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WooHoo, put in Solar! Crap, fried the Elk


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#1 IVB

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 11:45 AM

Had SolarCity install solar yesterday (plus a powerwall). WooHoo!

 

Alas I also had a conference call, AND we had another contractor for something totally different show up at the same time. I forgot to power down the Elk. Obviously they had to totally yank all power. Upon reconnection, i'm pretty sure at least the M1G is fried, not sure what else. Keypads reporting phone fault, keyboard missing, output expanders missing. Might be the databus hub too, but I have a spare one of those. When I noticed a motion sensor directly hooked up to the main board not working I knew something was awry.

 

3 weeks left in my damn travel project, been on the road for almost 18 months of Sun night->Thu. I was hoping to take time off to chill, but doing an emergency replacement of the main panel next weekend sounds fun too.

 

Kids, remember to turn off your M1G when you're doing electrical work.



#2 donstephens

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 12:03 PM

Outch!

 

On the plus side, the solar setup sounds great.


Edited by donstephens, 13 April 2018 - 12:14 PM.


#3 mikefamig

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 03:41 PM

How long do you figure it will take to break even on the cost of the solar installation and maintenance? I also have wondered what happens when you need to replace shingles on the roof?  Do you have to remove all of the solar panels?

 

Mike.



#4 IVB

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 03:48 PM

I had the roof re-done as part of this effort, with 20 year lifespan stuff. It was at least 20 years old so it was due.

 

It's ~11 year break-even. The solar has a 20 year lifespan (at least), and from what i've read efficacy drops so it's not like it all just breaks. I took age into account, hoping to stop working ~10 years from now, so that gets me the first 10 years with no power bills. And after that very slowly rising ones, unless something just up & breaks.

 

I spec'ed at 110% of needs as we're buying a fully electric car as I can use carpool lanes, so we'll even cut down on fuel.

 

I didn't get it from any moral standpoint, rather self sufficiency in case of PG&E outage due to earthquakes/etc. And the electric car is to also hedge against issues with obtaining fuel. Obviously a major earthquake could wreck the solar completely but you can't protect against everything.



#5 mikefamig

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 06:48 PM

Good to go green too. It sounds like you have a good plan. I like the self sufficiency part but there's very little earthquake threat here in New England.

 

I always assumed that the solar panels would outlive the roof and would be in the way of changing shingles. It makes sense to replace it all at once as long as you come out ahead in the end.Our electric bill here is almost $300/month and it sure would be nice to get rid of that in retirement.

 

Mike.



#6 IVB

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 06:55 PM

I did ask about replacing the roof, they told me to just call them, they'd pull them off, and put them back on once done. Stupendously cheap, something like $500. They put the panels up in maybe 1-2 hours, all the work is in the wiring/other setup.

 

I grew up in upstate NY. True no earthquake issue, but blizzards/ice storms result in power outages there. Not often but many does it suck when that happens.

 

The issue you'd have is power efficiency varies based on temperature, plus i'd think snow would cover the panels and reduce efficiency. I don't have that issue, daytime temps almost never below 45, nor above 85. (If it's above 75 or below 55 my god you'd think someone was stabbing people with the complaints)



#7 mikefamig

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 06:58 PM

I don't know where you live but based on that description I'm guessing San Francisco or at least norther Cal?



#8 IVB

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 07:04 PM

Close, Oakland. Even better weather than SF, no cold snap in June...



#9 mikefamig

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 08:59 PM

I envy you. I worked in San Francisco and lived in San Bruno for a summer back in the 70's, it's beautiful out there.



#10 RAL

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 10:54 PM

Good to go green too. It sounds like you have a good plan. I like the self sufficiency part but there's very little earthquake threat here in New England.

 

I always assumed that the solar panels would outlive the roof and would be in the way of changing shingles. It makes sense to replace it all at once as long as you come out ahead in the end.Our electric bill here is almost $300/month and it sure would be nice to get rid of that in retirement.

 

Mike.

 

 

A local friend here in NY put in a 20kW solar array, with ground mounted sun-tracking panels.  He's had it up a running for a bit over 2 years now, and I've been watching his monthly output.  The tracking panels increase the output significantly over fixed, non-tracking panels.  But they also cost more to install.

 

His expectations were to reach the break-even point in 10 years.  My estimate, based on his actual output, says that it will take closer to 15 years.  Living in a sunnier climate like CA would decrease the time to break even.  Unfortunately, the northeast is less than optimal.

 

Solar is nice, but most installations don't operate during a power outage.  To get around that, you need something like the PowerWall, which increases the cost even further.

