Solar energy is gonna be a huge focus of the Epic Urban Homestead because without generating my own energy I can hardly call it
a sustainable project, at least in my mind. And so I figured I'd
bring an old friend on, Ben Sullins, a sustainable tech expert. We met actually a long time ago when neither of us were doing what we're doing now. – Right, it was- Was that like ten years? It was a long time ago. – It was over five.
Yeah, it was over five. – But here we both are. – I know. – Making videos. – Being Youtubers. (laughs) Which neither of us though
we would be, probably. – No, definitely not, yeah. – Anyways, so I found you, again, 'cause we kinda lost
touch for a little bit. And was like this Teslanomics
channel was out there, and I was like, wow, it's fascinating, and I think it was the video you did about the solar energy costing out, right? At your place. And so that's what got us back in touch, and I figured why not have Ben come out and trouble shoot the space and kinda figure out what makes sense, because you've done way more in solar and energy systems than I have. – Yeah, so at my house
I have 5.8 kilowatts, which is how you measure
the power output, right? – [Kevin] Yeah – [Ben] It's 16 panels, and I have two Tesla power walls.
– Okay. – [Ben] Technically I can go off grid for about 25 hours. – Okay. – And as long as the sun comes out within those 25 hours, I should be back online. So in theory I can live this way, in a regular suburban neighborhood, with, I would say, common
items you can purchase, right? This isn't geothermal
heat or wind turbines. – Like you don't have a well or something like that.
– [Ben] Right, it's
not really extravagant. It's a typical thing that anyone could do in their home. – Yep. – So, yeah, I'm pretty set up. – Yeah, so it's 25 hours
on two power walls, and that's just like the power draw. You typically would run out of- – So a typical home, and so you here, don't
have air conditioning yet. – Not yet, not yet. (laughs) – And when you do, I
hope you get a mini split cause they are far more efficient. – I will be getting one. – But all that said, you won't have a huge energy draw, like a much bigger house with a central air unit. – Right. – So your energy requirements
are going to be pretty low. – Mmhmm. – But let's just say a typical house pulls about one kilowatt of energy per hour. – Okay – [Ben] So you would call
that one kilowatt hour. – Sure. – [Ben] Right, so kilowatts
vs kilowatt hours.
Well, a Tesla power wall, the typical one that they sell now, is
13.5 kilowatt hours. – Okay, so you're getting 25. – [Ben] Well you're getting
13 hours on one-ish. Depending on your needs and how much your running your AC and things like that. And so I have two of them, so I could technically
go for up to 27 hours, but in reality, you know,
if you run the dishwasher or you have a refrigerator going or you have extra stuff happening at all, and now with everyone being at home 24/7. – We're all burning energy, yeah. – So I would put it at 24. – Okay, have you tested that yet? Have you gone like off grid on the grid type of thing? – [Ben] I am about to.
I actually had a mini split installed for my studio at my house, and they installed it wrong, so one thing, this is
for you to know for here when you do get a home battery,
like a Tesla power wall. There are others, but Tesla power walls are the most popular ones, so I'll talk about that. They we will install a sub-panel, so right now you have like a panel, an electric meter than
a panel connected to it. – I have an 100 amp panel, yeah. – Which is great. – Yeah. – Especially for a smaller home. – Yeah. – That's plenty. – Yeah. – Unless you get like four
electric cars like me, then you need- (laughs) – Yeah. (laughs) – But point being, those things are grid connected, so even if you had solar energy right now, you would, and the grid went down, you would not be able to,
you wouldn't have energy. – Oh wow. – [Ben] Even though you had solar panels. – Yeah. – [Ben] Cause what happens- – Which doesn't make sense, like from a sustainability
standpoint, right? – You need to be able to access that. – [Ben] Correct. – Yeah. – And so the deal is that solar energy comes out as DC.
– Yeah – And your house uses AC. – Yep. – So if you have to have an inverter, and that inverter is powered by the grid. So if the grid is gone
– Oh my gosh. You can't convert DC
energy into AC energy, and also, you can't route it your house because the panel is
connected to the grid as well. So all these pieces- – That almost feels like it defeats, unless you say what you're about to say, it feels like it defeats the purpose of having solar, right? – Well, okay, so solar good regardless because here in California,
we have net energy metering. Which means the grid itself,
acts as your battery. – Hmm. – And obviously the grid is massive. It's got gobs and gobs of energy. So, when you're not using energy or you're producing excess energy, you're feeding that back to the grid, and they're giving you credit for it. – Okay. Now, there's a lot of contention over how that works, whatever, but point being,
– Is it legit, yeah.
