Home › Forums › SUSTAINABLE CONSTRUCTION, ENERGY and WATER CONSERVATION › Sustainable Energy & Energy Conservation › Solar – is it worth it?
May 28, 2007 at 9:42 pm #302723HerbmanMember
Lee – Also keen to hear how it works out. Am not yet sure about the solar (PV or hot water). Might have to sit on it for a while. We had another look at the numbers last night and considered some other expenses which will come in the next year compared with the savings.
And I think when the technology is right we might do both at once because space on the roof is also a consideration that was raised yesterday.May 28, 2007 at 9:53 pm #302724HappyEarthMember
There is no doubting the environmental benifits of solar hot water, but Im not so convinced of the economic benefits. In my household of 4, we have an electric hot water system and the energy bill for the hot water component for the 4 of us is ~$125 a year … and the other 3 members of my family are by no means green. Here in NSW you’d be hard pressed installing a small system after rebates for less than $2000. Quick maths suggests at least ~16 years before you have payed back the initial cost of the system. Taking into account inflation pushes it out beyond 20 years. If your green and reduce you hot water demand further, its going to take even longer.
Then again, if electricity prices double … well, its a different story.
Its actually better economically for me to install photovoltaics as it will take only 13.5 years to recoup money back (not taking account for interest). I plan to install both solar hot water and solar panels, but purely for environmental and ethical reasons as I cant see the economical advantage.May 28, 2007 at 10:40 pm #302725GeoffKeymaster
Then again, if electricity prices double … well, its a different story.
Funny you should mention that:May 28, 2007 at 10:46 pm #302726ChezzaParticipant
Very interesting to hear to wait for a few years before going solar!! Reggie had expressed that there hasn’t been too much change in solar hot water for years when we had it installed here at our new house!!
We have similar views about going solar as most of the above comments and are looking at (if we sell and build again!) only having enough solar power to run the water tank and whatever fridge/freezers we have plus maybe an extra powerpoint for the TV or computer. Not sure how any of this would work though!!
Solar hot water and power are probably best when starting a new house from scratch or when something major needs replacing!! You have to buy them anyway!!May 28, 2007 at 10:53 pm #302727HerbmanMember
Chezza – that’s what DW and I realised – pity we didn’t have more money when we built . We were smack on our limit and didn’t even have the money to put in a few extra powerpoints, shelving in cupboards … all of which we regret nowMay 28, 2007 at 10:56 pm #302728LeeMember
I total agree with happy earth, that i am doing this for environmental and ethical reasons. I can sit here and sprout off what we should be doing. So just bloody well do it. But we are in a financial position to do this. And the person installing it is an old mate. There are two ways, one, where we can buy the system and buy the upgrades at a later date, and they are a little dearer to buy compare to buying the upgrades of the second system. This system will allow us to add 4 more panels at a later date But it’s start up costs are a little dearer. Now the electrical company will only pay for the 5 hours (because that is aussie average)but we should get up to 7/8 hours per day.
Yes i think will will install them next year. As we need to finish this house we are building. We tell you how it goes. Always want to put the bore and AP sytem on solar.May 28, 2007 at 11:04 pm #302729
I did mention this somewhere else but when we can to a rural sub-division, 3 years ago, the power was right outside the property (only one internal power pole to the cottage) and we were quoted $17,000 to connect (i.e., for them to put a transformer up – which by the way you pay for and they keep:@) plus $2,000 per pole. That was then – the price now is around $20 – $25,000 plus poles. Really puts another perspective on alternative energy sourses. Hence why we put in a stage 1 system of generator and batteries, and have in storage waiting for us ha! ha! to get time solar panels and small wind generator, plus more batteries and a back up diesel generator. This comes out at approximately $11,000 so you can see why we went that way.
