Eletrical Usage Question

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,797
NE Ohio
we are paying just shy of $0.23 per kWh
$ 0.0118 here...that's all in...taxes/fee's/surcharges/etc...
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,797
NE Ohio
Welcome to New England where everything costs more! Hooray! :rolleyes:
Does sound like a nice place to visit...its on our bucket list... ;)
 

Brian26

Minister of Fire
Sep 20, 2013
550
Branford, CT
Welcome to New England where everything costs more! Hooray! :rolleyes:
Have you looked into solar? Massachusetts has some of the best solar policies and incentives in the nation. Electricity is just as expensive in CT and I bought panels 4 years ago. They will be paid off next year after 5 years. My house is all electric and my Eversource bill is $9.62 every month.
 

Caw

Member
May 26, 2020
206
Massachusetts
Solar is definitely on the agenda for 2021. We didn't quite get to it this year. The major energy project of 2020 was the stove and getting ahead on wood. We spent rest of our time renovating and settling in. I assume the incentives will be less in 2021 but I'm hoping they are still good.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,795
Northern NH
Massachusetts is involved with multiple programs to reduce greenhouse gas and increase the use of renewables. The vast majority of these programs are either paid for by a direct surcharge on electric power purchases or an indirect surcharge on power generation carbon credits under the regional greenhouse gas program (AKA RGGI). The EPA Clean Power Plan which the Trump administration sidelined was a countrywide greenhouse gas reduction program, many of the New England states in RGGI really didnt have to do much to comply while states with lots of cheap fossil generation especially coal would have to put in very expensive programs that would have raised power rates substantially. If you look at the states most impacted by the CPP they lined up quite closely with states that voted for Trump.

So its not that CAW is paying a lot for power, as much as many other states are paying too little by depending on fossil generation. The standard comment about Mass power rates is if you are not paying to put solar or to a lesser extent other renewables on your house you are paying to put it on your neighbors via surcharges on the power bill. The trade off is there are lots of incentives and rebates to encourage energy reduction. (It also keeps me employed).

BTW the solar incentive is currently slated to sunset in 2021. Its current 26% credit on installed cost, in 2021 it will drop to 22%. The thing to keep in mind is that the actual cost to install solar has been dropping faster than the rebate drops so unless someone waits until the last minute in 2021 they still probably break even. I gave up trying to figure out the latest Mass programs for solar, they change frequently. Some folks who did solar several years ago hit the jackpot for 10 years of very generous payments for SRECs but those programs have been trimmed back.
 

Caw

Member
May 26, 2020
206
Massachusetts
@peabagger/everyone - can you elaborate on how the credits work?

Im actually intending to look into starting the process on solar in January but it would be good to know more going into it outside of my own research.

Let's say the solar installation costs $25,000. Am I getting credits that directly reduce that cost, or are they more tax credits I can deduct on my 2022 taxes say. How are the rates on solar loans? I couldn't buy it outright but I could pay it off in 3-5 years.

Im familiar with how the monthly billing would work for using more/less than the array would supply.

Also im curious about potentially adding batteries to my system. I live in an area that loses power frequently. I think we've lost it like 6-7 times already this year for longer than an hour...once was 2 days. My house is entirely electric so having a backup that isn't a noisy/dirty generator would be nice.

My house gets tons of sun and has a gambrel roof. Its south facing so I assume the panels would need to be on the top flatter section, the steep section is a bad angle.

I guess the big question is how much I will be spending upfront so I can prepare. I know that in the long run its a huge win.

Other questions: how does one deal with snow? We get a fair amount here. Do you just let it melt naturally? It seems they last about 25 years give or take...then the panels just need upgrading? What about damaged panels, are they covered by insurance or I just buy them?

Thanks everyone for sharing.
 

zrock

Minister of Fire
Dec 2, 2017
991
bc
Lots of things could be causing this Fridge, stove, dryer, heat pump/electric heat, faulty thermostat causing heat pump to run possibly during night. I had a fairly new fridge that decided it wanted to run consistently not something you really pay attention to until you get the bill.. Took me a while to figure it out until watching tv one night and i realized the fridge did not shut off all night...
 

brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,797
NE Ohio
Took me a while to figure it out until watching tv one night and i realized the fridge did not shut off all night...
Yup, ours did that...turned out it had a bad control board that was not allowing it to auto defrost...thing was a solid block of ice!
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,795
Northern NH
@peabagger/everyone - can you elaborate on how the credits work?

