Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Does Solar Power Really Save Money

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When I first realized the extreme costs of electricity in the Philippines ( Energy Costs in the PI (Not What You Think They Are?!?) ), I immediately started looking for solutions to the problem. The very first thought that came to mind was: “Hey, I’m saving up money for this whole retirement thing, what’s the difference if I save a little longer and make the entire house run off of solar energy”. So I set out to find out the “Real” costs to power a 3,000 sqf (300 sqm) single story home. I don’t think I have ever read so many websites related to 1 specific topic in my life. There is tons of information out there and luckily for me it’s not all hype but real world scenarios and people sharing their experiences.

After running the numbers and some rounding up (I always round up, no surprises) I calculated that it would cost approximately $40,000 USD to power the entire home by solar. That includes the solar panels, battery system, inverter system and a standby generator. Not to shabby actually. I figured $40,000 USD on top of a home cost of approximately $75k to $100k wouldn’t be too bad to fend off the Evil Philippine Electric Co-Ops. Figuring that my electric bill would be about 75% of what my bill is here (it’s not that hot in the PI, but it is humid and the ceiling fans ( The Ins and Outs of Ceiling Fans ) would go a long way to help. Also I would slowly get acclimated to the humidity again. I’ve spent alot of time in South Florida and in Okinawa where it is very humid as well. I am convinced that the reason my electricty bill is so high here is attributed to 2 things.

1. I have a 2 story home and spend most of my time in said home upstairs.

2. My office in my home has 6 monitors ranging from 37 inches to 15 inches and 4 or 5 computers running all the time. (They throw off alot of heat)

Obviously when retired this would not be the case and all our planning and initial home design has led us to a single store home. So back to the Solar. 40 grand, not too bad. I started researching kits and specifications on parts that would be needed for the entire process, good thing I’m a engineer, I could probably get it running without any professional assistance, like I said there is tons of information on the web regarding it. So it looked like a win, win situation for us. Pay the 40 grand up front and enjoy no electricity bill for the remainder of my life, ahhhhhhhhh what a nice thing to say ๐Ÿ™‚

During my research, something was nagging me and it was ……. if Solar Power is so cost effective than why is it not on every house in the USA? There are only 2 homes in my neighborhood with panels on their roof and they are small setups, I assume only for hot water. With all the “get off the grid” incentives the government gives out and the fact that most electric companies here in the states will buy back your excess energy, why isn’t it on every single house. I mean hell, your already taking a 30-50 year note on your house and making payments, it doesn’t raise your monthly that much to add $30k – $50k more on the top.

So whats the reason???

I found the reason and the Lord knows that I did not want to know this ๐Ÿ™ I really wanted to go to the top of the mountain with out a parachute. I was ready to take the leap of faith. But alas the grim truth took hold as my massive 40 page Google search / research hit this page ……….. ( The real price of solar power ) An industry that relies on government finds its market falters when subsidies do, too. A quick excerpt from the article ….
“Unsubsidized, solar energy still can’t compete in most energy markets. The pay-back period is too long. Reports of more efficient solar panels are helping reduce costs but about half of the expense for solar is still borne by taxpayers.”

This lead me to find out the “REAL” costs associated with the technology.

The problem is that the solar PV (Photovoltaic) panels are not efficient at all. During my search I found press releases stating that company A was coming out with a 22 percent efficient panel and the median cost panels were only about 14% – 16% efficient. The second problem is that the panels start to loose efficiency (it gets worse, yes it does) at 15 – 20 years, huh?!?! The third problem is the upfront cost (which without the other 2 issues I was ready to pay for) but combine them and you have a technology that costs your $40,000 USD up front and only saves you $100 USD per month. I’m sure you can see where I’m going. It would take my setup 40 years to pay for it’s self! and that’s not counting any drop in efficiency at the 15 – 20 year mark. I am 37 years old, my retirement plan puts my in the Philippines no later than 45 -47 and 42 on the up side. That means I need those panels to operate, without substantial added cost for approximately 30 years, that would put me in my upper 70s and my wife in here early 70s, WE NEVER EVEN GET TO THE 40 YEAR MARK!!!!!! So we never get to benefit from the dream of free electricity ๐Ÿ™ Sure my children, with added expense (the inverters need replacing, batteries every so often and the panels when the efficiency drops) would get to experience free electricity for a certain amount of time.

The Evil Electric Companies are going to bleed me dry ;( It’s just not right.

solarwater

So what am I going to do to stem the tide. Welp for starters, I am going to utilize solar for 1 thing, heating water. It turns out that a large percentage (outside of cooling) of ones electricity bill is associated with water heating. Yes, I’m aware of the small electric and lpg operated water heaters, but really don’t like them. You have to sacrifice water pressure for water heat, kinda sucks. I did some more research and it turns out that for only a 2 or 3 thousand USD you can install a hot water solar panel and system.

That combined with strategic use of LPG (Liquid Propane Gas)(yep, another article is comming ๐Ÿ™‚ and keeping individual A/C units in specific rooms should keep my electric bill under control and allow me to raise my nose (even though I’m not Pislat) at the electric companies.

There might a silver lining to the whole situation. Technology gets better and better everyday, there are prototype technologies out there that have PV panels showing 80% effeciency, that’s a ton better, which means to us that we don’t need as much hardware to power our homes, which may make it feasible. We shall have to wait and see, I will for one be looking again at this subject in depth a couple years before I leave, to see if it becomes a reality.

If you have some thoughts on the topic, or some information to share with the community, jump into the comments section and let us know..


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Comments

7 Responses to “Does Solar Power Really Save Money”
  1. Bruce says:

    Rich,
    A man I have met with to possibly for a house for him mentioned an idea he has for his home. He is planning to use solar power for 12V power. He is then planning to bury PVC pipes underground. I am not sure how much is needed but I guess, a lot of length. Then have one end up high or in the attic and with 12V fans, pump the hot air down into the subterranean pipes and the other end to blow the air that has been cooled by the underground lower temperatures back into the house to cool. Since your an engineer, you can research all the technical details.

  2. rich says:

    Bruce,

    I had to read that 3x heh, I see what hes doing but have not heard of this will do some research thanks for the info.

  3. Tom says:

    So it’s like a heat exchanger. It might work better ifit circulated some kind of fluid then blew air across the cooled pipes. There are a lot of ways people have tried.

    Don’t waste your time on evaporative coolers there though they don’t work well with the humidity. Maybe you knew that already. I am famous for statin the obvious. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

  4. Matt says:

    Ive seen something similar to what your discussing Bruce on greenhouses where ground glass is put in a large hole with a tube with a fan to keep the room hot at night. So it obviously can work but on a house would need more planning no doubt .. lol

    Rich I would drop by at instructables for ideas on solar, the only real way to make it viable is to literally build them yourself as most of the mark up is at retail. If you research on Alibaba.com there are solar panels on there take a look at the bulk order pricing and you can see that its more to do with sales profit than companies wanting to make it viable in western nations. But then again Hydrogen cars have been available since the 60s I wonder who put a stop on that idea then?? lol..

  5. dybbuk says:

    hi ive stumbled on your blog and it seems were on a similar path. im 25 and planning to build a
    sustainable house in the future. just wondering if your research has led you to http://www.coolenergyinc.com/ the technology seems cool and claims it has a faster payback than solar pv systems

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