I don’t do much on ‘how-to’ because, well, I don’t know ‘how-to’ very well. As anyone who has read me so far, I just overbuild what I have to do on the assumption that if two-by-fours are required for code, then 2×8’s are probably better….? Of course, I am not quite that bad anymore. But I was.
And I still use that method when in doubt. My logic: more material is cheaper than an engineer.
My house has 12 load-bearing points under which the pillars should have been placed. And I did that. Looked good. Stood firm. But I looked around and I had a lot of extra logs at that time and well, I stopped counting after putting in 31 more. I am guessing that, with the food shed and the deck I have over sixty five log-pillars made of 6 inch logs (or bigger) under my house. When my house falls down, it will fall onto a haystack of logs. That’s my kind of engineering.
Yes. They are cross-braced. Some of them, anyway. I may add some more braces………I dunno…….don’t want to look insecure, ya know?
So, the point? I am not the best source for how-to advice. Having said that, I have to opine that now seems like a real good time to buy some solar panels. I mean, if you are considering getting some at all…….?
When I bought my panels over six years ago the price was over $5 a watt. An 80 watt panel cost $400 plus PST, GST and God-knows-what-else-they-add to make it up over $500.00 a panel. I initially only bought four. After a couple of years, I bought four more. They came in a bit less but still pretty expensive.
Today the US consumer pays $1.00 a watt and the Canadian consumer $1.50. Which is fair, don’t you think? Their panels have to work harder since they actually have sunshine! Some US states also subsidize alternative energy purchases but we don’t do that up here and the GST even still applies but over-paying for everything is the Canadian way, eh?
Harper just ain’t green. He subsidizes Oil companies, China and the Tar Sands instead. What a guy!
Panels today are also generally larger. My old 80 watt panels were about 16 inches by 36 and wired for making 12 volts. I needed four just to get them working cooperatively with my 48 volt system. Now they come in 24 volts as well as 12 and the wattage is up as high as 240 watts. Even though the working surface area is much the same overall, you can get bigger panels and thus make installation a bit easier.
Some products are better than others but the general feeling is that the panels are all pretty much the same and they are all made in China anyway. There may be someone making them better in Norway or somewhere else but the cheap and still-good panels are Chinese. Bottom line, it has never been cheaper to get a large array of panels.
But – for those of you easily fooled – don’t be! Getting a good, large-ish off-the-grid array may be cheaper right now but the panels are not even the largest expenditure in the system and the rest of the required equipment is much the same price. A good inverter and batteries and the required racks for the panels will be where the larger costs will accrue and, if you plant those puppies too far from your batteries, you can start to tally up some pretty large expenses in wiring as well. While solar panels have dropped in price, copper wire has rocketed. In other words: to take advantage of cheap solar panels, you have to put them close to the whole system.
Well, you really just have to plan the whole sysytem well. In this case engineers are cheaper than materials.
OK. I’ll stop. I am not the best how-to guy. Nor am I even much of a consultant (Those who can, do. Those who can’t, consult!). And, even if I was any good at any one time, the playing field is changing all the time. Technology is fleet afoot. Better batteries are coming (or so they say). Thin-film solar is coming. Inverters are changing. More is being learned all the time. This is an evolving field of endeavour. All I know is that solar panels are cheaper than what they were.
And I thought I had better mention it.