Still learning says it all. Needing information

Hello, everyone: yes I am new here however I have been reading your wonderful forum for a long time and have enjoyed reading everyone’s questions and the wonderful reply’s from basic energy saving idea’s and straight forward advice.
I have been interested in solar energy for several years reading and putting basic solar energy to use in small scale around my yard with a few small panels to create outdoor landscape lighting.

Even with all my reading and playing around with small scale solar panels I still have several questions, and I am looking for some advice from the pro’s here on the forum.

In order to save energy, each year I do some improvements on my home to conserve energy. I have done small improvements to large improvements, from replacing all the older appliances to newer more energy saving appliances. I have also had new insulation, added to the attic areas, and just last fall I had all the windows replaced with new double pane windows. I have also added a pellet burning insert in the fireplace. I have replaced most the lighting with new L.E.D. light bulbs. Even with all the improvements I still feel that we are still an energy hog.

So here comes the questions and I hope some suggestions from you fine people in the forum.

I do not want to install any panels on the roof of my home, really that is what the wife says, and I really don’t want to have a rack mount of solar panels on the ground, or a pole mount type system either. Which would bring me to my first question. I have a detached garage on the opposite side of the attached garage that has a metal type roof and the roof is almost facing due south, it has no tree or any shading what so ever it also has a lot of roof space, the garage itself has about 1200 square feet. Inside this garage there is a breaker panel and has 220 coming into the panel, however this panel is fed from underground utilities coming from the house, and the electric meter is attached to the house not this garage. I am interested in only a grid tie system, I don’t want to deal with any batteries. So my question would be this, can I hook up the grid tie inverter to the detached garage electric panel? Even though the electric meter is attached to the house, not to the detached garage, it would be almost impossible, to bring the DC voltage from the panels directly to the house unless I completely torn up a lot of the concert driveway, and I know there would be a huge loss of efficiency with that long of run from the panels. So that would be my first question.

Like most people I don’t have thousands to sink right away in a system, however I am kind of do it yourself person and love to mess around with electronics, so it would be an ongoing project for maybe a few years to get the killwatts a day I would like achieve. Which will bring me to a couple more questions, I have seen so many different brands of brands of panels, and of course everyone say they have the best panels on the market, since it’s going to be an ongoing project I am guessing I should stick to a name brand panel, and I am also guessing I should purchase the highest wattage per panel I can get. However I am also wondering if I started out with two panels say at 130 watts each, and then wanted to add a 200 watt panel that would also work if the voltage was the same is that correct?

One other thing I am considering mainly for just starting small is to purchase a small grid tie inverter that just plugs into an electric outlet, I know you guys have seen these on e-bay and the youtube video however I can’t really find out much information about this grid tie inverter. The brand name is Envirotechs, which is a 250 max wattage output and if it does not sense AC it stops producing AC back into the grid. I was thinking if I purchase say two 130 watt panels with the loss from the panels to the converter I might be able to get close to the 250 watt output. But if I can connect a grid tie inverter to the detached garage I would go ahead a purchase a better inverter and not even mess around with the small inverter, however if I cannot connect the better grid tie inverter to the detached garage it does leave at least one option open.

I know have asked several questions, and I hope this post is not too long and boring but if I can get these questions answered, I will have a hundred more.
Thanks for any input or advice on the above.
«1

Comments

  • n3qikn3qik Solar Expert Posts: 741 ✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    Yes you can do a grid-tied system on the garage. The size of your main panel will determine how large of a system you can go.

    We need the total amp rating of the main panel at the house.

    I would stay away from the plug-in inverters. None at this time are UL listed.
  • Still learningStill learning Registered Users Posts: 18
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    Thanks so much for the reply I will get that information by late afternoon and post the results back here very soon.

    Thanks again
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,425 admin
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    Picking good panels is an issue... Our host is a solar retailer/wholesaler out of Flagstaff Arizona; Northern Arizona Wind & Sun--You can always use their site as reference for what they think are the better products out there (NAWS has this forum where the good, the bad, and the ugly are freely discussed and they have been very open about what products they find work well, and try not to sell those which case problems).

    Regarding solar panels--for now stick with poly or mono-crystalline silicon panels. Any other type is unproven as to how long they will last (Asi type are known issues), plastic/flexible (expensive and, typically, less than long life), or thin film (less efficient as they take ~2x the area, wiring, mounting; don't usually last as long).

    There has been a lot of "churn" in the solar panel industry with vendors coming and going. Having a big vendor that has been around for a while to honor 25 year warranties is nice (but difficuilt to know who will be around that long). And vendors do make mistakes... Kyocera is a vendor that has a good history of supporting warranty claims on one panel that had issues about 7 years ago.

    Solar Guppy's site has a lot of good discussions/archives about vendors/controllers/panels/issues too.

