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Old 08-24-17, 05:11 PM   #1
OzEco
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Question Non-DIY solar/worth the cost?

Hi, I am new to the forum....

I am thinking about getting solar. Projected break even by the local installer is 14.5 years. I have no plans to move any time soon but 14.5 years is a long time.

I am a DIY guy and understand electricity but as far as doing this as DIY I am concerned about the local city permitting bureaucracy (it can be bad), dragging large panels on the roof, and time needed to study the codes, and overall time and energy needed for the project.

Any ideas how to shorten the break even period?

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Old 08-24-17, 05:48 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forums!

Many members have been down the road you are considering. Take some time to read through this section and you will begin to understand the question you asked. For some, the largest hurdle has been obtaining local approval to commission their solar installations. Your local power company is a good resource to draw upon during planning. Local politics vary, so finding other pioneers in your area is another good place to start. I have found that most all of my neighbors with an operating system are eager to share their experience and hindsight.

What size of system are you planning on installing?
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Old 08-24-17, 05:50 PM   #3
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The installer has chosen 4.5KW system.
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Old 08-24-17, 11:00 PM   #4
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The first easy way to save lots of money is to plan it right the first time. As another member just pointed out, everything that is done to the system most likely will need some sort of approval and inspector to visit. So if you only need one of each, that alone can save hundreds of dollars.

The other big way to save money is to do more labor. Everyone who contributes to the project is going to cost money. Most of these people are specialists and charge a lot. Some of them are necessary, others not so much. It depends on your skills, abilities, and initiative as to how much sweat you want to invest.
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Old 08-25-17, 06:28 AM   #5
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I think you suggest to do some work myself in order to reduce the cost. I can ask the firm if this would be an option. If not, then I would have start looking for an independent electrician if I want a cost reduction.

Other options for improving ROI is to get an EV with few more panels added to the system. I can see that in some future but not right now.

I could ask the firm if replacing of the gas water heater with electric would improve ROI numbers. The heater is old and will need replaced in the future. (hybrid heat pump are nice but in our house they do not have the required room volume to work well).

Here in Missouri there is only the federal tax incentive and poor Net Metering Rate for summer 2.68/kWh and winter 2.47/kWh
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Old 08-25-17, 09:46 AM   #6
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With a 4.5kw system, to get a reasonable ROI it will need some leverage. A good portion of that leverage could be invested in sweat equity up front, but to make a lasting difference, something must be done to offset your existing electricity consumption.

On cost savings alone, in the present economy, natural gas is highly competitive with electricity. Compared to straight resistance heating, it is more economical. With phase change heating and cooling, overall system efficiency comes into play. With dated systems, both gas and phase change, there is a balance point in the operating envelope where one method is more effective than the other. With modern systems, there exists a huge gray area in the operating envelope where it is very difficult to tell if one is better than the other just by looking at spec sheets. Features such as condensing furnaces and variable speed heat pumps are higher in efficiency than old technology, but they aren't so easy to compare against each other. In many installations, the balance point must be found through trial and error.
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Old 08-25-17, 08:15 PM   #7
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Thank you. This project is no go as non-DIY. I would expose myself to a risk of a financial loss if need to move out within the next 14 years.

I either find a way to do DIY install or wait for installers to drop the price of labor which seems to be 3x the cost of the material today.
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Old 09-12-17, 09:29 AM   #8
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I don't have a house but I have been researching this for a while. Don't forget hoa permitting and rules. Also a significant part of the cost is actually wiring/racking. There is a neat brand that I thinks helps the DIY aspect. Or even if you pay someone to do it, it can help prevent them from padding a lot of hours. Also go with the micro inverters. Andalay solar AC 250
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Old 09-12-17, 02:22 PM   #9
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I just did my own DIY system this summer and it certainly did take a lot of time! That being said I only spent half of what I would have spent on a solar installation company to do everything for me. If you want to read more about my break even calculations you can do so here http://ecorenovator.org/forum/solar-...culations.html

What I did was I searched for a local electrician willing to help me with the parts I didn't feel confident to do myself and I managed to find one. He gave me some documents to help with the permit, but I took care of the rest of the permit process/documents (huge pain and time suck for sure) myself. He replaced my main breaker, connected the inverter and ran conduit to roof. I installed racking, optomizers and panels on the roof and connected to where he left off. It ended up working well, but it wasn't without a certain amount of stress and was a steep learning curve. I wouldn't just recommend it to anyone, it requires a certain type of person or skill set for me to recommend doing it yourself. If you're able to find an electrician to also help you with the parts you don't want to do or can't do yourself then I think that's your best bet. Solar installation companies are charging a significant premium above equipment costs for their labor which I think is overly high. Having done it myself and knowing how much faster I'd be able to do it even just a second time I think they charge far too much for what they're doing.
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Old 11-17-17, 05:47 PM   #10
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The entirety of Roof installation, conduit installation and DC wire installation can easily be done DIY, you may need various permits to make these modifications to your roof/building.

I would absolutely hire an electrician for the inverter installation and tie to existing AC breaker box. Most jurisdictions probably require this to be certified by an electrician anyways. If you are really hard-core DIY you might be able to do this yourself and have an electrician sign-off or otherwise co-certify that the installation meets local code. Do not take electrical safety lightly, it can kill you no questions asked, and understand your house AC will need to be shut off at your breaker box for a few hours to make this installation, perhaps a little longer depending on the location of the tie.

The cost of your system can certainly be rolled into your house's value when you sell the house, but ultimately the buyer must also agree to the value of these items and upgrades as part of the cost of the house, as well as the visual appeal. If you pay for an extremely expensive install and system, and your buyer does not agree to its value/cost, you will be left holding the bill for the difference, or they may simply decide not to purchase the property.

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