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Information please... I am new to solar.


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Hello everyone. 

I have just started looking into solar. I am fascinated at the possibility of having electrical redundancy built in for my home and business. I like the idea that my carbon foot print will be reduced and, if the setup is done correctly, I could have the system pay for itself. 

What is stopping me from investing into a system is that I have concerns about the complexity, quality and installation. Please advise me what on how to avoid the most common mistakes that people make when they decide to go solar?

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Welcome to the forum. Great platform to learn and make a decision.

Avoid: Cheap solutions, untrained installers and non-compliant equipment (China mall for example).

Request: All quotations to have attached a wireman who will provide CoC and solar training certificate to show the installer has been to the courses.

Others can add on.

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Ask for detailed quotes on equipment and do some research on the quoted items. Ask to see photos of previous installations and contact details of previous clients.

One shoe does not fit all,  ensure you know what loads are running when and for how long. 

If you are residing within South Africa, read up on what is happening in Cape Town with regards to registering a system and regulations around it, as this will in future become a requirement for all Municipalities. 

 

 

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12 hours ago, Migster said:

What is stopping me from investing into a system is that I have concerns about the complexity, quality and installation.

Most of us had those concerns when starting with solar. Whether you go for the cheap or expensive type, the planning phase for me was one of the most important parts, as I was also busy renovating my home. Deciding on the correct locations for the  equipment because once its installed you don't want to re-locate it. 

Also thinking of fire safety, should the inverter or batteries catch fire what will be effected. That should never happen but we are dealing with lot of energy here.

Quality of installation, very important as bad workmanship cannot be easily hidden and you can be stuck with it for years to come.

Choosing equipment that suits you. On this forum you can get a feel on what solar equipment has information openly available and is user friendly, and then also what is not so openly available but almost like trade secrets.

 

 

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13 hours ago, Migster said:

Hello everyone. 

I have just started looking into solar. I am fascinated at the possibility of having electrical redundancy built in for my home and business.

Your home and business are probably quite different regarding the viability of migrating to RE. Businesses operate during daylight hours. Since our major source of RE is solar PV energy and this is available during working hours (since these are typically daylight hours) it means that this energy can be used as it is generated. Since your home energy requires energy when the sun isn't shining this will require a more complex (and costly) solution.

There are many examples of successful RE business projects due to their relative simplicity. My experience with the people that are involved with these projects is that they are keen to show you their system. By seeing many of these installations you should be able to determine what the risks are of your venture.

Remember that you can always install a smaller system initially and expand it at a later stage as you get up to speed and can see the potential savings that the system can produce.

 

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Welcome,

Lots of things to consider.
Therefor, slow down and take your time to plan your system. As mentioned above, gather quotations and do your research. Most suppliers will sell you what they have in stock, not saying it is the worst items, but you might be able to get something better for similar value. 

Lots of experience on this forum, whether it is bad or good experiences, all of them was lessons learned, plenty of advice going around.
Plenty to learn and use to your advantage.

No idea how much research you have done so far. 
I started off by getting info regarding energy usage, when, what and how much.
If you want to go totally off-grid, backup is essential. As well as some other gadgets. 
It can get expensive quickly.
Best thing about solar, as mentioned above, you can start small and build from there, but you need to know what your end goal is and plan accordingly.

My office is at home, for me it was a necessity as load shedding was costing me plenty in lost time and I was scared that we will have more load shedding on the way. Now all of a sudden I am 95% off-grid. Plenty of fun.

Yes, there was a couple ups and downs, I am on solar for about 3 months and I am not looking back. Reaping benefits everyday.

 

 

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If you're buying for your business, depending on the type of system you may get a tax break. So research that and figure it into your costing (I THINK it is that you can write off 100% of the cost of a grid-tied system in the year of purchase, but please check).

Also weigh in the soft factors. These will vary from person to person. But not being hassled by outage is worth something to most of us. When I bought my system a few months ago I wasn't sure if it it were just an expensive vanity or not. But since then there's been 6 outages in my street (longest was 7 hours) and so I now feel it's worth more than just the savings that are accruing.

Factor in cost of battery replacement down the line. 

And to repeat an earlier point, you absolutely do want a COC (or supplementary COC) and make sure your insurers get a copy. Otherwise your house burns down and the loss adjuster comes out and says "oooh... look at all this wiring nobody told us about, and no COC for it either. Sorry for you."

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I just want to add a little something I heard of yesterday. Someone had a solar system installed... price tag was 500k. So that's a pretty nice little system, right? Well... no. Apparently they installed 4 x 200Ah lead acids, a 10kva Quattro, and 20 panels on the roof. So not even 150k worth of equipment and materials... probably less than 200k even with labour in.

