121: Are Solar Panels Worth It?

Sean is out, so Ricky Roy from Two Bit da Vinci is joining me to talk about his experience with solar panels on his home.  Between the two of us we’ve got experience with solar panels in dusty California and snow covered Massachusetts.

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “4 Year Update – Are Solar Panels for Home Still Worth It?”: https://youtu.be/jxt3v7kTlvw?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi4zR_CA4l6MZkee4XqgKn6Z

Ricky’s channel, Two Bit da Vinci: https://www.youtube.com/twobitdavinci

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On today’s episode is still to be determined. We’re going to be talking about whether solar panels for your home are worth it or not and as you probably can tell for regular listeners and viewers I’m not Sean Ferrell I’m not the guy that usually does the introduction for the show I am taking first chair this week because sean wasn’t able to be with us. But I asked. Ricky Roy from two bit dafinci good friend of mine and we used to do vice versa together I asked him to join me this week because he owns solar. He’s had solar in his home for years out in California and I thought’d be fun to have him on and he and I can talk about our different experiences with solar and to talk about whether it’s worth it or not.
Um, absolutely yeah Matt Ferrell the the less famous of the Ferrell brothers It’s good as see. It’s been a while.
So thanks for joining me ricky.
The less far the less famous ferrell that’s me Yeah, it’s been a little while it’s been a while since we saw vice versa I Do miss it So this is kind of like having a little of a flashback for me right now. It’s kind of fun. So so you had a chance to watch my video.
Absolutely I think it’s yes.
Did you have a chance to see it and like did you look at any of the comments because I was curious. There were themes that were jumping out at me and I was going to toss a few of those out of like one of the ones I saw the most was what would it cost to remove panels when your roof needs to be replaced. That’s like. Common one. Do you see that kind of comment on your solar panel videos when you put them out.
Well, that was phrased very nicely I get usually a little more nasty things about good luck when you’re you know roof has be replaced and stuff well, the first thing you do is make sure your roof is good for 30 years before you get started. You know if you’re.
Even halfway through like a asphal Shingle roof. It’s It’s one of those things where you know that eventually you’ll have to replace it and that does come up to replace it. It’s really simple. Obviously most people aren’t going to be wanting to do it themselves but it’s really not a big deal. It just comes down to how much people will charge you. But I think if you plan appropriately you could avoid a lot of that and and just make sure your roof is is sound first and foremost. But yeah I get that quite a bit.
Yeah, it’s it’s funny because I see it all the time and it’s like you wouldn’t be putting putting solar panels onto a roof that’s twenty years old it’s like that would just be dumb. You should replace the asphalt shingles then put your panels up and you’re good to go and like you said it’s like taking it down is not that hard like I was looking like energy sage has this great write up about. You know cost maybe two or $3000 to pay somebody to take the panels down you fix the roof and you put it back up and the grand scheme of things over the amount of money that you’re going to save from those panels over its lifetime. That’s like a drop in the bucket. So it’s it’s it doesn’t really matter I think it’s not ah, a non-issue but a lot of people still get hung up on it.
Um, yeah, there was there was a point when I took 12 panels off as kind of a science experiment I had button I’d got used panels to test how how wall they performed after a very long time and it took me like 2 hours to take them down. So if yeah. $3000 to take him down. Maybe I maybe I’m the wrong business. Ah, that doesn’t sound too bad I’m curious by the way matt I’m curious. You have an asphalt shingle roof right? So what was your thought process. How did you did you have to reroof before you started. How did that all work out.
Yeah, exactly that’s it. That’s a high end. Yes I do yeah.
But when we bought our house. The roof was brand new and so it it wasn’t that old when we put the panels on it. So it still had a lot of life left in it and it was still in good shape. So I was comfortable putting them up even though there was like I don’t know 7 years of life on them. So it was like they still had a good I know 15-20 years left I figured it’s it’s going to be good enough so we just put it on top and we’ve had no issues. In fact, the roof that’s underneath the panels if you look at them. They look great. It looks fantastic under there because the panels are actually protecting the the asphalt shingles. So it’s it’s I think that it’s gonna be totally fine. It’s gonna be totally fine.
