i use 3 to 4000 kwh a month where do i start?

SystemSystem Posts: 2,511 admin
hey yall, i am new here an know nothing about solar power, i would like to get off the grid or at least reduce my power bill by 80%. i live in south GA where its hot and humid and dont get that much wind so im thanking solar is the way to go. i had to come on here becuase no one down here in these parts know any thing about solar power, can someone give me an estimate $ what it will take. thanks


  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,992 admin
    Re: i use 3 to 4000 kwh a month where do i start?

    The simple answer... Use the PV Watts Website to figure out how much power your panels will generate in your area.

    Use 1kW of solar panels, and the rest as defaults at Columbus Georgia (for Grid Tied):

    Lets estimate the 1kW array will generate ~115 kWhrs per summer month and you want to offset 3,000 kWhrs per summer month:

    3,000 kWhrs pe month / 115 kWhrs per month per 1kW of panels = 26 kWatts of GT solar panels

    A system would cost (very approximately $8+/- per watt, or $8,000 per kW of panels--the range is probably $6-$10 per watt professionally installed):

    26 kWatts * $8,000 per kW = $208,000 installed and permitted

    And, you can get a 30% federal tax credit, and you may have state/local rebates/etc. available.

    The complex answer is that you should look at conservation first... It is almost always cheaper to do things to conserve than it is to just throw solar panels at the problem.

    Ceiling (lots)/wall insulation, energy star appliances, new A/C system with 20-26+ SEER rating, double pane vinyl windows, evaluating each load in the home as to its efficiency if replaced (laptop computer instead of desktop), turning off equipment on standby like printers, entertainment centers, new in ground well pump instead of a jet pump, looking at using heat recovery ventilator to save heating/cooling costs, look at solar thermal for hot water/heating (especially if electric heat), look at swimming pool pumps for more efficient/two speed/run fewer hours per day, etc....

    Note, that for every watt/kWatt power usage you save in your home (fridge/freezer, lighting, home electronics, etc.) is a watt/kWatt that you don't have to pay for A/C to move outside of your home (example, putting the 2nd fridge/freezer outside in un-conditioned space).

    Everyone's home and requirements are different. But, with some effort and money--you should be able to cut your energy usage back. And this is a much better investment vs installing a solar electric system.

    I don't live in Georgia or need A/C for my home--so it is hard for me to guesstimate about your power usage, but it sounds awfully high to me (is is possible for you to get down to 1,000 kWhrs per month with conservation?).

    And, what is the cost for power in your area ($0.08 per kWhr or so)?

    In Northern California, depending on a specific power plan (residential or commercial, time of use or not, etc.)--I would be paying ~$0.44 (flat rate residential) to $0.60 for peak Time of Use residential, to $0.75 peak power alert for commercial (~$0.12 per kWhr average residential for <300 kWhrs per month usage--above rates based on >1,000 kWhrs per month usage).

    Imagine if your power rates went up 5-10x... What would you change?

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • n3qikn3qik Solar Expert Posts: 741 ✭✭
    Re: i use 3 to 4000 kwh a month where do i start?

    As you read more of this forum, you will find solar is not cheap. At your current usage, it will be very expansive. You need to look at what is using most of your electric. Conservation/change in life style will get a faster payback than solar.

    Look at some type of energy monitor like:



  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: i use 3 to 4000 kwh a month where do i start?

    welcome and know that you aren't the only one asking this type of thing. in general, the big thing is to learn how to conserve power and this has been covered in nearly all of the thread areas at one time or another, but should be primarily in the energy use and conservation thread area. 2 things that may help immediately may be to use a kill-a-watt meter to measure power consumed by many products and appliances that can allow you to alter habits or identify big power culprits and the other is to insulate and seal your home better as heating and air conditioning are large expenses.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: i use 3 to 4000 kwh a month where do i start?

    wow thats alot of $ i pay 9 cents per kwhr on the grid here, looks like il have to do alot of conservation first.
  • john pjohn p Solar Expert Posts: 814 ✭✭✭
    Re: i use 3 to 4000 kwh a month where do i start?

    Really you are using a lot of electricity and it will be outrageously expensive to build a solar panel system to generate that amount..
    If you are really Bill Gates and using a nick name here.. Sure Bill you can do it no problem.:cool:

    Buy one of these things (not expensive mabe $25??) I think they called KILAWATT in USA plug one into wall socket then plug an appliance into it and note the start up amps the running amps and how much power it consumes over time.. Do it one at a time with each appliance and then see what that item is costing you to run.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: i use 3 to 4000 kwh a month where do i start?

    Or reduce it by 3k kw a month.

    Find every way to conserve, then look for more,, and finally look for more. As we suggest,, every $1 spent on conservation will save ~$10 in Pv costs. The great thing about conservation is that it pays off forever. Added insulation,, cost up front, saving for years. Re-vamping your HVAC, maybe going with ground water or earth source heat pump,, or HVAC waste heat recovery for hot water, solar hot water, CFL bulbs, hi-ef appliances all have pretty quick payoffs.

