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Old 08-25-2011, 01:56 PM
Robin56 Robin56 is offline
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Default Solar Panels on a Manufactured Home?



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Hi everyone,

I've been researching prices for a portable generator for a while but recently started thinking about solar panels instead -- if I could find affordable equipment since I only have my modest income. One reason is because, even if I get a generator, fuel will eventually run out but the sun would be more consistent.

Also, I read in a post once where folks can actually "sell back" extra energy to the electric company. At least, I think I remember that being about solar panels. Anyway, I purchased a new 16 x 80 manufactured home with the standard shingled roof in 2008 and it's in great condition.

I was wondering if solar panels would be an option for me. For example, if I were to buy the panels and have a local roofing company actually install them for me.

Would like to get you opinions. Would it be a good choice or should I stay with the generator idea?

Many thanks ... Robin
Old 08-25-2011, 02:02 PM
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Pragmatist Pragmatist is offline
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It depends. A generator provides a stop gap until power is restored. Solar panels provide energy independence, but cost quite a bit more for full self sufficiency.

The first step with either is to calculate your electrical usage. Figure out how much you use, and peak uses.

The next step is to cut it. Lower your bills, put the rarely used but big leech items on power strips and cut the power to them when not in use. Lower your bill to the point you have everything you need. This will save you money and help toward an eventual upgrade.

If you go with a generator, find one to match your peak needs (fridge, freezer, etc.). If you decide to go the solar panel route, they can be made for far cheaper than bought if you have modest electrical skills (free to learn online, and cheap to get started).

But overall it comes down to your goals. Temporary backup versus long term solution.
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Old 08-25-2011, 07:56 PM
Robin56 Robin56 is offline
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Thank you for the information. I've come very close on a few occasions to parting with the $$$ for a generator. But lately I've thought more about ... what if the power goes out for longer than a couple of months or so. It would be very handy for a hurricane, for example, like when I was out of power during IKE) but not for a situation like the power grid going down for an undetermined period.

If the latter occurred, I'd eventually run out of a limited supply of stored fuel and I might have wished I'd spent the money on more food and supplies.

I'll continue to give it some thought before I make a decision.

Again, thanks ... Robin
Old 08-25-2011, 11:41 PM
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I would still look at purchasing a generator in addition to solar even if due to fiscal restraints it was a smaller generator than what you had originally looked at.
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Old 08-25-2011, 11:50 PM
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I wouldnt bank on selling power back to the grid. The problem with this is they pay you almost nothing. . . so it may be nice if you want to go 100% off the grid, and have some surplus occasionally. But it is definitely not worth spending the extra money on more panels planning on making a decent amount of money.
Another thing to consider.. Does every single day have a decent amount of sunshine where you are? Wind turbines are also easy to buy now (Home Depot is a dealer) and is a great back up. I would personally prefer to use solar as a back up to wind where we are
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Old 08-26-2011, 05:47 AM
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From a financial perspective, with solar you will pay 10 times as much for half the power of a small generator.
I am personally a big advocate of solar and wind, have both at my BOL, and have nearly $10k invested, to produce what $400 generator would produce, the big difference is that I will never need fuel.

If you have the financial side covered, then go for it, otherwise go with a generator.
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Old 08-26-2011, 01:51 PM
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Before I did anything I would separate my power requirements into two groups:

1) NEED: Fridge, Heat, AC, TV, Stereo, hair dryer ???

2) WANTS: Hair dryer, stereo, TV, AC, Heat, Fridge ???

Then calculate you needs wattage requirements. These are on the nomenclature plate or tag on the appliance, hair dryer is around 800 - 1200 watts.

Now that you have done that you can cal you genet size and or your solar panels.

NOTE: You should factor in about a 20% + requirement for watts. If you need 10,000 I would go for a 12,000 watt supply [some folks may suggest more, but I would call it at 20% min]

Genset is 100% availability as long as you have fuel. Same with solar, only with solar you have NO control over the fuel (SUN). Then you have to STORE the electricity, that is a battery bank = to the number of watts you NEED continuous.

SOLAR: Solar is the alternate energy of the moment. As a result there are more scams out there than you can believe. I am reading that some of the LOW cost solar panels coming out of some countries are as little as 5% efficient and many individual cells do not even work at all...BE CAUTIOUS, stay with the major names in the solar business. Efficiency rating are based upon various metrics. 100% DIRECT sunlight or an average sunlight exposure.

Efficiency of panels is very low, typically around 15 - 25% for residential use. NASA 'satellite' grade panels are bout 32-35% and while I suspect they are available to the public, few folks can afford them.
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Old 08-26-2011, 03:28 PM
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A generator and panels aren't mutually exclusive, and you can pay as you go. I'd start with a good used generator (maybe $750?), then add a few deep cycle batteries and an inverter, then begin adding solar panels. A generator that costs that much is the equivalent cost of 400 solar watts but the generator will probably produce about 3000 watts and do it day or night.

You're never going to make money pumping power into the grid, so I wouldn't spend a lot of time convincing myself this decision makes sense because of the finances. It makes sense only if you care about self-sufficiency.

Good luck!
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