So in your in your new house. What kind of roof would you go with have you thought about that yet.
We’re gonna be going. Yeah, we’re going metal I Want to go with a standing seam metal roof because like everything I’ve Read. It’s like that’s like the peanut butter and jelly for solar panels to a roof because they can clamp on the seams and you don’t have to drill through the roof itself and it’s very easy to take them on and off so I was thinking like. That would be the best Best path forward metal roof. What about you.
That’s absolutely what I want to do as well. But I’m I’m a little concerned about the the cost. So I’m I’m trying to do this retrofit Net Zero Build. So I have to really be conscientious of how much I’m spending So ah, my only concern and maybe I should just go get a quote and just just. Figure out how much it’ll cost. But I’m I’m little worried. It’ll be expensive. Have you gotten quotes and stuff yet.
Haven’t got quotes yet, but it’s one of those I’ve I’ve seen things that say it’s basically like twice the cost of an sphalt shingle roof but it’s also like a 50 year roof so’s like if I put that metal roof on there I will never have to touch it again and that’s I’m planning on living in the house that I’m going to be building. For the next thirty years so it’s like I’m looking at this as I want to put one roof on and I never want to touch it again because I will be long dead by the time an esque is replaced so I’d rather go standing seam.
1 comment I got recently on a video that I that I made was that you know the asphalt shingles the a petroleum product. So any rain capture you have is going to have contaminants and stuff so I’m not sure if there aren’t filters to take care of it. But in comparison a metal a standing seam metal roof is just brilliant. You could probably just put.
Yeah, yeah.
Cup under it and just drink the water straight off of it. So it’s actually more environmentally friendly. It’s recyclable. You know what happens to aspall shrinkle roofs at the end of their life. That’s not a pretty picture but metal you could literally rip up 100 years from now I’ve heard of people with metal roofs that are seventy years old like barns and stuff and they’re.
Yeah, exactly.
They’re made much thicker and better now. But at the end of it. You can just recycle it so all around a standing sea metal roof I think is the perfect roof and it’s what I would love to do we’ll we’ll see.
Yeah, one of the questions that came up I actually wanted wanted to ask you specifically
from Chris Farley um I live in California and every year the fires have seriously lowered our solar production I don’t know how close you are to the California fires that have been happening because you’re down in what San Diego I don’t know have you seen any kind of impacts from. the fires that have been happening in California.
No, so I have 10 years of data from 2011 to 2021 before I moved so in those 10 years there there were some there were some periods of time when it was much shadier but there’s none of all, there’s no long-term impact like ah. You know a fire raging fifty miles from you is not going to like degrade your panels permanently. You might have lower output for a season but you figure though the winter comes comes around the rains fall what little we get and it should kind of reset. So I have seen months kind of like your video started with a very hooking. Attention graber you mentioned like this year you were off to a really bad start and I was kind of curious. What happened I was actually thinking maybe a panel went down or an inverger went down something like that. But it’ll just seasonal it was weather right? So I’ve seen weather trends but there’s there’s really no long-term impact to you know to the fires and stuff but during the season when it’s. It’s raging. It can be pretty like twenty thirty percent reductions are pretty reasonable.
Yeah, you ask you just raised another thing that comes up a lot of like how often do you have to clean it and people ask me about dust on my panels and I’m always kind of like really is that is that a problem because for me unless we’re in and kind of a drought period where there’s not a lot of rain I might get in the summertime pollen and dust buildup that. You can actually see from the ground and if that happens I’ll hose it off or get like a um I have this like roof rake thing with ah like kind of a microfabber cloth in the end that I’ll kind of like clean things off a little bit I’ve done that I think twice the entire time I’ve had them up because we get enough rain that it just kind of keeps it clear and it looks pretty Good. Most of the time I’m guessing. Where you are that is a completely different thing. What’s what’s been your experience with like dust and keeping them clean for production.
