Is solar power feasible for running a house?

What are the pros and cons of solar power? Is it feasible for running a house? I would love to get rid or minimize our electric bill (especially in the summer), but I’m curious if solar power can actually generate enough electricity to run an entire house, including several computers, a home entertainment system, and central air conditioning.

When we were in Costa Rica, one of the places we stayed at didn’t have electricity. They ran their freezer on a gas generator and used solar power to heat the water. We never had hot water during our stay there. Of course, Costa Rica is a very wet country, and the sun doesn’t shine through as much, but what about the times when we’re not getting any sun? Are capacitors a possibility?

Check out my post in MPSIMS to the thread about the desert. My wife and I have solar panels on 3/4 of our roof - the initial expense was high but they pay for themselves in more ways than one. Some people will staunchly disagree with me, but they may not live in Phoenix like I do.
We went with Sharp - SH-123 panels on our roof. They were slightly more expensive than the GE ones but they had a longer life and a slightly more sleek design. What specifically would you like to know about? Installation? exact cost? How much output they actually have? How much we save?

I live in a place with a rep for lousy weather. For several years we’ve had fewer sunny days per year than Seattle. A colleague of mine recently built a house with solar panels on the roof. He’s hooked up to the power grid, so on overcast days and at night he draws power as usual, but if his solar panels are working, he draws less power from the grid, and if he’s producing more than he’s using, his meter actually runs backwards. If he actually ends up giving more energy to the net than he uses in a month, the electric company pays him. Since April, he has produced more energy than he used every month! I don’t know if he has AC and stuff, but all the same I was floored. I knew that solar panels could help but I always thought they were really more of an altruistic thing than a wise financial investment. Maybe I was wrong.

One of the big cons is a fairly large up-front investment, and I’m not sure whether there are any long-term considerations in terms of performance degradation or maintainance, but if you’re going to have a home for many years, and your location gives you good insolation, it’s definitely something to think about.

Yeah. :slight_smile:

Are you able to cool your house effectively? I like to keep it very cool here. What about non-sunny days? Retrofitting a house? Night time? Do you use any electricity from the grid? Good god, man, why haven’t you answered me??!!

Yes we effectively cool our nearly 3k sqft home. :slight_smile: We do not have very many non-sunny days here in Phoenix, and we are connected to the grid, nominally. To be completely independant was not something we wanted to do, even though probably could be. We spent roughly 24k on the full installation package with junction boxes - the elctrician was a pretty penny too, but we got our monies worth from him as I asked questions through the whole install.
We have a 3.5KW high power grid tie with back-up base kit. Additionally we have Surrett Battery back-up system for maximum effective useage.

For the vast majority of people, and from a purely economic perspective, grid power is the way to go. A whole-house PV system is very expensive, not to mention a maintenance and environmental hassle. (For the latter I’m referring to the basement full of deep-cycle batteries. The glossy brochures always leave that part out…)

Our basement isn’t full for a very good reason. We don’t have one. But we built a small shed to house our batteries and j-boxes, and such. It’s nice not having it indoors. The initial investment is steep, but being self-sufficient and saving movey over the long run out weighs the huge power bills we were used to getting.

We don’t have a basement. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a basement, come to think of it. I think the ground in this area must be too unstable for them. What sort of maintenance issues are there?

Anyone know how to figure out how much energy we use? Our latest electric bill showed 2815 kilowatt-hours, but I can’t figure out how to figure out how much power we’d need.

Do you know the life expectancy for your system? Not the payoff time, but how long can you expect the panels, for example, to be usable?

I am completely unqualified to answer this. I’m better at English than I am at math. But anyway…

2815 kwh divided by 30 days in a month is 94 kwh per day. Assume 12 hours of use. (That is, the power used at night will be less than the power used during the day; so assume a 12-hour day.) That comes to 7.8 kw per hour on average.

So it seems to me that you’d probably need around 10,000 kw coming into your house during the peak times, or you would need to get energy-efficient appliances and lights and/or learn to manage your energy usage.

But again, I am not qualified to answer. *Philosphr…?

25 years is the life of our system, and after that - if you haven’t already upgraded or moved - you can replace with more soffisticated material.
We bought the service pack with ours, meaning all maintenance and repairs are covered for 10 years - extra $1300. Well worth it to us. Maintenance issues include: weather issues, lightning etc…etc… corrosion, loss in efficiency etc…etc…

I saw an article in Wired magazine about a reflector tower sort of design for your roof. It is called the Sunflower. The manufacturer claims to get 1kw (per hour of sun I guess).

Is that a lot? What will 1kw/hr run?

(By the way, Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Arabia of solar power.)

What sort of tax breaks or utility subsidies did you get?

And what were your monthly costs before the solar panels?

Over here, we once were offered solar panels that don’t need batteries. You can connect them directly into the grid, and if they provide excess power, the current will flow back into the grid and the meter will run backwards, and you will either save or even get money from the electricity company. That seemed like a pretty good system, but although it was only a small investment (450 euro for 2 m2 of panels) I didn’t have the money at the time, unfortunately.

The topic of solar power comes up on Mother Earth News’s boards quite frequently (may have to register to read 'em), and there’s several folks there that have 'em, who generally provide quite detailed answers.

That sounds like a better deal to me than the batteries. That way, the grid is essentially doing the energy storage for you. Does the cost balance out? (Will the electric company buy the energy from you at the same rate they sell it to you?)

The state of arizona gives incentives as does the federal gov’t. We have the state incentive, but not the feds.
Here is the Summary:

And here is our power companies incentive.

So in all, we really benefit from having a solar powered home. The incentive isn’t huge but certainly sufficient.