Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

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Here in ohio we are about to go high price for our electric power , due to deregulation. I'm looking to put in a heatpump / furnace . Do i go gas or
electric heatpump / furnace ? I would like to add solar to power my furnace (heatpump). This is long term look at what best.

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  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,479 admin
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

    First start is usually conservation... Wall/ceiling insulation, vinyl double pane windows, CFL lights, shading summer sun (if issue), new energy start appliances (fridge/freezer), hot water heater, etc... If you like ventilation--installing a fresh air heat exchanger would be a good deal too (exiting home air is used to heat/cool the incoming air from outside--I think I want to do this--my wife is big on fresh air, but it does let cool/hot air in from outside even in my moderate temperature area.

    The new ground sourced heat pumps sound like a neat idea for those areas that need A/C. But you need the right ground conditions/area to be able to drill/bury the external heat exchanger. Some systems will even heat domestic hot water for you too...

    I have read horror stories about the reliability of some of these devices--I don't need them in my area (SF Bay Area, Ca.), but I would recommend checking references closely.

    If you have access to good sun conditions, Solar Hot Water (domestic hot water, heating) seems like a good deal. Although, there are issues with freezing conditions (need antifreeze or drain back to prevent freezing collectors)... I like solar electric (low maintenance)--however solar electric is pretty expensive (per watt*hour generated) vs solar thermal panels.

    I put a new furnace in my old home about two years ago--and it was an 80% efficient unit--It was before I paid close attention to these issues (let the contractor just put one in during a remodel). Even so, I have to place a bucket under the flue to catch the water that now condenses out of the combustion gases because the new furnace puts so much more energy into heating my home instead of up my chimney.

    Other than the above, I don't have much else to offer in the way of natural gas vs heat pumps. If you have an old natural gas central heat system, the newer ones are much more efficiency (80% is the minimum efficiency now vs the old systems that were much worst before).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

    It looks like i will have to get a new furnace to take advantage of a split heatpump. But with the cost electricity going up , i want solar to offset the rising cost of electricity (longterm) . Solar seems to be something that myself and other in area are having hard time getting facts on which brand ,etc it the best and most efficient for the buck. Don't want to buy what available in the area if they don't meet certain spec's.
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,479 admin
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

    Just to give you an idea about solar--if you live near Lima Ohio, a 3kW system on a south facing 30 degree rack should produce around 4,000 kWhours per year at a cost of $30,000 ($10 per installed kW cost--uses about 3,500 watts of panels).

    This Solar Calculator seems to work pretty well (I checked it against my installation--and it seems pretty accurate--I would guess withing about +/-10% or so)--although, now it appears you have to use IE rather than FireFox for everything to work correctly.

    Assuming a 20 year life (panels should last longer--inverter may need replacing once or twice, but gives a rough idea of power costs):

    $30,000 / (20yr*4,000kWh per year) = $0.375 per kWhr...

    You can save, roughly $200-$300 per year (net metered vs NM Time of Use) off of your electric bill (assuming a $100 per month bill)... Using the estimated savings and a Time of Use meter:

    $318/4,000kWh = $0.0795

    or only about $0.08 per kWhr average power prices in your area (calculator may be wrong here)... No rebates assumed--if you have some for your state, can make the numbers look better--for example, in California, we can save about 1/3 of the total system cost with state and federal rebates/tax credits. Or, if you can do much of the work yourself, you can save quite a bit of money too--although, states require an electrician+permit+utility OK to connect to the mains, and most rebates require an approved Solar Installer to do the work and warranty the system.

    From April through August, the system will generate about 400-425 kWhr per month.

    The summary is that solar appears to be quite a bit more expensive than solar in your area at the present time.

    However, higher prices probably are on the way (for many reasons--many of them political). On the left and right coasts, somebody using ~1,000 kWhrs per month can spend $0.20 to $0.30 per kWhr pretty easily.

    My rates in California run around $0.12 per kWhr for the first ~300 kWhrs/month. But can get over $0.36 per kWhr for the amount of power used over ~900 kWhrs per month. On a Time of Use plan (my rate plan with 3kW of solar), my rates run from a low (off-peak) of $0.09/kWh to a high (summer, > 900 kWhr/month) to $0.53 per kWhr (ouch)...

