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Old 01-18-18, 08:13 AM   #1
dcveem3
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Default Don's Solar/Geo Ramblings

Hi all. I'm stuck between a rock and a bright place. Geo vs Solar. Thanks for all of your posts I've been digging through trying to learn about pros/cons of solar. I still have MUCH to learn and seriously, as of 3 weeks ago I wouldn't have even given solar a thought. But I have a "need" and a "want" at my house and I really think solar is the answer to both. Here's my story; I'm 7-8 years away from retirement and just finished remodeling my LAST large house. When we retire, we'll be downsizing big-time!

But for now, I have 4200sq/ft of house in the middle of 30 acres in Central PA. It's a 2 story with plenty of south facing roof. Nice roof's too. Perfect for solar but more on that later. My current HVAC systems are heat pump over propane. I have a 5 ton unit on the first floor. 3 ton unit on the top. The house is as efficient as I could make a scissor trussed roof system. I have 2x6 structure R21 and wrap on all walls. Every crack/hole sealed. I have R48 in every ceiling BUT and here is where scissor trusses lose it, virtually no air space/gap. So, direct sunlight, direct cold transfers much easier to living space without that traditional "attic" type space above the floors...and vice versa of course. I'm not saying I can't do MORE to reduce my footprint...sure I can.

So my "want" is to become even more efficient. I use all propane for the house. I have my outdoor thermostat for the heat pumps set at 40degF because I bulk-buy propane 1,000 gallons at a time ( 2 500's buried I own both) and can typically buy it for $1.05 gallon in the summer. I use about 1300 gallons a year. Which means electricity starts to cost me more than propane right around 40degF. Propane REALLY went up this year. If I were to buy right now, I'd be at $1.60 a gallon. What also has me worried is that there are shortages of propane in the Midwest. So here comes my "need". I need an alternate source of heating should propane not be available...or sky-rocket in cost.

So, summarize--"need" equals reducing footprint/costs. "Want" equals alternate heating/cooling package. My electric bills range $185 to $330 winter to summer. I have tracked 1500kw to 2400kw a month over the last year. I have a pool and a shop that consume a lot of energy. Welders, lathes milling machine...you get the picture. Obviously, 9.5 tons of AC don't help either. 8 tons in the house, 1.5 tons in the shop.

So, I thought about alternate heat...my "need". I really DON'T need alternate cooling. But I do "want" it. Back to "need". I have a chimney. It's ripe and perfect for a stove of some type. Boiler, air/air. Coal, Wood, etc. It's in a walkout basement and I have 2 backhoes and 22 acres of woods. So there is a resource there for emergency backup heat should propane become unavailable or the price gets crazy. But my problem is, those require "work". Which I don't mind but what if the NEXT person I sell the house to does? Remember that downsizing thing in 7-8 years.

This is where my mind starts to wander. Hmmm...outdoor boiler. No mess inside. I can heat the house, shop AND pool. Nice. But what if the NEXT person doesn't want the hassle? What does an outdoor boiler do for my $340 electric bills in the summer? What if it's 10 degrees outside and I'm at the office working late and it's 8pm at night and I don't feel like "banking" the boiler when I get home? Ok, what about an inside boiler? Again, mess/fuss. I'm into this solution, DIY about $9k outside option, $6k inside.

So I'm off to geothermal land. Sink a few wells. I have a reduced heating/cooling costs. And about a 40% reduction in my electric bill to boot. I can buy a simple coal stoker stove and put it in the basement....that would supply enough heat to keep things from freezing if my electric went kaput. I could also run it regardless to take the edge off the temps and make it easier on the geothermal system. This is nice option imho. However, my equipment is less than 5 years old. I sure hate to tear it all out for new. Not a show-stopper, but a consideration. Geo/over propane.

Or I could go solar!! Maybe whack 80% off my electric bill...or all of it. Install that coal stoker in the basement for backup/take the edge off heat source. Not have to worry about changing out my HVAC equipment. Hmmmmm.

