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Thread: Grid tie vs off grid

  1. #1
    LHBA Member Inoh's Avatar
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    Grid tie vs off grid

    Hi guys. Just got a $400 bill from SDGE and thought I better start looking into solar so that I don't go broke before I can make it to retirement, my bill goes up if I just think about the AC. It was 105 a few weeks ago. Winter months my bill is normally $65, the AC was just replaced last year.

    What's the general consensus on going Grid-tie or Off-grid? Which would make more financial sense? Also, if I start as a Grid-tie system, can I use the same equipment down the road if I wanted to go off-grid by adding some batteries? I'm thinking down the road when I move out to my property and start building I have the option to go either way.

  2. #2
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    Lots of variables and I don't know a lot on the subject... But, if you keep grid tie, you may be able to have the electric company bill you differently so your bills are more consistent thru the year. You'll pay the same give or take but might make it easier to stomach the bill each month.

  3. #3
    LHBA Member rreidnauer's Avatar
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    Someone spending $400/month on electric is using some pretty serious Kwh's. If you want to keep your lifestyle of using that much power, grid-tied is your only option. Find out what rebates are available and make sure the power company pays you for your production. (I think it's law that they have to, but it may be at a reduced rate than what they charge to sell you power) You'll still see transmission and connection fees on your bill, even if you unlikely manage to make more power than you used. You'll always get a bill.

    Another consideration might be companies who will put a grid-tied solar system on your home for free, and all you do is pay them for the energy used. You'll still have the trans/conn fees, but you dodge the upfront cost of equipment and installation, and I think those outfits guarantee the rate they charge remains unchanged throughout the agreement.

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  4. #4
    LHBA Member Inoh's Avatar
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    My usage was 1,192kWh (I was gone for two months and the kids probably ran the AC with the windows open. I'm home now, they are going to sweat a little). The usage for prior month was 515 kWh before it got hot. Of the $400, the charge for delivery was $168; which I thought was a little high. Maybe that is what they call 'the sunshine tax'.

    I think if I get a system that can produce 700kWh a month, it should suffice for my needs on an annual basis. That comes out to roughly 23kWh a day. Since we get about 8 hours of sunshine here daily, I'm thinking a 3kWh system.
    Last edited by Inoh; 07-22-2017 at 09:04 AM.

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    The math is good so far, but a 3KW system will probably disappoint. The reasons:

    1. Solar panels are rated for best case scenarios, like clear, sunny days, all day, every day. At the equator.
    2. Looking at my brother's solar production data, averages in the summer were about 2-3 times the averages in the winter.
    3. Inverters are not 100% efficient. Mine are rated at 93% and the newer models that replaced them are less than that.
    4. You have kids. ;-) Usage does vary from day to day.

    Still, having said all that, if you only want to put a dent in the electric bill, then 3 KW may be just fine. Solar panels are getting cheaper all the time, and if you decide later you want more, the cost to expand should be even better than now.


    Peter

  6. #6
    LHBA Member BoFuller's Avatar
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    I have a 3.5kw system and it is adequate for the two of us. The half dozen times that we have extended family visit, it is almost certain that the backup generator will run. And that parents and young children. No teenagers yet.

    The nearest power lines are 6-7 miles away so we had no choice. We knew that going in and prefer it that way.


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  7. #7
    LHBA Member Inoh's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input Bo and Peter. I didn't even think about the inefficiency issue, I might bump it up to 3.5 just to cover the times that I have to go away again and the kids decide to cool the neighborhood. Kids...... You just can't beat them like I used to get beat

    I was lucky enough to have the power at my property line in Colorado, but from the box to where we want to put the house at is probably 1500 feet away (give or take a few hundred). The power company told me once that if they have to run wires to where I need it, they would charge me $16 a foot just to run wires. I have to dig the trench and back fill it when I'm done. $24k just for wires, that's why I'm contemplating going off-grid once I move out there. I'll have to see if they will let me run my own wires to save a few bucks and do the math at that point versus buying batteries. I do have a stream that crosses my property, I'm thinking of putting in a small hydro system to complement the solar. Hopefully I can convince the wife to move sooner rather than latter. She has the fear right now of taking that Leap of Faith. If we move, it means we loose half our income.

  8. #8
    LHBA Member BoFuller's Avatar
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    I don't recall where you are, but do a little checking about the power. There are places in this Country where if the power company is accessible, you can be billed a monthly amount whether you hook up or not.


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    Quote Originally Posted by BoFuller View Post
    I don't recall where you are, but do a little checking about the power. There are places in this Country where if the power company is accessible, you can be billed a monthly amount whether you hook up or not.


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    I've never heard that but seems like something that could be taken to court... Something's just not right about it but doesn't surprise me at all. I have heard of people being punished with fines for living off grid on property they own.

    Inoh, I have a similar situation but haven't gotten official pricing for fear of sticker shock. I have one pole on my property about 100 feet or so from the road. It has a meter box on it. I'm curious if my meter can be there and me be responsible for everything beyond that (would save the meter reader 1/2mile+ drive or walk up my gated driveway, 1mile+ up and down and it's from a different road front). My only reservation with that is security, since the meter won't be on or near the house... And if I can go that route they may require a breaker by the meter, another security issue unless I put an additional building near that power drop.

    Something I've tossed around about solar power is to only use it for my lighting to start with. And to only use 12 volt DC lighting so inverters won't be necessary.
    Last edited by allen84; 07-24-2017 at 07:34 PM.

  10. #10
    LHBA Member rocklock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Inoh View Post
    It was 105 a few weeks ago. Winter months my bill is normally $65,

    What's the general consensus on going Grid-tie or Off-grid? Which would make more financial sense?
    Electrify will do nothing but go up... Hence my bias is to conserve and use alternate sources as possible. Passive solar is a must... Its free after installed.

    I happen to be on the grid in Washington State. The rates are really inexpensive...
    Dave
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