God help me!

ceadesesceadeses Registered Users Posts: 5
I'm in the beginners forum I don't have a clue what you guys are talking about. I want to install some solar panels to help with my electric bill . I live in southern Maine and my house is oriented north south . I will do some more reading and ask some questions when I feel more confident.

Thanks All


  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: God help me!

    Welcome to the forum! There are some very sharp folks here who have forgotten more about PV than most of us will ever know. My best suggestion is to do all the reading possible, ask any and all questions before you begin to think about buying anything. Also remember that your cheapest energy dollar is conservation. If your goal is to reduce your costs net/net every dollar spend on conservation will save ~ $10 in PV costs.

    Also contact your local state Utility (CMP?) and see what if any programs they have in place that can mitigate your up front capital costs. That coupled with state and federal rebates/tax credits etc can dramatically reduce your costs and speed up your pay off.

    In short, expect to pay ~$5-8watt for a grid tie system. You might also do a quick PV watts calc to see what kind of real numbers you can expect from any given system:


    A quick calc for Portland ME shows a 2 kw system will return ~ $312 worth of power per year, ~ 2550kwh/year. This 2 kw system will cost ~$10-15,000 before any rebates, tax credits etc.

    By no means authoritative, but this might give you an idea as to what programs may be available to you in Maine.


    One final note, you will probably find that solar hot water provides way more bang for your buck. It is cheaper to install and yields a bigger benefit.

    Good luck, and keep in touch,


    PS I don't think anyone of us here would be considered a "god", but some may come close!
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: God help me!

    i'll add to what tony just said here and ask just how far you wish to go and for what purpose? now you can just add 1 pv to supplement or a whole slew of them to equal out or exceed your bill. some may be or want to be off of the grid while others are may be worried about power outages and brown outs. you have to know what it is your goal may be and know that the farther you take it the more it may cost. there also may be help for you in state rebates and i believe the federal is still doing it at least this year anyway as i'm not sure if that got extended with the recent tax passage stuff. www.dsireusa.org
  • ceadesesceadeses Registered Users Posts: 5
    Re: God help me!

    I guess what I want is a system that can take over the vitals ( well pump fridge & freezer) can heat and cook without power. Thanks for the response.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,327 admin
    Re: God help me!

    Do you have an all electric home? If so--there are now heat pump type hot water heaters that can be 2x as efficient vs pure electric (at least 50-55F room temperature--backup resistance heating).

    Besides conservation (insualation, double pane windows, Energy Star appliances, laptop vs desktop computers, turning off unused appliances with a power strip, updating heating/cooling equipment to modern efficiency standards, converting to propane or natural gas if available, etc.)--Grid Tied solar (solar panels + GT inverter) can be fairly cost effective and minimum maintenance. However, if your utility power goes out--GT systems are also turned off (you need a backup genset or other off-grid solar power source).

    There are Hybrid Solar PV systems (solar panels + Hybrid Inverter + Battery bank + optional backup genset) which can be a good compromise if you have longer stretches of power failure (weeks to get power back after an ice storm, etc.). These systems have the advantages of Net Metering with the power utility (like pure GT systems)... But they do have the added costs of a battery system (battery replacement every 8-15 years or so, require solar charge controllers, etc.).

    The last choice is off grid solar PV systems... Almost never make economic sense if you already have a utility power drop to your address. If you are in the middle of nowhere--Yes, can be less expensive than bringing in utility power or running 100% from a genset... But conservation (as a goal, limit yourself to ~100 kWH per month for "reasonable costs") is still very important.

    We have a thread here that talks about basic design questions and also has a bunch of links to other solar/conservation projects--lots of good ideas to think about.

    Working Thread for Solar Beginner Post/FAQ

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: God help me!

    Once again, define your critical loads, and how big they are.

    If you are looking for short term emergency situation, a standby generator is a much cheaper, much more reliable solution.

    It is important to realize that any battery based system (like you would require for standby power) comes at about double the cost per KW, and about half the output net/net resulting in a system that is about 4 times the cost for the power out the inverter than a grid tie system.

    Battery based systems are much more expensive to buy and maintain, and fundamentally way less efficient.

    For example, a 2000 watt Honda EU 2000 generator is ~ $1200, will power your freezer, maybe your well pump, some lights, furnace blower and can be used for other things as well the rest of the time. Very reliable, and very easy on the fuel. For a bigger well pump you might need a bigger genny, but the equation still holds.

    Rambling on,, done for now,

  • ceadesesceadeses Registered Users Posts: 5
    Re: God help me!

    I have a lot to research and think about thanks for the direction!
  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: God help me!

