Solar Panels on Our House – One Year In
Hi everybody its Greg, and today I want to talk about my experiences with rooftop solar panels for homemade electricity. I’ve, had a system up and running for over a year now, so I have a year’s worth of experience and data to share with you.
Incidentally, I’m using the electro-voice re 50 NDB handheld microphone here. So you can evaluate the sound of this microphone. This is kind of a workhorse microphone as you watch the news locally and nationally a lot of times look carefully.
You’re gonna see that the reporters are using this model of microphone. So I think it has a nice smooth, sound great for this kind of environment. So let’s. Talk about my solar panels, so I decided that I wanted to get into homemade electricity with solar panels on the roof of my house, and I found that a lot of the companies wouldn’t.
Give you a lot of information about it. Unless you gave them all of your contact information, they could have a salesperson either call you or come to the house to talk about solar power, so I was reluctant for quite a while one day decided.
You know I don’t care. I’m gonna do this. I gave my contact information to like 4 different companies and said alright. Let’s, go for it. I want to do this, so the company that I went with, I just kind of hit it off with the salesperson that came by I went with Vivint, so I’m, not necessarily endorsing Vivint.
I know that the the other companies had very similar design plans very similar financing plans, and so, if you go with Vivint, do me a favor and give the give them my name as the referral they will give me a referral reward of I don’t know a couple hundred dollars if, if I refer someone to them, no pressure, I’m, not saying you should do it.
In fact, if you have a friend or family member, that’s already with Vivint use their name just use somebody’s name. It would be a shame if nobody got the referral credit for that, but hey. If it’s me hey, ok, so, anyway, what I found was that they wanted to design a system that would generate up to 100 % of what I use in a year.
Now, if I had asked them to design a system only did 50 %, they would have done that, but they didn’t want to go over 100 % generation based on the average usage of electricity that I had the previous couple of years.
They looked at my power bills and figured that out. I had hoped that we could go more than a hundred percent, but at the time they weren’t willing to do that. That’s. Okay, because I thought, if I have solar panels all I want to just use more electricity anyways, but the problem is there’s, no incentive to go more than 100 percent with a system like this, because you’re dealing with the Power company as well, it’s, all tied together into the grid.
So here my local power utility is Rocky Mountain Power and I’m gonna be generating electricity with my solar panels. Some of it I’ll use right here immediately, some of it. If I have excess on a sunny day – and I’m – not using a lot of electricity inside then that excess goes back to the grid, and so they’ve installed a net meter over here that keeps track of how much electricity Is coming in off of the grid like say at night or on a cloudy day or when I’m, not producing as much electricity as I’m using and then also how much electricity I’m.
Putting back into the grid at times when I’m, generating more than what I’m using at that moment, so I’ll talk about the math there in just a moment, so the the the current deal with me As a customer using rooftop solar is that they will give me a one-to-one credit, and this is about to change and just a few weeks this is going to change, but for me, since I did it already, they give me a one-to-one credit for every kilowatt hour.
I put back into the grid, they give me credit so that on another day or at night or whenever I can take that same kilowatt hour worth back out of the grid and it comes out as a wash. You know one to one deal there.
So what my power bill turns out to be is just a basic connection fee which, for me, is about eight dollars and 51 cents a month that’s. All I pay to Rocky Mountain Power. I do pay a loan along loan to the finance company for the cost of the solar panels and the installation, so they try to set up a deal so that what I’m paying for the financing on this over like a 20 year loan.
It’s, a long loan. I believe it’s, a three point: nine nine percent. So you know relatively low interest loan. I can pay it off early if I feel like it, that cost is going to be perhaps very similar to what I would have just been paying to Rocky Mountain Power.
If I hadn’t done anything at all. This would, in theory, protect me from power rate increases from the Power Company, because my my rate is fixed. The only thing that that they can change on me is maybe that that basic connection fee that that I’m paying every month.
