Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Electric Results!

Moving has kept us pretty busy. We've been in the house for almost a month now and are really enjoying it. When I get all unpacked and organized, I will post pictures of the interior. I will also be reporting on the green elements of the house and how they impacted the budget and our living conditions. This first one is about the photovoltaic panels and solar hot water system.

The budget allowance for the PV panels was $15,700 which included 3KW worth of Sharp panels, a ground mount system, an inverter, and the hookup to the local utility. We had previously gotten an estimate of over 20K for a roof-mounted system. The PV was installed on budget. We will get a 30% tax rebate, making our net cost $10,990. The inverter has a display that shows how much electricity we are generating and even on cloudy days we've been getting around 2KW.

Here is a picture of the panels and ground mount:

The solar hot water is a Rheem passive 80 gallon system, which was budgeted at $4500. When the installer checked out the roof, he realized that the system wouldn't be angled in the best direction. We approved a different bracket that added $898 to the budget. We are hoping the optimal angle will result in the ability to heat water without electrical backup all year long. So, the net cost will be $3778.60 after the Federal Rebate.

But, the best news is that we got our first electric bill -- $72. Let me put this number in perspective for those who are not familiar with Texas summers. In our previous 1400 square foot home, with a 600 square foot guest house on the same meter, a summer electric bill could range from $280 to $360, depending on the temperature. The hot water and cooking range were electric.

So needless to say, we are very pleased. Assuming that our previous electric expenses averaged $240/month, we should save the $14768.00 net cost in 7.3 years -- a pretty good payback!

The only thing I would mention to parents considering solar hot water is that the water is very hot in the summer. You can start your shower with the water half cold and half hot, but by the end, you only need a little bit of hot. You can compensate for this by buying anti-scald mixing fixtures.