    The only vendor at the moment (that I know of) that is UL approved and makes small grid tied inverters (~200 watt, one per panel) is Enphase. A safe and rugged inverter that would meet your requirements. However, they are not "cheap" (not that anything solar PV related is cheap).

    Enphase Micro-inverter Grid-Tie Systems
    Enphase (one of several threads here about Enphase)

    There are a few threads here about the Enphase and discussions of it virtues and sins.

    In the end, when you include the costs of permits/inspections, getting utility approval, labor, shipping, economies of scale, applying for credits/rebats, etc.--You probably would be better off installing a ~3 kWatt GT system minimum at one time (I know, that is not in your plans).

    If you like do-it-yourself projects that can also save money--take a look at solar thermal (domestic hot water, space heating). Even home-made solar thermal collector panels are practical too (unlike trying to build your own solar PV panels). Solar Thermal systems are usually much less expensive to install too.

    One of the advantages of solar thermal is that the panels are ~80% efficient at collecting heat vs the ~12% of solar PV (electric) panels. So to collect similar amounts of energy, a solar thermal system requires much less "roof space" (for a typical home, ~80 sq feet vs the ~300-900 sq feet required for solar electric).

    The downside, solar hot water and such is a bunch of plumbing work and does require maintenance (pump replacments, leaks, issues with freezing, etc.). Solar GT electric is almost maintenance free.

    Here is a thread with a some links to follow/read up on solar thermal systems.

    In the end, if you save $50 per month on Electricity with Solar PV or $50 per month on natural gas/propane/etc. with solar thermal--it is still money saved.

    I am happy to hear that you have tackled the conservation angle first--always a good idea. Do you have estimates on how much power/$$$ you have saved from "before" to "after"?

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    Do you have a Kill-A-Watt meter (or similar)? Really helps in checking your energy usage and finding where those Watts are going. You'd be amazed at how much is used by today's many 'essential' electrical devices on 'standby'.

    Also, your location in the world will make a difference: how are prices there for electricity? Any incentive programs offered by the utility or various levels of government? How sunny is it?

    One of the good things about the people on this forum is; they're fairly pragmatic. None of that gung-ho "solar is the answer always for everything" hyper-environmentalism. We realize that without proper financial incentive, the average person isn't going to go solar. Sinking thousands of dollars into a system that will only save you a few hundred per year is not wise. That's why you'll see everyone suggest conservation as the first step.

    But on the other hand, if you've got programs available that help off-set the capital cost and/or high electric rates that make the payback more viable then solar can make sense.

    Where I am, utility rate is $0.07/kW/hr peak, with no government incentives and hefty prices on all equipment. Grid-tie is financially impractical under those circumstances.
  • Still learningStill learning Registered Users Posts: 18
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    Thanks everyone for their replies, I really appreciate the input and all the great advice.

    I have some more questions and some replies from my first post.

    N3qik, inside the house I have two breaker box panels side by side, one panel is 200 amps the second panel is a 150 amp panel. The 150 amp panel is the one that feeds the detached garage, I did not check the breaker box panel in the detached garage, but since the second panel inside the house is 150 amp I am assuming that the breaker panel in the detached garage would be 150 amp panel or maybe a 100 amp breaker box.

    Bill, I like your ideas about using a solar hot water system, and I have looked into this, however the problem again is that my wife does not want panels on the roof of the house. Since I use electric water heater I know I would save bunches on that. We do not have natural gas, and use propane for the main heating source at least here it is cheaper to use electric than propane. We do have a pool and the wife wanted to get a heater to keep the pool warmer in the spring and extend the swimming season longer in the fall, and wanted to get a propane heater, which I said no way. So about 4 years ago I did install solar panels for the pool however they are on a rack not on the roof of the house, even though she enjoys the extra heat these panels provide at little to no cost she still says, that she hates the way they look and if they had to be on the house she would not have them. So really I was kind of surprised that she agreed that if I could put the panels on the detached garage she would be ok with that. Not that she is a prude, she is a clean freak and has to have everything in order not out of place and everything has to be spotless. This is probably a good thing because if it was left up to me I might be living in a junk yard so she keeps me in check, but who's wife really does not run the show at home.

    But getting back to your questions about how much I saved on electric with doing the improvements is still kind of up in the air. Where I live the temperature is not real consistent so the electric bill change from month to month, but a rough best guess after looking back at old bills I am saving between 50 to 60 dollars a month on the electric, but since this is the first summer with all new windows I cannot really tell you how much the saving will be, and believe me that good windows are not cheap either, it is a long term investment also. But the saving on gas this past winter was a big drop, however again I am also using a pellet insert in the fireplace, for the past two years. My gas went from 3,000.00 dollars down to 1,800.00 for the heating season, and that is just for heating the house everything else in the house is total electric.