Im actually intending to look into starting the process on solar in January but it would be good to know more going into it outside of my own research.

Let's say the solar installation costs $25,000. Am I getting credits that directly reduce that cost, or are they more tax credits I can deduct on my 2022 taxes say. How are the rates on solar loans? I couldn't buy it outright but I could pay it off in 3-5 years.

Im familiar with how the monthly billing would work for using more/less than the array would supply.

Also im curious about potentially adding batteries to my system. I live in an area that loses power frequently. I think we've lost it like 6-7 times already this year for longer than an hour...once was 2 days. My house is entirely electric so having a backup that isn't a noisy/dirty generator would be nice.

My house gets tons of sun and has a gambrel roof. Its south facing so I assume the panels would need to be on the top flatter section, the steep section is a bad angle.

I guess the big question is how much I will be spending upfront so I can prepare. I know that in the long run its a huge win.

Other questions: how does one deal with snow? We get a fair amount here. Do you just let it melt naturally? It seems they last about 25 years give or take...then the panels just need upgrading? What about damaged panels, are they covered by insurance or I just buy them?

Thanks everyone for sharing.
The federal credits are fairly straightforward. They are tax credits, not deductions, so do your taxes in 2022 then figure out what you owe and deduct the value of the credit. If you are getting a check back from the IRS it goes up the amount of the credit as long as it doesnt exceed your total tax liability. Remember if you are working the fed takes out a bunch of money through withholding so that is a big part part of your tax liability. So if using 25 K multiply by 22% which equals $5,500. As long as you owe the IRS $5,500 including all the taxes withheld over the year you are all set. If someone is living on low income like social security with minimal tax liability its a different story but for most working folks who own a house, probably not an issue. No need to itemize, it works with a standard deduction. If you dont want to wait until 2022 to get your money, you can increase the number of exemptions you claim on your W4 form which reduces the amount taken out of your paycheck every week and get the credit back slowly over 2021. Its legal but if you have complicated taxes probably not a great idea.

An important thing to note is the IRS gives a lot of flexibility on what can be included in the system installation cost but very little guidance. Thats where the standard disclaimer comes in about seeing your tax advisor. Some folks push it but given the very low odds of an audit they take the chance. Most resources agree any expenses directly related to the cost of installing the solar. Dependent on the size and age of your electrical panel you may need a new one, that generally is regarded as part of the installation cost. If your roof under the panels is old, most resources agree that you can claim the cost to replace the side of the roof impacted by the install. Where its grey is charging the other side of the roof. If you need trees cut down due to shading, thats generally regarded as part of the credit.

I would suggest you pick up a book called Solar Power Your Home for Dummies, there is an older version floating around on the internet or you can buy one from any online bookstore. Read it and a lot of the technical should make sense.

The optimum panel angle varies by location. The rule of thumb is fixed panel should be located at an angle equal to your latitude. So if you are at 40 degrees latitude mount the panels on the roof closes to 40 degrees off of vertical. This assume that you have perfect sun. Stripes of horizontal shadows just a few inches wide can shut down any panel. Vertical stripes are nto as bad , but many folks reroute their stack vents under the roof up to the ridge to get rid of their shadows and charge it to the tax credit. A chimney obviously is an issue. Fire codes also require at least one strip of roof on either side of the panels to climb up to the ridge poel and some clearance along the ridge so the can chop a hole in your roof to ventilate the house if there is fire. They may let you get way with panels all the way to the ridge line if the back side is clear but thats a local decision.

Yes snow sucks, I get plenty of it north of you. If the panels are steep, the snow is less prone to build up but even my pole mount panels at 30 degrees off vertical still get snow build up. My roof panels are shallow and they get covered with snow for much longer times. I can rake them if I really want to. They do melt off eventually and if you can get a roof rake up to them you can modify the rake to have a soft edge with piece of stiff foam and rake them. Like a metal roof, if snow builds up, when it lets go, it usually comes down in one big lump so make sure your landscaping and house exits are protected. You can have snow hooks installed but that means it takes lot longer to melt off.

