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I'm thinking of purchasing a solar generator to not only supply power in outages but to offset some of my electric usage. Is a generator out there worth purchasing? Any features I absolutely need? Thanks
At this point, I do not believe solar power is a viable alternative. When you consider the initial cost (even with tax credits), the problem with supplying enough battery storage, the maintenance costs of maintaining batteries, the almost universal 30% operating efficiency of inverters, and the life expectancy of solar cell arrays, it is more cost affective to use a gasoline, NG, or propane operated generator. Another advantage of a generator is that it is portable uless you go with a whole house, auto unit. That is just my opinion.
With the write-offs and tax breaks and such, one type of solar power is becoming popular and will pay for itself in most cases long before you need to replace panels or anything. This is called "Grid Inter-tie" and the advantage comes in your selling excess power back. The disadvantage is that it has no batteries involved so it cannot provide reliable emergency power. You can install it making allowances for a battery upgrade later on, thus separating costs over time so that you don't have to spend all your money at once. A good inter-tie system will break even in cost in 12-20 years (depending on size) and last twice that long or longer.
Batteries are the bane of any stored-energy system. They are better than ever but are still costly and still requiring replacement at some point. When that time comes you have to replace he entire bank of batteries at once, you can't just replace some batteries now and some later. Battery technology for solar is twice as good as it was just 20 years ago overall, and it is still improving.
For the average person who is just looking for some short-term back-up power a generator is the way to go, but if you're looking 30-40 years down the road solar is often a viable alternative. Either way the main factor is in energy management (reducing the load). That pays off no matter what else you do. With solar power it's usually essential- with a generator you only have to do this during an outage.
It won't be too long before solar power becomes competitive with simply paying the power bill. When that time comes the power companies will get into the home solar business as a means of generating their power so you'll have leased equipment including maintenance readily available wherever solar is viable at a low cost. I see it happening in 20-40 years but if technology moves faster it could happen sooner.
Thank you for your help. With energy prices rising as they are I am looking for reliable aternate sources to help reduce my bills and your knowledge is very helpful