100% Disabled Vet (Combat-Related) Needs Solar Energy Solution

CommanderDan

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Greetings everyone. I found this forum from the great videos produced by DIY Solar Power with Will Prowse.

I am a 100% Disabled Vet (Combat-Related) with severe injuries to my lungs. I require oxygen 24/7 and a cool, HEPA filtered environment to live in.

I live in Southern California and my utility company is SDGE.

Prior to the pandemic, I had oxygen delivered to the house each week. The medical supply company would take away the old bottles and leave new ones for me. However, since the pandemic started, all medical oxygen goes directly from the manufacturer to the hospitals for Covid patient use. Now, I completely rely on a machine to produce my oxygen. That machine runs constantly.

I also have to keep my house cooler than most and run a HEPA filter to catch all the particulate matter that is floating around.

My utility bill is outrageous. Despite being on the low income plan and the medical need plan, my utility bill is the highest bill I have, next to my mortgage. I would move, but all of my doctors are in this area, and they are not an easy group to replace.

Last year, the state of California began penalizing me for using too much energy. I complained to the power company, but it was a state mandated charge. With the assistance of the power company, my State Senator, and the good people at 211, I was able to get the charge removed for me and all others who require additional electricity for durable medical equipment use.

I require a solar energy solution and was hoping someone could help me size the solution I require. I know I cannot do the installation due to my condition, but I want to be smart enough about what I need and about how much the materials would cost.

Here are the facts about my usage:
  • Last month I used 2,805 kWh
  • I averaged 93.5 kWh per day
  • I have provided a chart from my utility bill to show my monthly kWh usage.
1638744285039.png

I would like to develop a system that gives me 2 days of backup power. During a backup run I would need to be able to run my AC and my oxygen machine. Of course, I would like to run my internet connection and a laptop but only a few hours a day. My stove is gas.

I am a complete newbie when it comes to this topic and cannot afford to commit the financial mistake of trusting a salesman's pitch. If anyone is willing to help me size or plan out this system, you would have my deepest gratitude.

Thank you.

- Dan
 
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sunshine_eggo

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You have amazingly high consumption. Running A/C for a whole house is a massive burden. Mentioning internet and laptop is like mentioning that you might take a lil' sip from the waterfall.

Realistically, how much money can you throw at this?

Does your disability prevent you from doing this kind of work, DIY, or will you have to hire someone.

Can you envision an emergency "bunker?" Maybe a room you can maintain with a window unit A/C or mini-split and power everything you need?
 

CommanderDan

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Sunshine_eggo, thanks for the response.

  • Yes, I know I have high consumption. It isn't by choice. I grew up without AC, served without AC, but need it now.
  • I can control which portions of the house the AC cools with vent control.
  • I am planning to take a home improvement loan to pay for it.
  • I can handle the administrative tasks, hire local talent and supervise them, file permits, etc. But no, I cannot do the physical work.
  • I am not a fan of hunkering in my bunker. Been there. Done that.
Many thanks for the questions.
 

sunshine_eggo

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Sunshine_eggo, thanks for the response.

  • Yes, I know I have high consumption. It isn't by choice. I grew up without AC, served without AC, but need it now.

I'm in phoenix. I'm not judging you. Summer months see 110kWh at my place.

  • I can control which portions of the house the AC cools with vent control.

But you are still running an entire A/C unit that is horribly power hungry, and if the thermostat is not getting conditioned air, it will never shut off. Unlikely that vent control gill give you a meaningful improvement.

  • I am planning to take a home improvement loan to pay for it.

Tagging @Hedges to see if he has any input. IMHO, he's the California Solar King.
 

CommanderDan

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No judgement assumed, at all. My need is directly connected to my injuries. I truly appreciate the input. If I control by vents, I have to control the thermostat more manually, but can easily achieve that via app. Thanks for tagging @Hedges , I am looking forward to any assistance to understand the size and scope of my need.
 

Zwy

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No judgement assumed, at all. My need is directly connected to my injuries. I truly appreciate the input. If I control by vents, I have to control the thermostat more manually, but can easily achieve that via app. Thanks for tagging @Hedges , I am looking forward to any assistance to understand the size and scope of my need.
Have you talked to your VSO and the Social Security office about assistance for improvements to your home due to your disability? There are programs that do pay for improvements to your home to cover the costs of making a home handicap accessible. As your disability is service connected, this should be easily paid for by the VA. Talk to your primary VA provider also. They should direct you to the needed people to get something done. One other choice is contact the DAV, they can look into handling running this up the chain of command.

As your disability is service connected and rated as such, the VA has an obligation to pay for it.
 

chrisski

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When I look at a 2.8 MW/ month, requirement, I think of $90k with 30 kw of panels to provid the electricity you need per day to cover all energy. There is a lot more more to the calculation than that and I am more likely a little high than under, but the point is this will be expensive!!

May be easier getting a home loan than the going through the process that @Zwy mentioned. Usually there’s something like the AMVETs that will help file a VA claim, and I can only recommend starting there; however, being 100% disabled (assuming through the VA and not social security) I’m sure you know that. I’m sure you’ve also thought of seeing a lawyer about this and probably already have if you;ve had a state senator help you out with an exception to a California law.
 

sunshine_eggo

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When I look at a 2.8 MW/ month, requirement, I think of $90k with 30 kw of panels to provid the electricity you need per day to cover all energy. There is a lot more more to the calculation than that and I am more likely a little high than under, but the point is this will be expensive!!

That's about where my head went. 30kW might not even be possible given the acreage required. That's what directed me to the "bunker" concept.
 