    Coot aka Marc, yes I do own a kilowatt meter and I have used it a lot matter of a fact a good friend of mine has borrow it to check on several things in his house to see what is sucking the watts from his home. It sure does come in handy to find the vampires which is sucking up electricity to my surprise I was very much surprised to see how much a DVR takes in standby mode, however things like the dvr, at least in my home the family seems like that we can’t do without, and we have 3 of them. I do have to admit I do use one of the dvr’s a lot because I hate watching the commercials. There are two more items that it seem stay on 24 7 are two desk top computers, no matter how long I complain or suggest that those computers be turned off they continue to stay on, and when I confront them about the computer I get the same answer, it take too long for them to boot up. If they had to use a 5 ¼ floppy disk to boot up their computer I guess these days they would die of boredom. LOL 5 ¼ floppy drive now telling my age. Anyway you have to pick and choose your battles, and I have lost the battle for the DVR’s and two computers.

    After talking with state government, about the solar panels, what it boils down to there is not much incentives here to install solar energy, and they have requirements you have to meet to get those incentives so really for me at this time I really don’t feel like I want to mess with all the red tape and their minimum requirements, however I do understand why they do have minimum requirement.
    Also the Electric Company will buy your excess electric but the rate is very low, I would be happy just to reduce some of my bill and at least once see that meter run backwards.

    So now I have a few more questions, since it does look like I can use the service panel in the detached garage to install the inverter. I would like to have some suggestions on which grid tie inverter that is the biggest bang for the buck and something simple, mostly plug and play install, something an average electrical person can install.

    As far as the panels, I notice Bill mentioned Kyocera and I have looked at these panels on different websites and on E-Bay and I just kind of liked the look of them, however I am not sold on any brand, but I am wondering if I should purchase the largest watt panel I can afford. Is there any advantage of purchasing two 130 watt panels or go ahead and purchase one 260 watt panel? Is there any advantages of getting higher voltage panels with a grid tie system, I am only guessing that higher voltage panels would be used more for charging batteries.

    Once again, I have gotten long winded on this post I promise I will keep my post much shorter in the future.

    Looking forward to any replies and suggestions.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,244 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    For a grid tie system, you have to purchase enough panels to activate the inverters minimum voltage requirement. Also, PV panels are made in a wide range of voltages, in the same wattage class,
    200W 18V
    200W 35V
    If your chosen inverter needs 250V to start up, you need the appropriate quantity of panels to feed it with.

    Since you do have propane, you have a path to:
    install propane heater
    convert electric heater to a "tempering tank" where the cold water comes up a bit to
    the ambient temperature a bit.

    Also, any thought been given to adding a domestic hot water panel to the pool heater rack?

    And with a heat source in the pool, you could use a "Ground Source" heat pump, using the pool as the source.
    she is a clean freak and has to have everything in order not out of place and everything has to be spotless.

    And has my wife been leading a double life there with you?
    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 ,

  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,425 admin
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    Still Learning,

    Watch out! You are getting close to the length of my posts. ;)

    Lots of questions and answers... First, your 150 amp service is going to limit the size of solar array that you can support to ~30 amps @ 240 volts... Perhaps a maximum of ~6,000 watts or so (using round numbers to make things easy to type and keep track of)... Using the PV Watts website, we find for a Grid Tied system for Lexington KY, a 6kW array gives you:
    [FONT=Fixedsys]Results
    
    Month
    Solar Radiation (kWh/m2/day)
    AC Energy (kWh)
    Energy Value ($ @ 6.1 ¢/kWh)
    
    1      3.23          476        29.04   
    2      3.85          504        30.74   
    3      4.38          619        37.76   
    4      5.28          694        42.33   
    5      5.48          724        44.16   
    6      5.84          719        43.86   
    7      5.51          703        42.88   
    8      5.40          690        42.09   
    9      4.94          625        38.12   
    10     4.61          615        37.52   
    11     3.36          451        27.51   
    12     2.58          368        22.45   
    =========================================
    Year   4.54          7190      $438.59  [/FONT]
    

    That is only ~$20-$45 per month of energy savings... and around 700 kWhrs per month in the summer time.

    And with a ~$50,000 installation cost (-$15,000 for Fed Tax Rebate and others you may find)--you can do much better on conservation and other forms of solar for your needs. (price is an absolute guess at $8,000 installed price per kW of solar panels--you can do better or worse :confused: )

    Your home still seems to need conservation before you attempt to do the solar GT--which still sounds like a drop in the bucket (did I miss how many kWhrs per month you are using? Saving $50 per month is probably > 500kWhrs per month in electric savings right now--almost as much as dropping $35,000 on a 6 kW array will buy you).

    Computers--Laptops (and now newer desktops) come with auto-sleep (set timer for 15 minutes or whatever)--Laptops generally use less power (20-40 watts) than the average desktop (~100-150 watts)--on sleep my 10 year old laptop takes less than 1 watt.