    Read all you can here and elsewhere both to learn about the benefits (and limits) of Pv,, but also for ideas on how to reduce your consumption.

    The reality is that people get discouraged with the cost of Pv and the cost of conservation,, but in fact the price of energy is going to do nothing but go up going forward. If you calculate a system payoff (either for conservation or Pv) of say 15 years at todays costs,,, you have to figure that the price of energy will have risen so that the pay off will be faster.

    Good luck,

  • HoonoseHoonose Registered Users Posts: 16
    Re: i use 3 to 4000 kwh a month where do i start?

    I use about 4000KWH in the summer here in hot AZ. Maybe 2000 in the winter.
    My 10K solar system makes about 1500-1800KW/month, with almost all sunny days.
    With Utility co rebates, state and Federal tax credits, it cost me about $23K.
    Georgia rebates and state credit may be different.
    And Georgia has more cloudy and rainy days.
    On a cloudy days my system makes maybe 1/3-2/3 the usual output.
    I lose about 10% on extremely hot days over 110.

    If you could afford and place a 20KW system, which is a massive residential system, you'd cut your electric bills way way down!
  • garrgpgarrgp Registered Users Posts: 1
    edited January 15 #9
    So I use natural gas for water heating and my furnace. Have central air and a air conditioning system for a outdoor screened area.. question why would my power consumption be less in the summer when cooling house and outdoor spaces but is almost 5000 kWh in the winter using gas?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,992 admin
    Garrgp, welcome to the forum.

    I would suggest that you start your own thread... It lets you "control" the Q&A and direction of the discussion to your needs--And avoids confusion about other's needs.

    But some things to think about for your new discussion/thread...

    Not sure where you live (New Jersey or Oregon come up for your IP address), in short, if you look at 5,000 kWH per month, that would work out to:
    • 5,000,000 WH per month * 1/24 hours per day * 1/30 days per month = 6,944 Watt continuous loads
    That is the equivalent of 4.6x (1,500 Watt) portable electric space heaters running 24 hours per day * 30 days per month.

    Getting a whole house monitor (just a suggested starting point for your searches):


    You can get a "one channel" system and read your electric usage inside your house (instead of reading your outside meter)... Or you can get multiple channel units and put one on your A/C system, another on an electric hot water heater, etc... and see which is consuming your energy.

    Sometimes, folks find "issues" such as an A/C system with electric heaters--And both the A/C and boost heaters are running at the same time.

    At this point, you are not looking for a stray 100 Watt load (100 Watt * 24 hours * 30 days * 1kW/1,000W = 72 kWH per month) on 24 hours per day... you are looking for something much larger.

    With a whole house kWH meter, you install it and turn off one breaker at a time and watch what the new reading is--Hopefully, you will find one or two circuits that are sucking energy that you did not know about (like a locked well pump that was left running when your home was connected to city water).

    There are other "strange" issues--Like a ground/cold water pipe ground bond connected to your "hot" connection instead of a neutral (not likely, but has been seen before).

    The other way to find out where your energy is going... Assuming you (or your friend/electrician/etc.) is OK with pulling the cover off your main circuit breaker panel, you can clip to one branch circuit at a time with a AC(&DC is nice) Current Clamp DMM... You can quickly find out where your main current draws are (the math is Power = Volts * Current = 10 amps * 120 volts = 1,200 Watts as an example).


    The above is an AC+DC current clamp meter (DMM--Digital Multimeter)--For this testing, you need only an AC current clamp meter--But the DC is really nice for Solar power, debugging car and boat power systems, etc.

    At 3,000-5,000 kWH per month, you are in the range of a large all electric home in Central Texas with full summer A/C running. Not a small amount of energy.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • WaterWheelWaterWheel Registered Users Posts: 335 ✭✭✭
    edited January 20 #11
    I also live in GA but a bit further North than the OP.      I've found that it's defiantly cheaper to become more energy efficient than to add more solar.         Insulate, replace older windows, buy more energy efficient appliances, eliminate small laundry and dishwasher loads, no heated drying dishwasher cycles.

    Sometimes my family called me the "Energy Nazi" but now we all have better energy usage habits.      Still it was surprising how much our electric usage went down when my boy went away to school.

    Now days we average about 600 kwhs a month but we do now have propane for the hot water, stove, and some heat but the bulk of the heat is solar powered electric and wood.      

    Conext XW6848 with PDP, SCP, 80/600 controller, 60/150 controller and Conext battery monitor

    21 SW280 panels on Schletter ground mount

    48v Rolls 6CS 27P

  • t00lst00ls Solar Expert Posts: 234 ✭✭✭
    as a person who has both been grid tied and off grid....I can tell you this

    1)grid tie is expensive  and you have to make changes to your energy use if you want a quick ROI
    2)going off grid you will get a quicker ROI but....but you have to make some changes to your habits as far as energy conservation unless you have loads of money and can build as big a system as you want....of course then you aren't worried about ROI
    3)doing a hybrid system in south georgia would be beneficial if you happen to get any of the hurricane weather...that way you have power when the grid goes down

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