lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

ZedicusZedicus Registered Users Posts: 13
o.k. i have been thinking about solar and wind for a couple of years, and with good reason. some back story, my wife runs a daycar out of our home, it is in the middle of a small city, lot size and location to overhead lines prevents any form of wind power. but our electric bill is regularly 600$ a month in the summer. even in the winter it will be 200-300. i have LED lights in most of the busy rooms, CCFL in anywhere else. i have more insulation in the home than in 2 or 3 new homes put together. we have thermal curtains, and will be doing new windows next year. even the attached garage and garage doors are all fully insulated, walls, roof, etc. we have put up a full covered patio for shade. every thing we do manages to JUST keep our bill from going UP any higher as rates seem to be ever increasing.

is a solar system right for me? if i do a grid connected system do i still have to have batteries? what else can be done to make a house more efficient? our refirdgerator is only 5 years old, we have a deep freeze that we store sides of beef in. there is only 1 tv in the house. we do have about 3 computers but they are the tiny high efficiency style. i would say a solid 85% of our utility bill is from trying to keep the climate stable. cieling fans and box fans and stuff placed everywhere for circulation. besides the 4ton A/c unit there is a window unit, and both run from about 7 a.m. till 10 p.m. i have also pulled a return air vent from the basement to use naturally cool basement air, and we use a dehumidifier.

Comments

  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    Welcome to the forum.

    Since your goal with adding solar is to try and save money we have to ask the question: what are you paying per kW hour now? Unless it is quite high you probably won't save a dime by adding solar; even grid-tie solar is expensive to produce. What is worse, it only offsets the per kW hour charges; any "base" charges will remain the same and the way things are going these are becoming the majority portion of the average electric bill. Ironically this is largely due to conservation efforts.

    Conservation is still your best investment, and it sounds as though you've really been trying there. Possibly you are heating with electric? No gas available? Electric tends to be an expensive way to heat anything.

    What is more, your location may prevent a viable solar install: city locale may not have good insolation and/or lots of obstructing shadows. That needs to be looked into before spending any money too. But mainly it's that cost per kW hour that will get you.

    There are three basic types of solar electric: 1). Grid-tied, where the panels feed an inverter directly and whatever they can supply is used by the home or sold back to the utility if in surplus; 2). Off-grid, where the inverter is powered by batteries that are recharged by solar or another source; 3). Hybrid, which is a battery-based grid-tie system that can provide power in the event of a utility outage (if a standard grid-tie system loses grid you have no power). All are expensive, with #1 being the cheapest and #3 the dearest.
  • ZedicusZedicus Registered Users Posts: 13
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    40$ a month 'customer charge' with a kwh rate of 0.05950 (checking this on my actually statement, the city's page is borderline useless.)

    heating is natural gas. i live in south west KS, its flat and the sun shines MOST of the time. and there are no trees or buildings tall enough to cast a shadow. the city does allow solar panels within city limits, i have gotten that far but i have not started looking into amounts or fees for grid connections or anything else.

    WHOAW this forum goes up....gosh i was confused.
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    Yes, that's the problem: your per kW hour rate is about 1/10th what even GT solar would cost.

    Now, there are some mitigating circumstances such as available tax credits/rebates et cetera which may or may not apply to your situation. Unfortunately I'm in Canada (where it is now 35C and climbing) and am not privy to any solar incentives that might be available to you.

    But that is really cheap electric. Even on BC Hydro we pay about twice that per.
  • RCinFLARCinFLA Solar Expert Posts: 1,327 ✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    You need to tell us your KWH's used per month. With a $600/ month bill you have got to be burning some serious KHW's at the rate you quoted.

    Rates are usually graduated, up to 1000 kWH is one rate, then more is at a higher cost rate. Power companies have got into "tack on's" like fuel adjustment charges, and other extra add on's.

    After you get your KWH's used then break that down in rough order.