    Solar Thermal... It will really be your friend here. Your electric hot water system is actually much better suited to solar thermal vs propane or natural gas tanked water heaters.... Many of the conversions just take the lower electric element out of the hot water tank and replace it with the input from the solar thermal system (you should have ~20 gallons of hot water storage per family member--so you would probably be looking at more hot water storage anyway). With your current electric rates, using the electric as a backup makes more sense vs installing a propane heater--unless you are working on blackout protection--then propane will reduce your emergency loads on the generator/batteries dramatically.

    For solar thermal space heating--if the size of your property allows, then you can look at using your garage and/or other outbuilding as your capture and storage point for hot water/etc.... Take a look at this thread:

    Solar Shed and other ideas

    And your seasonal heating requirements (using propane?)--how well is your home insulated (lots of attic insulation, double pane vinyl windows, etc.... $1,800 seems high ($300 per month?) especially if you are using a pellet stove to assist. If you guys like fresh air (my wife always wants a window open)--a heat recovery ventilator would be nice to add (saves energy both in very cold and hot weather).

    Anyway... Many of the conservation steps have multiple positive effects.
    1. Reducing in-home loads (computers, fridge, CFL's, wasted power) means less heat for A/C to move out.
    2. More insulation reduces summer and winter costs, reduce noise.
    3. Better windows reduce heating/cooling costs, less noice from outside, fewer drafts, dust from outside.
    4. Solar thermal for pool and home heat--reduce costs, longer pool season.
    5. Protect your family against rapidly escalating power bills--You are paying around $0.07 per kWhr... In Northern California (which the Federal Government is basing their new Global Warming laws on), we pay $0.60-$0.75 per kWhr at peak times right now... What would you do if your propane price tripled and your electric rates went up by 5x. The likelihood that this will happen in the next few years is pretty high if we continue down the present political road.
    6. Conservation measures will help improve the value of your property... Adding grid tied solar appears to have little positive capital improvement to your property.
    While I have Grid Tied solar on my home--We worked pretty hard on conservation measures first (our home is 70 years old, built without any insulation--we insulated ceiling, walls, floors. I installed double pane vinyl windows. Changed out lights to ugly CFL's. Replaced original gas furnace with new Energy Star model. Replaced washer, drier, fridge and freezer with energy star models. Use low flow shower heads to reduce hot water use. Put power strips to turn off old stereo that took 40 watts on standby, etc...

    Then I installed 3.5 kW of GT solar which offsets 100+% of my yearly electric bills and left me with $20-$60 per month (summer/winter) natural gas bills. But I have a smaller home (most likely) and live in a more temperate climate.

    I understand you cannot do conservation/solar/etc. at the price of your marriage--but you can probably work out some spreadsheets comparing the costs of energy savings vs the advantages... Can you convince your wife and neighbors that "panels" are the new fashion trend? :D

    How the panels affect the look of the home--there may be no good answer to that. Involving your spouse in the panel selection/design process may give her some control of the whole thing--and a challenge to make them look better--plus pride of accomplishment. I know that giving people control over their lives (or work) makes everyone much happier (vs being imposed from "above" or "below").

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • n3qikn3qik Solar Expert Posts: 741 ✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information
    N3qik, inside the house I have two breaker box panels side by side, one panel is 200 amps the second panel is a 150 amp panel. The 150 amp panel is the one that feeds the detached garage, I did not check the breaker box panel in the detached garage, but since the second panel inside the house is 150 amp I am assuming that the breaker panel in the detached garage would be 150 amp panel or maybe a 100 amp breaker box.

    If the breaker box in the garage is 150 amp, the the largest array could be 6 KW. If it is 100 amp, then it could be only 4 KW. This is due to the NEC rule allowing a max of 20% backfeding it a panel.

    Computers, do you suspend them?? Time to upgrade them to laptops??


    BB- You beat me to it. Note to self, spend less time on Facebook IM.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,425 admin
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information
    n3qik wrote: »
    BB- You beat me to it. Note to self, spend less time on Facebook IM.

    Note to self--spend more time in life and less time on solar forum. :roll:

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Still learningStill learning Registered Users Posts: 18
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    After doing an involved look at passed electric bills and with my current bill I just received I can say officially we are energy hogs. My average per month electric use is 2327 Kilowatts per month or 77.56 kilowatts per day.

    I promised I would keep my post shorter so I am just going to hang my head in shame, and slowly walk away.
  • n3qikn3qik Solar Expert Posts: 741 ✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    No same is needed. You at least are starting to get a grip on your energy usage.

    It is like going to AA meetings, the first step to recover is admitting to the problem.
  • TnAndyTnAndy Solar Expert Posts: 249 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    "It is like going to AA meetings, the first step to recover is admitting to the problem. "


    ahahahaaaa.....Amen to that.......
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,419 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    With no offense intended to anyone,, perhaps you need to do a better job selling the ideas to your wife. Show her pictures of other similar solar installations,, both Pv and DHW. Convince her that a small concession to looks will look really good in the check book. Solar hot water will pay off VERY quickly,,, especially if you heat with electricity.

    Consider looking into using your pool as a heat dump for your A/C loads,, or using the A/C for heating DHW.

    Pv doesn't have to go on the roof,, You can mount it on a fence,,or a side wall,, or any number of ground mounts.

    Good luck, keep the conservation ideas going,, At ~77 kwh/day there should be some fair amount of "low hanging fruit.

    Tony
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,425 admin
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information
    My average per month electric use is 2327 Kilowatts per month or 77.56 kilowatts per day.

    We are here to have fun and share knowledge... So enjoy and learn.

    77,560 Whrs per day / 24 hours per day = 3,231 watts average load 24 hours per day

    So, go after the "big stuff" first--don't worry about the night lights and cell phone chargers right now (if ever).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nigtomdawnigtomdaw Solar Expert Posts: 705 ✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    When was a sense of humour voted in ? :p
  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,963 ✭✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information
    After doing an involved look at passed electric bills and with my current bill I just received I can say officially we are energy hogs. My average per month electric use is 2327 Kilowatts per month or 77.56 kilowatts per day.

    I promised I would keep my post shorter so I am just going to hang my head in shame, and slowly walk away.

    If your living in a hot climate, that actually not an outrageous amount. I live in Florida and most can use easily 3+mW of energy, I have neighbors with 4-500 dollar electric bills in the summer.

    Start with the basics, if you use the AC allot, it's worth it to get a new high efficiency ( SEER 16+ ) heat pump. Have a pool, the look into the new variable flow pumps. On the home, make sure you have insulation of R40 for a MINIMUM in the attic.

    Start looking at your appliances, the refrigerator, got an old one in the garage hooked up keep soda cold? get rid of that

    My home probably uses about 1.5-1.8 mW/ month in the summer, and that with all the above addressed, I have 14kW of solar and that pretty much evens out the bill to zero over a years time.
  • Still learningStill learning Registered Users Posts: 18
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    First let me thank everyone for their input and all the great information. I have read every word in this post several times.

    Since my last post I have been using my Kill A Watt meter a lot and trying to determine where all these Kill A Watts are going. I have found out that one of my energy Star refrigerator that is out in the attached garage is not such an energy star appliance. It is rated to take 41.00 a year to run. With my Kill a Watt meter, it says it is going to use 118.97 per year. I have notice that it seemed to be running more than it use to and since it is still under warranty I am going to call Sears and have it checked. Since that is three times the energy it should use, and since my electric is cheaper than what was on the sticker, they rated the yearly average on 10.5 per Kill a Watt hour.

    One other thing I am working on is the pool pump which runs 24/7 I have talked with the pool man and have found out that I can put the pump on a timer, and have it run some throughout the day, and let it run a night and cut the operating time down to about 12 hours instead of 24 hours a day. Since the pump also runs the solar heating for the pool and has a mechanical valve which works when a thermostat checks to see if the panel will produce warm water, then it checks the temperature of the water in the pool if the pool water is cooler than what the thermostat is set for then, it diverts some of the water from the pump through the solar panel. So if the pump was not running at the time then of course there would be no heat from the panel, but the pool guy, suggested using a smaller pump just for the solar panels, he is checking on a smaller pump he can plum into the intake. So if this plays out I should be saving a little money on the pool, or should I call the pool the money pit.

    A few smaller things I have found that is sucking up watts are my rechargeable tools, when the batteries have finished charging, I place the batteries on a shelf, but what I never thought about until I checked these chargers is the when not charging they are consuming electric. So I got a couple of power strips that I can turn off when not in use, so if you have a transformer attached to anything it is consuming electric. One other thing I found is my pellet stove insert, which is not in use right now of course, it is consuming 42 watts of energy, so that is unplugged right now. So I am taking steps to find out where all this electric is going each month.

    As far as solar power, I have been researching, and reading all the information I can fine on the internet. It is a shame that for a do it yourselfer that does not want to spend huge amount of money upfront and just wants a system you can grow with over time, they just don’t seem to be out there. I have read all the information on the Enphase grid tie system from the thread here on the forum and I have also downloaded PDF from their website, and I must say when I think I have it all figured out when I look for a panel that works with the Enphase I get disappointed that panel I could buy for a decent price that panel is not listed on their list. I did find a panel and the micro inverter and the install kit on Ebay, however when I wrote to the dealer/seller I did not get a reply so, if they can’t answer a couple of questions about their products I am guessing this is not a good person do deal with anyway. So my solar quest will continue.

    I do have a question about the Enphase micro inverter, really more about the monitoring system, since I do not have the Ethernet connection in the detached garage and it would be impossible to hard wire one to the garage, is this something I could do without? Will the converter work without the monitoring equipment, everything I have read it seems like it would work without it. If so could I simply just buy another Kill a Watt meter and monitor the output that way? I know that it would not give me the detailed information about each panel but if without the Ethernet connection to the internet it looks like I would get information with a laptop plugged into the Ethernet port of the monitoring system, but if this is something I could do without a least with a startup system I would forgo that at least for now.

