Hello and welcome to Just Answer. My name is ***** ***** I will be happy to assist you with your electrical question.
1) You bring up an interesting question as well as a controversial topic amongs't grid tied power systems.
2) Obviously, the 2 most common grid tied energy stems are solar (#1) followed by wind energy as (#2).
3) Not sure which source of grid tied energy you are thinking about? Both systems have pro's and con's. Both systems are expensive to install. Even though the price of solar panels have been decreasing in the past 5 years, I'm not convinced that grid tieing an entire home or building is the way to go. When it comes to your monthly electrical utility bill, you are basically renting electricity on a monthly basis. If you purchase a solar and/or wind powered system, the Return On Investment (ROI) could take as much as 20 to 25 years. After the the 20 year warranty period from most solar panel manufacturers, you then need to purchase replacement panels not to mention expensive batteries that typically have a life cycle from 7 to 9 years. You also need to consider replacement costs for the inverters and/or wind generator motor plus the charge controllers. In summary, all very expensive equipment.
4) Smart meters or digital meters are a controversial topic amongs't grid tied solar and/or wind energy providers. I recommend that you contact your local electrical utility and ask how credits are received and the average credit on a monthly basis. Of course this is all dependent upon your kilo-watt hour usage and the amount of grid tied amps that you back feed to the grid. If going grid tied, most local electrical utilities will insist upon a final inspection of the energy system. As you are probably aware of, most major electrical utility providers across the United States are now replacing the old analog meters with smart or digital meters. There is much controversy if these meters are bi-directional or directional. In other words will the meter spin back-words if a grid tied system is back fed thru your main electrical panel? Only your local electrical utility provider can confirm this based on what I read on the energy forums.
I've even read where many homeowners will put a lock on the exterior meter socket box to prevent the local utility from replacing an analog meter with a smart meter. Somewhat common in California and Arizona from what I've read.
5) I have been a certified solar installer for the past 7 years. I have a small standalone solar system that I installed in my home for emergency lighting applications during a power outage. About 5 years ago, I calculated the cost to install an entire grid tied PV system on y my 2000 sq foot ranch home plus a basement and the cost came out to approximately $30K. Mr. Obama and company would then give me a $7K rebate on my federal income tax as a deduction. Net cost to me would have been approx $23K if I hired a certified solar installer and licensed electrician to perform the work. My average monthly electrical bill is around $100 per month. Spiking higher during the summer months for central A/C. If I spend approx $1,200 per year for my ComEd monthly electrical bill over a 20 year period, it is costing me $24K over a 20 year period to rent electricity. Thus if I spent $23K for an entire solar system, it will cost me more money over the 20 year period since I will at least have to go thru 2 to 3 sets of replacement batteries. Then after 20 years, I now need to start replacing solar panels. Even though as a certified solar installer and a licensed electrician for 29 years, I don't have to pay for any labor.
My conclusion is that it is still more cost effective to rent electricity from my local electrical utility provider since I don't have to worry about maintenance and/or replacing end of life components such as PV panels, battery banks, inverters, charge controllers, wind generators, etc. .
In summary, I'm not convinced that a 100% grid tied energy system is the way to go for now until the solar and wind component prices start to rapidly decrease.
6) If you have deep pockets and are willing to spend the money and maintenance, then yes there is satisfaction at the end of each month that you may write a smaller check amount to the local electrical utility if a grid tied system is installed. Based on my calculations, the only savings that I would have is from the free labor since I can install the entire system myself. Other than the labor savings for me, I don't think a 100% grid tied system is worth the price. Of course, if a home owner owns a home in a remote area such as Alaska and no local electrical power is available, then either a solar and/or wind powered system is a must have. Thus, all depends on the application and how much money an individual is willing to fork out in my opinion.
7) If you stop and think about this from a utility perspective, the more homes or buildings that go 100% grid tied, somehow the utility will find a way thru the local Public Utility Commission to increase rates and/or require a monthly smart meter charge if grid tied. Kinda of a Catch 22 in my opinion. We all hate paying our monthly electrical bills and think we are getting ripped off (which we are), but all factors must be considered if and when choosing a grid tied energy system.
8) Is there a way to provide the most efficient energy system in a home? Yes, it is called winning a huge Powerball or Mega Millions Lottery and then you can easily afford a 100% solar or wind powered system with no financial worries. Unfortunately for the average home owner, I just don't see the ROI as being as efficient as renting monthly electrical usage.
In addition, the age of the homeowner as well as how long you will remain in the home must also be factored in. I once had a 90 year old customer who insisted on converting his home to 100% solar. I told him the average ROI. I then asked him if he will live another 20 years. I talked him out of the sale as he was not a good candidate for solar since he would never see 1 penny on his ROI. He finally agreed with my reasoning:)
If you have any additional questions, just let me know and I’ll be glad to answer them for you.
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