complete solar newbie

SystemSystem Posts: 2,511 admin
hey guys I've been reading this site now for about a week and had to post this just to see what others think of my plan so far. First for some back ground on myself. My name is James, I'm 27 years old, a computer tech, video gamer, and home theater junkie. I live in Michigan. :)

My plan currently is to for my current house I just want to install a backup energy source because my neighborhood isn't very good for the electricity. in the last 2 weeks I have lost power for a total of about 6 days, five of which was in a row without any power. I don't plan to power everything in my house with my system just the most common used stuff. I'm in the process of locating a local place to buy a kill-a-watt type reader, I prefer to buy locally versus internet is possible.

I might be moving after February 2009 so anything I install would need to be easily removable because I don't intend leave them with anything to bring the value up on the house (very long story).

I know this won't give a 100% idea since the ratings aren't provided but here are the devices that are used most of the time/all the time

living room
RCA 52" RPTV (4:3 Non-HDTV) [mothers, she hates widescreen refuses to replace it)
RCA 1000W 5.1 Surround Sound system
Satellite box
window box fan

Bed Room #1
Vizio 42" LCD HDTV (Widescreen)
Satellite box
Dell Latitude Laptop
window box fan

Bed Room #2 (mine)
RCA 52" RP HDTV (D52W20)
Denon Surruond Sound Receiver (AVR-1506)
Pelican System Selector Pro (PL-960)
Satellite Box
Microsoft Xbox360
ReplayTV (RTV5504)
Desktop Computer w/ 350W power supply
AT&T DSL Router (2wire)
window box fan

Deep Freezer

our current house does not even have a external hookup for a generator so I would not need to worry about the lights. For this type of load what kind of system would you think I would need to purchase to run these items for backup incase we lost power again?

Any system I purchased would be removed from this house if I do move come February 2009, and would be used as a starter system for the new house.

Thanks for any information for this newbie to the world of solar.

James Davis


  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,143 admin
    Re: complete solar newbie

    You really need to add up the power in terms of Watts*Hours used for each piece of equipment you want to run.

    But to give you an idea--off grid solar (emergency power) will cost you, very roughly around $1.00 per kWhr (or even more) vs the $0.10 per kWhr you may be paying for now...

    And when will you need this power--during the summer with lots of sun or during the winter when there is much less.

    So, conservation is very important with these systems.

    Solar panels are big and cumbersome, lead acid batteries are heavy. Moving them around between houses will be a pain (and potentially expensive for labor and new permits, etc.).

    You can look at the Xantrex XW system as a good hybrid grid tied/off grid system. There are other similar products out there too.

    And our host sells the kill-a-watt meter too--support our board host here.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: complete solar newbie

    we seem to lose power alot during the summer months when people are using air conditioners etc we lose power. I'll order the kill-a-watt meter from the site depending on my local costs for it sometimes its better to buy local.

    yeah I know its not a very good listing of how much power we use for how many hours but while I don't have the meter I figure this would give me a starting point.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: complete solar newbie

    also I was wondering if anyone has had real experience with Ecostar Solar panels? I was looking at this package

    4.8KW 120V 12VDC Pure Sine Wave Inverter
    6 - 125 Watt, 5th Generation, Nanotechnology, High Voltage Solar Panels
    60AMP MPPT High Voltage, High Output Charge Center. 500 Series
    All Main Inverter Wire Sets
    EASY to Install
    20 Year Warranty on Panels
    2 Year Warranty on Inverter
    Full Technical Support

    total price is $9,995 plus shipping (about $600 for shipping)
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,083 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: complete solar newbie

    When you install this stuff, are you the property owner ? Other wise, there may be a "hassle" if you pull permits, and install PV and electrical system, and then want to "take it with you", the property owner may have different ideas. Maybe make a garden shade/lanai as a rack for the PV's, and avoid using the roof, and the inevitable holes to plug if you move the array.

    Looking at your list, you need to decide which loads are "critical for life", my guess:
    Deep freeze
    main fridge
    window fans
    DSL router
    Small AM/FM stereo radio
    A couple of CFL's (2 or 3, 15watt bulbs)

    Satellite box
    1 TV

    forget the rest, unless you have LOTS of $ to spend, you are at the $30K mark just for this.

    Forget the mini-fridge in the bedrooms, they are awfull power hogs, and consume as much as a full size fridge.
    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

    gen: ,

  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: complete solar newbie

    well see we was buying the house on a land contract and a % of the rent was supposed to go into the taxes & towards the house purchase. it has not so in the last 7 years of living in this house we are still at the same amount owed as when we first moved in. and when we moved in this house had no furnace or water heater those we had to pay for the purchase & install ourselves.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,143 admin
    Re: complete solar newbie

    Ecostar---I would suggest you stay far away from them... Little to suggest that they even know what they are talking about (from their website and some of the "product" they re-badge/sell).

