I'd be an idiot not to go solar, right?

I came across this website and I’m wondering what the catch is. Cause it all sounds too good to be true.

If nobody can punch holes in their case, then I have to start seriously thinking about installing solar for my home.

To summarize:
[li]I can help with the environment[/li][li]I can increase the value of my home tax-free[/li][li]I can save loads on my energy bill[/li][li]I can take a loan out and the payment will be less than my energy bill, so I actually save money right away[/li][li]Savings increase as electricity rates rise in the future[/li][/list=1]
Any problems with this scenario? My main concern is that the system has a 30-year lifespan. What happens after 30 years? Does the system peter out or just drop dead some day? I’d like to think I’ll be in my home then, but nothing is for certain.

Anybody else out there have a solar system for your home? Success or horror stories to share?

Check zoning. In Los Gatos such are illegal, AFAIK.

Solar water heating is definately worth the investment. Solar electric seems to be not quite a break-even. There is also a problem with “selling it back”.

However, if such a deal would make you feel good, then I’d say go for it. Their math is a bit optimistic, but it isn’t a stupid idea.

I have a solar water heater for my pool…simple device…black rubber mats on the roof, water is pumped up and runs back and forth through little tubes and comes back down heated and back into the pool.

Here in Las Vegas, in the summer, I actually have to turn it down a little or I would have the biggest jacuzzi in Nevada. Accidentally left it on for a couple of days and the water temperature reached over 110 degrees!

Saves me lots of money, can use the pool from mid to late March into mid to late October and heating the pool costs nothing (I have to have the water pump on 6 hours a day anyway to filter water and pump simply directs the water to the roof after is has been filtered).

The solar panels look good, but that is quite an outlay of money to set it up - and correct me if I am wrong, but I thought those panels only last about 10 years before they need to be replaced. Maybe they have gotten better over the years.

I can’t remember where I read it, but a few months ago I read that there is a newer version of solar panels coming out that is far cheaper to produce and will make it more affordable - then I would be interested…because one thing Las Vegas doesn’t lack is sunshine!

Real Goods (the site from your link) seems to be a very reputable outfit. Around for a long time too.

If I were you, I would buy their Source Book. Even if you don’t go Solar, the book is very informative.

I have some property that I thought about building on, and solar was the only way to go. No Public Service at all.

I would have done wind and solar panels for elec. Passive Solar and propane for hot water and heat with a wood and or propane free standing stove.

I wouldn’t have balked at it at all. But I would have had a propane or diesel generator as back up.

I live in a (poorly built) passive solar house in the middle of the Colorado Rockies, and heated with wood for 10 years. Just went to a propane stove for heat. The temp in my house varies a lot. But it does not bug my wife and I. Bedroom usually gets down to 55 degrees or so in winter, but that is our choosing (we sleep with the windows open a bit… Main rooms stay between 60 and about 90 degrees. We open windows when it gets too hot.

IMHO, if you don’t build the house around your system, the system probably won’t pay for itself. But then you live in Oakland, where it really does not get cold. And you have plenty of sunshine.

Are you just doing hot water?

I also heard that a much cheaper solar panel is in the works. But doesn’t cost nearly as much. But they only put out about half the watts or so. Now you are talking banks of batteries, an inverter to pump it up to 120v and more efficient appliances. All your lighting can be 12 or 24v (with LED bulbs) but for some things you need the inverter. Like a washing machine, or power tools.

I’m hi-Jacking this a bit I know, but when I go to my brothers house in Denver, in the winter, it’s always at 68 degrees. I unconsciously look for the stove to warm up a bit. In our house, the stove puts out a wonderful radiant heat that will take the chill right off you. I love that.

Your best bet, just from a fiscal point of view, is probably in solar water heating.

As for the photovoltaics (electricity-producing solar cell panels), the state-of-the-art, laboratory test-result efficiency rating is now up to 36.9%. But for commercially available solar panels, think more along the lines of 16-17%, or even less.

One thing you’ll have to look into with your prospective panels is how big an efficiency drop-off there is with 1) temperature and 2) obliqueness of the angle of the solar rays. Older-technology (and probably the newest, too) panels lost some of their efficiency when they got very hot.

As for the angle issue, some solar arrays are set up to move throughout the day, to track the course of the sun. That would involve greater start-up costs, but if the efficiency gained was substantial enough, presumably it could be worth it.

Another thing to consider: not all solar panels are made to be installed on top of and apart from the roof; at least one [Australian] manufacturer makes them to be integrally incorporated with your roof, embedded right in, so that the panels don’t even stick out. Presumably, if you go with that option, you would be buying many arrays and getting your roof done at the same time.

There are also a few durability issues to consider: some panels are more cracking/breaking-resistant; some may promise longer usable lifespan; some may offer the option of replacement of a broken part…

Check into your local zoning and tax/rebate situation. FWIW, 35 states offer some photovoltaic incentive – be it by rebates, tax write-offs, or property tax reductions. By way of example, Florida’s photovoltaic rebate program works like this: you’d have to have your panels installed by the properly state-certified workers, with a meter that reads how much juice the panels generate. Then, for I don’t know how long a period of time, you’d have to report your readings to the state every month, to remain in compliance with the program. The rebate was substantial, amounting to roughly about a fifth of the cost of the panels.

U.S. Govt. Dept. of Energy website offering basic info

Tilt angle info; much other useful technical info on this site.

An economic perspective.

Personally, I’m really enthusiastic about the long-term potential for solar tech to help reduce our consumption of coal and petroleum, reducing the production of greenhouse gases, etc. etc. But unless you’re rich, your best bet is probably in: conservation and high-efficiency upgrades (compact fluorescent lightbulbs, energy-efficient appliances & electronics, double- or triple-paned glazed windows, more/improved home insulation, and roofing/home exterior/landscaping choices. As for solar power, solar water heating is probably the best logical choice, with the photovoltaics running a distant second.

There have been lots of threads in GQ (and perhaps other forums) discussing solar. A search will turn them up. Look especially for posts by sailor and Una Persson (nee Anthracite).