Essentially the power company becomes my backup battery so that at night or days with bad weather or in the wintertime. When I’m, not generating quite as much as I as I use, they’re, they’re, giving me what I the backup power that I’ve already sent to the grid.
I hope that makes sense. All right, so let’s. Just talk about the things that we have the components of our system. First of all over here. This is what was here before this box and ammeter, and there’s a there’s.
A place in here where I’ve got a master, switch to disconnect the whole house from the grid. That’s. What I had the stuff that was added by the folks from Vivint was this cutoff switch here, this power inverter, and this this conduit here, which has wires inside so all the wiring from the panels on the roof, come to a collection point here at the edge Of the roof down through here and into the inverter, the inverter then connects back to the grid through through these cutoff points, and in here they’ve added a circuit breaker, so that I can disconnect the solar power system at this point here or If there’s, some sort of overload the circuit breaker will trip.
So there’s that disconnection and I’m still connected to the grid. I can just take my power from the grid cut off there cut off with this big switch here and also beyond those two cutoff points I can get into here and shutdown, the system without actually fully disconnecting it from the grid.
I have to protect the grid that’s. A big deal and part of the the official paperwork you have to go through is based on that idea of protecting the grid. So when I finally signed up with viven and said I want to do this, they took care of things like applying for a permit.
They had to get permission from the power company to hook us up and would put a net meter here, a meter that could that could keep track of the back-and-forth movement. If I had been with, if I had kept the meter that was there originally it wouldn’t have differentiated between the power that was coming in, and the power that was going back out.
So in theory, if I had done that – which you know I wouldn’- t have done that nobody would have done that all the power I was generating from the rooftop solar panels would then be registered on the meter, and I would be charged for The power I was making myself that’s, why you get a net meter before you get all this stuff up it up and running so anyway.
Let me just talk about the components. Of course. We’ Ve got the the solar panels on the roof comes down into this inverter. The solar panels are generating direct, current or DC electricity, but the grid is AC, alternating current electricity.
So this inverter changes the direct current electricity to alternating current electricity and then gets it all hooked up into the grid. There is no noticeable difference to me if I’m just inside using electricity, as I normally would at a time when the solar panels switch on and when they’re generating enough electricity.
That I’m that I’m, sending power back out to the grid. While I’m using what’s coming the panel’s, the lights, don’t blink or there’s. There’s. There’s, nothing! You cannotice! That’s, any different from you’re just using electricity, but again when this is generating more than what I’m using then it registers on this meter that a the power is is is going back out.
I suppose you could reach a perfect balance at some point. What I’m, using exactly as much as I’m generating, but during the day it’s, going to it’s going to vary in the morning, not much generation going on.
In the middle of the day, you’re, going to get your peak generation, so you’re, going to be sending back out to the grid and then, as the as the Sun gets lower in the sky in the afternoon, it’s, going to be a mixture where it’s, going to be taking a little bit more in then you’re sending out, and that’s all registered on this on this net meter.
Now I talked about generating exactly as much as you use in a year. The system was designed to do that, so we figured out that I use just a little bit more than 10 megawatt hours of electricity per year and my roof is a very strange.
Has a lot of weird angles on it, and not much of the roof is slanted towards the south. That would have been ideal if I had a large portion of roof slanted towards the south, because that’s, the best the best way to to bring in the most solar energy if they’re kind of facing that way here in The northern hemisphere, well with my roof line, a la there’s.
There’s, not a lot of space for panels that are slanted towards the south. There’s more slanted towards the west, and so most of my solar panels are slanted towards the west. So most of the generation that happens here happens in the afternoon and the the solar panels are efficient enough.
That technology has matured enough that just adding a few more solar panels, they were able to even it all out now, if I had more south-facing area on my roof, I probably could have had a smaller system with fewer solar panels would have cost me less, but I wanted to do it anyway, so I’ve got the I’
Ve got the number of panels that I have now. There are some factors that will affect the amount of electricity that’s generated and, of course, at different times of the year, you’re, going to get more sunshine more daylight hours than other times of the year.
