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Solar power - how feasible is it today ?

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  • Solar power - how feasible is it today ?

    How is the value of solar power today ? In other words, how long does it take before a typical house fitted with solar cells could expect to start paying for itself ? Its been a few years, but last time i checked, solar cells would take a long time to recoup their own cost...

    any thoughts ?

    "I tried being reasonable, I didn't like it." Clint Eastwood

  • #2
    Cannot tell where you live.

    A judicious use of indirect lighting, and insulation is probably more viable.

    The average family moves every five years. I am an exception because I have lived in my first house for 22 years. You will not recover your investment, based upon national moving norms.

    By installing attic insulaion, I am down to about 10 days a year in using the heater. I have never used the air conditioner.

    Here is a slightly different consideration. I would buy a portable generator before going solar. I would also look into the expense of having the right equipment to attach your portable generator to the house electrical system.


    • #3
      the components are more affordable than ever!

      BUT, if you expect to run the big-screen TV all day, run the AC at full blast, cook on an electric range while drying laundry in an electric dryer, well, you may be dissapointed.

      IF, however, you reduce the amount of energy you need first thru better insulation, more efficent appliances and lighting, etc. then you will be ahead when you start switching things over to alternate energy.

      some people start out with an economical modular approach. a few PV panels, a few deep cycle batteries, a charge controller and an inverter, or UPS system and you can probably run everything in a "typical" home office, ie: your computer, a radio and some lights.

      build similar modules for other areas in the home as the budget allows.

      it is also posible to switch the whole house over to alternative power, but the larger, heavier duty components will have a significant start-up cost.

      some people run what's called a "midnight special" skipping the solar PV panels, and charging a battery bank from grid power AT NIGHT when power rates are cheaper, then they switcvh the grid power off and run off battery power during the day. its kinda like day-trading in energy, buying it when the rates are low, and using it when rates are high.

      check out for lits of info. they have back issues available on CD, and the current issue is available online for FREE. they also have info on projects online.

      one problem is defining the "typical house", and too begin with, the "typical" home is NOT very efficent. local conditions also affect your the performance of a home power system. where i live, we typicly have 350+ sunny days a year. i just got a high-end inverter for virtually nothing and now i'm looking for surplus batteries and PVs at reasonable prices.


      • #4
        Thanks for the info folks. My situation is that im planning on moving to a rual area within the next 5 years, so i have plenty of time to research and learn. I have mixed ideas of what i need and want. Ideally id like to have COMPLETE independence from the power grid and actually be able to sell back to the grid.

        Also a system that was somewhat portable would be great. Just have to figure out how to patch into the power supply for the house.

        This will most likely require something more than solar power, homemade fuel cell maybe ?

        Part of my motivation is to just be independant from "the system". Self-suffeciency is the key word here.

        Another thought is to have a backup system that i can switch on at anytime, while being on the grid most of the time.

        I like to think that at some point, the stuff i would need to buy from a store would be minimal. Im not talking totally bugging out here, just being far less consumer oriented than the typical minivan clan that invades the local walmart.


        • #5
          if the grid died tommorow , what would electrical power be worth to you that you didnt have to worry about finding fuel for ?
          we use solar pannels on oil platforms to run the fog horns and lights that keep ships from running into the platforms.. the solar pannel last a long time as long as you dont drop something on them ..

          "still,if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed,if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not to costly,you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all odd's against you and only a precarious chance of survival.there may be a worse may have to fight when there is no hope of victory,because it is better to perish than to live as slaves"
          winston churchill
          "the enemy,whether man or creature,owns a nose for the meat fires.sleep near the place you cook (or transmit with a radio from base camp)and you will find your self on the spirit trail"
          olge (hanta yo)
          "remember,my son that what ever you fear in the dark also fears you "
          hinyete (hanta yo)


          • #6
            some inverters/charge controllers have the ability to be connected to the grid, selling extra power back upstream when you don't need it, and using grid power when you aren't making enough, or the components to do that are available seperately.

            check these places for prices and stuff-

            "more than solar"? hmm, that depends on WHERE you are going to be. water and wind make power too, wind seems to be cheaper per watt, if you have enough wind.

            a $500 wind turbine can produce 400W in a 35mph wind... $500 of solar panels will give you about 100-120W.

            for a complete system, you will probably want to combine the two.

            i'm probably going to start with about 150W worth of PVs, then expand on that, adding a turbine somewhere in the mix along the way.

            "a backup system that you can switch on anytime" would be a generator, about $500 gets you 5000W, but makes noise, uses fuel and requires some maintence.

            but if you have renewable energy ie: solar/wind/hydro, its almost always working for you, at least reducing your grid dependence. maintence is basicly keeping the water up in the batteries.


            • #7
              mosbysmen made an excellent point. Value needs to be in the context of the situation. I think a more accurate consideration would be the possibility of you ever losing elctricity for days, weeks, maybe months...and how would that affect you now...compared to if solar was a part of your power. The bankers haven't found a way to steal sunshine yet.