So, rundown:
Solar: I'm thinking a 12k system. Costs me $18k DIY? I have a 46' JLG high lift I bought when I built the house. So. Up on the roof they go. Ok. I know it's not that easy but bear with me. I buy a stoker coal stove used, $1.2k. So figure $15k(I'm taking out tax credit) and I have my "wants" and "needs" covered AND a nice package that I think would be a great selling feature to anyone in the future looking for a big house in the woods. And some fun factor in there too doing something I have NO experience in...solar. Oh yeah...another edit. Grid-tied system. I'm not really into the battery options. I have 2 generators that can run the house if I have NO electric. A PTO off my Kubota diesel and a 8500watt gas backup if I need it. My power is tapped off a power line that runs through the north half of my property. Haven't had a flicker in 5 years.

Geothermal. Great option. I would need an "industry standard" of about $28k for equipment and wells. Only $14k for a horizontal loop system since I have a backhoe and can dig those myself. I have some options here that enable me to keep my own equipment...to some degree. So the costs may be cheaper. I can also still install that coal stoker for emergency and take the edge off the coldest days.

These 2 options I consider my only options at this point. For the Geo option, I favor the wells for efficiency and less mess. So I'm out $28k-.30%=So figure $20k less the tax credit?

Solar option I'm at roughly $14 with the tax credit? This option also uses the coal stoker for backup heat and coldest day help. So that's a wash with Geo.

Geez. I just wrote a book. Now my disclaimer. I am an mech eng with a lot of electrical knowledge...probably 50/50 AC/DC. BUT I DO NOT CONSIDER MYSELF AN EXPERT IN ANYTHING.. I've worked for 32 years in engineering and operations and there is NOTHING worse then working with engineers!! Ok. Maybe accountants run a close second!! Seriously my disclaimer is although I have some knowledge, I am nothing but an amateur when it comes to either of these options. I need to read/learn and get help. So anything I've listed above can be considered given from a source with good credentials...and absolutely NO expertise!!

Add comments as I begin this journey into the abyss. I may come up with nothing. Who knows. But from my years of project management, I think the best place to start is at the beginning. I'm going to check with my electric company and local agencies about solar here in the Harrisburg PA area. See what I'm up against without divulging too much. I also need to check on Geothermal equipment and actual well costs vs horizontal loops. I also need to check my "exposure" to sun at my house? Maybe buy a cheapie solar panel and put it on my roof, hook it up to a battery with a constant load and measure my amp draw per day? That should give me my potential. Yeah I've been to those sites that use google maps to chart your potential. Basing my answer on those sites makes me nervous. I would sooner spend 50 bucks at harbor freight and do my own testing.

I'll report back with my findings. In case you're bored and need another book to read.

Comments, pro/con, name-calling etc etc are welcome. I don't hold grudges or form opinions of people because of comments. Life is too short.

Thanks!
Don

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Old 01-18-18, 09:46 AM   #2
Fordguy64
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If it was me... I’d get quotes on all this different options.. then do a ROI on all of them and see what the best bang for your buck is..
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Old 01-18-18, 11:26 AM   #3
dcveem3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fordguy64 View Post
If it was me... Id get quotes on all this different options.. then do a ROI on all of them and see what the best bang for your buck is..
Doing that now. But from a DIY's perspective.

Thanks!
Don
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Old 01-18-18, 11:33 AM   #4
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I did have someone come out and quote solar project.
They did share helpful insight on my project.
They quoted a 4.6 KW system I put in a 12.5 KW system for cheaper DIY.
It was still useful having them come out.
Get on https://www.renvu.com/ mailing list.
Here is just one line off their latest sale min 10 panels