If in doubt buy a couple of spare panels. If they are damaged down the road its highly unlikely that anyone had the correct size spare as they are always changing. They are quite durable but a baseball could smash one. They are rated for hail. Most panels unless they are second tier or have defects will last 20 plus years. No one really knows as consumer panels have only been around for about 25 years. Most are still cranking out power but a bit less due to degradation although usually the degradation is less than the manufacturer claims. Most commercial systems are regarded as financially obsolete in 20 years but its likely they are fine. What usually goes is the electronics and they usually need upgrading once in the 20 year life. You can buy extended warranties to cover them for 20 years but the question is if the guy who sold you the warranty even going to be in business?

As for how much it depends on how big. You need to add up your power usage for a year and then go on the web and find the PVWATTs site and plug in your house information making a guess on your panel angle. it will calculate your potential production for a year and then you play with it until you just about match your future energy use after you have done all your energy savings. My normal guess is 4 KW of panels on the low end and 10 KW on the high end,. Now multiply by a range of $2 to $3 an installed watt and that is your budget not included things line roofs and electrical panel upgrades.

Odds are your local utility will offer more incentives but as I said they are changing. This website may get you started for Mass specific.

Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency® - DSIRE (dsireusa.org)

Batteries are really not cost effective at this point unless you get a big incentive from someone. A cheap Harbor Freight generator adn a couple of gas cans is far better investment. Its likely that when it start to make sense your system will be able to be upgrade to use them but I would hold off for now.
 
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Brian26

Minister of Fire
Sep 20, 2013
550
Branford, CT
@peabagger/everyone - can you elaborate on how the credits work?

Im actually intending to look into starting the process on solar in January but it would be good to know more going into it outside of my own research.

Let's say the solar installation costs $25,000. Am I getting credits that directly reduce that cost, or are they more tax credits I can deduct on my 2022 taxes say. How are the rates on solar loans? I couldn't buy it outright but I could pay it off in 3-5 years.

Im familiar with how the monthly billing would work for using more/less than the array would supply.

Also im curious about potentially adding batteries to my system. I live in an area that loses power frequently. I think we've lost it like 6-7 times already this year for longer than an hour...once was 2 days. My house is entirely electric so having a backup that isn't a noisy/dirty generator would be nice.

My house gets tons of sun and has a gambrel roof. Its south facing so I assume the panels would need to be on the top flatter section, the steep section is a bad angle.

I guess the big question is how much I will be spending upfront so I can prepare. I know that in the long run its a huge win.

Other questions: how does one deal with snow? We get a fair amount here. Do you just let it melt naturally? It seems they last about 25 years give or take...then the panels just need upgrading? What about damaged panels, are they covered by insurance or I just buy them?

Thanks everyone for sharing.
Take a look here. It explains Massachusetts solar program. You can also got to Tesla's solar website and get an instant quote there and it will show you the available incentives.

Everything I am seeing has Massachusetts at a 5-6 year break even on panels.

I financed my panels with a 5 year low interest home equity loan from my credit union. My loan payment was $150 a month. The total yearly payment was less than or lower than my average electrical bill. My bill has been $9.62 month the last 4 years. So instead of paying the electric company I paid off my panels. My panels will be paid off next April after 5.5 years. After that they will produce close to $2k a year in free electricity.
 
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brenndatomu

Minister of Fire
Aug 21, 2013
5,797
NE Ohio
Did I hear right that the "covid relief" bill congress just agreed on has some more "green money"...solar, wind, etc in it?
 

Caw

Member
May 26, 2020
206
Massachusetts
Did I hear right that the "covid relief" bill congress just agreed on has some more "green money"...solar, wind, etc in it?
My very limited understanding was that they were going to extend the current 2020 solar credits etc through 2022. Even if its just that its a win. Looks like the initial federal credit was going from 26% to 22% in 2021.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,795
Northern NH
Sorry for the crappy editing on my post. I will clean it up when I have a chance.

Yes the incentives are moving target. Mass is putting out some big carrots for commercial solar and battery but I do not know if it gets down to homeowner level.