Hedges

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Maybe "@Hedges" puts something under the icon of a bell at top of the screen, but all I notice there are Likes, which have an emoji. Other than that, large number posts to threads I follow.
When someone posts "@Hedges", it doesn't show up in my email like posts.
I only see the references if I happen upon them. Or in this case Eggo Waffle mentioned me and this thread in another I was already following.

You want to save money. How much do you pay presently? (Without without surcharge for heavy use).

95kW/day of power, assuming 5.5 average effective sun hours per day year round, would be 17 kW of PV.
With net metering, excess production in summer is available in winter.
Producing this much on shortest day of year for operation with grid down would take 2x as much (34 kW of PV) or more. But may be less load, no A/C. (Edit: your consumption bar graph supports this)

Hardware for PV panels, inverter, rack mounts, electrical stuff comes to about $1/W, so $17,000 for material to put in 17kW system. DIY labor is free, but you need someone else to do it. I think retail installations cost an additional $1 to $3 in labor. This is a large system, could be more economical.

GT PV hardware costs $0.05/kWh amortized over a decade (but is useful much longer. Might have to replace inverter at 10 years, or maybe not.)
If utility rates are $0.15/kWh, break even of DIY system is 3 years. With retail installation, more like 10 years.

Most bang for the buck could be a system which offsets highest tier usage, bringing you down to more economical rates (or avoiding penalty fees.) But it would be nice to have 100% covered.

PG&E and probably SDGE hate solar, it cuts into profits from most important customers. They love solar as utility-scale production. Also on rooftops of "Lifeline" low-income customers, whos rates are so low they aren't profitable anyway.

If you get discounted electric rates due to disability, see if your utility has a program to fund grid-tie PV for you.

Are there any programs to let you share in production of a community solar project? Now that new homes in California are required to have rooftop PV, an alternative is offered to get credit from community PV.
 
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Hedges

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Battery backup is a much more expensive project.
If A/C only has to run while the sun shines, not nearly as bad. Large PV array, robust inverter able to kick over compressor, but small battery enough for non-A/C loads overnight.
Still expensive.

For occasional power outages, generator is cheaper. Remote-start natural gas generator would be ideal.

PV/battery backup is convenient, but for infrequent use the capital cost makes it expensive per kWh (like to could be 100x, 1000x utility rates.)

House won't heat up instantly during a brief outage. Your oxygen system ought to have a buffer, maybe a bag or other reservoir with some hours storage. Or, depending on its consumption, it could have a smaller battery backed UPS.
 
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sunshine_eggo

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Battery backup is a much more expensive project.
If A/C only has to run while the sun shines, not nearly as bad. Large PV array, robust inverter able to kick over compressor, but small battery enough for non-A/C loads overnight.
Still expensive.

For occasional power outages, generator is cheaper. Remote-start natural gas generator would be ideal.

PV/battery backup is convenient, but for infrequent use the capital cost makes it expensive per kWh (like to could be 100x, 1000x utility rates.)

House won't heat up instantly during a brief outage. Your oxygen system ought to have a buffer, maybe a bag or other reservoir with some hours storage. Or, depending on its consumption, it could have a smaller battery backed UPS.

If overnight A/C is required, do you think it would require much more to power a ~9000BTU mini-split in a room or reduced portion of the house?
 

Hedges

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Obviously cooling a smaller volume takes less.
Less loss through surface area, but ratio of surface area volume volume increases (mouse vs. elephant.)
Should be possible to over-insulate one bedroom on the inside surface (but consider flammability). Foam board covered with sheetrock?

Main issues of the whole project are capital cost, payback period (longer due to discounted utility rates).
 

CommanderDan

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Have you talked to your VSO and the Social Security office about assistance for improvements to your home due to your disability? There are programs that do pay for improvements to your home to cover the costs of making a home handicap accessible. As your disability is service connected, this should be easily paid for by the VA. Talk to your primary VA provider also. They should direct you to the needed people to get something done. One other choice is contact the DAV, they can look into handling running this up the chain of command.

As your disability is service connected and rated as such, the VA has an obligation to pay for it.
Zwy,
I will. The last time I spoke to a VSO, she told me that the improvements they could provide had to be directly connected to me. For instance, they said they could install a lift chair for the stairs. I did not specifically ask about solar power, but I will. Thanks for the idea. I will post here what they say.
 

CommanderDan

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Battery backup is a much more expensive project.
If A/C only has to run while the sun shines, not nearly as bad. Large PV array, robust inverter able to kick over compressor, but small battery enough for non-A/C loads overnight.
Still expensive.

For occasional power outages, generator is cheaper. Remote-start natural gas generator would be ideal.

PV/battery backup is convenient, but for infrequent use the capital cost makes it expensive per kWh (like to could be 100x, 1000x utility rates.)

House won't heat up instantly during a brief outage. Your oxygen system ought to have a buffer, maybe a bag or other reservoir with some hours storage. Or, depending on its consumption, it could have a smaller battery backed UPS.
Thanks for the input and time.

My ultimate goal is to reduce my overall energy costs, as they are outrageous, not to just have a plan in case of an emergency.

So, yes I have thought about a natural gas generator, but that would only cover occasional downtimes.

And yes, I have a very large oxygen bottle for extreme outages. I also have 6 hours of battery backup for my portable oxygen concentrator. What I really need is a way to reduce the cost of my utilities as they are unbearable.

What I was hoping for was to find someone who could help me design the system that I require so that I can price it out. I am confident that a loan to pay for the system would be cheaper than my monthly utility bill.
 

chrisski

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My ultimate goal is to reduce my overall energy costs, as they are outrageous, not to just have a plan in case of an emergency
Grid tied solar usually shuts down in case of Emergency. THere’s ways like a battery power and a Tesla power wall, but that becomes way more expensive.

I hope you keep this thread open as you find your answers.
 
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