Yeah, so for us we can go. You know, usually seven months without any rain at all which is brutal right? Um, and it so does get a little bit dusty but am I testing in my experience I think typically 3 and a half, 4 percent is the difference between like a freshly clean panel and a slightly dusty panel. So it’s not. Dramatic. Of course if maybe you know if your angle of the roof is is ah shallower or you have really bad dust or pollen a lot of trees. It could be worse of course. But in my experience over 10 years I found typically was about 4%. So what? what? I would normally do is. I mean if you have a single story house I think you Matt your house was two story right.
It’s actually is it’s a ranch but the front yard is low. So that’s like it’s got a ah basement so it looks like two stories from the front and 1 story from the back.
Got it? Okay, well if I mean a garden hose with a nice like you know, high pressured nozzle. You could probably just spray them really quick and it does a decent job. Obviously if you want to get all the little bits and stuff and get it totally clean. They might be a little bit trickier. But. My recommendation has always been don’t hire a cleaner or anything I think that completely defeats the purpose of solar if you’re paying somebody. You know I’ve seen some of these companies charging hundreds of dollars that kind of eats into your savings which doesn’t really make sense and it kind of goes against the whole point. So I think yeah, let nature take its course and if you’re really curious, get get a high pressure nozzle and. Can probably spar it up there and take care of it that does feed a question I have for you? What happened like you you showed data kind of over the years and and months and stuff. But what happens in January when when there’s snow. Do you have periods when you have no production.
Oh yeah, like there’ll be 0 production whatsoever. January is December and January are the worst two months of the year if we have snow the one thing that’s interesting about snow is that snow does not like to stick to the panel. So. It’s like if we have a huge blizzard or something comes through and we got a foot of snow on the roof. It’ll be there for 24 hours but within 36 hours that thing is sliding off the roof and that’s actually terrifying when it happens if you don’t do it I will go out there sometimes with the roof rake with this snow thing on it and I’ll kind of pull it off to manually control the fall. there’ll times where I’ll be like sitting in my office and then I’ll hear this deep rumble and it’s like an avalanche that you just look out the window and you just can see all this snow sliding off your roof at once. So. It’s like the neighbors will still have lots of snow in their roofs but mine will be completely clear because the solar panels don’t like to have the snow on it. So it’s it’s been interesting but you’re only talking about. Couple of days where you lose production because it’s covered and then it’s cleared off and back to producing stuff. But again it’s December and January sun’s low in the sky. You’re not producing a lot of energy anyway, so’s I’m pulling from the grid mostly in the with the wintertime anyway.
Gotcha I am also curious. Do you have I mean you did a video recently. Do you have the data for what does a month of output look like in June or July versus December or January like what’s the delta I’m curious.
Oh yeah, the delta huge in January I might be generating I don’t know maybe two hundred Kilowatt hours max it’s really low and in the summer it’s thousands it’s like I’m generating you know. Two three Thousand Kilowatt hours sometimes in the middle of July so it’s like I’m producing like twice to two and a half times more than I need in the middle of July and that I’m producing this much in the middle winter which is why like in my videos always bring up like you got to got to look at this as a year kind of a thing if you’re obsessing about. Day to day week to week or even month to month you’re going to be disappointed. So for me, it’s like I have to look at it from a yearly point of view. Otherwise the winner would look like ah it’s not worth it. But it’s like over the course of the year you know I’ve cut my electricity bill by almost 60% so it’s like for me that’s a win I’m totally happy with that.
Yeah, and yeah, you got a factor too if you’re where you live most people use natural gas for heating I would imagine the electric usage is way higher in June so you’re producing energy when people need it and then you’re kind of banking the credit at a time when there’s.
Oh yeah.
Probably lusster Man. So I mean it, it completely still does make sense. You’re right? There’s There’s some,, There’s a there’s a romanticism to being truly net zero which is my goal by the way I don’t know if it’s even feasible I think you need to have so much generation and so much storage that you could withstand several days of cloudy days or you know other. Conditions but I think it’s a romantic notion. But even if you can’t quite get to that point which depending where you live. It’s probably impossible. There’s still huge value to to going solar.