Your building up credits with them. – Yeah. – [Ben] And at the end of the month, if you used less energy
than you produced produced, you wouldn't really get a credit because there's still what they
call Non Bypassable Charges. You'd have to pay like
ten or fifteen bucks. – Yep. – Point being though, your
bill would be almost nothing. – Right. – So financially, a battery
doesn't always make sense if you have solar. – Hmm. – You know, but if you
want to be off grid, if you want to be homesteading, that's where you need
all this other equipment. – I never understood that. I mean I knew you could
sell the energy back to the grid, but I didn't know that's what made it the financially prudent move to make.
– [Ben] Right.
You know what I mean? – [Ben] Right. – Okay, so if you're going from a raw cost perspective, unless
your going to live in a house for like twenty something years, then you do solar 'cause it's going to pay itself off compared
to electricity costs, but if you actually
want some survivability, say the grid goes down or
something crazy happens in 2020, then you go with a battery. – And like right now, there's a heatwave, and
they're intentionally shutting down neighborhoods. – Mmhmm, mmhmm. – And that could be
devastating for some people. – Yeah. – It could be truly, like imagine if you
have medical conditions where you need the, like you could be seriously-
– Yeah, you're on a respirator or something like that. – Yeah, it can be seriously life threatening for some people, so the way to get past that, to be like I don't care
what the grid does, is you need your back up storage.
You need energy that you can
run on when the grid is down. – Yeah. – So this is where a home
battery comes into play. – Yep. – As I mentioned, there are
some providers out there, but Tesla is by far the most popular one and kinda the best one, honestly, for the price. Unless you want to do it
yourself, totally an option, I have friends that do it.
– Yeah… Maybe not for me, though. (both laughing) I don't think so. – So anyways, so what you
do is you get the battery, that's your offline storage, and then you have your sub-panel. – Yeah. – So imagine you have a panel here – Yes that's connected directly to the grid. – Yep. – You will then have a panel
like down stream from that. – Yeah. – That is connected to the power walls, and you'll have a piece called gateway that actually is the brains that routes energy around. – Oh, so it's based on
what you want to do.
– [Ben] Uh huh. It'll pull from the grid or it'll pull from the battery. – [Ben] Right, like in fact, I can even show you right now at my house, I have my energy going, and this is whenever it updates. – Look at this. – So I have- – 72 percent. – Yeah, so I have two power walls. They're charging right now, and I can see where the
energy is coming from. – Oh wow. – And coming. – That's crazy. – So I have solar energy
powering the power wall 'cause I'm charging because our peak demand here is from 3 to 9PM.
– Uh huh. – So I have in configured so that at 3PM, we go off grid. – Oh, cause you're, were on, like, time of use – Correct. – Metering, right? And so if your off grid
from three to nine, you're paying the net lowest cost per kilowatt hour, right? – [Ben] Corect. – Okay, that makes sense. – So then in fact, from you know, the sun is still shining at 3PM, so the solar energy we are producing at that time is being
fed back to the grid. – Hmm. – So that way we're actually
building up a credit at the highest rate.
– Wow. So you're sorta double playing. – Correct. – Yeah, so, just for you guys, so I can explain it to you and understand it once more myself.
You're pulling yourself off the grid when it costs the most to be on the grid, while simultaneously
feeding back to the grid at the highest price. Do you get a higher price when you sell back at that hour or no? – Correct. – You do? – Yeah, you get retail rates. According to the net energy
metering, I don't know, law or whatever they have in California, you get the retail rate, meaning if your feeding
energy back at 50 percent a kilowatt hour, you're gonna get that. There is like a tax, and it doesn't come out to exactly that, but you're getting a much higher rate. And then even if you didn't have solar, you could program the
batter to then refill itself at night when it's, you know,
a fraction of that cost.
– Oh, good point. So you can charge your
batter from the grid, too? – [Ben] Correct. – Oh my God. So it seems like it actually start to make a little more sense than
from a financial perspective? – [Ben] Financially it makes
a lot of sense without solar. – Yeah. – If you have solar, remember
the grid is your battery. – Yeah. – The only reason to get a
battery then, financially, or not even financially,
just for peace of mind. – That's just practical, yeah. – If you live in an area,
I've always thought of like oh Florida where they have hurricanes. – Yeah. – Literally I did a video of this. – That makes sense. – And I'm like oh yeah, but we don't need that out here.