There are a few people out there who quote extreme amounts and get away with it. And then there are people who do excellent work at very low profit margins... and they struggle to make a living. Please use one of the latter and not one of the former 🙂

 

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2 minutes ago, plonkster said:

price tag was 500k. So that's a pretty nice little system, right? Well... no. Apparently they installed 4 x 200Ah lead acids, a 10kva Quattro, and 20 panels on the roof. So not even 150k worth of equipment and materials... probably less than 200k

No one said that people should work for free, I sure don't want to work for free, but damn, that is a huge profit margin and it don't seem like the customer is really getting his monies worth. OUCH!

10kva - probably close to R50k, 4 batteries most probaly close to R25k, 20 panels around R30k, installation R20k-R30k, lets say all in all R150k-R180k system for R500k, double OUCH!

Also work out the Return on Investment, if the system can pay itself in more or less 5 years it seems decent, that is without load-shedding losses though.

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13 minutes ago, Wilfred said:

10kva - probably close to R50k, 4 batteries most probaly close to R25k, 20 panels around R30k, installation R20k-R30k, lets say all in all R150k-R180k system for R500k, double OUCH!

Yup, those are roughly the numbers I had in my head too.

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Another issue I found was learning to live with the system. It makes sense to use the power when you have a lot of it. So, for EG, I found that our dishwasher had a timer switch and so it would be loaded at night and then the timer set to turn it on at 9:30 or 10:00. I changed the programming on my pool pump. So there are things you can easily control, but early on I got worried. My system has a 4.6 kw limit. Now if we have grid as well then all is well, but early on I was picking up spikes past this point and in a load shedding scenario something would have to give. Investigation showed combinations like pool pump running (1 KW), all fridges running (about 400 w), heat pump kicks in (1.4 to 1.6 kw), housekeeper is ironing and in the middle of that turns on the microwave and the kettle to make her lunch. The pool pump will not run if we're load shedding, but there was still a theoretical chance of exceeding the 4.6 kw limit, though only for short periods.

So I had to find a balance between changing programming, education (we now have free, but finite electricity), taking the electric kettle away and using gas instead, and still letting people get on with what they need to do. Luckily my housekeeper is very regular in her habits, so, for EG, I could program the heat pump to be off when the time window in which she irons. I took the electric kettle away and left out the gas kettle that we used to use only when load shedding was happening.


I also found it necessary to change the battery discharge depth. By default this is set to 50%. We couldn't avoid running the heat pump in the early morning so that the housekeeper would have hot water, but this drained the battery past 50% and we'd start drawing from grid. Calculations showed that if I allowed discharge to 40% then I'd not have to draw from the grid for 45 minutes or so (on a winter morning) and I'd still have a reasonable reserve to keep the house going until the panels started generating. So we I changed DOD to  40% and presto!

So there's a bit of a journey, and it helps if you can get people on side because then you make best use of the system.

A conscientious and knowledgeable installer will try to get some idea of what's in your property, what you regard as essential and what you can live without, and then spec the system accordingly.

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Very true @Bobster, Immediately my kids learned that there are no more manually heating the geyser, they know how to operate the geyserwise. I have to say, within a month of solar, because we struggled in the beginning with bad batteries, all of us learned the system.

I started to understand why the system tripped and we worked around that, for eg. turning on a hairdryer while the geyser was running as well as the pool pump, etc. I also changed the housekeper’s iron from a 1600W to a 1200W until she can get into it to be finished with ironing at 14:00. Well she did, and I will give her 1600W iron back soon, she is crying everyday about that iron :) . She is also starting to understand why she can not use certain things at certain times, and I mean when we have cloudy/rainy days. 

Our system is working very well now, I believe it took around 2 months to have everyone realize what they can and what they can’t and when. I tinkered with a lot of things and believe I found the sweet spot. Our area has a power outage since 20:00 last night, no problems so far, 13 hours in, but the sun is shining and the system is doing what it is supposed to.

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On 2019/11/28 at 8:38 AM, Migster said:

for my home and business.
I could have the system pay for itself. 

What is stopping me from investing into a system is that I have concerns about the complexity, quality and installation.
common mistakes

1. Home and business from home? Or business separate from your home, ie another premises?

2. It will pay for itself very fast if you run your business from home and you have regular grid outage, also the more expensive the system the longer it will take to pay for itself.

3. It seems more complex than it is. Do your research and understand how the system work. If you can’t go big, then go smart. Split your DB into essential and non-essential. Any good electrician have the know-how. Example is that in the middle of all of this my oven is tied directly to the grid and don’t go through the solar system at all.

4. Common mistakes are to have no knowledge, don’t believe what one person is telling you, gain your own knowledge. I have done quick couple months (6 months) research into this and believe me, I have learned more after the initial commissioning (3 months), than ever before. Luckily I only had a few issues to resolve after installation. This is where the cost can start running away.

Edited by Wilfred
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