    Air conditioners, and hot water generation are usually top consumers. Heating a swiming pool by electric is just crazy. I know someone that actually has it and accidentally the thermostat was set to 90 degs F. They never used the pool but when the dog chased his ball into the pool the owner discovered the pool water was very warm when he recovered the ball from the water. They discovered why their bill went over $400 where is was usually around $200.

    If you have a 'Brady bunch' running 10 hot showers a day then you should look at gas water heater. If you have access the natural gas it is a no-brainer to heat water, clothes drier, and house heating with it.

    Sound like the window air conditioner is one pig, Your 4 ton central should run between 40% to 60% duty cycle for day. Get a seven day, at least 4 cycle settings per day, electronic thermostat. You can vary the set temp during the day based on occupancy. A 4 ton should draw in the order 4 to 5 kW when compressor is on. At 50% average useage per day that would be 54 kWH's per day. At $0.06 per KWH (a very low number) then the cost of central A/C would be $ 3.25/day or $97 per month to overall bill contribution.

    My central A/C peaks out in the hottest 90+ degs day temps for Aug/Sept. in S. Fla. at about 9.5 hrs/day run time.

    Get your list together based on rough listing of major appliances.

    Example.

    A/C $97/mo.
    Hot water $30/mo.
    Drier $28/mo.
    Range_Oven $14/mo.
    Refrig $2.50 /mo.

    You will find lighting a relatively low number unless you have several high power outside flood lights that run all night. You will likely find soime wild cards like a large plasma TV running 20 hrs a day consuming 8-10 kWH's per day.

    If you have a smart meter you might be able to log onto power company site and see your consumption by hour of day.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    Buy or borrow a Kill A Watt, and measure and calc your al world loads. At a nickle a kwh it is going to be very hard to save money going off grid! Also, dehumifiers are energy pigs, you might be better off simply running a similar sized A/C unit. A dehumidifier is a good idea in a damp climate, but you end up putting heated airbqck into the room that perhaps you re trying to cool.

    Icarus
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,367 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    Zedicus wrote: »
    40$ a month 'customer charge' with a kwh rate of 0.05950 (checking this on my actually statement, the city's page is borderline useless.)

    heating is natural gas. i live in south west KS, its flat and the sun shines MOST of the time. and there are no trees or buildings tall enough to cast a shadow. the city does allow solar panels within city limits, i have gotten that far but i have not started looking into amounts or fees for grid connections or anything else.

    WHOAW this forum goes up....gosh i was confused.

    The bill should have some detail on how much you use and the total rate. If not then take the $40 off the bill and divide the remaining $$$ by the kWh consumed. That is your real cost per kWh. Your rates are higher or your consuming huge amounts of power. At $0.0595 a kWh a $600 bill mean about 10,000 kWh or about 333 kWh a day! Here in AZ with three 3 ton AC units and 2 Electric cars to charge, I only consume about 150-160 kWh a day worst case.

    Also to grid tie it is crucial to know what your utility will do for net metering, those times when you generate more than you consume. You need to understand how they account the excess power.
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,366 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    solar_dave wrote: »
    ...If not then take the $40 off the bill and divide the remaining $$$ by the kWh consumed. That is your real cost per kWh....

    Say What? So your saying the $40 a month is just a gift to the Electric company?

    Sorry, I just got my last bill, $15 for electric and $16 user fee, I didn't pay 9.5 cents per Kwh last month I paid 20 cents....

    That said, there is likely an energy audit available through your power company, call and ask. I suspect your cooling a pretty big building. If you Air conditioner is older, that might be your first thing to look at... There are some real advancements in ways to cool your home, geothermal, and much more efficient A/C units exist today than just a few years ago.

    Ask for a thermal imaging inspection if they offer it. I think south west Kansas is even a dry area, so you might even be a candidate for an evaporative cooler.

    Also big older freezers might well be costly. What size freezer are you putting a side of beef into?

    Grid tied solar can be done for around 20-35 cents a Kwh AFTER incentives, and the payback is over 20-30 years so lots of upfront money. So the answer is conservation, you can't let the little ones burn up but kids are much better at acclimatizing.

