How much Solar Panels for House? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 04-07-2008, 09:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I've looked into this before and now that we've bought our house, I'm curious as to how a person knows just how many panels a house needs. I'm not sure we'd ever convert as I'd have to really get hubby's interest in it, but I at least need to know what I'm looking at. My house is about 1300 sq ft. Any thoughts?
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#2 of 14 Old 04-07-2008, 11:06 AM
 
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Check your current electric bill for your monthly usage. There are probably calculators on a solar panel site. You need to take in to consideration how much sun light you get.
Also, are you going to be grid tied? Are you doing this so you can have power if the electric co fails? I don't really think solar is very environmental since they take more energy to make than they will ever produce in their life. I prefer to go on the grid, have a little back up solar, and pay for wind energy, but that's just me

My dh thinks a usual American home would need about 3,000 watts but that a really frugal person with good sun could get by on half that or less. You'll see panels come in different size watts with 300 being probably the highest. My in-laws just bought 50 300 watt panels but they have a 5,000 sq. ft. house. You could get a minimal system for around 15,000 installed but for much less if you have an electrician friend or family member.

Good luck and let us know about your usage if you want more specific help.
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#3 of 14 Old 04-07-2008, 12:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay, my latest bill says I used just under 3000 last month, so I guess that's about average for us. I've read online that wind power isn't a good investment down here, otherwise I'd have a couple of little things going. I think we'd still be tied to the grid.

I saw something else today called solar screens where it's supposed to help with the windows, I'd consider that easily enough.
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#4 of 14 Old 04-07-2008, 03:13 PM
 
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[QUOTE=stretchmark;10946348]I don't really think solar is very environmental since they take more energy to make than they will ever produce in their life. QUOTE]

Can you reference that as I´m having a hard time working that out? I have some solar panels which have been providing the only source of electricity for this house for 20 years.

To the OP, I´d say you also have to consider how much you are willing to change your lives to accomodate solar....for instance using electricity to create heat ,be it a space heater, toaster, kettle, hairdryer, oven is plain inefficient. If you are not prepared to find alternatives to those things then you will need way more panels and it will not be a good investment.

Most solar questionnaires I have come across ask you to find the wattage of your appliances and then how long you use them per day.

The other point I´d like to make is that even if solar panels are not cost effective now, at some point relatively soon the means of producing most on-grid energy will run out, then you will be faced with stiff price rises for grid electricity AND alternative micro-generation systems as everyone wakes up to it too late. And with global warming....do you want to part of the problem or part of the solution?
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#5 of 14 Old 04-07-2008, 05:10 PM
 
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Sadystar, I will look for a link but just to clarify, I am saying that the amount of ENERGY used to PRODUCE a solar panel is greater than what the solar panel will put out in its life which means that if the goal is to have a smaller carbon footprint or such that a solar panel does not truly save energy in the long run. It's like putting 10 gallons of gasoline in a car and only getting 7 gallons of usage. Solar panels are not "green" to produce. They use more energy in the end if you take in to consideration the life span of the product.If the idea is to not be tied to the grid in case the grid fails then I think it is great.

That being said, I have no idea what the end result of wind energy or coal energy is.

All things considered, we just need to slow our usage of all energy because they all take their toll on the earth.
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#6 of 14 Old 04-07-2008, 05:23 PM
 
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I don't really think solar is very environmental since they take more energy to make than they will ever produce in their life.
That statistic is often touted, but I have to mention that it is just flat misleading. A solar panel's "lifetime" for a major corporation ENDS when the solar panel reaches 80% of maximum operational efficiency... roughly 5-10 years after the panel is manufactured. For a residential consumer, 80% is just peachy, and many residential do-it-yourself people purchase and use these "out of lifespan" panels.

Plus, much like hybrid cars (that are in some ways WORSE for the environment than traditional gasoline cars) the more we buy into them, the better their manufacturing and R&D can get. Recently a company came out with solar panels called "NanoSolar" and the German utility company pre-ordered/bought their entire first year of production, because it is a new ultra low cost, much more earth friendly process to make then than the old silicon method. This kind of advancement would not have happened if people weren't willing to go solar.
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#7 of 14 Old 04-07-2008, 05:48 PM
 
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I knew this was going to bring out whatever controversy there is regarding panels and that's partially why I brought it up. It's a good discussion to have. Thanks for the info shaggy daddy. I will have to look into those nano panels.

