'm pleased with the system and happy with how things turned out. The worst part by far was dealing with bureaucracy of city permit/inspections and the power company. The actual technology of solar isn't that complicated. It took me two evenings (about 2.5 hours per evening) to install the attachments and rails never having done that before then it took me another 3 hour evening attaching the optimizers to the panels with wire clips, carrying the panels onto the roof and bolting them to the rails. The SnapNRack system is super easy to use. On the other hand I spent hundreds of hours researching the technology, getting the permit paperwork together (I did the drawings, and the electrician did some of the other design papers, and I compiled all the manufacturer spec sheets for all the parts being used), and emailing/calling the city and power company. Neither the city nor power company are very helpful navigating their procedures, and frankly they don't even know the procedure I discovered. The city would say to expect one thing, then power company would say another. Dealing with bureaucracy is where the solar installation companies really earn their money, but it's not insurmountable to do yourself as I've proven. And having saved around $10,000 dealing with the bureaucracy I think it was worth it...I think.

Feel free to let me know if you find any errors in my calculations, or if you have any questions. What do you think about solar now? Has my experience answered any questions you’ve been wondering about?

***UPDATE***
In late July 2019 I added an additional 3,600 Watts of panels so now I have a 9.98 kW solar array and the power production is fantastic! I now have a Nissan LEAF and a Tesla Model S and my solar array produces enough now to offset all my household power consumption as well as fueling both my cars. Such a great place to be!

If you'd like to see a YouTube video I made about my expansion and it's costs watch it here: https://youtu.be/YJClQ6P1YIo

pinballlooking 08-02-17 05:42 PM

Thanks for sharing your details and cost.
It is great to another DIY solar install. I am sure you install will encourage others to DIY install.
I 100 % agree the EV’s and solar power go together.

I watched the video. The Enphase M215 will put out 225 watts not 215 watts as he stated. I have some 240 watt panels and I don’t get any clipping. The people sell equipment were also telling me what he said. (The rest of the info seems right on)
Enphase warranty is 25 years that by design includes inverter.

When I research my system it was between Solar Edge power optimizers and Enphase.
Both are very good systems. I added in the cost of the extended warranty on the inverter and cost was much closer.

where2 08-02-17 08:02 PM

My wife and I celebrated 4 years of net metering yesterday with our 4.4kW DIY install system running Enphase M215 inverters. Continues to run flawlessly, collecting 6MWh/yr. Overall, no complaints, only thing I would change would be to have installed it all sooner. Of course, I keep saying the same thing about the 4.6KW array we have for our second home.

When I comment about the concept of someday adding an EV to my car collection and powering it with sunshine via adding a second PV array at the house, my co-workers look at me like I am totally nuts. It's a 32 mile each way commute for me, which a Leaf, a Model3, or any number of other modern EV's could easily handle...

Antdun may be surprised, I know my utility quoted up to 3 weeks to install the net meter, in reality it took about 8 days. When my wife called me to tell me the power company was at the house to install the meter just before lunchtime in 2013, I couldn't wait to come home and flip the PV disconnect breakers ON. I think I've intentionally switched the array off once since then, as a Hurricane named Matthew was approaching.

bennelson 08-07-17 09:01 AM

I just finished installing my own solar array. The faceplate wattage is 6,240 w, so pretty similar in size.

My cost numbers were comparable. I paid less than $12,000 for all the equipment and installation. I used Enphase 215 micro-inverters, but as others have said, I think the micro-inverters and optimizers are pretty comparable right now. Both will give you the "rapid shutdown" and some other advantages.

My system should cost about $6,000 after incentives.

I've also ALREADY been driving an electric car for some time. (Mitsubishi iMiEV right now and a previously a home conversion Geo Metro and electric motorcycles .)

Solar and PV go great together.

I've also figured my simple economic Return On Investment at about 6 years.

I have also run the numbers in several different ways to include making one's own motor fuel through photovoltaics for an electric car in place of purchasing gasoline. Depending on how you look at it, that can bring ROI down to 3.5 years.

Nice job! Your PV system looks great!

I also just got my first electric bill which included a COMPLETE month of solar production. It was a $40 credit!
First SOLAR Electric Bill

Here's what my array looks like. The white car is mine, the blue one belongs to a friend who was visiting.

http://300mpg.org/wp-content/uploads...48-640x480.jpg

Roostre 08-07-17 02:48 PM

Congrats on getting it done!!

I'm not far from you in UT. My bills are $9.01 per month with service fee and taxes.

Happy Sun Harvesting!