    Opinion about PV module 125 W with high efficiency
    opinions about the ecostar mppt charge controllers

    That 60amp MPPT charge controller appears to be a "BZ" brand controller which has been typed about a lot on this site.

    BZ Controller - Solar Electric Discussion Forum

    I have never worked with them or bought anything from them--so my experience is limited. They could be wonderful.

    If you choose to talk to them--just beware and make sure that you get answers for all of your questions and that the answers make sense. Also, talk/research to the customer references.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: complete solar newbie

    well the weird thing about them is their phone number is available for live sales & tech support 24 hours a day 7 days a week (I was told by them). any questions I should ask them about their products?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,143 admin
    Re: complete solar newbie

    I would suggest you read the threads first (and do more looking around here if you want)... The thread goes into quite a bit of detail about the issues with what was published on their website and on one or two of their products that have been tested by others here.

    I am trying to avoid piling on them because I have not used any of their products or services before--So I would a be a poor one to dump on EcoStar.

    Plus, most of us here try not to dump on anyone. We post the information and let the others read and decide what to do next.

    I am certainly not perfect and am more than happy to learn from others that may have had good experiences and/or from the company itself.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: complete solar newbie

    just go with the inverter/charger like the xw and have as many batteries as to be determined yet based on your power needs. rather than put in the solar and need permits and handling pvs more than one would care for and risk damages it makes sense to let the ac charger in the inverter charge the batteries for now. later on at whatever place you choose to be at then add pv. of course i oversimplified this a bit as you still need fuses, disconnects, heavy wire, etc., but using utility ac may be your answer for now. a long haul outage like 5 days could be problematic for you, but a decent pv system for a backups type system may have some difficulty in supplying all of your needs under extreme or longterm circumstances. in such a case you may deem to add more pvs and possibly batteries too.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: complete solar newbie

    ok guys I just got my monthly electric bill in the mail today so I have a record of what we have currently has is 1420KWH. says we use about 49.0 KWH per day for the month

    the breakdown is this

    Jan 24 2008 1288
    dec 27 2007 1507
    nov 27 2007 1686
    oct 25 2007 1263
    sep 27 2007 1608
    aug 28 2007 1881
    july 31 2007 2023
    may 30 2007 1562
    apr 30 2007 1826
    mar 29 2007 1295
    mar 01 2007 1566

    total history 19359KWH
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 31,143 admin
    Re: complete solar newbie

    Let's assume you have 1 year net metering on a flat rate residential plan... And 19,359 kWhrs per year. Near Grand Rapids Mich.

    Using this site for our estimating, we will do a grid-tied system--your needs are probably way too large for a full-off grid system to be economical...

    Using all of the defaults for the website, we find that a 1kW system will generate around 1,144 kWhrs per year... For a 19,359 kWhr per year system, we will need:

    19,359 kWhr/1,114 kWhr * 1kW of panels = 16.9 kWatts of PTC rated solar panels...

    That system, would cost you at $8 per Watt (not a bad price), including engineering and permits, around:

    $8 per panel watt * 16,900 watts of panels = $135,200 (SWAG estimate)

    Reviewing this site for state grants/rebates, etc...

    Wisconsin Public Power, Inc. - Renewable Energy Rebate
    Last DSIRE Review: 02/26/2008

    Incentive Type: Utility Rebate Program Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Residential Incentive Amount:Solar-thermal systems: $25-$30/sq. foot of collector area; PV systems: $2-$3/kWh; Wind-energy systems: 25% of project cost; Site assessments: 75% of fee; Repairs to existing systems: 50% of project cost Maximum Incentive:Solar-thermal systems: $3,500; PV systems: $10,000; Wind-energy systems: $10,000; Site assessments: $375; Repairs to existing systems: $2,500 Equipment Requirements:Solar-thermal equipment must be certified by the SRCC and backed by an extended warranty Installation Requirements:Solar-thermal equipment must be installed by an experienced solar contractor. All electrically-operated components must meet applicable safety requirements of the NEC. Website:

    Rules, Regulations & Policies Michigan - Net Metering
    Last DSIRE Review: 04/25/2008

    Incentive Type: Net Metering Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Photovoltaics, Landfill Gas, Wind, Biomass, Hydroelectric, Geothermal Electric, Municipal Solid Waste Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Industrial, Residential, Nonprofit, Schools, Local Government, State Government, Tribal Government, Fed. Government, Agricultural, Institutional Limit on System Size:Less than 30 kW Limit on Overall Enrollment:0.1% of a utility's peak load or 100 kW (whichever is greater) Treatment of Net Excess:Credited to customer's next bill; granted to utility at end of 12-month billing cycle Utilities Involved:See summary Interconnection Standards for Net Metering?Yes Website: Authority 1: Michigan PSC Order, Case No. U-14346 Date Enacted:3/29/2005 Effective Date:3/29/2005 Expiration Date:3/29/2010 (pending review)
    ---original website looks much better---

    Questions? (That we can answer? ;) )

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