The other issue that possibly should be raised is how secure is the grid? Coal is not an indefinate source, the economy is questionable in view of peek oil and climate changes etc. Besides the advantage of being independent. All food for thought.May 28, 2007 at 11:29 pm #302730WazzaMember
Good point about security of the grid, Mauzi. Coal-fired power stations are big users of water too. Just one, Swanbank in Queensland, uses 20 megalitres a day on full output.May 28, 2007 at 11:53 pm #302731SproutMember
Can totally understand where you’re coming from. A stand alone solar sytem is much more expensive than grid connected where you are alread connected. How much power do you plan to produce with your solar system when set up? What do you estimate total set up costs may be? Will you use the generator as a back up or will you have a large battery bank?May 29, 2007 at 12:02 am #302732HommusMember
& that’s where the power company buying the power back off you comes into play… Some people look at it & say ‘oh not worth it as they don’t buy it back off you for high enough cost’, but the stuff that i’ve read from people who are/have been hooked up to it, is that they love it. the initial outlay is high, but after that, they like that they get credit back for ‘making’ electricity, while having enough for themselves & have so cut their bills down immensely, because they’re getting money back as well as saving a lot.
I was wondering about the buy back system. Can you actually earn cash for ‘making’ electricity or is it only credit towards, or to cover your next power bill?May 29, 2007 at 12:38 am #302733DepomeMember
When our tiny electric hot water system died in December (tiny because we’re in NQ and don’t need a lot) we replaced it with a large Solahart and didn’t have a booster switch connected at all. It is rare that we get rain and overcast days for long periods as we live in the dry tropics (tropical savannah). We haven’t seen much change in our electricity bill for this change because the HWS was also on tariff 11 (?) for very limited supply. I must get round to ringing Ergon about this as we’ve just had a bill and I see that we were charged $11 for being connected to tariff 11 even :@ (a subscription fee) yet we haven’t used it at all in the last quarter that this bill applied to. I had no idea we even paid a subscription for it :p
That switch to solar was a very expensive one comparatively but my heart wouldn’t let me install anything else. DH wasn’t quite so keen but he’s not as green as me 😐 An electric replacement would’ve probably been about $500 all up whereas we spent $5300+ getting the 302J Solarhart, freight and installation. We got $504 ish back for the RECs. There are some RECs calculators online that would help you to price it all.
Clearly the $ weren’t the most important thing to me, though we do now owe my In-Laws as we don’t have money like that lying around. We also don’t expect to be in this house long enough to neutralise our initial expense but I couldn’t live with doing anything else and I’m pleased that there is one more house in this small old-fashioned town that is doing something positive by the environment. Unfortunately there is no way I can consider switching us to solar power at the moment because of the $. I am content for now to switch us over to more energy efficient lightbulbs and make a bigger effort to swtich off lights. That’s hard for me as with a husband that works away I find a lot of security in leaving the outside lights on in the evening so that I can see around the heavily-tree-ed garden, and also to leave to bathroom light on.
There is a lot more to it than $ Herbman. If you can afford to make the purchase and your heart isn’t happy while on the grid then take a leap and feel a lot better about yourself 🙂May 29, 2007 at 12:38 am #302734
Had to ask Kim (husband) on the details.
We found that once you are actually on the land, the need for power is very greatly reduced because of the lifestyle change. At the moment we are still using stage 1 power system – 2.5KVA Generator, a car battery, a 40wt battery charger, and a 300wt inverter. With this we run two computers, TV (DVD system) choose not to have actual TV channels and 4 lights. (not necessarily on at the same time – although we can run two computers at the same time plus 3 lights; or a DVD plus computer and 3 lights at the same time; and so forth to give you an idea. If we want to run a washing machine (twin tub), microwave/vacuum cleaner/power tools we do so directly off the generator (at the moment). This system is very cheap to set up – depending on the quality/make of your generator, as little as $1,000. You do need to regularly charge the little battery but it will hold for 1 to 2 hours depending on what you are running – or will give you lights etc of a morning without turning on the generator.