Seraphim Energy Group 280 Watt S Frame 60 Mono Black/Black 3640 Pc Landing On 01/18/18-For Fremont CA Warehouse $0.495/w

https://www.renvu.com/Specials
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Old 01-18-18, 12:21 PM   #5
dcveem3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinballlooking View Post
I did have someone come out and quote solar project.
They did share helpful insight on my project.
They quoted a 4.6 KW system I put in a 12.5 KW system for cheaper DIY.
It was still useful having them come out.
Get on https://www.renvu.com/ mailing list.
Here is just one line off their latest sale min 10 panels

Seraphim Energy Group 280 Watt S Frame 60 Mono Black/Black 3640 Pc Landing On 01/18/18-For Fremont CA Warehouse $0.495/w

https://www.renvu.com/Specials
Will do thanks!! Still filling the brain matter
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Old 01-20-18, 08:06 PM   #6
dcveem3
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Well, I made ONE decision. My backup, "take-the-edge-off" heat will be a Keystoker KA6 coal boiler. I'll have a radiator in the shop, 1st floor HVAC return and 2nd floor HVAC return. Domestic hot water as well.

So, while I manage that project, I'm off on Solar. I think with my low-level of knowledge on that topic and the fact I want to make the call ASAP, I'm going to look for a local solar company and just be upfront and tell them I'm going to do this myself and I'll pay them for their knowledge. Meanwhile, I'll continue extracting all the info I can.

For example, I used just under 20,000kw last year. I'm thinking a 14kw system is more in order. I just have to test for exposure levels to be able to use my roofs. They are angled at 38deg and point south. I do have some trees however on that one side that may impact. But without testing...how do you know? I'm assuming someone has a meter you can setup on your roof for a week and see your exposure? Or am I being too critical?

More reading...lol.
Thanks!
Don
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Old 01-21-18, 11:47 AM   #7
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We’re in Canada and our heating requirements are sizeable. In 2006 we had installed solar hot water and geothermal with a horizontal loop field. The home is a newer construction that has a 1.9 ach. The home is about 4000sq ft We have two 3ton pumps ,one for the infloor heat and the other is for a additional blast of warm air but primarillly for air conditioning in the summer. The home has no other source of heat. The home takes the solar hot water heat first and heats the concrete floor but if there is no sun the water to water heat pump steps in.

A properly sized gel thermal system will serve you well

The other system I have is for my shop (1600 sq ft) I It’s a DIY system inspired by AC_Hacker. The home brew heat pump was a trying build but it has been functioning flawlessly for 5 yrs You can follow the build in my thread

The next facet to this is a solar PV system with lithium to power the home complete with heat pumps. I’ll be posting as progress is made

In closing a geo thermal system will do the job with a single fuel that can be renewable

Randen
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Old 01-21-18, 12:20 PM   #8
dcveem3
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Randen...thanks for the reply! Tell me about the house...basement? Or a slab? One story or 2? I'm interested in geothermal for sure. But there are just so many options.....I just need time to educate myself.

How many KWH's did you consume last year?

Thanks!
Don
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Old 01-21-18, 01:00 PM   #9
randen
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No basement. On slab construction. Never liked basements just a place to collect junk and moisture. The home is 2 story the attached garage is heated in the floor as well. Highly recommend if anyone is building

I do keep track of kw usage however my shop usage is included but it’s +/- 30,000 kws per year. That’s for the last 11 yrs. I used to burn furnace oil and that became extremely expensive. Energy cost for oil and electric was $11k/yr. After all the upgrades we reduced it by nearly 2/3s The ROI was about 5 yrs we are very comfortable with the heat pumps and are quite excited to power them soon with the solar PV

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Old 01-21-18, 05:49 PM   #10
dcveem3
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Wow that's great. As a final retirement home, I'm ok with a slab. But for now I favor a walk-out basement. No back-fill on 2 sides. No moisture. However, it does get chilled. No doubt. I like to have the mechanicals in a non-living area. Modifications are easy too. But you're right, it does collect junk!!

If I can bug you once more...what KW are you aiming the Solar PV system at?


I'm slowly reading AC's thread!!

Thanks,
Don

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