Why NOT to invest in back-up power

124

Comments

  • ggunnggunn Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    NorthGuy wrote: »
    I think this happens not because people expect a low cost system. Rather, they think that solar panels alone (without anything else) can be used as a backup. I bet, many of those who installed grid-tie panels thought that they would have power during an outage.
    It's true. At an SMA symposium I attended a tech support guy I was talking to said that whenever there is a widespread grid outage their phone lines are clogged with irate PV system owners complaining that their systems have shut down.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    ggunn wrote: »
    It's true. At an SMA symposium I attended a tech support guy I was talking to said that whenever there is a widespread grid outage their phone lines are clogged with irate PV system owners complaining that their systems have shut down.

    Well it's certainly one of the top ten questions asked on the forum: how can I make my GT system give me power when the utility goes down? Half those asking are already confused that their system won't do this.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,382 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    Well it's certainly one of the top ten questions asked on the forum: how can I make my GT system give me power when the utility goes down? Half those asking are already confused that their system won't do this.

    Personally I think this comes for the solar sellers not informing the consumer how the thing works and what the requirements are for it to operate. A well informed consumer would not make that mistake.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    solar_dave wrote: »
    Personally I think this comes for the solar sellers not informing the consumer how the thing works and what the requirements are for it to operate. A well informed consumer would not make that mistake.

    I wouldn't say there's much deliberate misleading going on, but certainly the issue is avoided at times. But mostly it is the consumers fault for not doing enough independent research and understanding what they are getting.

    This is not to say the world isn't still full of the "free electricity from the sun" con artists. :grr
  • ggunnggunn Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    I wouldn't say there's much deliberate misleading going on, but certainly the issue is avoided at times. But mostly it is the consumers fault for not doing enough independent research and understanding what they are getting.

    This is not to say the world isn't still full of the "free electricity from the sun" con artists. :grr
    Avoiding the issue IS deliberately misleading the customer. Those of us who work in the industry are fully aware of two things:

    A conventional grid tied PV system will not operate during a grid outage.

    and

    Most folks new to solar do not comprehend this fact.

    It behooves anyone selling PV to volunteer this information very early in the sales process. Any salesman who does not do this is practicing active deception and gives the industry a black eye.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power

    From my experiences I have to say that most people, buyers and sellers alike, do not even think about back-up power - until the grid goes down. It is not a deliberate act on the part of an installer that they fail to mention it, merely that they don't think it's relevant to the situation. It would be nice if they did ask "do you need back-up power from this system?" or even evaluate the local conditions to see if it's a high probability, but it just doesn't happen.

    Personally I don't blame them on this, as solar for back-up usually is not practical. If it's back-up power the customer is interested in that's what they'll ask about and that's what they should go answers for. The usual answer is "a generator is cheaper".

    When you go to the car dealer and ask about sports cars chances are they won't try to sell you a pick-up truck. (Although it sometimes happens the other way 'round.)

    My complaints about installers are two: 1). There's still to many of them that do not understand what they're doing and don't want to (they just sell whatever they can for profit and couldn't care less if it works or not*); 2). Certain ones who want to do it right but won't invest the time/effort/money in learning the extra they need to know to do it (figuring it's not too much different than standard wiring practices). Sometimes the latter wander in here and ask questions and learn, sometimes they wander in here and just expect the forum to act as a free engineering consulting service for them. ;) (No, I do not mean ggunn; he does indeed know what he's doing.)

    *This attitude can be found in all professions.
  • ggunnggunn Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    From my experiences I have to say that most people, buyers and sellers alike, do not even think about back-up power - until the grid goes down. It is not a deliberate act on the part of an installer that they fail to mention it, merely that they don't think it's relevant to the situation. It would be nice if they did ask "do you need back-up power from this system?" or even evaluate the local conditions to see if it's a high probability, but it just doesn't happen.
    I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree on that one. In a former job I manned booths at local RE trade shows and expos, and most folks new to solar who approached me thought that PV systems in general continue to operate during an outage and that was one reason, sometimes the main reason, that they wanted to invest in one. A few of them didn't believe me when I told them otherwise, and walked off in a huff convinced that I didn't know what I was talking about.

    IMO, a salesman that doesn't make this crystal clear up front to a prospective customer is either attempting to deceive the customer or is woefully undereducated in the operation of the systems he is selling.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    ggunn wrote: »
    I guess we are going to have to agree to disagree on that one. In a former job I manned booths at local RE trade shows and expos, and most folks new to solar who approached me thought that PV systems in general continue to operate during an outage and that was one reason, sometimes the main reason, that they wanted to invest in one. A few of them didn't believe me when I told them otherwise, and walked off in a huff convinced that I didn't know what I was talking about.

