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Any of you smart folks (jsharr too) have solar panels?


I have a big roof that faces the sun most of the day, just wondering if it's worth the investment.  It sounds like you are limited to how many panels you can install to help prevent you from making too much money from your power company.


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If you get solar panels, you will have power during the zombie apocolypse when the grid goes down.  Do it.



Actually, do it if you are staying in your house for the long haul and get tax credits and such.  I would get the fancy wheels instead, though.  Screw nature, you wanna go fast.

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Solar panels by themselves without the rebates and other incentives do not present in a majority of cases an economical alternative to utility power.  Presently much of the market is driven by rebates and tax breaks that bring panels and associated equipment into a simple payback range that some people find attractive.


Many solar panel installations are leased, or some form of lease where the equipment remains property of the installer and the homeowner agrees to buy the power from the installer.  As with any contract, you need to read the terms and conditions carefully as to who pays for maintenance, who pays to remove the system when it's obsolete, what options the installer has for escalating the price per kilowatt you pay, if the contract has an evergreen clause, etc., etc. and more etc.  Be wary if the contract term is for 15 or 20 years, as most solar residential power systems have a reasonable useful life of 10 - 15 years.


You also need to check how your utility views solar panels and the power they produce.  In some cases the utility will change your rate tariff, meaning you could pay a different rate for your power that could offset your savings.  In others the utility will allow you to install the panels, but they won't pay you for any excess power you send back to the grid.  The companies that install these panels can talk a good game, but they aren't always familiar with the utility rate structures and don't reflect those nuances in the payback/financial calculations they hand to you.


If you're looking to save money on electrical energy, you can easily save 5 to 10% of your bill by simply turning things off or turning them down.  That costs you nothing, and you likely can save more.  Other than that, coming up with electrical savings by replacing appliances, for example, on a basis driven by simple payback is difficult in a residence unless you're happy with paybacks approaching 10 years or so.  You get a lower payback if your utility rates are outrageous, and MA might qualify there.


If you're mostly interested in the 'green' approach carbon footprint thing, and not so much in savings driven by payback analysis, then have at it.


Since you already have a greenhouse, you have a good start on a means to provide solar heat to your home.  I'd bet your heating bills are probably higher than your electric bills (unless you heat with electric heat) so if you're looking to reduce costs it's better to attack the largest part of your bill first to get the biggest savings for the money you have to invest.  If you want to get ideas of what types of solar-to-heat systems are available I'd suggest looking at the Mother Earth News website for solar heating projects.  They have a lot of DIY stuff there, but the site shows a good cross section of the various types of systems that you could adapt to your home.

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