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Old 08-02-17, 05:10 PM   #1
antdun
Lurking Renovator
 
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: Utah
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Post My DIY Solar Experience and Break Even Calculations

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

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__________________
DIY installed a 9.98 kW rooftop solar system with REC TP2 panels, SolarEdge SE7600a-us grid tie inverter, power optimizers, & Snap 'N Rack mounting system.

Last edited by antdun; 08-03-20 at 05:09 PM.. Reason: Added update about phase 2 solar expansion and YouTube videos about both phases
antdun is offline   Reply With Quote
The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to antdun For This Useful Post:
ecomodded (08-18-17), jeff5may (08-08-17), pawanranta (12-23-20), Roostre (08-07-17)
 


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diy, rec, snapnrack, solar, solaredge

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