WisJim 08-08-17 08:07 AM

I installed Enphase M215 microinverters with my 205 watt Evergreen panels some years ago, and they clip at 225 watts (which I will admit doesn't happen a lot). I'm not sure what the 205 watt panels could actually produce! I went with the microinverters because of their 25 year warranty and that I didn't have room for a string inverter inside in a heated space and string inverters available to me weren't designed for outside winter temps in Wisconsin.
We have about 5.4 kW of panels in total, including our originals in use since 1981, and they take care of our house and shop electrical energy needs, charge our Nissan Leaf and GE Elec-trak garden tractor, and run our Fujitsu mini-splits which take care of our A/C in summer and much of our house heating in fall and spring. We have been getting a modest electric bill in January after using our banked surplus production from the sunnier months of the previous year.

pinballlooking 08-08-17 08:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WisJim (Post 55159)
I installed Enphase M215 microinverters with my 205 watt Evergreen panels some years ago, and they clip at 225 watts (which I will admit doesn't happen a lot). I'm not sure what the 205 watt panels could actually produce! I went with the microinverters because of their 25 year warranty and that I didn't have room for a string inverter inside in a heated space and string inverters available to me weren't designed for outside winter temps in Wisconsin.
We have about 5.4 kW of panels in total, including our originals in use since 1981, and they take care of our house and shop electrical energy needs, charge our Nissan Leaf and GE Elec-trak garden tractor, and run our Fujitsu mini-splits which take care of our A/C in summer and much of our house heating in fall and spring. We have been getting a modest electric bill in January after using our banked surplus production from the sunnier months of the previous year.

Can you a couple pictures of your array?

mab 08-08-17 12:07 PM

Hi,
First post. I'm hoping to retire in a year or so and will likely relocate and hope to install solar. I realize things might change in the next year, but data points are worthwhile. If you don't mind sharing, how much are you folks paying for a given panel?

Thanks,
Mike

WisJim 08-10-17 10:49 AM

I bought my 205 watt panels 5 years ago when the price got below $1 a watt. Freight at that time from Florida to Wisconsin was a bit over $200 for a pallet of 28 panels. They were a bit cheaper by the pallet since the seller didn't have to repack them for shipment. Lately I have gotten notices of PV panels in the $.50 to .74 a watt price range.

mab 08-11-17 08:41 AM

WisJim,
Thanks for the info. Where do you get notifications from?

Thanks,
MIke

WisJim 08-11-17 01:03 PM

I bought panels from Sunelco.com and get their email notifications, and also am on the email notifications from Renvu.com

I'll post some pics of my system when I find them.

pinballlooking 08-11-17 01:14 PM

+1 Renvu.com you can get some very good deals.
Get on their emailing list.

WisJim 08-11-17 01:27 PM

Found some pics from 2012 right after I had installed the 12 205 watt panels with Enphase M215s. The array to the right is 12 Kyocera 125 watt panels wired as 48 volts feeding our 24 volt battery through an MX60 charge controller. I installed them in 2004, I think.

http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r...ps2fmx8wal.jpg

http://i144.photobucket.com/albums/r...pszmiisk5k.jpg

mab 08-11-17 01:45 PM

I just signed up.
Thanks for the pointers.

Thanks,
Mike

mab 08-11-17 01:46 PM

WisJim,

is there something I need to do to be able to view your pictures?

Thanks,
Mike

WisJim 08-11-17 05:29 PM

Mike, I think my Photobucket is set for public viewing. I can see my pics even if I log out of the site here, so I don't know what the problem might be.

pinballlooking 08-11-17 05:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WisJim (Post 55179)
Mike, I think my Photobucket is set for public viewing. I can see my pics even if I log out of the site here, so I don't know what the problem might be.

Try posting them directly here.
http://ecorenovator.org/forum/forum-...-pictures.html

mab 08-11-17 06:21 PM

All I see is something that shows a dial with "Please update your account to enable 3rd party hosting"

THanks,
MIke

mab 08-11-17 08:38 PM

Jim,

Don't go to any trouble with the pictures.

Thanks,
Mike

antdun 08-18-17 01:46 PM

My utility finally installed my net meter this week (took them 19 days to get around to it) and I was able to turn my system on! If you want to see my power production dashboard this is the URL https://monitoringpublic.solaredge.c...cus#/dashboard

pinballlooking 08-18-17 01:55 PM

Congrats!
Very exciting to see it up and running.

ecomodded 08-18-17 02:49 PM

Its nice hearing of peoples success with Solar

Im curious how many summer watts I would need to have 1,200 watts on overcast winter days.
Would like enough power to run a 12000 Btu 20 seer heat pump for 6 to 8 hours a day.

antdun 08-22-17 02:47 PM

1 Attachment(s)
My home was within the 90% coverage zone of the solar eclipse yesterday and you can see the effect of the solar eclipse on my solar array in the picture below
http://ecorenovator.org/forum/attach...1&d=1503431156

MiriamNZ 08-28-17 06:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by mab (Post 55162)
Hi,
I'm hoping to retire in a year or so and will likely relocate and hope to install solar.