Caveat Emptor on Tesla. They really push creative financing on their systems where they get the benefits and you get the stick. Across the board the standard advice by solar experts not in it for the buck is buy a system, dont lease it or do a PPA. They will tell you what they have to to get their foot in the door but their business model is to get you to sign a complex document where they own the installation and you are a "renter" in some way shape of form. They arent the only ones but they have that rep of just being slicker at it. Unless you need a new roof including decking. it highly likely one of their new much hyped solar roofs will not be what you get. That is mostly a come on to get in the door and then they will quickly bait and switch to conventional panels.

I cant stress strongly enough that you need a lawyer to review your contract. Its highly likely in addition to up front incentives that there are ongoing revenue checks for 10 years. If you anticipate selling your home at any point in the contract life you will probably need to buy out a overpriced contract on a depreciated system.
 
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festerw

Feeling the Heat
Nov 16, 2009
467
Cambridge Springs, PA
I had a quote from Generac here in PA cost was about 30k for the solar and 9kw battery. Electric rates here are pretty cheap and the installer was honest in letting me know it really wouldn't save us any money for our electric use since it's roughly $100/month.
 

CaptSpiff

Minister of Fire
Jan 13, 2014
527
Long Island, NY
Is 65 watts at 230v equal to 130 watts at 120 volts?
I'll pick a few nits in this great thread:
If the tiny compressor heater is rated at 65 watts, then that's its power consumption.
The formula is (Power)=(Volts) times (Amps).
I don't know what controls that tiny heater. Either it always runs (unlikely), or is activated by a local thermostat inside the compressor, or by the house thermostat switched to HEAT mode (perhaps too complicated).
But even if it ran 24/7, that would only be 0.065*24*30=46.8 kwh. At 22.5 cents/kwh, that would only add $10.53 to your monthly bill.
The only way I could think of stopping only the 65W drain is the outside electrical disconnect, but if you needed the unit for emergency heat you'd need to allow the compressor heater to run for a few hours before activating the compressor, especially if it's like 10degF outside.

Most residential water heaters that have two elements are not running simultaneously.
Correct. I learned here on this forum, after having installed plenty of them, that the upper and lower elements are sequenced. I cannot remember if the lower one comes on first (slightly higher temp setting), and then if the tank temperature continues to drop then the upper element comes on (shutting off the lower element). Or it could be the other way around, but both elements are never on together simultaneously.
So with respect to energy usage, if your water heater is ON all day every day, it'll cost you 4.5*24*30*0.225=$729 for the month of Nov.
If every day in November it is running an additional 1 hour to deal with the incoming well water being colder, that would be only about $30 per month.
I'm guessing your problem is not too cold well water. But combine that with a hot water valve leak, that could start to show up.
Good hunting.
 

Caw

Member
May 26, 2020
206
Massachusetts
I think the picture is starting to become more clear.

Regularly running compressor heater pump - $10
Colder water - $30
Christmas lights on 24/7 (even if only 5 strands of small lights) - $25
Hot water leak + well pump more active due to water leak - likely significant $

Add it up and thats $65 + whatever the leak is costing me which could very well be $50+. There's the extra $120 from November.

Unfortunately I'm halfway thru the next cycle so I expect another whopper bill here but everything will be fixed for the start of the next cycle. Hoping to see a serious improvement.

As far as solar, while I will use them for pricing im pretty keen on avoiding Tesla. I have one friend who went with then and it's fine but I prefer interacting with smaller, local companies and there are plenty of those in my area. I'm having one come out next week to get some #s and ask some questions. My roof is well situated for solar...gambrel facing south. Nice big chunk that isn't too steep pointed due south with minimal obstructions outside of the chimney which is on the east side. If I can fit a 6 kWh system up there that would cut my energy costs in half, or more.

It would be the dream to be largely off the grid with wood heat and solar power. We'll see what happens!
 

heat seeker

Minister of Fire
Feb 25, 2011
3,181
Northern CT
On an electric water heater, the upper element comes on, if the upper few gallons in the tank needs heating. When the upper thermostat is satisfied, then the lower element comes on until its thermostat is satisfied. This is mainly to give you a few gallons of hot water relatively quickly if you use all the heated water in the tank. Thus, both elements are not energized at the same time, normally.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,795
Northern NH
I think the picture is starting to become more clear.