    In my case, I worked pretty hard at getting my energy usage down (all of the items I listed in my first post above--plus both my wife and I are cheap)--And we get our usage down in the 200-250 kWhr per month range (gas appliances). To keep it this low, this means that we turn off wall worts (those little cell phone chargers and other wall transformers, turn off power strips for the TV, VCR, DVD, Digital Receivers, Computers, Printers, etc. when not being used) This helps to keep us in the lower rate tiers.

    If I was using >1,500 kWhrs per month, turning off unused cell phone chargers and printers on standby probably would not make as much sense until we reduced our other usages.

    In the end, if you have an expensive tiered rate plan, you don't have to convert 100% to solar, but if a combination of conservation and solar can get you into a lower rate tier--you can actually save money.

    Regarding brands, Wind Sun's store has brands that they stand behind and a lot of experience with them.... So looking through their store is a good place.

    I have a Xantrax GT 3.0 Grid Tied inverter for two years and it has worked perfectly operating 20 panels of BP 4175 (175 watt) panels mounted on my second story roof (a real pain in the rear to clean).

    Heard good things about Outback and Sunny Boy. Efficiency wise, look at the $/kWHr price... Solar Panels are all very similar in operation--but costs can vary between vendors. Grid Tied inverters have lots of monitoring options (which can be expensive--and probably not worth it in most cases)--attaching a computer can use quite a bit of power to operate (my old laptop can use 1/2 kWhr per day--a desktop system running 24 hours per day will use a lot more power).

    Another good place to ask questions is at Solar Guppy's site... He is not a dealer/store, so he can give a pretty wide range of opinions without too much blow back. Good feedback on brands/types of solar panels to avoid (he is pretty happy with all of the standard silicon panel suppliers, the flexible and those with other technologies that use Silicon+Arsenic (for example), he warns people away from).

    Lastly, your installer is probably the biggest issue... Call and do reference checks. Make sure you understand exactly what they are going to do (drill holes in roof, put conduit up the side of your house, be responsible for building permits, power company net metering forms, length of warranties, whatever)...

    And like every home contractor, they will probably be late on deliveries of panels, run out of sun rated wire for the panels, show up at 7am to do the install without any phone calls the day before, and not show up the second day--without a phone call--because of an emergency somewhere else (yes, that all happened to me--but I just kept smiling and it did eventually get installed just fine).

    But it will get installed. Solar Electric Grid Tie systems are actually pretty simple systems. Panels on Roof, brief case sized Inverter somewhere, and wiring from the roof, to the inverter (sometimes an external disconnect near meter), and wiring to the main beaker box with two new breakers, and usually a new electric meter. If you have old wiring/panels, not enough extra capacity in the service panel or other issues--it will take more time and money to get things fixed to support the grid tied inverter connection.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

    I just happen to be from Lima. Any good discussion site on geothermal ?
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,479 admin
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

    What kind of Geothermal are you looking at? The hot springs in Northern California power steam turbines for electrical generation--but that is a huge undertaking because of the caustic nature of geothermal steam (sulfur, hard water, corrosion, pollution, etc.).

    Or are you looking at using a heat pump with ground sourced thermal (wells, buried pipe, stream, lake, etc.)?

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • mike95490
    mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,583 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar
    In the end, if you have an expensive tiered rate plan, you don't have to convert 100% to solar, but if a combination of conservation and solar can get you into a lower rate tier--you can actually save money.

    This scheme has reduced my bill from $2,600 to less than $400 a year.
    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 ,

  • System2
    System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

    My understanding that i will have to a vertical loop . I have a few trees in the front and backyard. I have central air right now . My house faces south. Any chance of combining solar and geothermal ?
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,479 admin
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

    Yes--as long as you are reasonable in what your expectation are...

    Assuming that Grid Tie solar electric power is OK with you--the two systems (A/C and Solar PV) don't even need to really be "engineered/designed" together... But just as separate entities (assuming you have sufficient electrical service in the home for the new equipment).

    Design the ground source heat pump using a high efficiency manufacturer (look up energy star ratings). Implement conservation throughout the home to reduce your overall electrical loads (insulation, reduce waste heat into the home--use CFL bulbs instead of incandescents, use a fresh-air heat exchanger (don't know anything about brand or company--just an idea of what I was typing about) so you don't lose heat in the winter and cool air in the summer)...