    I understand you want to go solar, or partial solar to lower your electric bill.
    As was mentioned earlier, conservation should be your #1 priority.
    Conserve, conserve, conserve. Solar power, unless you go big and sell back to your unility company, or can get major rebates, is not cheap power. That said, solar electric does for sure have it's place.
    Again, conservation. A watt saved is far, far cheaper than solar to produce that wasted watt. Most people have no idea how much electricity they waste, but quickly find out when they go solar and suddenly find they no longer have those watts to waste.
    I'm definitely not trying to discourage you, I went solar and am glad I did, but it's a whole different way of life than the wasteful one that most of us take for granted until we have our eyes opened.
    Wishing you all the best with your project.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: God help me!

    actually, you don't need solar to have a home backups system. solar is more costly, but does come into play in extended or frequent outages. the generator is a good solution for the daytime as it does create some noise. if opting for a generator, be very sure it is sized properly and know that there are some very efficient inverter generators out there that conserve on the gas usage very well, but do tend to be more costly. take it from me gasoline runs aren't any fun especially if the outage has extended to your gas station as they need power to pump the gas.

    for night time use it is best to use an inverter with the batteries. keep in mind those batteries need to be kept charged and some inverters do have chargers built into them while others don't. for the ones that don't you would need a charger of the proper rating that has at least a 3 stage charging system and must be able to accommodate the battery type you get. don't get carried away with loads on something like this as they can only handle so much unless you put more money into it to take on more. ie. more watts from sine wave inverter (a must for any motors, fans, and compressors), more ah capacity from batteries of which the most one should draw out is 50% of it often referred to as depth of discharge (dod) at 50% or state of charge (soc) which is the opposite of dod and still equals 50% in this case, and of course many other items such as fuses, electrical boxes, wires, etc. of note you should have about a 5-13% charge rate of the ah capacity of the batteries to charge the batteries in most cases.

    now we have many threads out here on all of this and i'm sure much of it will be gotten into here in this one too, but this is a good overview for you so far. if you don't know your loads for the items you'll need then you can see the maximum power it is rated for usually on a small piece of metal with the voltage and current on it. you multiply the voltage and current to get watts. you can estimate the watt hours by the runtime of that appliance in an hour. as an example a refrigerator drawing 150w and operating for 20 minutes will have 150w x (20m/60m) =50 watt hours or 50 wh for short. for many items we recommend getting a better idea by measuring it with a product called a kill-a-watt meter and our host carries these.
  • MangasMangas Solar Expert Posts: 547 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: God help me!

    It all can be very intimidating. For sure, that's how I felt when I started five years ago.

    This forum is an excellent place to get your feet on the ground and learn about your alternatives. After you spend a few hours on the site reading, your learning curve should increase to a point where you'll have enough confidence to make some basic decisions.

    My counsel is don't make any until you've done your homework.

    I am still learning a great deal from the people on this site. Don't be afraid to slow them down if they get too far ahead of you. That's their nature and mine too when in my domain. The terminology and technical stuff often gets me in a "deer in the headlights" look too.

    If you decide to proceed with solar and use a contractor make sure they know what they're talking about. Check their references. A lot of people say they know how to do it but many of them don't, especially off grid applications which involves a lot of planning and analysis in addition to the installation.

    With my off grid system, I have real world experience under my belt which sometimes can be a whole lot different than what some of the experts preach.

    Good luck!
    Ranch Off Grid System & Custom Home: 2 x pair stacked Schneider XW 5548+ Plus inverters (4), 2 x Schneider MPPT 80-600 Charge Controllers, 2 Xanbus AGS Generator Start and Air Extraction System Controllers, 64 Trojan L16 REB 6v 375 AH Flooded Cel Batteries w/Water Miser Caps, 44 x 185 Sharp Solar Panels, Cummins Onan RS20 KW Propane Water Cooled Genset, ICF Custom House Construction, all appliances, Central A/C, 2 x High Efficiency Variable Speed three ton Central A/C 220v compressors, 2 x Propane furnaces, 2 x Variable Speed Air Handlers, 2 x HD WiFi HVAC Zoned System Controllers
  • help!help! Registered Users Posts: 9
    Re: God help me!

    You're on the grid, but city water services (probably natural gas, too?) aren't available to your home....so you heat your house, your water, and your stove/oven with either propane or woodburning (plenty of firewood?), or a combination, right?

    You'd like to cut your electric bill, but do you also want independence if an ice storm leaves you without power for a week (when most use a generator) or, heaven forbid, the grid goes down indefinitely?

