Floating Doc (Forum Supporter)
Floating Doc (Forum Supporter) UberDork
1/14/21 11:22 a.m.

We are considering a proposal to have a home solar system installed. It appears to be a good opportunity to decrease our power bill both by utilizing our solar production to offset some of our daily usage, plus when we produce power above our total usage, the utility will credit us for power returned into the grid.

I have two sets of questions.

The first is whether the marketing lives up to the reality. For those of you that have experience with home solar, have you saved money? The company isn't charging for installation or usage of the equipment, so we have no costs up front. It's being presented to us that we would have the system installed, and see lower power bills without any other expense or effort.

Another claimed benefit is that there's going to be a cut off for the return of power into the local grid, with the provision for connection of a generator. Right now, when I have to run my generator, I need to bypass the house wiring and run extension cords into the house. I addressed this with the sales rep, and he "claims" that we'll have a plug in and disconnect for the generator when they finish the installation.

My other concern is the integrity of the roof. These panels are going to be fastened to the rafters, not just the plywood, so they're supposed to be firmly mounted, but a leak could be a serious problem. I also have to consider the possible effect of hurricane force winds, compared to an unmodified roof. We're in a coastal county in FL.  The roof is about two months old, and I have a call in to the rep for the roofing company that installed our new roof; I'll see what he says.

Any feedback from the hive would be welcome, and I'll post followup myself if I learn more.

Antihero (Forum Supporter)
Antihero (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
1/14/21 12:09 p.m.

I've lived off grid for decades now. You don't really do solar to save money, panels are much much cheaper now but to run a house using the amount of power a modern house does? You need crap loads of panels.


I don't know anything about the company you speak of, it sounds like it's totally free. What's the catch?

Placemotorsports HalfDork
1/14/21 12:11 p.m.

I thought about getting a panel to run our pool pump but never got around to it.

jimbob_racing Dork
1/14/21 12:13 p.m.
Antihero (Forum Supporter) said:

What's the catch?

That's what I'm wondering.

Duke MegaDork
1/14/21 12:21 p.m.
Antihero (Forum Supporter) said:

I've lived off grid for decades now. You don't really do solar to save money, panels are much much cheaper now but to run a house using the amount of power a modern house does? You need crap loads of panels.


I don't know anything about the company you speak of, it sounds like it's totally free. What's the catch?

The catch is they are either getting paid for your negative metering or getting paid to reduce load on the local utility. They are keeping that money and you are only getting whatever your usage savings are. 

Toyman01 (Moderately Supportive Dude)
Toyman01 (Moderately Supportive Dude) MegaDork
1/14/21 12:49 p.m.

Do you think you might be selling your house any time soon?

Think twice about solar. The systems are owned and financed by a different entity than the house and it makes the transfer of ownership a nightmare. 

My DIL works in a real estate law office. They have 2-3 house sales fall through every month or so due to installed solar systems that are not paid off. Frequently the house won't appraise for enough to roll the solar system into the mortgage. Then financing for the solar system has to be worked out separately. If the buyers can't get separate financing then the house sale is canceled. 


WonkoTheSane (FS)
WonkoTheSane (FS) SuperDork
1/14/21 1:07 p.m.

Yeah, I'd get at least 2 or 3 other quotes about financing the panels yourself.

We've got a largish ground-mount setup that we bought (via financing).

All of the leased setups really didn't make sense once you start calculating out 5 or more years.

The break-even point (financing cost vs. money saved in electric) on our ground mount was 6.5 years if I remember right, we've passed the point of positive equity a few years ago.  Anything other than our $25 monthly connection fee is all just gravy at this point.

I can't help you with the physical act or concerns of having it on your roof, that was never an option for us so I never really looked into it.

Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 SuperDork
1/14/21 1:13 p.m.

I have a Tesla system- yes they will build a sub panel so the generator- in our case the battery will power the house and disconnect from grid as necessary. We bought ours outright and got a nice tax credit rebate for it. We are in ca and estimate an 8 year break even at 2017 energy prices. Much shorter as prices rise. 

They will inspect the roof and guarantee for something like ten years against leaks. 

californiamilleghia SuperDork
1/14/21 1:40 p.m.

Did they get the solar roof shingles figured out yet ?

the idea was when you put a new roof on your house anyway , you can use these shingles that snap together , 

seems like a win win , 

And does you local electric company buy your excess solar  electric from you at wholesale price or retail ?

docwyte PowerDork
1/14/21 2:00 p.m.