I was visiting a friend when the solar salesman was there. He used a very different logic to judge value for money that makes sense when you are retiring.

If you have money in the bank earning interest— how much do you get?
If you used that money to install solar, how much money would you save in the same period of time?

Makes sense, if the money is in the bank, especially when interest rates are dropping and unpredictable over the next decade.

Cheers
Miriam

dablack 09-11-17 02:31 PM

Antdun,

I love your project and I do think solar and a leaf go great together but I wouldn't use the gas savings money in your calculations unless you add the cost of the car to your initial capital investment.

If you already have a gas car, are you selling it? What is it worth? How much for a leaf that you like. Maybe the one for $6k came from Houston (flooded) and you really don't want that. Who knows.

What I'm saying is, you are taking parts of a picture and now the whole picture. If you start using the benefits of the leaf in your calculation, then you need to use all the numbers from the leaf and sale of your old car. Also, as you said, I would add in the cost of oil changes from your old car. Finally, is there a difference in insurance cost between your old car and the leaf?

Again, great project.

jeff5may 09-12-17 12:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MiriamNZ (Post 55383)
I was visiting a friend when the solar salesman was there. He used a very different logic to judge value for money that makes sense when you are retiring.

If you have money in the bank earning interest— how much do you get?
If you used that money to install solar, how much money would you save in the same period of time?

Makes sense, if the money is in the bank, especially when interest rates are dropping and unpredictable over the next decade.

Cheers
Miriam

For many, the short-term payback does not justify a large initial investment. As with the current economy, the vast majority would rather lease or push long-term debt into the far future. For the retired, the concepts of reverse mortgages and annuities illustrate the same line of reasoning. In this case, I would ask the question: "Does the system save more than the extra loan (or annuity) payment?" In most cases, it does, even when a turnkey system is professionally installed.

For the rest, the decision-making process isn't so straightforward. It takes a lot of faith to pay out 5 figures on anything. The whole issue of self-generation has been polarized and propagandized by the power and oil empires, as a matter of self-preservation. Average Americans in general are completely addicted to the electric and gas lines running into their homes. Breaking this lifelong addiction doesn't come easy, especially without some sort of unconditional guarantee.

antdun 09-12-17 02:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dablack (Post 55466)
Antdun,

I love your project and I do think solar and a leaf go great together but I wouldn't use the gas savings money in your calculations unless you add the cost of the car to your initial capital investment.

If you already have a gas car, are you selling it? What is it worth? How much for a leaf that you like. Maybe the one for $6k came from Houston (flooded) and you really don't want that. Who knows.

What I'm saying is, you are taking parts of a picture and now the whole picture. If you start using the benefits of the leaf in your calculation, then you need to use all the numbers from the leaf and sale of your old car. Also, as you said, I would add in the cost of oil changes from your old car. Finally, is there a difference in insurance cost between your old car and the leaf?

Again, great project.

Great point. I was just assuming that I'd have a car regardless of solar so I didn't think to include it's purchase price in the break even calculation. I'm planning to get a used 2013 SV or SL model which I've found in my local classifieds for around $8,000. I sold my gas car (2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T) and used that cash to purchase the solar panel equipment with the intention of switching the car to electric. My Sonata sold for about $8,000 so they're at the same price point. I'm currently commuting to work on my motorcycle or our one family car when it's snowing. I intend to purchase the LEAF once I get my tax return next year or as soon as I've saved enough to buy one. Not having to change the oil or other engine related maintenance is going to be awesome!

ctgottapee 09-12-17 11:31 PM

Good point on including the car in the savings...

In can be a difficult calculation. The true cost/savings should be based on the differential, not just the cost of the Leaf, ie how much more you are paying per term based on what you would have paid for the old car and any replacement.

Your solar installation has some of these variables, like the 200amp panel upgrade; a cost but also comes with additional benefits and it's a further investment in the home.

One cost to consider is property taxes on increased home value - you are including a return of some of those taxes via solar based credits. You will also carry some additional insurance liability along with slightly higher premiums.

Your electrical upgrade may even get you an insurance discount, although it will be possibly negated by any premium increase to cover the increase in insured value.

antdun 08-03-20 06:06 PM

***UPDATE 3 years later***
In late July 2019 I added an additional 3,600 Watts of panels so now I have a 9.98 kW solar array and the power production is fantastic! If you'd like to see a YouTube video I made about my expansion and it's costs watch it here: https://youtu.be/YJClQ6P1YIo as well as a video I made regarding the original installation https://youtu.be/XXqE_glr69g I now have a Nissan LEAF and a Tesla Model S as well as a Cybertruck reservation to replace the LEAF. My solar array produces enough now to offset all my household power consumption as well as powering both my cars with energy to spare. It's such an awesome place to be!