    I can believe that. Perfectly in line with my comment about people being confused that the system won't do this. As for the number of times I've explained something won't work and then been told by the person who asked if it would that it would ... well, that's their problem too. :D
    IMO, a salesman that doesn't make this crystal clear up front to a prospective customer is either attempting to deceive the customer or is woefully undereducated in the operation of the systems he is selling.

    There is often too much assumption on the part of a salesman that the customer knows what he wants. It is really necessary to ask what their goal for the solar install is. You may have seen that asked around here a few thousand times. :D
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power

    i'm going to agree that any reputable installer does know the public is rather uneducated about solar and that a good installer will question what the customer has in mind to do with solar so that he can sell the appropriate system to them. those that don't inform of no grid=no power obviously are not interested in the higher $ they can make with the extra requirements backing up imposes upon the customer so i attribute that to the installer being uneducated and one should run away from them as fast as possible in such cases.
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,913 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    niel wrote: »
    any reputable installer does know the public is rather uneducated about solar.

    Every installer knows that. Unfortunately, many prefer to keep it that way, because it's easier to sell something to an uneducated person.

    That is not specific to solar. Seems to be widespread lately.
  • ggunnggunn Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    NorthGuy wrote: »
    Every installer knows that. Unfortunately, many prefer to keep it that way, because it's easier to sell something to an uneducated person.

    That is not specific to solar. Seems to be widespread lately.
    Also not just lately.
  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power

    Are you telling me that if I stick a $300 panel on my roof that all my electrical problems will not be history? Well that sucks! :cry:
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,363 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    Are you telling me that if I stick a $300 panel on my roof that all my electrical problems will not be history? Well that sucks! :cry:

    No, you lay the panel on the porch roof, and plug the cord in to any outlet. And if you use the NASA design Corrector, your laundry will fold itself.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    mike95490 wrote: »
    No, you lay the panel on the porch roof, and plug the cord in to any outlet. And if you use the NASA design Corrector, your laundry will fold itself.

    WOW! That sounds awesome, but I use my porch roof to collect rainwater for domestic use, is it possible to somehow filter out the electric field radiation that the panels would put in the water? Or would I have to cover the panels with aluminum foil every time it rains? That could turn into a real pain, we have to look to the future you know - - - -
    (And to think - - they still let me on this forum! Hahahaha)
  • NorthGuyNorthGuy Solar Expert Posts: 1,913 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    WOW! That sounds awesome, but I use my porch roof to collect rainwater for domestic use, is it possible to somehow filter out the electric field radiation that the panels would put in the water? Or would I have to cover the panels with aluminum foil every time it rains? That could turn into a real pain, we have to look to the future you know - - - -
    (And to think - - they still let me on this forum! Hahahaha)

    We thought about this. When it rains, there's no sun.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power

    Wayne is now going to start a company to manufacture protective solar panel covers to prevent PV's from radiating dangerous EM fields into the atmosphere when there's no sun on them.

    Stop hogging all the glazed rings or you will be banned! :p
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power

    If it's radiation you're worrying about then give your pvs a good coating of spf 30 or more.:p
  • inetdoginetdog Solar Expert Posts: 3,123 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    Wayne is now going to start a company to manufacture protective solar panel covers to prevent PV's from radiating dangerous EM fields into the atmosphere when there's no sun on them.Stop hogging all the glazed rings or you will be banned! :p

    Sometimes it amazes me how people do not recognize synergy and serendipity. The rays from the panels will sterilize the water as it collects on the roof (and break down harmful environmental pollutants), then as long as you seal it into sterile jugs it will keep for a long time without spoiling.
    SMA SB 3000, old BP panels.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power

    just to be sure some are aware out there, we are poking allot of fun here so don't take some of this fun seriously.
  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    niel wrote: »
    just to be sure some are aware out there, we are poking allot of fun here so don't take some of this fun seriously.

    Good point Niel. Some who might not know us may well think we're nuts. Perhaps we are. Hahahaha
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    niel wrote: »
    just to be sure some are aware out there, we are poking allot of fun here so don't take some of this fun seriously.

    I too sometimes fear someone will take the occasional bout of silliness on the forum seriously. And I know I'm one of (if not the) worst offenders.

    Still, we must "allot" ourselves some goofiness from time to time or else we'll go mad.
    Perhaps we already have. :p
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power

    mad??????????? no, but the other half does say i have something and i guess you'd call it gom disease. grouchy old man. care to guess the cause of it?:roll::p
  • ggunnggunn Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    niel wrote: »
    mad??????????? no, but the other half does say i have something and i guess you'd call it gom disease. grouchy old man. care to guess the cause of it?:roll::p
    Gout? :D


    15 characters...
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    ggunn wrote: »
    Gout? :D


    15 characters...

    Close: "GOW". :p
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power

    ggunn,
    i can't reply to that openly on the forum.

    look for pm.
  • ggunnggunn Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    niel wrote: »
    ggunn,
    i can't reply to that openly on the forum.

    look for pm.