Also in the fall I’m affected by the neighbors have a very large tree. That casts a shadow on most of my solar panels, starting at about 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. So those last few hours of daylight are not as effective here that was all factored into the design, and so the the Vivint people took care of that they took care of the design they took care of getting a permit from Rocky Mountain Power.
Also, I needed to have a building permit from the local. You know: Building Code authority. Now I live in an unincorporated area of my County, so the county building inspector had to get involved and they have to sign off on whatever the forms are that someone else took care of that.
That said, yes, we will grant you a building permit to install solar panels. Now, once the solar panels were installed, then someone from the county had to come and officially inspect them and say yes, I’ve signed off that this was properly installed.
The way we approved it again, we’re, protecting the grid. So now that we know that the panels were installed correctly, the design was approved. Everything was working right. Then they contacted the power company to say now.
We’re ready to get the net meter and they came out and changed out this net meter, which only took a couple minutes, but once the net meter was changed out, then we were able to get the official word that now it’s: okay, to start up the system, so this process took several weeks and I was very frustrated by the delays but hey.
It is what it is and once I understood, yeah it’s, going to be there gonna be a few delays. It’s, okay, because once it was up and running, it is doing exactly what we expected it to do. In fact, after one year of being able to observe how much it has generated, it has in fact generated just a little bit more than 10 megawatts of electricity.
That’s. What it was designed to do – and in fact I was able to make it generate just a little bit more than I used for the year, so that’s, that’s, credit that goes into my bank of you know, based on This net meter – and now I can – I can draw from that bank of credit now that I’m, not generating as much and as I go through the winter.
It should all even out – and one of the reasons you don’- t want to generate more than a hundred percent and when I say I generated more than one hundred percent, I think i generated maybe about one hundred kilowatt hours more than what I Would use in a year that averages out to maybe eight kilowatt hours per month, that’s, not much what they do, this power company in particular, they will reset your bank of you, know electricity credit every year, and that happens around the 1st of April, in my case, I get my bill.
My closest bill to the 1st of April is about March 20th, so, basically March 20th is when, if there’s, anything left in the bank, it gets reset. I’ve lost it and then starting on March 20th. I can start building up my bank and that’s a perfect time to do it really because, through April May June, I’m, not using a lot of electricity, but the sunlight makes it so that I am generating a lot of Electricity, that’s a great time to be adding to the bank of credit that I will draw from at the end of the summer through the fall and winter.
So one thing that I say that I was able to generate just you know: maybe a hundred kilowatt hours more than I used to the Year part of what happened. There, however, is that I was trying everything I could to conserve electricity.
So, typically, if I were just living my normal life and not thinking about it, I probably would have used at least that 100 kilowatt hours of electricity – and it would have been you know I would have ended up not generating quite as much as I used.
So how did I keep track of all that? Well, I’m one of those guys. I came out every day and I checked the numbers on this net meter, the the the total number of kilowatt hours going out total number of kilowatt hours coming back in that’s, the figure they used to to make up your power bill every Month and so I always keeping track of that on a daily basis and in putting it into a spreadsheet, and then I was also looking at the readout on the inverter to see how much it was generating every day.
And I put that into the spreadsheet as well, so some simple math, if let’s, say a day in the middle of June, a lot of electricity being generated that day, let’s, say I generated 50 kilowatt hours of electricity.
On my solar panels, 50 kilowatt hours – I didn’t, use all 50 kilowatt hours, so the interaction with the net meter was such that overnight and when the the panels weren’t working, let’s, say I had 14 Kilowatt hours that came in from the grid and then during the day I sent another 32 kilowatt hours out to the grid on that day.
So, according to the power company, my net usage was negative: 18, that’s 18 credits for kilowatt hours that I’m gonna use up later, but this doesn’t tell me, and I wanted to know how much Did I actually use how much electricity did I actually use on that day? So I can just you know, manage my own, my own consumption, so what I did was I factored in the 50 kilowatt hours from here i generated 50 kilowatt hours.