 

One thing that looks interesting is buying a share of a community solar farm.  The arrays are located off your property, but you own a share and still are able to get net metering from your utility company.  No headaches with having the panels on your roof.   It probably doesn't change the time to break even much.  And it probably won't give you power during a utility outage, either. 



#11 IVB

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Posted 13 April 2018 - 11:31 PM

yeah i put in a powerwall too. System size is 7 kW, but production estimated at 10kWh due to location, I need to ask about whether the solar would charge the powerwall during an outage. I had the guy explain everything to me today, can't remember that specific example.



#12 pete_c

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 07:31 AM

Curious too if you can send your Elk in for a repair at a set cost? 

 

Yeah talking to a friend this past week living in DC who is using an Elk and put in solar panels a few years back.  Big house and a rebuild of it bit by bit (still rebuilding it).

 

Thinking solar panels cost him around $50K with a discount(?).  His electric bills are very low but he never uses his AC and keeps most of his lighting off (not using LED lighting nor is he automating any of his lighting).  He is only using the Elk alarm functions.  Personally do not see an ROI for maybe 10 years.  (that and keep bugging him that he will be 70 before he truly sees an ROI).

 

Another automation peer (~50 yo) installed a solar system in Florida for around $20k and I see an ROI there much sooner.  He's always had lightning issues there and those issues have messed with his panel and automation (way before installation of solar panels). 



#13 IVB

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 04:14 PM

I might send my current board in once I put the new one in, so I have a backup.

 

Here are all my prices (SolarCity btw) in case others are curious.

 

(rounding everything)

Initial Solar Cost + Panel surcharge: $28K

Powerwall & Sales Tax: $6K

Powerwall Install: $1500

Contract Price: $35K

 

Minus:

$500 cash/loan incentive

$10.5K federal tax credit

Net cost: $24K

 

System size: 6.500 kW

Monthly Energy produced: 833 kWh (higher i'll bet likely due to location)

 

Also, I use 750 kWh/month, but I overspec'ed it due to the electric car purchase.

 

PG&E savings of ~$200/month. $200 * 12 months/year * 10 years = $24K. But i'll also save $1000-$1500/year on gas. At $4K/year savings it would be break even in 6-7 years, but I mentally put at 10-11 years in case of decreasing efficiency or overly optimistic sales guy projections.

 

The $10K tax credit is what many people forget about when determining break even. Without that, it would have been another 4-5 years.



#14 IVB

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 04:15 PM

btw if anyone is going to explore solarcity, let me refer you, and we'll both get a price break.



#15 BraveSirRobbin

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 05:36 PM

I dabbled with solar in a previous job.  Just a one panel, striclty DC operation for remote monitoring stations.

 

While I had a data logger (Campbell Scientific) for the monitoring needs, I monitored the voltage (if my memory serves me correctly) out of the MPPT Charge controller.  I remember being able to graph this and 'see' the charge cycle during the daytime.

 

It was pretty cool as you could see the charge go to maximum, then tail off, then go into a 'maintenance' mode once the batteries were fully charged.  This was important to me at the time as I wasn't sure if I undersized the panel (calculated this by knowing the watts/sq.cm. solar exposure (throughout the year as it changes), then calculate sunlight hours (during winter/worse case), then knowing your system load determine if you have enough charge capability).  some times, if we had a series of cloudy days, I could see I would run out of charge and (in the winter) didn't have enough hours of sunlight to get back to a full charage on the batteries (I was in a situation where budget was tight and I couldn't get as many batteries, etc... as I wanted).

 

I know the old system I upgraded had solar panels that were ten plus years old, and their efficiency was drastically reduced from their initial specified outputs (like 50%).  Now, solar panels have a better life span and I believe (again going from memory) that you only net under a 10% reduction in ten years (check this, it would also be dependent on the manufacturer).

 

Anyway, (sorry, I digressed) it may be interesting to see this charge curve, maybe even compare it over the years to see what is going on with your panels.  All it would take is a datalogger (or anything that can capture voltage measurements).  You could then see how your panels were 'aging'.

 

Did your system come with any monitoring capabilites that you could tap into?  If not, maybe ask if they could provide some.  I don't know the voltage levels that you may encounter in your large installation (as I was just dealing with single panels), but it would be interesting.

 

It may also be interesting to measure solar output and have that graphed with your data as well.

 

Anyway, congrats on this system as it is pretty cool to have something like this installed in your home! :)


Edited by BraveSirRobbin, 14 April 2018 - 05:41 PM.





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