I used to run my entire yurt off one tiny little panel.
Are the nano's those thin film ones? I heard that the lifespan of those is even less than a regular panel.
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#8 of 14 Old 04-07-2008, 07:36 PM
 
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I knew this was going to bring out whatever controversy there is regarding panels and that's partially why I brought it up. It's a good discussion to have. Thanks for the info shaggy daddy. I will have to look into those nano panels.

I used to run my entire yurt off one tiny little panel.
Are the nano's those thin film ones? I heard that the lifespan of those is even less than a regular panel.
Nanosolar, unfortunatly, are still not available due to large corps buying years and years of production... they are trying to scale up production but it is still a few years out for consumers.

It is printed on sheet metal instead of embeded in silicon, which makes the environmental inpact, the production process, the cost, and the lifespan all much much lower than traditional panels. The thin film ones are still silicon, but much less of it. Nanosolar is approaching a sustainable $.99 per watt, and getting closer every day. At that rate, it will be comperable cost per watt to setting up a new Coal production plant, in other words... there will either be a lot of 80% solar panels on the used market, and/or some very interesting other options, if NanoSolar can ever keep up with municipal/large corp demands.
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#9 of 14 Old 04-07-2008, 07:43 PM
 
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Good to know
So, getting back to the original ? how many panels would the OP need?
10 panels of 300 watts ought to do it but I know there is often more to consider than just average usage. DH isn't around to ask right now ether.
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#10 of 14 Old 04-07-2008, 11:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, knew it wouldn't be that simple. Interesting about making sure I'd have enough panels for things like an oven and such. I'll pay attention to this thread to learn more! Thanks for all the replies so far!
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#11 of 14 Old 04-08-2008, 06:02 AM
 
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Wow, knew it wouldn't be that simple. Interesting about making sure I'd have enough panels for things like an oven and such. I'll pay attention to this thread to learn more! Thanks for all the replies so far!
Unless you have an unlimited budget and a HUGE roof, forget about cooking with solar electricity! The guy who recently installed a new system for me put it this way......electricity is the highest form of energy, heat the most base, it is ludicrously inefficient to return the former to the latter.

Pretty much everyone I know has solar power and NO ONE uses an electric oven. It´s a bind because that means we either have to use gas (which is non-renewable) or wood or solar oven. I have all three of these options, but understand that I choose to live in a way that allows me to accomodate the "inconvenience" of the latter two methods, to me this is about living in rhythm with nature, but for many people their lives are just to far removed for them to work this way.

Better go now before I make a rallying cry to leave your homes behind and walk naked into the forest with me........:::

Sadystar x
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#12 of 14 Old 04-08-2008, 09:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm tellin' you, walkin' naked in the forest you will not find me, lol.

In the old house, we had gas. In this house, we don't. I'll stick with what I have. Interesting this all is though. I know more than I did before now. Thank you!
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#13 of 14 Old 04-13-2008, 03:50 AM
 
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Solar panels now recoup the energy used in producing them within a few years of use.

OP, looking at panels as an option, you can first look at where in your home you can improve efficiency, there are many easy ways, like plugging electronics into power strips that you turn off when not in use (all those things take energy even when off), insulating your home (if you use electric heat), using daylight for your lighting needs, etc. After that, you would assess how much energy you are using, and how much you would like to offset. The amount of solar power you can make varies throughout the year, but you can look at your yearly energy use, and shoot for offsetting some or all thoughout a calendar year. Usually with grid tie, you run the meter backwards when you are making more juice than you're using, and vice versa. Of course, the fewer electric appliances you have, such as water heaters and ovens and stoves, let alone items like hairdryers and clothes dryers, the more of your electric bill you can offset with fewer panels. If you are all electric and want to offset all these things, you're gonna need A LOT of panels. You may or may not be limited by your roof area. But the beauty of grid tie is that you can have your cake and eat it too, you can have your electric appliances, but know that at least some of the time, it's running on solar power, which is better than none running on solar at all!

If you are really serious, I highly recommend the magazine Home Power.

Amanda, DW to Drew, mom to Ella, 7, Gardner, 2, homesteading on the edge of the continent on the Lost Coast.
mdcblog5.gif California Homesteading, http://eastmillcreek.blogspot.com

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#14 of 14 Old 04-13-2008, 11:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I basically find it interesting and wanted to at least know how simple or complicated it could be. I guess that really depends on what anyone has in mind really.

The fact that you said I could have solar and still be tied in and still have advantages is what I was looking for. That it could be done and still be a plus when doing it like this.

Thank you very much for the Home Power magazine suggestion. I have looked it up, bookmarked it, and will read up as much as I can.
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