A year of energy production from the 6.38 kW array produced 10,446 kWh of electricity and a year of production from the 9.98 kW array produced 16,492 kWh of electricity. At 10.9 cents per kWh (average here in Utah) my solar is now producing $1,797 worth of electricity per year which means we'll break even in about 5.42 years. So far we've managed to consume nearly all the electricity it has produced. I've had some Tesla friends come over to charge near the end of the net metering period to use up excess energy (in Utah it's use it or lose it), so I've only lost about 468 kWh due to my solar net metering balance resetting.

Now regarding that break even point, that 10.9 cents per kWh figure is just the Utah average. The actual pricing is block based and more complicated to figure out since consumption amounts vary by month and whatnot. In brief though on average my power production is 1,374 kWh per month and based on Utah's block rate that average month would cost $134 vs the 10.9 cents per kWh average that same 1,374 kWh would cost $149 so my estimated break even point might be a little optimistic. Regardless of the technicalities I'll break even in about half the time it would have taken if I'd paid someone to install it for me and I'll have many decades to come of free power production. Three years later I'm still super happy I went solar and especially that I DIY'd it for such a great price!

pinballlooking 08-03-20 06:52 PM

Nice... I watch the video nice install.
I 100 agree EV cars a solar really go well together.
have you figured out your saving form not buying gas now?

antdun 08-03-20 07:48 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pinballlooking (Post 62939)
Nice... I watch the video nice install.
I 100 agree EV cars a solar really go well together.
have you figured out your saving form not buying gas now?

According to my expenses that I track through Mint.com in 2017 I spent $2,098 on gasoline and maintenance on my two gas vehicles (2009 Honda Pilot, and 2013 Hyundai Sonata) and that doesn't include insurance since that's roughly the same now as it was then.
In 2016 I spent $2,104 on the same
In 2015 I spent $2,948 on the same

The average of those three years is $2,383 per year I was spending on vehicles that I am not spending anymore, except I still purchase tires for my electric vehicles, windshield wiper fluid, windshield wipers, and cabin air filters (Tesla only). I'm sure in the future there will be miscellaneous repair costs but so far that hasn't happened.

If we want to only look at gasoline I spent:
2017: $1,391.85
2016: $1,216.81
2015: $2,267.85

I certainly don't buy gasoline anymore AND I save the time not going to the gas station (and waiting in line if I go to Costco)

WisJim 08-03-20 08:30 PM

I posted about our PV system and electric LEAF back in 2017, and thought I'd update a bit. In March we bought a newer used Leaf, a 2017 to replace our 2013 which we sold to one of our sons. My wife had been saving $150 a month which is what she figures we save by driving the Leaf instead of our old Chevy Metro which died a violent death when the front A-frame failed while driving. We averaged over 40mpg with the Metro, so our savings figure is based on the detailed budget and financial records that my wife has kept for the last 45 or more years. The savings factor in more expensive insurance on the Leaf, more expensive tires on the Leaf, and almost no fuel cost because our solar electric production would only be worth about 3 cents a kilowatt hour if we "sold" it back to the utility instead of using it to replace gasoline. Also we have installed a pair of mini-split heat pumps for heating in the fall and spring when it isn't cold enough to have our wood furnace going all day, so we are using our summer surplus production in the fall.

jjackstone 08-04-20 10:10 PM

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?
JJ

antdun 11-09-20 10:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pinballlooking (Post 62939)
Nice... I watch the video nice install.
I 100 agree EV cars a solar really go well together.
have you figured out your saving form not buying gas now?

My Honda Pilot was getting 18-19 mpg and in the last 18 months I've put 32,037 miles on my Tesla Model S. I've still never spent a penny on electricity in all those miles (I think of my solar energy as pre-paid electricity until I break even then it'll be free and much of this charging was free at Superchargers). If I'd spent $2.50 per gallon to drive those same miles in my Honda Pilot getting 18 mpg I'd have spent $4,449 on gasoline, or $247 per month. If the gasoline was $2 per gallon, and I got 19 mpg then that's $3,372 or $187 per month.

I have been keeping track of my solar production vs what my home and cars consume and I just created a YouTube video covering the last 3 years which you can watch here if you're interested. https://youtu.be/4h01UEAOPns

pawanranta 12-23-20 01:27 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bennelson (Post 55146)
Nice job! Your PV system looks great!

I also just got my first electric bill which included a COMPLETE month of solar production. It was a $40 credit!

Great job! What battery storage system you have put in place?

Does the battery system work with in home display energy monitor?

antdun 12-23-20 12:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pawanranta (Post 63338)
Great job! What battery storage system you have put in place?

I don't currently have an energy storage solution. I'm hoping I get enough Tesla solar referrals that I can get a free Tesla Powerwall. I only have 4 more referrals out of 10 to go!


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