Ask the grumpies: Have you ever thought about getting solar panels?

OMDG asks:

I kind of love the idea of solar panels on the new house. Having a smaller carbon footprint and being less dependent on the grid seems like a worthwhile investment. N&M have you ever thought about doing this?

#1:  We haven’t changed the roof since we moved here and it’s still going strong.  But we assume that it will need to get changed out sooner rather than later.  From what we understand, right after (or during) getting a new roof is the best time to get solar panels since if you’re getting roof-based solar panels they’ll have to be removed/replaced/etc. when your roof is replaced.

There are online programs that will tell you if it’s worth getting solar panels for your particular house using google maps satellite images.  For whatever reason, these have always told us that it’s not worth it for our house, and since our roof is still going strong, we haven’t investigated further.  (The google project sunroof used to provide more information and be more customizable than it is now.)  We’ve also missed any local area rebates on solar (those expired over a decade ago and haven’t been replaced), there haven’t been state rebates, and we haven’t much been paying attention to federal rebates.

I had been thinking that when we get a new roof we’d just get fancy Tesla roof tiles because I liked the idea, but it sounds like they’re still expensive but not actually delivering on their early promise and there may be concerns with the warranty/customer service.

So… we’ve thought about it but probably won’t pull the trigger until our roof needs replacing and at that point we will re-evaluate.

#2:  Lives in an apartment building, so no.

Grumpy Nation, what has been your experience with Solar Panels?


13 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: Have you ever thought about getting solar panels?”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    In order for me to get solar panels, I’d have to take down many mature trees. Can’t do it as the maple lined driveway makes up a big part of the character of the house. We even have sap buckets on them right now and are making syrup.

  2. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    We have solar panels. They’re great. We basically haven’t had an electric bill since we got them and since we oversized our unit we get extra energy credits each month which we sell to friends at a discount. Plus MA has local incentives programs for renewable energy generation that gives us about $1200 a year based on how much we generate. All in all, our system is expected to pay for itself between 5-7 years from when we got it.

    That said, solar panels alone will not make you less dependent on the grid. Most setups are really just net metering setups, so you send all your power to the grid and then pull from the grid when you need it for your home. If you’re looking from a resiliency POV, you’d need a battery system on top of solar, which can be another $20K by itself.

    • yetanotherpfblog Says:

      This is the original post I put together on our solar panel finances one year in:

      Since then, our electric rates have gone up 50% from 18c/kWh to 27c/kWh. Plus we’ve generated significantly more each year since the first, so faster payoff than expected, at least in nominal terms.

      In the blog post, we estimate that our “payoff” date is nine years in, but that’s because I’m a goodie two shoes and report the amount we make selling excess credits and on SRECs to the IRS (and we’re in a high tax bracket). I would guess most people would be getting the benefit as less energy spending (not taxed). Without that, our break even point based on the old numbers would be ~6 years, not including the hike in electric rates mentioned above.

  3. Debbie M Says:

    I’ve fantasized about it quite a bit but have done nothing.

    In ancient times, if you had shade on any of the solar panels, none of them would work, like how Christmas lights are (used to be?) when one light goes out, but nowadays, shading only reduces the effectiveness of the part that’s shaded. (Or at least that’s possible–surely no one does it the other way anymore.)

    I also wanted the Tesla shingles, like, ten years ago, but last I heard they still don’t exist for normal people.

    I’ve heard they are very resilient to hail.

    And yes, I’ve been hearing the stories about how that electricity is not for you; it’s for the grid. And your power company can do whatever they want–they can lower the amount they pay for your energy compared to what they charge, they can make you pay for all the energy you use at high rates and then pay for all the energy you make at low rates so that you always come out behind, and of course the grid can go down so you don’t get any energy even if you’re still making it, and who knows what else.

    I suspect it’s better for the environment (in hot climates) to have big shade trees than solar, but I haven’t seen any math. Because trees help! And they shade the house, preventing you from having to use so much energy. (And maybe in winter the leaves come off so they stop shading your house.)

    People only ever think about getting solar on their house roofs. I guess all the outside-the-box ideas would probably cost way more. Like make an extra carport-like roof over your whole house and put the solar panels on that. There are some arty solar flowers in my town, but I think they only make enough energy to light themselves.

  4. teresa Says:

    We have the fancy Tesla tiles and battery BUT the city hasn’t managed to get their **** together to come do the final inspection so we can’t use the tiles (the batteries are charged right now with grid-drawn energy so I think we could use them in a power outage). Once they are on we can choose/app-control whether to effectively do net metering or always draw from the tiles and batteries first.

    We really only got tiles over panels because the roof needed replacing anyway and the cost was comparable for tiles + batteries vs new roof + panels + batteries. The cost is not worth it in a house that doesn’t need a roof, plus you actually get more capacity with panels usually. It took about 14 months from ordering to installation but a lot of that had to do with our city’s notorious permit foot-dragging.

    With respect to multiple roofs/structures- we have 3 structures on our property (house, garage, ADU) and we put active tiles on the house and garage because local restrictions only allow one between-building connection point per system. The ADU has dummy tiles; if regulations change and we can add another connection we’ll put panels on top of them. We also have a covered seating area in the yard (carport-ish) and are thinking about buying individual use panels, putting them on that and using them to power a goal zero generator that can then power the outdoor circuits (would disconnect those circuits from the grid so the connection thing would be a nonissue).

    • teresa Says:

      Two more thoughts
      -Some states have additional incentives if you install batteries with or without solar, it’s worth checking. If the batteries are installed as part of a solar system then the federal tax credit for solar applies too.
      -About shade trees- maybe in a hot climate with lots of rain? Because here the tradeoff is that then you are needing to water a bunch of big shade trees in a desert in the drought of the millennium. Which is not good environmentally or financially. Also they take even more than 14 months to grow big enough. And they don’t *heat* your house in winter like solar can.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I don’t think people tend to have big shade trees in places where they need to be watered? I’m trying to remember if I saw any big shade trees the last time I was in Vegas…. Definitely not Arizona.

        I guess it is a thing in Los Angeles.

      • teresa Says:

        No, not really a thing here for that reason. A little bit in Pasadena/environs. Just saying probably not environmentally better than solar in hot desert climates, but maybe someplace its both hot and rainy.

  5. SP Says:

    I see someone already commented on the “less dependent on the grid” aspect. It is possible to get around this, and if I were to pursue solar, this would be MUST for me (we had several “public safety” power shutoffs a few years ago after the PGE caused fires). I don’t really love the idea of a big battery, and would be satisfied with power during the day only. I don’t think that is a commercial solution out there and may be impractical anyway, but I don’t know.

    We got a new roof ~2 years ago, so now solar is now at least something we could consider. But windows are a higher immediate priority. We probably won’t get solar soon, but it could be worth evaluating the return on investment timeline again.

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