And then literally next
week they're like oh here come the- – Heatwave. I saw
something earlier this year about tsunamis are potentially
likely in California now. Something like that. – Right. – So just another thing that we need. I mean earthquakes obviously, for us. – Right. – So if you're thinking
only about finances, you either go solar or battery. – [Ben] Right. – But you don't do both necessarily. – [Ben] Correct. – And if you're thinking
maybe more like am I here with the homestead, you probably do do both. – [Ben] Correct. – Right? – [Ben] Yeah, and that's
what I did in my house. – Yeah. – I mean to make videos on it, to understand this. – Yeah. – But also because I
wanted to make sure that if the grid does go down, that my family is still protected, we still have energy
for all of our things. And for us, we have electric cars a well, so we can even have
transportation covered. So we have home energy needs. We actually have this whole water thing, and then we have
transportation covered as well.
Without the grid, the grid
could be down forever and- – You'd be good. You'd be like, life would
change a little bit, but it wouldn't change
anywhere near as much as it normally would be, yeah.
– Correct, correct. So for you… – [Kevin] Yeah. – [Ben] You've got flat roof. – [Kevin] Yes. – [Ben] You've got a smaller footprint to put solar on. – [Kevin] Yep. – [Ben] Your energy needs,
now, and even into the future, I mean what do you see? Like what's your plan here? That changes thing. – Yeah, so I mean I've got all the standard appliances, right? I run the office out
of the second bedroom. There's going to be a shed that I probably want to wire up at some point, but am I going to be running
crazy things in there, probably not I don't think.
I probably want a chest freezer to store some extra produce. – [Ben] Okay. – I will be running like
appliances here and there, like a dehydrator or ovens
and things like that. Maybe at some point I
will have electric car. I'm kinda holding out for whatever you tell me is the best one. (both laughing) – Buy a used one. – Yeah, so I'll buy a used electric car at some point in the future. Besides that, I can't think
of a lot except for the brain that will program most
of the landscaping systems. But I don't think that will draw a lot. – It's pretty low, yeah. – I don't think it'll draw a lot. – Yeah, so your not planning on, saying, adding two bedrooms. – I mean not- – Turning this into double the the amount of square footage and adding two AC units. – Not in the near future at least. – Right. – Although, there will
be the mini split though.
– Right. – Yeah. – But mini splits draw
a very little power, so it's great. – Yeah. – Okay, so what I would recommend, so since you're planning on
being here for a long time – [Kevin] Yeah. is essentially, since
you have a smaller roof, I would maximize and just kinda fill it up with as many panels
– The whole thing. As you possibly can. – Yeah, yeah. – [Ben] Because your gonna either use, even if you don't need it now, over the lifetime being
here you're gonna need it. – Yeah. And I guess the more panels I have obviously the more upfront cost but also the more net
energy I'm selling back.
– And right now there's
still a federal rebate, which I forget what it is,
maybe 20 percent or 18 percent or something like that. – It's not bad. – It's a lot. So you can actually, you know, so your kinda incentivized to buy more. – Yeah. – At this point And honestly from someone, you don't have an electric car now, but when you do, that
eats up a ton of energy. – Yeah. – Like if I had zero percent in my car and sent 100 percent of
my solar panel energy into that car, it would only be 40 percent charged after a full day. – Okay, yeah. – [Ben] It's absurd. – So you still need to pull from the grid or from your battery
to fill it up in a day.
– [Ben] Correct. – Yeah, okay. – [Ben] Yeah, so that's where, yeah, if the grid truly went away, we would just have to
change our driving habits. – Yeah, yeah. – But for you, now in terms of, okay so, that's recommendation one. – Yep. – Maximize your solar because you don't have
massive amounts of needs, and you also don't have a lot of space.
– Mmhmm. – Right? Now you need to be, you have
some big trees on this side. – Yeah, the good thing is,
so where we are oriented right now guys is, we're
in the back awning, and so this is east, this is west, that's north, that's south. The trees over here got
trimmed at least a little bit, but it is a south facing, it would be nice if there weren't trees, but I can't do anything about it. – Right, right. You should be okay if you can face west. – Yeah. – Because that's where we
get the most of our sun. – Yeah. – And that's where mine are facing. That's where- So you'll be fine in that regard. Because it's a flat roof, they're going to have to pop 'em up, so I don't know if you
lose a little bit of space, you know what I mean? Verus if was on a- – Oh, yeah. – So depending on how
that is, lie, but yeah, I would just maximize as
much as you can up there. – Okay. – Get as big of a system as fits. – Yeah.
