Producing Electricity at Home


  • Uncle Harold is a retired "bean counter" par excellance and a guy who knows how to research products and services. So, last year when he told me about his new photovoltaic electrical system I knew that he could provide the Sound Home Resource Center with some good information. - George

    Hello George,

    Here at last is some information about our solar system:

    There are 24 Kyocera KC125G panels peak rated at 125 watts, and 1 Xantrex GT 3.0-NA-DS-240 inverter. The cost was $25,000 with the state of California rebating over $7,000 and a resulting federal income tax credit of $2000. So the net cost was about $16,000.

    Photovoltaic Electrical System

    In addition we opted to have our utility (PG&E) install a time-of-use meter. This meter keeps track of the time when we either use or sell electricity back to our utility. Between the hours of noon and 6pm on weekdays, we sell and buy at approximately $.32 per kwh, during the off hours we buy and sell at about $.06 per kwh.

    So, by not using major appliances during peak hours, we maximize our selling and minimize our cost of using power. Without any significant rate increases, we estimate that the payback on the system should be about 7-1/2 years. Our second rate increase this month will exceed 4%. Our net electricity usage cost for the first year ending in February was a little over $6.00.

    Xantrex also has software that allows me to monitor the system, and record the data onto a spread sheet with whatever frequency I like.

    Another part of the equation: a Tankless Water Heater

    Our gas tank water heater had reached its optimum life span. It was a six year warranted heater - and was 10 years old at replacement time. We replaced it with an instant electric tankless heater - a Seisco. After replacement, our gas bill went down by about $50 a month. We have had it a year and a half now, and the performance is superb. No limit on how many people can shower. Before buying the heater I talked with the inventor and president of the company and got a lot of background information. There was one minor problem with the unit, and the customer service was fantastic.

    Tankless Water Heater

    Any questions?

    Regards to all Harold Raphael Santa Cruz

    Thank you Harold!

    That's great information and it sounds like a wonderful system! Let me add a few comments of my own and ask Harold for even more information:

    While Santa Cruz may not be the location with the most amount of sun in the US, in the area of Harold's home there is relatively little fog. There is also little need for air conditioning and if one did want to cool the house during the summer months, this would be a wonderful area for some passive systems.

    Harold's home is about 1750 sq ft. in size and when not full of guests or grandchildren, it is occupied by two people. The systems were installed by contractors and the costs include all installation charges.

    Only some states support such programs. If you live in a state that doesn't, you may want to call your legislator and do a little lobying. You may also want to see if your local utility allows you to buy some 'green' power - power generated by wind, solar or other alternative systems.

    Harold doesn't mention one other benefit from photovoltaic and/or on-demand water heating systems: resale value. My best guess is that as energy costs rise and we become more aware of global warming, homes with system like this will tend to sell faster and for more $$$. While I doubt that its worth installing such systems just for the resale value, I think that the home with such systems will sell faster and for a higher price than a home without such a system.

    Now for some more questions for Harold:

    Q. Do you expect that future rate increases will improve the payback? A. Yes, future rate increases that exceed 3% per year will expedite payback. In recent years increased by about 7% per year.

    Q. Do the panels have to be cleaned on a regular basis? A. I have the panels washed once a year. They should be washed at least that often, although dustiness of locale will dictate frequency.

    Q. Does the system have any other type of maintenance requirements? A. There is no other maintenance requirement.

    Q. Do you have any idea about the life of the panels or other parts of the system? A. The solar panels are guaranteed for 25 years. The inverter is guaranteed for 5 years with a 10 year option.

    Q. How difficult was the application for the state rebate and the IRS forms? A. The IRS form for the tax credit is very easy. The State of California process was started by the contractor, but it took over 6 months + several calls to the state agency before the funds were in hand.

    Q. Will you keep us informed about your systems? A. Yes, Harold promises to keep us informed and answer more questions.

    Thanks again, George