Yeah, it’s like the new house I’m building I’m trying to make it net zero. But it’s gonna be net zero on a yearly basis I’m so I’m definitely gonna be pulling from the grid in the middle of winter. There’s no there’s no way around that for me but when you look at the collective amount of energy I will produce over the course of the year will my goal is to have more energy produced than I’m using over the course of the year and most of that will come in the summertime late spring early fall and then the winter time I’ll just be pulling from the grid a little bit so at the end of the day. It’s it’s you can still go net zero. It’s just a minuteing how depends on how you’re viewing it and what kind of lens you look at it through. Um there. Are ways to do it. Um, that actually just make me think of one of the comments I see a lot and I’m sure you’ve seen it a lot. Um mainly comes from people in Europe Australia outside the US why the hell is solar so expensive in the United States and I get that. So much and I saw a ton on this video too. You went with used panels on your previous house which to me was brilliant because you price saved a ton of money like and you installed them yourself. Correct.
Yeah I did I did the second time I actually had a person who it was like a solar installer who was a friend of ours so he helped us with like permitting and all the other stuff but in in this next house I might potentially consider going fully diy but yeah, the. The the costs are pretty wild and if you think about the average solar panels like $300 or so per panel. It’s probably a fair number the microinverter or inverter strategy is probably like $100 or 150 or half of that and then there’s like the overhead installation permitting. I don’t know is is permitting more expensive here I can’t imagine permitting is worse in europe europe is even more highly regulated, but it could be it could be the overhead for the installers or the size of the teams I’ve never had a good answer for that australia especially seems to think we’re just out of our minds because they’re they’re paying less than half a third what we pay. And so for them. It’s much more of a no-brainer. But here you’re trying to sell like a $30000 system to somebody who’s you know retired or you know on a tighter budget. It could be tough and I’m not fully sure I know the answer to why it is so expensive here. But I think there’s bigger companies doing it or more overhead. Salesmen take you know a commission stuff like that. Do you have a better answer for that than I do.
I don’t my my assumption’s always been from the people I’ve talked to it always sounds like it is the overhead of running the business It’s just like what salaries cost. You have all this staff the the marketing and sales strategy. We have to pay for all the marketing and the sales of getting new customers. It’s like there’s all of that overhead. Plus the permitting I know is expensive I think that all of it collectively is what makes us super expensive here in the United States I don’t think it has to be that way I think it’s silly that we’re that way but it creates this perception that solar companies are deliberately gouging and increasing prices because. Federal government’s doing the 26% federal tax credit so we can just jack the prices up even higher and it’s like that is not what’s going on from every person I’ve talked to installers I’ve talked to that is absolutely not what’s going on but it creates the perception that that’s what’s happening which is interesting. It’s frustrating. I don’t know why it is. It’s like it. There’s in my mind that there’s no excuse for it to be this expensive here in the United States especially when you look at Australia it’s it’s so it’s so cheap. It makes me angry because everything’s expensive in Australia except for solar I don’t get that.
It’s solar I’ve yeah so there are there is some good news enough thought about this a lot in California they’re talking about legislation that would potentially add line items for how big your solar system is those those um those laws have failed. But I’m sure they’ll come back. They’ll they’ll tweak it and change things and and try to run it again. But the rationale is so absurd right? there they want to charge you like let’s say $5 per kilowatt so you have a five Kilowatt system Twenty five bucks a month just like if you’re on vacation. You have your your breaker turned off and you go on vacation and you come back. Pay Twenty five bucks for nothing right? and all that while your solar is actually producing them energy. So I have this kind of kind of philosophy that one of the things that we could probably do is talk more about off-grid or non- permitmitted solutions.
And I’m actually working with a company that’s doing something really exciting I’m looking forward to to sharing more but they have a really cool product that ties into your panel measures. How much are you using and then their inverters talk to that and then just supply your House. You can get set up in a day. You don’t have to have any permits and stuff and no one would know you have solar all they would think is you’re not home. So It’s like oh he’s using 800 walks a kettle just turned on okay and the panels will just you know the inverters will just match your usage and so to the utility. It’s just 0 You’re not exporting anything. Because as soon as your usage drops down your panels will drop down. But I think if you want to go So My recommendation might be and I’m going to mess with the system and put it through its paces and stuff and see how it works but there’s things like that that are really interesting in Ecoflow I’m I’m installing an ecoflow smart home Panel. You can plug solar directly into that battery. No one needs to know anything about It. You’re just powering your house. The Eco flow says. Okay, he’s using that much energy I have solar produce and and those are kind of Off-g Grid solutions right? They’re not permanent they and I can’t feed energy back to the grid I’m just using energy in my own house and maybe it’s the net Zero goal. Maybe it’s just. Not trusting what they might do in the future if they you know they penalize solar here but there are some other options that could potentially flip that script remove the salespeople all the overheads and make this a simpler process but we shall see I’ll share more when I when I find out more.
Yeah, and in case people are interested. Ricky is producing this ongoing series about his converting his house to kind of ah a net zero home I’m I’ve already watched your 1st one actually 1st couple videos on this and I’m really excited to see where you go with it because for me I’m going the opposite direction where it’s like I’m building a house. Going at from brand new build going at it I’m not putting solar on my own house I am pan somebody to do that because I have 0 interest to do it myself and you might be doing yours yourself. So it’s like I love the idea that we’re both going at this from very different directions but we’ll probably end up in a very similar place at the end and it’ll be interesting to see how we both get there and what.
I completely agree I’ll be referencing you I know you’re you’re still a couple of months out from from getting started. But let’s let’s figure by the end of the year or early next year once you get started I would be referencing you as like the if you’re doing a new build check out this here’s another interesting way because some of the.
Princes are um, yeah.
The the equation changes I mean getting a little bit of extra insulation when you’re building a house. No brainer dripping out drywall and doing it later is tedious and very expensive. So the retrofit in a lot of ways to your point you said earlier I’m gonna get the roof I want and never worry about it again.
I Can yeah.
That’s my philosophy like just do it right? Don’t don’t skimp because you’ll hate the thought of 5 years from now dealing with something right? And so yeah, the the retrofit build and new construction to completely different animals and it’ll be fun to to compare and contrast.
Or this just popping my head. Um, how much energy does your family use every month because this is another thing that comes up in my comments all the time on my videos because whenever I show it’s like oh I’m using Nine hundred and fifty Kilowatt hours a month on average and people are like what are you doing most of the comments I get of like What are you doing are from people outside of the us and so once again, it makes me think of what is what is it is about the us that we use so much power and I want to I’m not alone in this am I it’s like you’re probably using a lot of power too.
So I’m actually surprised you use that much because I mean it’s just you and your wife you guys work from home. So you guys are home all the time doing stuff I’m curious. Well before I answer that I’m curious. What is it? What is what’s the big hog in your house does that include all your car charging by the way.
Includes everything car charging everything. Yeah it minimum. Yeah, it’s around there. It’s it’s yeah, the the most stuff is our central air conditioning and furnace system. It’s like that.
Oh that’s not that’s not too bad because I mean the car is probably what a hundred Kilowatt hours a month at least maybe more.
Is the biggest bulk of our use like half of it easily. So it’s like.
So in the summertime though you’re using natural gas correct.
Now in the summertime we’re using all electric because it’s air conditioning and the wintertime it’s natural gas for the heat. But it’s still got the the fan and the system running So it’s like there’s there’s yeah where we’ve got that the blend but it so it’s like in the summertime we’re using a lot of electricity. So yeah.
The fan. Yeah, okay now sorry that’s what I meant.
So I will say I think the the perspective that I lack and maybe I need to go travel to where you are or like Arizona I get comments from like people from Arizona and Nevada the high desert is the h back your you’re heating and cooling is basically. It’s fair to say 50% right? But for us, it’s 0 I told you yesterday when I was chatting with you in San Diego I I don’t need air conditioning or heating about 320 days. There’s forty days when it’s hot enough to really need the air conditioning and cold enough to need the heater.
Maybe I’m exaggerating at least three hundred days we use neither. In fact, my furnace I hope it turns on because we haven’t used it in either direction since like January there was a cold week or two there and this has been an unseasonably cool month. But so that does explain a little bit more for you. For me I have two kids right I have a wife and then I have our business and our you know we have a team of two editors that are working out of the office so we use about a Thousand Kilowatt hours a month as well and I did the math and I made a video about this but our pool pump runs on two thousand watts and. The people who when I bought the house. They told us to run in for 7 hours a day so I I dumped that to about 3 hours a day with this pool robot that runs on electricity and he does a great job of keeping the pool clean so we’ve reduced our usage down to about 1900 or so. And that those bills are killing us I’m gonna I want to wager that I pay much more for that 900 than you do Um, our bills are brutal. Um for sure. But yeah, it’s I’ve always said electricity is the future. So everything in your house now like in your new house. Are you going to go natural gas or.
Oh yeah, you definitely do? yeah.
Electricity for heating and cooling and stuff and electric everything. So we’re basically taking everything we used to do we used to pump gas at some place. We used to have natural gas for heating and we’re removing everything to electricity. So I mean it just it becomes really important that.
Electric everything heat pump everything it’s going to be hundred percent electric
Solar is the the backbone right? I mean solar is well positioned to play into the future and I think natural gas isn’t have your natural gas prices kind of soared mine have yeah sure.
They’ve gone up. Yeah, they’ve been going up along with the electric. It’s like what we’re paying ¢30 a kilowatt hour right now. What what is it where you are I know you probably have time abuse rates though.
We do I I haven’t switched over yet my new house I’m petrified to call the company I feel like if they hear my voice like art too late. We switched to some horrible new plan and it’ll cost me even more but yeah, ours are probably closer to 40 but yeah, you’re you’re a 30 it’s not terrible. In the summertime though that’ll jump to 56 from 4 to 9 p m for people off time of use so you you basically you have to be amish you have to just get some candles and.
Oh my gosh. Yeah I get people from Iowa and nebra. Yes, there’s comments from people like in Nebraska like I family out in Iowa but they comment like I’m only paying ¢12 a kilowatt hour it’s like ah must be nice.
Yeah, and but for me, it’s part. It’s that’s only part of the equation right? There’s also the joy of being a little more self-reliant. That’s a big part of it for me the thought of like my house is this kind of fortress where you know we make our own energy. There’s just something alluring about that. So I’ve always had other.
I haven’t seen those prices ever. Ah.
Yeah, me too.
Interest. But yeah, people’s interests can vary for sure.
That’s awesome. Well I do want to thank you again for joining me today. It’s is awesome conversation about solar that we just had ah and if you haven’t subscribed to Ricky’s 2 bit davinci channel do it I’m currently looking forward to your house build and seeing how that plan plans ah pans out and I really did like your most recent video about the. Ah, flume energy the the flume water meter that you put in there and how you track down some leaks that you didn’t expect. It’s a good video. Definitely worth checking out. Yeah, absolutely.
Can I bring up one more thing so you’re moving I moved seven months ago but people probably also have asked you about like you know is it worth it. You know I’ve gotten comments from people thinking that like adding solar is going to suddenly make your house like double the value. It’s not and I’ve also gotten people saying that like they’re useless nobody will buy to.
No, but having solar is a huge motivation for people because that’s one less headache for them to deal with you’ve already done all the work and for me um my my powerwall and and solar raised my values by about $30000 when I sold my house that was kind of the number.
That’s that’s your personal experience with selling a house with solar and battery. That’s why I’m expect.
Yeah, and my house sold more quickly because of it because I had some comps of other houses and I was thinking it damn that’s a pretty nice kitchen or that’s ah you know they’re probably going to sell 1st and we beat them to the market because we had solar and They didn’t.
Yeah I’m expecting to see something similar with my place when I go to sell it well again, thank you for joining me today Ricky and if you’d like to support the show for all of you listening and watching please consider reviewing us on Apple Google Spotify wherever you listen and if you’d like to support us more directly. You can go to stilltbd dot f. And click on the become a supporter button to throw a few coins at our heads as Sean likes to say you can also click on join on the Youtube channel and become a member there. So thanks for thanks for watching and listening. We’ll see you next time bye-bye.
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