Green Renovations Part III: Revamping the electrical

Submitted by Greg on Sun, 10/24/2010 - 23:07

Since we already needed to open up all of the walls in the house and take off the roof as well, this was also the perfect time to revisit the electrical system.  The house, being sixty-plus years old, still had a lot of knob-and-tube wiring, and only 60 amps of service.  Since we have been planning for some time to get an electric car (when available), that just wouldn't cut it.  Additionally, we wanted to put in enough solar panels to run the car, and that also demanded revisions to the house's electrical.

The electric car / solar panel combination added another complication to the project.  Since we don't have the car yet, we can't really be sure how much electricity we'll need to handle the daily commute.  Our original plan was to start off with a small solar PV system, and then expand it later to match the needs of the car; however, after doing a little research, we discovered that it would add thousands of dollars to the total cost of the system to do it in two steps.  Also, the Federal and State rebates are based on the total size of the system, and the rebates are being reduced next year, which provided additional incentive to put in the right-sized system from the start.  Fortunately, there was a solution to our problem.  Luminalt, our PV Solar provider, put together a solar ready program for us.  We specified the largest system we thought that we might need, based on our measurements of current usage and our estimates of our future needs with the car; Luminalt filed an application for rebates based on the total size of the system, and did all of the preparatory work to upgrade the service to the house and prepare to have solar panels installed.  We now have a year to determine the size of system that we want and install the inverter and panels.  If we want to install less than we originally applied for, then we will simply receive the rebate that matches the system we actually install.  Perfect!

Above is the new electrical main Luminalt installed temporarily to get the conduit correctly aligned, as can be seen in the picture to the left.  This is another advantage to going with "solar ready"; we were able to time the installation of the conduit for the new main to coincide with the removal of the flat roof, which made it a lot easier to put in.