    I also did verify that the service panel in the detached garage is 150 amp panel.

    Well I have made yet another long post, I bet you guys wish I would buy something or get off the pot. But all of this solar power stuff is so frustrating to figure out.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,425 admin
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    Being able to monitor the health of your GT array is important to find problems (bad panels, bad wiring, bad inverters, even bad utility power) down the road.

    If you have a small system (a few panels)--you could probably find out if you have something bad happen with an external kWhr meter. However I would not use the kill-a-watt meter for this--it resets to zero if there is a power interruption.

    However, if you have 20+ panels and inverters--the failure of any one is only a 5% hit on total output--From my two cents worth of experience--I would doubt that I could even see a 10% failure on my 3 kW array (20 panels), daily and even minute by minute variation in power output is just not that obvious.

    Plus, you would have to track down witch panel/inverter has failed. I would suggest that some sort of monitoring is just about 100% a requirement for for Enphase system.

    By the way... "Kill-A-Watt" is the name of the meter. KWatt*Hours or Kilo-Watt*Hour or kWH is the electrical unit. (I am not sure if you are mixing up the units or being funny--I just realized that a new person to all of this could hear the name or see the abbreviations and mix-up the name/units.)

    -Bill

    At this time, for a single inverter system, growing in chunks of ~3.5 kWatt of solar panels (~3 kW rated system) is about the optimum "small" building block size in my humble opinion (shop around, get quotes to be sure--I am not in the business). With rebates/tax credits, that could be down in the $14,000 range. Still not "cheap"--but possibly doable.
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • n3qikn3qik Solar Expert Posts: 741 ✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information
    I bet you guys wish I would buy something or get off the pot. But all of this solar power stuff is so frustrating to figure out.

    That is wrong !!!!!! We talk and instruct people that the best money spent is REDUCING you electrical usage. This is exactly what you are doing now. The pool, pellet stove, etc. You have found they are using unnecessary electric. Even if you do not go solar, you are still saving money.

    I went from 700 KWHs to 60 KWHs per month. Solar helped, but the biggest reductions was turning things off I did not need.
  • dwhdwh Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information
    I bet you guys wish I would buy something or get off the pot.

    I agree - this is completely wrong.

    We don't want you to buy *anything* until you know what you need. Well...except the Kill A Watt. :D

    This isn't a forum designed to push products onto people, it's really mostly a place where newbies can shoot the bull with electricians (like me) as well as full fledged engineers (like B.B, Solar Guppy, boB, lorelec and...whoever I left out :blush:). Or where electricians can shoot the bull with engineers. Or...engineers shooting the bull (translation: advanced mathematics) with other engineers.

    If by participating on this forum you decide NOT to spend money on solar because maybe it really won't help in your situation - then we're happy with that. A lot of people spend money then find out they goofed, and that doesn't make any of us happy.


    If you do decide to buy, go for the best deal. There is no requirement or expectation to buy from our gracious hosts at NAWS. Though you will probably find they have some of the best prices around and will end up buying something from them sooner or later.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    It is far worse having to help the people who've gone out and bought stuff before planning and then wonder why it doesn't work right.

    "Avoid ready, fire, aim" - Tony (Icarus)

    This is a maxim!

    It is best to learn and understand as much as you can before you start making purchases.
  • mountaintopmountaintop Registered Users Posts: 16
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information
    dwh wrote: »
    We don't want you to buy *anything* until you know what you need. Well...except the Kill A Watt. :D

    I bought stock P3 International just for the “kill a watt” meter. Keep it up and make me some money…
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,244 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information
    icarus wrote: »
    With no offense intended to anyone,, perhaps you need to do a better job selling the ideas to your wife. Show her pictures of other similar solar installations,, both Pv and DHW.

    More money left over (after the system is paid of) for spa treatments, or to buy gasoline at $7.35 gallon. Don't forget the cost of domestic electricity from the "grid" is only getting more expensive each year, and the solar will be taking a bite out of that.
    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 ,

  • Still learningStill learning Registered Users Posts: 18
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    The Kill A Watt meter I have is the Kill A Watt p3, P4460 which this meter does not forget it’s last settings, if it is unplugged or if the electric has been disrupted, this one is a newer version and was only a few dollars more than the standard P3 Kill A Watt meter. If you want to start a zero again with this meter you must use the menu then press the reset button. Even for someone like me, it is real easy to use and it has become a great little tool. Especially since I had to prove to Sears that their energy star appliance, “refrigerator” is taking way more electricity to use than what it was advertised to use. The repairman that was dispatched from Sears arrived and the first thing out of his mouth was how you know that the appliance is using more electric than it should. I took him into the garage, and showed him the little Kill A Watt meter, I step through the menus and showed him the elapsed time it has been plugged in to the meter , how much is was going to cost for a year, month and week. Then I handed him the energy tag sticker that came with the refrigerator and he said wow, it’s using about 3 times the energy. The repairman and I pulled the refrigerator out, and he began his testing after about 40 minutes he said everything he could check looked to be working fine however, he would make his report and talk with the Sears appliance manager, about 2 hours later I got a call from Sears. I thought here it comes, I am going to be told sorry about your luck, but I was surprised when they said after talking the repairman, and checking the specifications that the product was out of specs for the amount of electricity it is using. He told me that they did not have the same refrigerator in stock at the local store and they would get one from another store and replace it. He said that he should have it in by Wednesday of this week, and would have it delivered by Friday. So this little meter has saved me not only electric, but maybe a costly replacement if the refrigerator had quit working after the warranty had expired.