    Incentives for Kansas can be found Here;
    http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?re=0&ee=0&spv=0&st=0&srp=1&state=KS

    Not a lot available, the federal tax credit is 30% for costs incurred the year the solar is installed.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    For purposes of understanding what solar would save you, only the per kW hour cost on the utility bill matters as the base costs are fixed; you will only "replace" the per unit energy cost.

    For purposes of understanding what your total cost per kW hour from the utility is you have to divide the total bill by the kW hour. You'll find it makes the cost go up per kW hour the less you use. (Let's all conserve energy, eh? :p )

    Ironically this works against solar as you can't do anything about the base costs. Perhaps the utilities realize this and are using as yet another way to discourage solar. Effective, right up until it becomes cheaper to drop the utility entirely.
  • ZedicusZedicus Registered Users Posts: 13
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    according to the bill our highest month was 4500kwh with the rest of the 8 summer months fairly close to that. our furnace and water heater are natural gas. stove, oven, clothes dryer, are all electric. the tv is a ccfl lcd, its not light on power but its no 10yr old plasma either. the deep freeze is actually only 3 years old and it is only about 14 cubic feet.

    the large A/C does not cycle, it literally runs with the compressor on 10 to 12 hours a day. it is probably 30 years old but it is serviced every year, cleaned coils, charged, etc. so it is as good as it can be for a unit of this age. would i be better off replacing it?

    our bill includes water, disposal, and electricity, plus the electricity fee. . it looks like electricity itself is roughly 300is out of the total. still its the vast majority.
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,366 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    ... Perhaps the utilities realize this and are using as yet another way to discourage solar. Effective, right up until it becomes cheaper to drop the utility entirely.

    True, of course I did drop them entirely, we'll see how close it will be, remember my 26 cents a KWh is before incentives... It'll be close! Not a realistic scenario for most.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,366 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    Zedicus wrote: »
    ...the large A/C does not cycle, it literally runs with the compressor on 10 to 12 hours a day. it is probably 30 years old but it is serviced every year, cleaned coils, charged, etc. so it is as good as it can be for a unit of this age. would i be better off replacing it?....

    My bet is this is a major problem, likely inefficient to begin with, they say a new unit would be 30% more efficient than a 12 year old one, and likely yours is designed to use Freon and changed over at some point, so it might be less efficient due to that and now under sized for your use. I'd talk with a good A/C person. (I'm not one...)
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,367 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    Photowhit wrote: »
    Say What? So your saying the $40 a month is just a gift to the Electric company?

    My point was that if you are going grid tie, you can ever get rid of the service charges, they will be there forever. So to calculate the real cost of the electricity alone you might as well just remove that from the calculation. You can then start to see how a grid tie will play out for ROI.

    And yes if you have $16 in service fees and you buy 1 kWh it is an expensive kWh but you will still buy it.

    Edit:
    BTW I look at those service fees as the cost of having an unlimited long term battery storage, which in effect is what I get from net-metering. With over 2000 kWh on my storage every summer it would be impossible to replicate that with any lead acid setup for the minimal fees charged.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,367 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    Photowhit wrote: »
    My bet is this is a major problem, likely inefficient to begin with, they say a new unit would be 30% more efficient than a 12 year old one, and likely yours is designed to use Freon and changed over at some point, so it might be less efficient due to that and now under sized for your use. I'd talk with a good A/C person. (I'm not one...)

    I have to agree here on this one. The only time my AC runs at 100% duty cycle is when the sun is up, afternoons putting heat load on the large west wall and the outside temps are over 112F. Then it only stays that way for 4-5 hours. Once the heat load from the direct exposure goes away it is back to a 50-60% duty cycle even if the outside temps are high.