I must add here that originally we purchased a $4,000 Honda Inverter Generator – and it was the worst decision we made. They are made for a throw away society – not to last ( I might add the time it was operating wasn’t either trouble free and it certainly wasn’t made clear on purchase that it would only last for a short time). We actually got 4,000 hours but they only guarantee 1500 hours our of their motors. We used a $100 generator as a back up, which actually was better than the expensive one -word of caution – Top of the Range isn’t necessarily the best way to go. We now use in Stage 1 – a Cheep Chinease 2.5 KVA worth $500 and have had better hours and performance than the expensive Honda.
The final system is 6 ex- Telstra batteries, 4 – 800wt solar panels, 300wt wind generator, 1500wt inverter and a diesel 5KVA backup generator. This will be a sinch for our needs. This system can cost as little as $11,000 – again depending on where you source your bits.
The important aspect is that we don’t use a lot of electrical gadgets here. We have spent years collecting hand operated bits and pieces if we want to use something , although we do use things like a hand bar mixer, and my husband loves his chip fryer.
For us to have mains it would have cost $19,000 and still have the bills and the power blackouts. (We do hear from some neighbours about power blackouts but we are unware of them). Hope this answered your questions.May 29, 2007 at 2:15 am #302735SproutMember
Thanks for all the background and details. I thought a stand alone system would cost around three times this amount. Does your $11,000 include the batteries and panels? Is this after rebates?
What do you use for cooking/baking? Do you have a wood stove?
I hear you on reducing usage. Yesterday we had an all-time low of 3.5 kwh for 24hr but we did no cooking at all. Also have the pool pump off most days being cooler and we have solar hot water (with booster off most of the time).May 29, 2007 at 2:31 am #302736
Sprite – no this is with no rebates and does include the batteries and panels. We found when we had professional quotes they were incredibly more for the same equipment so it does pay to do the leg work yourself. Of course we are lucky we have Graham (our friend on the sarariver.com website) to advise us. If you know what to do it is a lot lot cheaper. He is going to be putting up a lot on this subject on the website when he returns from overseas work. Middlemen certainly get the profit in this area I think and it puts a lot of people off making the change.
We cook on a wood fired stove, as well as a two burner gas bench top with a griller for quick heating/toast. We have a gas/electric fridge but at the moment run it on gas. Graham has a 12vlt electric fridge and we are also looking into this. He also puts together generators by using motors and then adding alternators (clever fellow) as it saves a fortune and it gives a great result.
We are lucky we don’t have a pool pump – in fact the dam may be covered in ice soon, so duals as an ice skating rink in winter – joking.
It was a real shock to me (being uninitated in these areas) at how you could actually live so comfortably with even the small system we have in operation now. It just takes a bit more awareness – and that is a good thing. Even our teenages now know the value of all electric things in our house and are aware what can and can not be turned on together. (Funny how motivated teens can be if they don’t check the battery and their current computer game drops out ha! ha!) Oh well, however they learn dosn’t really matter.May 29, 2007 at 3:04 am #302737MumchookMember
Herbman, for us it is worth it!
We’re off the grid and, like mauzi, it would have cost more to have electricity connected to our new home than to have solar. Despite lines running right opposite our gate, it would have cost approx or at least $40,000 to connect it to our home. With the rebate it cost us far less for a stand alone PV system, and it’s probably larger than mauzi’s….
I cannot answer for an on-grid situation. I always thought I would go for a grid-interactive system if I were in town (and if I could afford it) but these days I’m not so sure. You would still experience blackouts and would need to have either a generator or a different type of battery for those times, and I don’t know if the credits you receive are really worth it if you were to look at it from a monetary point of view. As I’m not in that position, I cannot really say.
BUT, as for solar hot water, I’d say in a flash – go for it! If you can afford it, it’s brilliant. For a country such as Australia not to have solar on ‘every other rooftop’, it’s MAD!
Not sure if that’s helped any… not enough time to read through all the posts unfortunately!
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