My net usage was negative 18, so 50 minus 18 means my actual usage for the day was 32 kilowatt hours. So my spreadsheet kept track of that for me, and I tracked that through the year to see how I was doing – and it was interesting to see that on certain days we would use a lot of electricity.
Maybe we did a lot of laundry that day and we have an electric dryer or we did a lot of cooking and use the oven a lot that day or maybe it was a cold day, and we used the heater a lot and even though it’s a that it’s, a gas heater there’s, still plenty of electricity being used to run the fan and some other components of the heating systems.
I was able to see all of this on a daily basis track. It month by month – and it was very interesting for you – maybe not so much and then also – I was able to see that on certain days of the week we used more electricity than others.
For example, Sunday’s. Normally we didn’t use very much electricity at all drop way down for that day and then Monday bounced way back up again, because we’re doing laundry and we’re doing things. So that was that was very interesting to note.
So in conclusion, what I can tell you, after using rooftop solar for one year, we have that the system worked, just as they said it. Would we’ve paid just what they said. We would pay, and I’m happy about it.
I’m, probably micromanaging it a lot more than most people would want to. But to me it’s like the ultimate gadget. I like gadgets and boy homemade electricity, an array of solar panels on my roof. That makes me very happy for some reason, so I would I would recommend you go for it, especially now, like I said in just like, maybe three or four weeks from now.
Maybe only three: they’re gonna change the rules. So anyone who signs up for for a net meter – and you know – does this thing with the solar panels. If you sign up for that, before November 15th, you get to get in on the current the current rates, the current pricing structure, the current deal from the the Power Company and then after November 15th, they’re gonna change that it’ll be a new deal, it won’t, be won’t, be disastrous, but it won’t, be quite as good.
So if you’re thinking about, if you’re wavering and even after the new terms are in effect, I’m sure you can get a good deal on it and in the in a sense you could say if I just didn’t, do anything at all.
It would have cost me the same amount. I just use electricity and I wouldn’ T have to bother with all this stuff yeah that’s, an option, and I see that. But if there any rate increases, I’ll be glad I did this, and the other thing is that I’
Ve got a long term loan on this. You know 20 years now I guess 19 years at the end of that I’m, not paying anything for these, and my entire power bill will be. You know less than $ 10 a month just for the backup battery as it were coming from the power company.
So we’ll, see and I don’t know by then a lot of things could change. Maybe solar panels will become far more efficient and effective and the cost will be different, so someday, maybe 25 years from now I’ll, probably have to replace solar panels because they will have worn out by then I’m, hoping that The technology will be such that it’ll, be cheap and easy, and and effectively be.
You know like free electricity, more or less it’s, not really what I’m into now. I I’m willing to pay for electricity, but I just think the concept is is good and I and I like it, and it occurs to me.
The whole idea of this massive grid seems like that’s, a that’s, a twentieth-century idea. We should get away from that massive generators somewhere hundreds of miles away and that’s. Where I get my electricity from those locations, it seems to me that if I can take a portion of my roof, not even the whole roof put solar panels on it, and just using that area that’s on my house to generate enough electricity To cover what I want to use, why shouldn’t everybody be doing.
That seems like a good idea and get rid of this massive complicated system. Where you know I can just have all my needs met by what’s right here on my house, doesn’t that seem like a good idea. It seems like it to me so whether the numbers add up to my advantage or not.
It still seemed like a good idea. Now, in a subsequent video, I’m, going to tell you why we have to expand our solar power system and it has to do with a little device. We have on the back of the house that was added this year, that is using more electricity than you know.
It’s, adding to our electrical consumption, because that device was added to the house. We’re gonna be using more electricity, and we’re gonna need more solar panels to cover that, and I’ll talk about that in another video coming up soon.
Thanks, I’ll. See you later