Regularly running compressor heater pump - $10
Colder water - $30
Christmas lights on 24/7 (even if only 5 strands of small lights) - $25
Hot water leak + well pump more active due to water leak - likely significant $

Add it up and thats $65 + whatever the leak is costing me which could very well be $50+. There's the extra $120 from November.

Unfortunately I'm halfway thru the next cycle so I expect another whopper bill here but everything will be fixed for the start of the next cycle. Hoping to see a serious improvement.

As far as solar, while I will use them for pricing im pretty keen on avoiding Tesla. I have one friend who went with then and it's fine but I prefer interacting with smaller, local companies and there are plenty of those in my area. I'm having one come out next week to get some #s and ask some questions. My roof is well situated for solar...gambrel facing south. Nice big chunk that isn't too steep pointed due south with minimal obstructions outside of the chimney which is on the east side. If I can fit a 6 kWh My system up there that would cut my energy costs in half, or more.

It would be the dream to be largely off the grid with wood heat and solar power. We'll see what happens!
My guess is you will get more production and less snow issues on the steeper lower roof.
 

fbelec

Minister of Fire
Nov 23, 2005
2,949
Massachusetts
just to recap. if you shut off your compressor breaker it will shut off everything outside including the compressor heater. the heatpump is designed to go to the heat strips at no lower than 32 but sometimes 36 degrees. so if you keep your thermostat on aux heat or emergency heat then it will come on only if needed on the electric strips. if you don't change to the emergency heat or aux it will be slow to react. like it will be looking for the heat pump and run for some time before the heat strips kick in. on a heat pump the control board is in the out side unit so a call for heat if need be will be one of two things either it won't come on because you have the outside breaker off or it will heat with just the electric strip or coil heat. the electric coils or strips can be quite large. some only 15000 watts or like my customer that has geothermal heat pumps. his main heater has a separate circuit for the electric coils. it's a 240 volt 100 amp breaker. i would hate to have that electric bill
 

Caw

Member
May 26, 2020
206
Massachusetts
Im still waiting for all the service guys to come this week and see what we can do. I'm heating 100% with wood so I really don't want to run the compressor heater when I will never be turning it on this winter.

If there were some issue with the stove one day I could turn the power back on for a couple hours to let the compressor warm then fire the system. Thats my thought process anyways. Why pay for electricity im not going to use?

Stove keeps the whole house 70+ on the coldest days no problem.
 

peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
5,795
Northern NH
That is what we used to do in our plant. I think we even paid our contractor to install timers on the starters that would wait 2 hours after they were reenergized to ensure the heaters had warmed up the compressors.
 

PA Mountain Man

New Member
Dec 14, 2020
35
Lisburn, PA
Caw. I read thru this thread and the heat pump may be part of the problem. One thing you changed is the water heater and you may want to check setting on the thermostat. Heating the water 5 degrees warmer on the new heater versus the old heater could account for an increase in electric use. And don't assume the new heater is insulated better than the old one. Water heater blankets can save a lot of heat in a 50 degree basement.
Also as mentioned above your well pump could be running more often due to a leak, clogged pressure switch or it could be worn out and having to run longer to pump the same amount of water. The well pump can be checked without pulling by taking amp readings and comparing against motor designed draw. Several years ago we noticed a sudden increase in power use. After looking in all the wrong places I checked the electric draw on the pump and that was the culprit. I replaced ours and electric bill went down a lot.
 

Caw

Member
May 26, 2020
206
Massachusetts
I had the HVAC guy out yesterday to give the beat pump a thorough inspection and it's not the culprit. Everything is working properly. Next step is getting the leak fixed, which isn't until next week unfortunately. Then we'll have to check the well.
 

festerw

Feeling the Heat
Nov 16, 2009
467
Cambridge Springs, PA
I'd bet getting the leak fixed will be the answer. Both the water heating part and the pump running frequently could drive the usage up significantly.

I had a leaking washer valve and unknown at the time leak in my pressure tank bladder and the pump would run every 15-20 minutes.