    As far as the pool pump and adding a separate pump just for the solar heating panels seem to be a go, the pool supplier has located a small pump that should work just for the solar panels, and he is going to get a friend of his to do the electric work with a timer on the main pool pump, with a override switch that you could manually turn the main pool pump on/off when needed.

    For the Enphase monitoring, after reading the manual on-line it looks to me that I could have the monitoring system inside the house, even thought the panels would be mounted on the detached garage and feeding the grid through the subpanel in the detached garage, if that is the case, I would easily put the monitoring equipment right next to the router inside the house. However I did read that if does not get it’s information from the inverters you would need to try a different outlet.

    This system seems to be the only system at least for my budget right now I could grow with, adding a panel over time. I hope I am correct when I say I could start with as little as one approved solar panel one microinverter, the install kit for 240 volts, and a good certified electrical person to run the branch circuit and I might be able to start collecting a couple of watts of electric.

    Once again I have made my post like a short novel, like I said at the first post, the name say’s it all still learning. I do enjoy reading all the posts on this forum, and I enjoy how friendly all the members are, and the great advice each one of you offers in this forum.
  • dwhdwh Solar Expert Posts: 1,341 ✭✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information
    Once again I have made my post like a short novel

    Yea well...welcome to the club. :D
  • TnAndyTnAndy Solar Expert Posts: 249 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information
    The Kill A Watt meter I have is the Kill A Watt p3, P4460 which this meter does not forget it’s last settings, if it is unplugged or if the electric has been disrupted, this one is a newer version and was only a few dollars more than the standard P3 Kill A Watt meter.

    That's a handy feature.....and should have been in the original model. I have to use an extension cord with mine, or get down inbehind something like a fridge to read it, since you loose the reading if you unplug.....I always thought "what a stupid design THIS is...."
    Especially since I had to prove to Sears that their energy star appliance, “refrigerator” is taking way more electricity to use than what it was advertised to use. The repairman that was dispatched from Sears arrived and the first thing out of his mouth was how you know that the appliance is using more electric than it should. I took him into the garage, and showed him the little Kill A Watt meter, I step through the menus and showed him the elapsed time it has been plugged in to the meter , how much is was going to cost for a year, month and week. Then I handed him the energy tag sticker that came with the refrigerator and he said wow, it’s using about 3 times the energy. The repairman and I pulled the refrigerator out, and he began his testing after about 40 minutes he said everything he could check looked to be working fine however, he would make his report and talk with the Sears appliance manager, about 2 hours later I got a call from Sears. I thought here it comes, I am going to be told sorry about your luck, but I was surprised when they said after talking the repairman, and checking the specifications that the product was out of specs for the amount of electricity it is using. He told me that they did not have the same refrigerator in stock at the local store and they would get one from another store and replace it. He said that he should have it in by Wednesday of this week, and would have it delivered by Friday. So this little meter has saved me not only electric, but maybe a costly replacement if the refrigerator had quit working after the warranty had expired.

    Interesting story.....what would you like to bet the next fridge will do the same thing ? Easy for a manufacturer to submit a few "NASCAR" souped up models for testing to get their yellow tag mileage rating, then make the rest of the line any ole way......who the heck ever checks things like that once they get sold out of the store ?? Well, in the past, nobody !! If it turns out the next one does anywhere close to the same thing, I'd be going to the store and checking the floor models.....then maybe hunting a new brand. Be an interesting tale to follow.
    For the Enphase

    This system seems to be the only system at least for my budget right now I could grow with, adding a panel over time. I hope I am correct when I say I could start with as little as one approved solar panel one microinverter, the install kit for 240 volts, and a good certified electrical person to run the branch circuit and I might be able to start collecting a couple of watts of electric.


    Just make sure you disconnecting means, and wiring, etc, from the first panel will handle what you might plan to expand to down the road, so you don't have to change those out as well.....plan for expansion if you plan to expand.....probably cheaper to put it in initially than change out later.
  • Still learningStill learning Registered Users Posts: 18
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    Just thought I would post an update on my progress, on my energy conservation and Solar research. I had some progress and some setbacks.