    Then see how much power you use (review your power bills, get a kill-a-watt meter to measure small appliance energy usage)--and design the solar power system to source the amount of kWhr per month you desire to offset (assuming your utility has net metering billing--but you need to check, not all utilities in the US allow Grid Tied systems and net metering).

    If, however, you want battery back up (off-grid), or expect solar electric to be cheaper than you current power rates--you may be disappointed. Off-Grid systems that support large electrical loads, like A/C, are big and expensive... And, currently, it appears you live in an area of the country with pretty low electric rates (and not the best sun conditions).

    But, yes, you should be able to install both a heat pump and a grid tied solar electric system very easily. Just need the money and appropriate area to mount all of the components (electrical, solar panels in full sun and at least 9am-3pm zero shade, good ground conditions for thermal wells, etc.).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Telco
    Telco Solar Expert Posts: 201 ✭✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

    On the ground loop heat pumps, I was speaking to an installer who works with these things, and he recommended against using one. They do save power and the hose in the ground is warrantied for 50 years, but when they install the ground loop they have to use a special "concrete" (for lack of a better word) that glues the hose in the ground to allow heat transfer. The problem is, on the systems he's had to work with, is the ground loop will break 2-3 years into it. While the loop itself is warrantied, installation is not covered so you'd have to pay labor to have that free pipe replaced. The cost is pretty high to have it replaced, high enough that most of his customers opted for a high efficiency air exchange heat pump instead. He suggested just spending the money on the highest SEER air exchange heat pump you can afford, as it'll cost close to the same as a ground loop pump when you take the extra labor to do the initial installation into account, AND there's no worry about the ground loop breaking and needing a few thousand more to replace. This installer was in Louisiana so there may be some local ground conditions that cause these lines to break that would not be a problem in Ohio, but then you never know. I've always felt it's best to know the bad with the good, especially where a large sum of money is concerned.

    For getting more heat into the house in the winter using an air exchange heat pump, I was kinda wondering if some sort of Trombe wall installation around just the heat pump might not be effective. Heat pumps work by moving heat, and it seems to me that an air exchange heat pump might benefit if it were in a warm environment. You'd need to figure out how large an enclosure you'd need to be effective, and have a way to vent/block the enclosure so when the air inside the enclosure was cooler than outside that the warmer air could get in. Another benefit from this - the heat pump would be protected from the weather, so no worries about ice and snow blocking it off.

    For solar water heating, this setup is the best I've seen, as it doesn't require that you put anything on the roof. Only instead of those panels he used, I kinda like these evacuated tubes for collecting the heat. I'm really wanting to use this setup to provide heat and hot water for my house. Might be able to get an HVAC unit that can use hot water for its heat, and if you had a large enough bank of water to collect heat with, you could likely get by for a week with no sun before needing a backup heat source.

    Hope all this helps.
  • GreenerPower
    GreenerPower Solar Expert Posts: 264 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

    Don't know how much one of this thing cost but sure is nice where NG is available.
    http://www.hondanews.com/categories/1048/releases/3944
    In Europe, they have units about the size of a dish washer.

    GP
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,479 admin
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    Re: Deregulation of Electric companys : Solar

    I was wondering when somebody would combine a small natural gas (or other fuel) motor with home heating to get both heat and electricity...

    Here is a link with a simple explanation (basically, a 83-90% efficient motor/generator with 12,000 BTU and 1.2 kW of grid tie output, coupled with a high efficiency 93% furnace for when more than 12,000 BTU are required)...

    The plan is for the motor to run near 100% of the time during the heating season, and run the furnace for cold snaps.

    Guessing here that the special part of this system is generating 1.2 kW of electricity with an overall efficiency of 83-90% of efficiency (and reducing the electric bill by quite a bit--I would guess that the "heating" of 12,000 BTU/hour is near free if you "pay" retail for the electricity generated from the natural gas)...

    Just in terms of heating, a 93% efficient furnace is still more efficient than an 83-90% efficient co-generator for heat alone.

    For sale, at first, only in the North East (cold climates with natural gas).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset