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Solar Installation

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by X-CEOsWife, Dec 4, 2007.

  1. X-CEOsWife

    X-CEOsWife Member

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    A while ago, I was asked on the Fan Club website to chronicle our solar installation. Unfortunately, I dropped the ball. I have been a little busy lately. The good news is that we activated the system just a couple of weeks ago.

    I ended up getting quotes from about 8 solar installers. The prices were fairly comparable but the level of service was amazing. We ended up hiring SolSource Energy out of Arcadia, California. Jim Cahill and his crew worked very hard to keep us happy, and believe me, this is not an easy task! Here is a quick summary.

    1. If a contractor wants more than a $1000 deposit, do not hire them. Contractors are legally bound by the state of California to limit the amount of a deposit to $1000 (Business and Professions Code, Section 7159.5). One firm wanted 20% of our system price. When I pointed out this state statute to the contractor, I was told that it was not a “deposit;” it was a “reservation fee;” therefore it did not apply to them. There’s a difference? Not in my book, so I did not hire them.

    2. Contractors who show up and give you an estimate without getting on your roof to examine the sun and roof space availably should not be taken seriously, no matter how low their bid.

    3. If the contractor can not give you a firm start date, do not hire them. There is a huge chance they will take your money and run. I had a well-established contractor refuse to give me a start date. When I questioned them on this issue, they told me are so big and busy, they can not schedule very far in advance. When I pushed them about this, I was told that they would get to me when they could. One of my friends hired them, and four months later he still did not have a start date.

    4. If a contractor can not lock down the panel price for you, run. The contractor, who would not give me a start date, would not lock down the panel price either. If it took them a year to get to me, who knows what the panels would have cost. I suspected that they would purchase our panels right away, but charge us the going rate for panels at the time they finally installed them, provided it was higher. This would allow them to make money playing the panel commodity market.

    5. Solar contractors seem to make their money in the rebates from the power company. One of them wrote in the contract that if they underestimated the amount of the rebate, we would owe them money to make up the loss. However, if they overestimated the amount of the rebate, they kept it. I did not hire them!

    6. If you are not familiar with construction contracting terms and conditions, check with an attorney. I am quite experienced with construction contracts, but still I ran one of the contracts by an attorney. It was so bad, that I could not believe that I was reading it correctly. Well, my attorney confirmed that I could still read. Yup, it really was that bad. His comment was “Run far. Run fast. Run now!” There are bad contracts written by larger installers. Just because a company is large and established, do not assume that they have written a contract that is fair to both parties, especially the homeowner.

    7. Be suspicious if a contractor admits that they have not worked with your building department. If they do claim to have experience with your building department, go check with them to make sure you are not being told a story. No explanation necessary.

    8. SolSource had a drawing of our roof showing the panel location back to us in 2 days. They gave us a firm start date that was 2 weeks away. The panels arrived on time and at the price promised. Even though they usually do not install the SunPower panels and inverter that we wanted, they were able to get them for us. Since we are doing major construction at our house, they were willing to work with us on the timing. I needed to wait for the roof penetrations to be completed for the kitchen and the bathrooms before the panel frame went up. After the panel framing, then the new roof needed to be installed. Then I needed SolSource to return to finish installing the panels and do the final hookup. Not a problem for a company that is really interested in your business.

    9. Another selling point SolSource was that both of the owners of the company showed up at our house driving their RAV 4 EVs! How cool is that? When I started talking to them about the power requirements of the Tesla Roadster, they had all of the numbers already. One of the other installers that I did not hire required that I contact Tesla to get the power requirements for the car myself and give them the numbers. Luckily I knew who to call at Tesla. What was amazing was that the sales representative was not even embarrassed by his lack of knowledge! Had I been in his shoes, I would have crawled under the table if my client had to give me information on a product that I should have known about. When I talked to him on the phone earlier, I told him we were getting a Tesla, and still he did not bother to get the information before he came to my house, and he knew that at the time I was the wife of the CEO and founder of Tesla.

    10. One of the solar companies had the stupidity to try and snowball Martin. When we were investigating installing solar at the house in Northern California, they tried to sell us a system that would not work. You can all imagine how this part of the story ended! No solar panels purchased from them! I strongly advise anyone dealing with Martin to NEVER try and snowball him. This is never a good idea.

    The rest of the remodel is going extremely well. The only minor problem we have had is with the roofer. He did a decent job, but at the end of the job, he tried to suck me into a payment scam. When it came time for me to pay, I made the check out to his company, per the contract terms and conditions. Well, his foreman wanted me to make the check out to him. I refused and pointed out that my contract was not with him; it was with the company he worked for. He got the owner of the roofing company on the phone, who tried to push me into paying his foreman in lieu writing the check to his firm. He gave me all sorts of excuses why I should do as he was asking, and I kept resisting. I informed him over and over that I was not comfortable with his request, and if he wanted me to pay the foreman directly, it needed to be in our contract. Had I agreed to his scam, I would have run into all sorts of warranty and other legal issues. The conversation finally ended when I told him to hold the check until I could talk to my attorney. If my attorney approved of this arrangement, then I would write him a new check. Suddenly, the check I had written was just fine, and I was not required to pay the foreman. The bottom line is that if a contractor asks you to do something that is not in your contract or that you are not comfortable with; tell the contractor that you need to check with an attorney. If the contractor changes his tune at the mention of an attorney, you can assume that he is up to no good. The most irritating part of this story was not that this guy asked me to participate in his scam, but that he thought I was so stupid that I would buy into it! I guess I must come across as an idiot. (And yes, I know the scam he was trying to pull, and I wanted no part of it.)

    I also fired the painter last week. See my above comment about being difficult to work with.

    Anyway, all is going well. We hope to be moved back in the house by Christmas. I hope we are moved back in, since we have 5 friends coming for the Rose Parade and game. Go Illinois!

    Carolyn
     
  2. malcolm

    malcolm Active Member

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    Glad to hear that mischief has been managed.

    How does the system function? Panels charge a big battery store that can supply your household mains and sell surplus to the grid? Or is it set up to just supply the Roadster?

    By the way, wasn't there a deal that Martin got a Roadster and you got a Whitestar?

    Time to revisit the deal? :)
     
  3. Kardax

    Kardax Member

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    You sure have some sleazy contractors in California. Not sure if things are any different here, though... I haven't attempted any serious remodeling yet...

    I'd love to get solar panels on my house, but a few things are holding me back:
    1) Grid power is cheap.
    2) Solar panels are expensive.
    3) No tax breaks for solar panel installation in my state (that I know of)
    4) No meter-spinning-backwards thing from the power company here.
    5) Minnesota's angle to the sun isn't as favorable as California's, reducing the efficiency of any solar system. A side effect of this is that we get snow in the winter, which would cover the panels completely, further reducing their efficiency...

    I need to move :)

    -Ryan
     
  4. vfx

    vfx Well-Known Member

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    Of course we (at least I) assumed you would be using Solar City. I have heard nothing but good things about them and a friend just took a job with them. Aparently they come out, measure the sun on the roof, do the calculations, and print out a written estimate before they leave. Pretty much the opposites of a lot of the get rich solar parasites that are cashing in on the demand.
     
  5. X-CEOsWife

    X-CEOsWife Member

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    Our system is typical in that we feed to the grid and watch the meter spin backwards. We did not install a battery system. We are still waiting for the time of use (TOU) meter, but I am in no hurry to get it while I have all of these workers here with their power tools. The plan is to charge the Roadster at night. The TOU meter should be installed any day, so I will need to shift our big power use to night when our power is cheaper.

    On a side note, we cleared the final building inspection on the solar yesterday. The only comment from our inspector was "Great Job! We need more of these systems installed."

    As for my Whitestar, I guess I just have to wait.

    Martin is currently looking at buying another 2-seater car just for him. We looked at one last weekend, but he did not buy it. We are still looking. Wait until you bloggers hear about this one! More on this later.

    The Roadster is still coming; Martin just likes to collect cars, so please DO NOT start the rumor that he has canceled his Roadster order. We are both anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Roadster. Martin is kind of a car guy in case you have not noticed, so we have a variety of vehicles. The funny thing is that we only have one car in LA, and that is my Toyota. I told him that we will have to move one of the 2-seaters to LA if he buys another car for Northern CA. It will break my heart to once again zip around town in a 2-seater car instead of my SUV. :tongue: In the mean time, I will try to keep my 8-year old Toyota running a few more years.

    Carolyn
     
  6. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    #6 TEG, Dec 4, 2007
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2008
    I too had thought you would be compelled to go with Solar City because of the Tesla tie in. One benefit of Martin no longer working at Tesla is you don't have to make any excuses as to why you didn't use Solar City!

    I felt I had a good experience with my solar contractor. I didn't do as much diligence as you, and my approach was a little more simple. I dug up a list of email addresses of local solar contractors and sent them a "form letter" of sorts making it clear that I was pitting them all against each other. That cleared the field rather rapidly as many didn't want to bid on a job where they already knew there would be competition. Out of about 10 companies, 3 sent me reasonable responses for consideration. I then asked them for references and called a few of their "reference customers" with quick questions. It became clear that one of the contractors had much more satisfied customers so I quickly decided on them. (Their initial price bid was competitive with everyone else).

    I had already decided on particular panels and inverter I wanted. The contractor explained to me that the panels I liked were in short supply so I would likely have to wait longer and pay extra if I insisted on going with them. They did some research and showed me some alternate panels that actually fit better in the space, and looked better. (They just didn't have quite as high efficiency as I had initially wanted, but I ended up having enough roof size for the system I could afford).

    In hindsight the only problem for me was timing. I bought just as the rebate level dropped a notch, and I also got in just as PG&E E7 rate was pulled. I got a less favorable E6 rate, and then later E7 was brought back again (but I was locked in with PG&E on a year contract so I missed out). Now daylight savings changed and PG&E won't reprogram my meter to know about the new time scheme, so I get sub-optimal rates for two months of the year.
    I heard something about a new, revised PG&E E6 rate schedule that started this month, but I am still apparently "auto-renewed" on the old E6. If anyone knows anything more about PG&E E6 changes, and how one could get changed over, please let me know.

    -----------------------------------------------------------
    If we are chatting about Martin's cars, then let me mention some things I heard:

    #1: He was inspired to start Tesla after crashing his "Audi" (?) while avoiding a deer in the hills near Woodside? (from an online article I read)
    #2: He at some point owned (or owns?) a BMW roadster? (Z4? Z8?)
    #3: Someone posted a picture of a Mazda3 ("MrTesla") on Flickr claiming it was Martin's.
    #4: Come on, the Roadster should be here "real soon now", so why would M.E. be 2-seat car shopping just now. (this could turn into a another delay rumor!)

    --------------

    Also, I recall reading in a recent online interview, and a blog somewhere that both of the Musk's have had their cars stuck in the shop recently (his Porsche Turbo and her Maserati sedan?)

    Further still, I read somewhere that EM eventually got rid of the McLaren F1.
    (There are probably some interesting stories to tell about that car!)
     
  7. X-CEOsWife

    X-CEOsWife Member

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    #7 X-CEOsWife, Dec 4, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 10, 2008
    Telsa was well underway when the Audi was crashed.

    Z3. He still owns it. It is my favorite car in our "fleet" to drive.

    That is the family car in Northern CA.


    You just do not know Martin! This additional vehicle has absolutely NOTHING to do with Tesla. It is just about Martin (and I guess me too) being totally impractical. Some people collect old telephones and some people collect tea cups. Martin collects cars. I am always cleaning out the garage for "just one more."

    Honest.
    Carolyn
     
  8. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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    That would describe me too, except my wife won't let me be that way 100%.
    There is a limit of only 3 max at any given time.
    Right now I have the Lexus IS300, Supercharged MR2, and Ford Ranger EV.
    When I got the IS300 I had to give up my old Propane/LPG Rx7 race car (which I miss), and when I got the Ranger EV I had to give up the GPZ900RR superbike (which I also miss, but I probably have a longer projected lifespan now)
     
  9. malcolm

    malcolm Active Member

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    Unfortunately there will be those who want Martin to remain forever the turtlenecked poster-boy of the BEV renaissance.

    Good idea to go out and buy something thirsty and LOUD :)
     
  10. Yanquetino

    Yanquetino Member

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    Beaming!

    Carolyn: Small world... er... parking lot! I absolutely love our Z3! I had thought --until a week ago-- that I would only give it up for a Roadster, but... I guess I'll hang onto it now. I am not that keen about supporting "Edison Motors" at this point. And the colors aren't as pretty! :wink:

    cetatres.jpg
     
  11. Michael

    Michael Member

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    Perhaps you (X-CEOsWife) and Martin, as a team, will get into a business of building energy efficient homes; perhaps as a subsidiary of a national builder (not limited to your local area) so that your concept could be marketed as an option?
     
  12. X-CEOsWife

    X-CEOsWife Member

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    Just a side note to my remodel. my new roof leaks! Yes, the roofer who tried to scam me is coming back. Pity him if he tries to pull another fast one on me. I have already talked to my lawyer.

    Carolyn
     
  13. Jeff

    Jeff Member

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    Haha!!! He must be offering you guys a good deal, otherwise why take him back.
     
  14. X-CEOsWife

    X-CEOsWife Member

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    The roof is barely two months old! This is warranty work! Also, it did not leak before I had him install a new roof.
     
  15. X-CEOsWife

    X-CEOsWife Member

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    Further update on our solar system.

    I just received our second letter from Southern California Edison threatening to cancel our connection to the grid because our system is TOO BIG. (Our installer is all over this.) I find the idea that the utility would want to disconnect us because we are generating too much power for them ludicrous. Any comments on this?

    Carolyn
     
  16. mt2

    mt2 Member

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    Frankly, reverse metering is the law in many states. In my uninformed opinion, I think they only reason they do reverse metering is because they have to. They're losing money on you since they are paying for the infrastructure to your house and paying for electricity at a higher price than they can generate it. It's kind of like the RIAA and file sharing - the business model is 100 years old and they need to retool for the 21st Century.
     
  17. TEG

    TEG TMC Moderator

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  18. Michael

    Michael Member

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    Size Matters

    I wonder where the specifics are published that could be quoted to ensure that you really are, or are not, sized properly? If you were to have to go to court, what could you point to and say that you were within whatever the Edison compliance rules were?

    Many of us could potentially expect to encounter something similar in our attempts to be proactive in preparation for the purchase of an EV! Please keep up apprised.
     
  19. malcolm

    malcolm Active Member

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  20. X-CEOsWife

    X-CEOsWife Member

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    Here is my opinion.


    We moved into this house 2-1/2 years ago. Almost immediately we replaced the energy guzzling, 1982 refrigerator with an Energy Star one. We replaced almost every incandescent light bulb in the house with compact fluorescents. We had light-blocking curtains made and installed for our 24-feet of south-west facing sliding glass doors. We installed UV-blocking exterior shades on the south and east facing windows. The west-facing windows are shaded by tall trees. We installed ceiling fans in all of the bedrooms and the family room. We also installed two attic fans to move the heat out of the attic space, and we installed a white roof to reflect the heat. My children will tell you that they can not remember the last time Mom turned on the air conditioner. We had screens made so we can open the windows. I walk behind everyone turning off lights. This drives Martin nuts because sometimes he is working in the room, and I float by and turn off the lights on him. Oops. Before my kitchen was remodeled, I did not have a stove that worked. For a while, I had only 3 burners on the cook top that worked. The bottom line is that we are already energy misers at my house. My AVERAGE electric bill at this 2800 sf house in Southern California is $50/month for a family of four.


    Compare this to our neighbors who run their air conditioner 24/7 for at least 10 months out of the year. The have told us that their electric bill is the size of most people’s mortgage, and it is just the two of them. According to SoCal Edison rules, they would be allowed to install a large solar system. However, their roof is not oriented properly for a good solar installation, so they are at the mercy of the power company.


    We have an expansive, south-west facing roof that is not being used as anything but a heat sink. It is certainly not working to keep out the rain right now. (See my previous post about the leaking roof.) We have the money and the desire to be good citizens and install a large solar system, so we put up 5 kW. Now here is where the problem kicks in. SoCal Edison says – “no, you are not allowed to be good citizens and help save the planet. Why, because we say so. If you do not down-size your system immediately we will come out and turn it off.”



    The rule is that you are not allowed to generate more than you use. Since we are a small user, we are only allowed to be a small generator. However, since they do not pay us for the extra power we generate, why do they care if we make LOTS more than we use and GIVE it to them? They are already acknowledging that we are allowed to make what we use, so they have already lost us as a revenue source. I am offering them FREE electricity made from a renewable source, and they are saying “no, we do not want it, and in fact, you are not even allowed to make it.” How much sense does this make in these times of energy shortages, rising prices, and concerns about global warming? I think this is a rule that needs to be thrown out the door.


    By the way, the first letter came in the morning, via FedEx. In the afternoon, I received another letter in the regular mail from SoCal Edison stating, “It appears you have now substantially complied with all requirements of the Net Metering and Interconnection agreement…Accordingly you are hereby authorized to interconnect and operate your generating facility in parallel with SCE’s electric system.” Sounds like the right hand does not know what the left hand is up to. Bureaucrats!
     

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