    I got the smaller pump installed just to run the solar heating panels for the swimming pool, and they wired the main pump on the timer, it also has a override switch so if you need the main pump running you can manually turn the pump on. Since I don’t have any trees around the pool, the pool stays pretty clean and the chemical level has been right around what it should be. So if this works out I think I have cut the cost of running the main pool pump to about half.

    While the electrician was here I did ask him to look at the detached garage electric panel, and he said that he could easily install the breaker I would need and could run the wiring up to the roof, if I decided to process with the solar project. He said would do the job in about a hour in a half.

    As far as my refrigerator that is another story in its self. They have not delivered that yet, now it might be another week before I get a replacement. The reason for the delay, was a supposedly a paper work mix up, or miss communications I am not quit sure. The refrigerator that I should have gotten from a different store somehow got sold or their inventory was incorrect for that location. So I am waiting on a new delivery date.

    My solar research is still continuing, and at this phase of the research is just so frustrating.

    Instead of just researching solar systems, I have call my electric company and tried to talk to someone whom knows something about connecting a grid tie solar system to their grid, and I just have to bite my tongue talking with them. Maybe places like California, Florida, or other states where solar is more common they have someone or a group of people who know what they are talking about, but the two people I talked with, had little clue to what I was talking about. So once again I am here to ask a couple of general questions.

    Finally what I was told by the electric company, and I will take this with a grain of salt because the lady I talked with seemed to be reading this from a script however she might know and I might be missing something. I was told, that they do have net metering, however I would have to apply for a permit, and they would process the request in about 10 day, if the system is less than 10 Kill A watts, which it would be. She also said it may or may not be inspected by the utility company, ok then she said if I did the net metering the meter they would install a second meter, which would be installed below or close to the primary meter. When I laugh and told her that I doubt I would very generate enough electric to sell back, she said then you won’t even need the extra meter. True or not true? So is net metering really just an option? When I told her that I was only inquiring about how I could connect, a system to their grid and that I did not have a solar system at all right now, and that I only wanted to be sure that I could connect legally she said all I would have to do is fill out the application, and it would be processed within 10 days. Oh and I might add this lady was a supervisor so I have to take what she said to be the true.

    Also, looking around I found a company called Andalay, who uses Emphase inverter with their panels. However I can’t find out much about them, anyone heard anything good or bad about them? They seem to be a good place for someone like me who want to start small and build a system over time.
  • TnAndyTnAndy Solar Expert Posts: 249 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    SL,

    I suggest you also talk to or look on the website of your power generator.....like Old Dominion or AEP, and see if they have any program for power buyback. The setup here in TN is that TVA is our wholesale supplier, THEN on thru local power distributors on a county level ( called "power boards"...the retailer..... here in TN ) and TVA has a "green partners generation" program that pays 12 cents/kwhr OVER retail price ( which is about a total of 21 cents right now ) for ALL solar we produce feed back.....each and every single kwhour. Then we buy whatever we need for the house, at 9 cents/hr, and we get a 12 cent an hour credit on our bill.....or a check at the end of the year if the credit exceeds the amount of power we use. ( we will have a credit this month, for example....more paid to us than paid to them )

    Often, the local power distributor has no clue ( nor do they want to...might mean a little extra work for them ) about buy back programs.....but using the second meter indicated such a program might exist.....as net metering doesn't require a second meter. We DO have a second meter on our system, but it's to keep exact track of solar production for billing.

    Last I knew of, only a small number of the 90+ power boards here in TN participate in the TVA GP program.....something like 15 the last I heard......and it's up to EACH local whether they participate or not. I had to lobby mine to get them on board.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,425 admin
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    By the way... it is "kilo-Watts" (kilo meaning 1,000). It is also written at kW or kWatt. And, the way you are billed for your power is kWH (kilo-Watt*Hour) or kWhr, etc...

    "Kill-A-Watt" is the brand name of very neat and (and inexpensive) cumulative power meter used around the home to measure the loads of individual 120 VAC appliances.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Still learningStill learning Registered Users Posts: 18
    Re: Still learning says it all. Needing information

    TnAndy,

    Sorry if this is just simple stupid question, but if you don't know I guess it is worth asking. For an example if I had a solar system running with the electric meter I have right now on my home, which is not a digital display meter, if I had to describle it I would call it a analog power, if my system was producting lets say 300 watts of power, and everything in my house was turned off except for a tv and it was pulling 400 watts of power that would leave me using 100 watts from the electric company. Would this just cause the electric meter I have to slow down and only show at that time I am comsuming 100 watts of power. Maybe a better example of my question would be if nothing in my home was using any electric at all, and the solar system was producting 300 watts of power would the electric meter run backward. The reason for the question, because she said if you are not producing more electric than you would use there would not be the need for a second meter. Sorry if this question is dumb or too simple.

    Bill sorry about the terms I have used in these posts, I do have the Kill A Watt meter, and I have read my posts and I do confuse the two terms and subjects a bunch. I will be careful about the term from now on.
Sign In or Register to comment.