    You can START with some solar to cut your electric company consumption, then add batteries for independence when you have the money....or start with a complete SMALL system, including batteries, to cut your bill A LITTLE, and expand it as you have the money to do so.

    First, see how many hours of sun your location receives daily on the map (probably 4 to 4-1/2 at best). Your place of mounting will be on your south-facing side and must be shade-free (tree limb shadows falling on your roof-mounted panels will KILL solar output). Each kw of solar (1000 watts of panels) will probably produce 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 or 3 kwh (kilowatt hours) of electricity on a sunny day at your location with properly placed, good components.

    Look at your electric bill chart of consumption over the last year. It shows how many KWHs you used every month. During non-air conditioning and non-central heating months (when an electric fan circulates hot air), the bulk of your bill is running your frig, freezer, and full-time lights and major appliances. [You can also multiply watts each appliance uses by hours per day the motor "runs", if you know the hours.] Your well pump fills a cistern, right, and runs maybe 30 minutes a week? It's a heavy pull at 220 when it's running, but doesn't use all that much electricity. All the rest combined --TV, computer, microwave, vacuum, blender, coffeemaker, toaster, lamps, etc. are probably 1/3 or less of the bill, unless you leave them on all the time.

    Divide that bill by 30 days to find your daily kwh consumption, and you can see how many kw of solar panels you'll need to replace the electricity you're taking from the grid (or portion thereof). Your system (panels, grid-tied inverter, wiring, connections, breakers, disconnects, boxes, roof mounts, and charge controller, batteries, etc.) will probably cost 3 times the price of your panels, plus labor.

    If you know electrical wiring and/or are handy, you might do some of the work yourself, but a grid-tied system MUST be hooked up by a licensed installer/electrician approved by your electric service provider (it must be permitted and inspected before it can be connected). Those states which give rebates for solar installations usually require it be done by a licensed installer (a rip-off for off-grid do-it-yourselfers!). I don't know if the federal government still gives solar rebates....but I've seen Massachusetts and California rebates combined with federal make installing solar almost cheap!

    Whatever you do, be sure to buy an inverter that will allow you to expand your system with more panels (whether you become independent with batteries or not).

    Since you're looking for grid-tied, I'd start with your closest solar installers or solar-experienced electricians FOR ADVICE, OPINIONS, AND PRICES, but don't buy anything yet. The less you know, the more vulnerable you are. Get a list of needed components, check prices extensively online, and compare costs to the package price he quotes you, broken down into elements and labor costs. You might find a cheaper source than the one he's using, but remember he marks everything up to cover his overhead.

    Doing solar is an expensive sink or swim lesson, but the best advice I've found in the last year is: Learn FIRST, before you buy anything.

    Now these guys will correct the errors in my post.:D
  • GlovesGloves Solar Expert Posts: 65 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: God help me!

    HA HAHA! Love the title of this thread. I started here a few months ago with wind and solar at the same time. They to tend to give a lot more information than asked for (yes, that's a good and sometimes bad thing... mostly good). So let me tell you what I mostly wanted to know about solar but didn't even come up with the right questions until 1/2 way through the project.

    1. You only want to reduce your electric bill.
    2. You can do this by installing solar panels pointed true south. (not magnetic south either)
    3. Get a grid-tied inverter to save you dollars on your electircl bill (i didn't do this step so it's up to you to figure out the particulars of that install)

    Here's what to expect (my expericne)

    I have 2 solar panels that are rated at a total of 250W.
    Assuming I get 4 hours of solid energy producing sun (4 hours x 250W = 1000W or 1KW Hour) every sunny day.

    Thats great!!! but is it really?

    My electric bill is posted online and a smart meeter posts a graph online of my
    DAILY power consumption. I use 15KW Hours every single day (fairly
    consistantly). My 1KW hour produced from my 2 solar panels is barely 7% of my
    electric bill!!!

    So... Glad it's a hoby, it would take me some 15 years to get my $$$ back from
    the investment I put into it. (not including batteries I would have to replace 3-4
    times during that period)

    P.S. I have had a lot of hobbies, but this is the most fun to talk to other people
    about, (especially those who have no idea about solar)
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,327 admin
    Re: God help me!

    Slow down a bit guys! ;)

    ceadeses has not been back since his first posts on December 22nd...

    Give him a chance.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • bgarrettbgarrett Solar Expert Posts: 48
    Re: God help me!
    BB. wrote: »
    Slow down a bit guys! ;)

    ceadeses has not been back since his first posts on December 22nd...

    Give him a chance.


    We dont have to be logged in to read.
Sign In or Register to comment.