    This is a great conservation start I think, your unit is probably 10 seer (maybe a builder quality unit and even undersized) and a good 17 seer or better will save you money.
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,366 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    solar_dave wrote: »
    ...
    BTW I look at those service fees as the cost of having an unlimited long term battery storage, which in effect is what I get from net-metering. With over 2000 kWh on my storage every summer it would be impossible to replicate that with any lead acid setup for the minimal fees charged.

    I would have looked closer, but I had the battery already before moving to a new place. I had a break even number there and do here if you consider the battery 'free' since it would be a hard sell to anyone. While I don't have a break even number here, I have figured 26 cents a KWh before incentives, about as cheap as anyone but 'charlatans' can claim. FWIW in Missouri only the differed cost is carried over month to month, so you get a dollar value stored, equal to the wholesale costs, around 4 cents a KWh. Our fixed cost is $25 a month and likely to go up. The battery based system may end up being cheaper than a grid tied system here.
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,070 admin
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    Probably the place for you to start is with a Whole House Power meter of some sort (here is one)...

    The A/C is probably a killer... Electric stove/oven/drier can be pretty high--if you use them a lot.

    You need to find your major power hogs (probably not lighting, TV, etc.)...

    4,500 kWH per month * 1/30 days per month * 1/24 hours per day = 6.25 kWatt average load = 6,500 Watt load

    That is running a 5 HP compressor 24 hours per day--plus a fair amount of other loads.

    If you were an "average home running 1,000 kWH per month:

    1,000 kWH per month * 1/30 days per month * 1/24 hours per day = 1.39 kWatt average load = 1,390 Watt load

    So--You are looking at a ~5,000 watt load running 24 hours per day (or a 10,000 watt load running 12 hours per day) as your major "cost driver" (that is running you ~$0.06 per kWH * 6.25 kW = $0.375 per hour * 24 hours per day * 30 days per month)

    One question I have--If you don't run the AC 3-8 months a year, why are your electric bills dramatically lower during those times if the A/C was the cause of the high power usage?

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,367 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    Photowhit wrote: »
    I would have looked closer, but I had the battery already before moving to a new place. I had a break even number there and do here if you consider the battery 'free' since it would be a hard sell to anyone. While I don't have a break even number here, I have figured 26 cents a KWh before incentives, about as cheap as anyone but 'charlatans' can claim. FWIW in Missouri only the differed cost is carried over month to month, so you get a dollar value stored, equal to the wholesale costs, around 4 cents a KWh. Our fixed cost is $25 a month and likely to go up. The battery based system may end up being cheaper than a grid tied system here.

    Yeah so that's related to my comments about knowing your net-metering plan, $0.04 credit is a tough sell for grid tie. I can carry power generation forward worth $0.14375 a kWh in on peak terms and if I can keep my consumption overall for the year below my sell I pay no service delivery charges as well which is worth about $0.035 a kWh. Of course I only generate a marginal part of my off peak consumption, so about this time of year my service delivery charges catches up to me, this month it was for about 450 kWh @ $15.96, next month it will be higher. My fixed monthly cost is about the same, around $25.
  • ZedicusZedicus Registered Users Posts: 13
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    BB. wrote: »
    Probably the place for you to start is with a Whole House Power meter of some sort (here is one)...

    One question I have--If you don't run the AC 3-8 months a year, why are your electric bills dramatically lower during those times if the A/C was the cause of the high power usage?

    -Bill

    we do not use the A/C 3-4 months out of a 12 month year. for those months our bill is 200-300 $. that still puts us around 2000kwh and that it higher then 'average' it is under half of our peak months. there is a taper to the usage. june july august, regularly have 100 degree days, the other hot months avg 80 degrees. the thermostat is set at 74 and during the hot months the house regularly gets up to 80-82 degrees with both A/Cs running full tilt.

    even if the doors remain closed all day long there are still 8-10 kids running around ALL DAY plus my wife has to feed them, run the dish washer, etc.

    our A/C still uses freon, its not impossible to buy new freon and my A/C tech says converting an A/C only makes it less efficient.

    i should be able to get one of those house meters next payday. looks pretty nifty.
  • ggunnggunn Solar Expert Posts: 1,973 ✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    Zedicus wrote: »
    our A/C still uses freon, its not impossible to buy new freon and my A/C tech says converting an A/C only makes it less efficient.
    Converting an existing freon A/C to the new stuff may make it less efficient, but replacing the old unit with a new more efficient one will likely save you money in the long run.
  • RCinFLARCinFLA Solar Expert Posts: 1,327 ✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    I think the neighbor has tapping into your power.