Doesn't make sense for me.  I'd have to own the house for something like another 20-25 years to get into the black.

I have friends in New England and for them it made sense as they got a federal tax credit, a state tax credit, the power company has to buy back their excess production and the natural gas prices there are far more than for me.

ShawnG UltimaDork
1/14/21 2:10 p.m.

I've been told that the fire department is hesitant to send crews in to a burning house because of the extra weight of solar on the roof.

Might not matter about the house but I'd like to know they will come in to drag me out if necessary.

bobzilla MegaDork
1/14/21 2:15 p.m.

where we are we kept waiting for wind generators to come down in price and up in efficiency, but everyone focused on solar. Well, from late October to late March 3/4 of the days are cloudy, overcast or snow/rain. So solar isn't nearly as efficient for us. We wanted a hybrid solar/wind combo but none of the installers/seller are even remotely interested.

Scotty Con Queso
Scotty Con Queso SuperDork
1/14/21 2:25 p.m.

This thread will be canoed for many years to come.

But thanks everyone for the info. For those reasons, I'm out. 

WonkoTheSane (FS)
WonkoTheSane (FS) SuperDork
1/14/21 2:30 p.m.
californiamilleghia said:

And does you local electric company buy your excess solar  electric from you at wholesale price or retail ?

I haven't researched every individual state of course, but I've never seen anyone pay more than wholesale.   There's two methods you can go when you own your own panels depending on state regulation:

Net metering (usually yearly, but in a few unfortunate states, it's monthly) - Any extra kWh that you make goes into a "credit" account.  E.g., I generate 100 kWh today, but use 80, I have 20 kWh "in the bank" that I can use whenever.  If I ever go "negative" on my account, I just pay regular street price per kWh, no real harm. Once a year (April 1st for me), if I have any kWh in the bank, they'll pay me wholesale for that to 0 out the account and I start over.  On average, this nets me around $90 per year (~$.05 per kWh if my memory is correct).

Instant use - Anything you use gets immediately put back into the grid and you're paid wholesale for it.  You pay regular rates when you pull more than you generate.  e.g., you're currently generating 11 kW, and only using 10.  You're going to be paid for the 1kWh that you generate that hour.  However, come night time you're still using 10, but not generating anything so you're paying for 10.  For most residential, it's extremely hard to break even with this system, if ever.  It's prime benefit is for manufacturing/office work where your peak demands are during the day.

And the third option is for the leasing - You agree to pay the company that installs the panels some rate per kWh (maybe $.20 instead of the going rate of $.27).  In return, they put panels on your roof/property.  But that's it.  You now always pay $.20 kWh, no matter if the price goes up to $.50 tomorrow.   The company that installed the panels banks the additional via their arrangement with the power company.   The plus side is that there's no upfront cost to you, but the downsides are the length of lease, complexity when selling, dealing with problems (leaks), etc.  Often there's an attractive buy out at the end of the lease.


Boost_Crazy HalfDork
1/14/21 3:53 p.m.

Just about everything everyone said above is spot on or completely wrong, depending on your specific situation. Your usage and energy costs are the the two biggest variables, and without them it’s impossible to say for sure. With all of the data, it just becomes a math problem. For someone with high energy usage and high utility costs, solar is a no brainer. For someone with cheap power that doesn’t use a lot, there are much better ways to invest your money. 

Now, you are describing leasing. If solar is mathematically beneficial, buying is better than leasing- assuming you have the money to buy. If you don’t, leasing is better than doing nothing. Since leasing companies are proposing systems to you, it’s reasonable to assume your house is a decent candidate for solar. Otherwise they would be losing money. 

Plusses of owning- 

Greater payback long term.

You own it, easier to sell the house.

More say on what products are installed. 


Plusses of leasing- 

You get some of the perks without the cost.

Usually no out of pocket costs. 

There are very good and very bad installers out there, and very good and very bad leasing companies. Ask what products they are going to install on your roof, especially the mounting attachments. Some are very good and unlikely to leak, many are garbage and will leak as soon as the installer’s phone number is disconnected. 

On the generator transfer switch- 

Many inverters sold now have provisions for transfer switches. That doesn’t mean that your portable generator will be plug n play, likely other work will be needed. Make sure you get what you want in writing on the contract. 

Our Preferred Partners