    Got it.

    I resemble that remark.
  • inetdoginetdog Solar Expert Posts: 3,123 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    Close: "GOW". :p

    There is a nice classic fiddle dance tune called The Growling Old Man and the Grumbling Old Woman.
    (Alternating low and high parts, both with attitude.)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgvxUnQZ0Ys

    Possibly they were both upset over the Little Burnt Potato. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMIgZqtNQjk
    Something just for the Quebecois: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZhQMG1WWDw
    SMA SB 3000, old BP panels.
  • SkippySkippy Solar Expert Posts: 308 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    If anyone is interested, the original intent of this thread was to point out in a mildly humorous way that investing huge amounts of money in solar/battery based back up power is not particularly sensible if you live in an area where the utility blackouts are infrequent and short.

    I would have to agree with you on the reason for this thread. In my area, we have had maybe 2 outages in the last 5 - 10 years (that my old memory can remember at least ) nothing more than 1 day's worth . . . I am currently trying to install a 2 kw array with batteries and inverter to go with it, and when people inevitably ask me - when am I going to get my money back out of the system - , I tell them up front and honestly . . I will never get my money back :cry: . . . BUT . . . on the day that I come home, and the entire neighbourhood is black, and I can open up my automatic garage door, put the car away, then put the door back down, go into the house, turn on the lights, cook something for dinner, and then go to bed . . . THATS when I get my moneys worth ! :p Now, if it happens to be for 3 days or 3 months, it would be interesting to see what the neighbours do about me being the only house in town with lights and appliances . . . then I may be in trouble . .

    Those darn savages.

    But good point though, unless the power does go out, I am throwing my money down the money pit...
    2 - 255W + 4 - 285W PV - Tristar 45 MPPT CC / 3 - 110W PV -wired for 36V- 24V Sunsaver MPPT CC / midnite bat. monitor.
    1 KW PSW inverter 24V / 2.5 KW MSW inverter-24V ~ 105 AHR battery.
    3 ton GSHP.- 100 gallon warm water storage / house heat - radiant floor / rad
    9 -220W PV - net meter - Enphase inverters and internet reporting system.
    420 Gallon rain water system for laundry.***  6" Rocket Mass Heater with 10' bed for workshop heat.
    Current project is drawing up plans for a below grade Hobbit / underground home.
  • williatywilliaty Solar Expert Posts: 60 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power

    One thing not discussed here that really has to be weighed in is the consequences of losing power. They're not going to be the same for everyone. We, honestly, don't lose power that often or for that long here. However, I dumped several thousand dollars into a backup power system over the last year. By most of the discussion here in this thread, it was a total waste of money. Yet last Thursday it paid for itself more than 10 times over. We had a little storm that wasn't severe at all except for the fact that it dropped 3.5" (90mm) of rain in about 75 minutes. Right at the beginning of that, the transformer in my front yard was struck by lightning dumping us and 100 other homes into darkness. Now, here's the key factor: even without the rain we'd just had, we live below the water table and require a pump to keep us from flooding. With the 3.5" of rain, we were getting a measured 6,100GPH (23.1kL/h) of water coming in. The pump failed over onto the backup power system but couldn't keep up (it's only rated for 5,000GPH), so we added a second pump. Needless to say, running 17A at 120V AC worth of pumps, the batteries only lasted 51 minutes. Then the generator had to be started on propane. Had the sun come back out before the power came back on, the generator would have run bulk charging and then the solar would have taken over for absorb once the rate of pumping began to drop off. Not to mention the system provided the light in the basement to switch pumps, add the second transfer pump, etc.

    So, big investment in backup power saved about $90,000 worth of cameras, computers, woodworking tools, etc from being flooded under several feet of water. While this combination of power outage and rain happens every 5 years or less, when it happens, big money is saved.


    Another consideration is if someone on the household is on a CPAP machine or is elderly and on some sort of oxygen concentrating system.



    Often times the benefit of backup power comes down to something much more important than its frequency of use.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Why NOT to invest in back-up power
    williaty wrote: »
    Often times the benefit of backup power comes down to something much more important than its frequency of use.

    But there are different amounts of back-up power requirements. There are sump pumps that can run on their own battery or batteries or even from water pressure supplied by mains. Keeping a CPAP machine running does not require $20,000 worth of solar-electric.

    The whole point is to evaluate your particular situation logically, and not invest more money in back-up than is likely needed. Most of the time a small generator and a bit of load management will solve the problem, rather than having huge amounts of money invested in batteries, panels. and inverter that does nothing all the while the grid is up and running.

    Even so something totally unexpected and horrible can happen. You can not plan for every possible type of disaster, nor would it make sense to invest against it (good luck doing so if you try).
Sign In or Register to comment.