    4,500 kWH per month is a very large number for a single family home. But then again, everything is relative. You did not mention you have a $10M mansion with 12 resident servants.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,367 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    RCinFLA wrote: »
    You did not mention you have a $10M mansion with 12 resident servants.

    I think that would be Paula Deen! LOL.
  • ZedicusZedicus Registered Users Posts: 13
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    RCinFLA wrote: »
    I think the neighbor has tapping into your power.

    4,500 kWH per month is a very large number for a single family home. But then again, everything is relative. You did not mention you have a $10M mansion with 12 resident servants.

    my wife runs a daycare out of our house. the main floor where the daycare is, size is about 1500sq foot. daycare hours are from 7:00am to 7:00pm.
  • RCinFLARCinFLA Solar Expert Posts: 1,327 ✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.
    Zedicus wrote: »
    my wife runs a daycare out of our house. the main floor where the daycare is, size is about 1500sq foot. daycare hours are from 7:00am to 7:00pm.

    You might have something there.

    If you have a great deal of coming and going with the door open for long periods you can cause your A/C to run continuously trying to keep up with the hot humid air entering the house. High humidity air is worse then just warm air. A/C requiring condensing water vapor to liquid water across the A/C evaporator requires much more A/C BTU exchange then just cooling low humidity air. In thermodynamics, anytime you go through a phase change (gas to liquid in this case) requires a step function in energy transfer.
  • animattanimatt Solar Expert Posts: 295 ✭✭✭
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    I would second the idea of getting an independent audit both thermal and electrical. You are using tons of electricity.
    While you could have insulated very well it only takes a few spots not covered correctly to greatly reduce its affect. Very easy to spot on a thermal camera. If you did not want someone coming in, a thermal IR Gun would help located issues, just not as easily.

    http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Cooling/WhiteRoofExperiment/WhiteRoof.htm
    I am not recommending the lime, but just pointing out what a standard dark roof does. And maybe you may consider making your roof a lighter color if possible and could be done and not look ugly.

    How is your attic insulated are the air ducts sealed well? How well is the duct work insulated from them hot attic space. I blew cellulose insulation over duct work located in a previous house. I probably added about R30 to the duct area. The air came out nice and cold and very quickly. Duct work that is located in an attic that is 130F-140F is losing alot of the cooling to the hot attic before it gets where it is needed. Also the return ducts are heating up pre cooled air to make the air conditioner work harder. I would also second seriously looking at canning that old AC unit. 30 years old Is probably horribly inefficient compared to modern ac units.

    If reusing the old duct have them all checked for leaks. Major losses happen there. And have them insulated very good. 100F outside temp probably is 150F attic temp. Also for the new ac unit maybe inverter based that vary their compressor speed based on load.

    What are night time temps outside where you live? If night time temps get below your conditioned air temps some thermal mass to capture some nightly cold may not be a bad idea. But how to accomplish that is the trick. Also thermal mass would allow you to run ac unit when it is cooler outside. Basically pre cooling a bit without making it uncomfortable when the ac would operate more efficiently.

    If the compressor gets hit by any sun, shading it would help. If shading is not possible painting unit a very bright white would help. Many other things to consider. Probably recommend going to builditsolar.com and reviewing info there. Probably enough to keep you busy for months. http://www.builditsolar.com/References/Half/Half.htm
    Matthew
  • flipperflipper Registered Users Posts: 1
    Re: lots of questions, can't not grid, don't even know where to start.

    Sure you are not losing that cold air into your attic? maybe your ducts have separated and losing that air.
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