– And then, for your
battery storage, I mean I would recommend one
power wall, at least. – Minimum right? – Yeah, two is nice because you could go full day. – Yeah. – But one is like enough to do that rate arbitrage where
you buy a little self high. – Can you do one and is
it easy to get another? – [Ben] Yeah. – Yeah. – The difference is that rebate though. – Oh. – So power walls count in
that federal, I'm sorry, in that federal tax credit. – Oh wow. – So if you buy, you know,
whatever you buy for solar. – Yeah. – If you also include a power wall, that's all roped in. – Okay. – That all counts as- – What I've been seeing too is, cause I've been using energysage.com as your recommended, and they'll put together these quotes, and the quotes sometimes will say well we can wrap up
like a roof quote in too if the roof needs replaced, right? 'Cause I'm working off of, like you said, a flat roof, but it's
also 10 out of 20 years through its probably useful life.
– [Ben] Uh huh. – And there's like a hole in it somewhere that I need to get fixed. When I bought the house they
just were like, "Good luck, "you don't get to fix that." And so that also adds to the cost, but of course that's not included in any- Maybe the solar company will sort of amortize it a little bit, right? – Well, I think what, I don't
know what the rules are, but I believe they can
include that in the price of their work, and the
whole thing gets a credit.
– Really? – I belief so. – And do they just contract it out? – Yeah. Yeah, usually they have
somebody that they work with 'cause obviously- – They're not a roofing company. – But they know how to do it. – Wow. – You could also do it yourself. – Yeah… I've been trying, I want to
do a ton of DIY projects here, but like, for example
the shed I'm gonna have is probably not the
best first project to do I don't think. And so I'm building like
stuff for the workbench, and like basic stuff. – [Ben] There's probably stuff that you are much, your
strengths work better at. – Yeah, like a compost bin. – [Ben] Right, (laughs) verus stuff like- – Building a roof. – It's not hard. It's just- but it is a lot, you know- – Okay, so like what else
should I be thinking about or someone's watching this
and is like that's a lot. I think we gotta, we went from pretty much not knowing anything, to knowing most of the economics and most of the logistics and why you would choose something, but are there any red flags or little catches that
someone should watch out for? – Well, what you get in the
solar, when you look at solar, and we can look at your
Energy Sage stuff if you want, but there's all different kinds of panels.
– Yeah. – And different kinds of inverters. – Yeah. – In the end, what it comes down to is price per watt. How much are you gonna pay for how much energy are you getting? That's really the financial to focus on. – Okay. – The other thing is warranty, so panels usually have 20 to 25 years. Panels, from my understanding, they don't really go bad. They get maybe less efficient over time. You gotta clean them every five years, literally like take a little squeegee. – Yeah, and just hit em? – Takes 30 minutes. And then your inverter is what goes bad. – Okay. – But thankfully your
inverter is here on the ground and it's relatively easy to change, a lot of times just your electrician could do it. = Okay. – So looking at the price per watt and looking at the warranty, those are the two biggest things.
Whether regards to the company, there's a lot of these kinda
fly by night companies, tons of companies- – That's what's been intimidating for me. – [Ben] Yeah. – 'Cause you go, you start
doing a google search, and there's like 42 companies that ware willing to do
it for random prices, and you're like what's real? You know?
– Yeah. The good thing is that those companies are just the installers. – Yeah. – Right? But they challenge is if there's something wrong with your install, later on, you're kinda screwed. You don't know, you know, who do you call? – Yeah, totally. – 'Cause your electricians probably like I'm not gonna mess with it. – Yeah. – You call another solar company, they're like well- – We didn't do this.
– We didn't install it. I mean we're gonna charge you, you know, a ton for it. So if you can afford it, going with the more reputable company is gonna be a good move. – Okay. – Specifically for the maintenance, so like I, at my house, wanted to add more panels. – Yeah. – Because after we got
a second electric car, I was like oh wow we're consuming just gobs of energy.
– Way too much, yeah. – So can we just extend this? Can we do this? And that company is gone. And I'm calling other companies,
and they're like sorry, we're not gonna, it's not worth it for us to like, come install
two panels at your house. – Yeah, exactly. So did you DIY it then, or
like what did you have to do? – I haven't done anything
yet, but you know, 'cause we're gonna redo the garage and move bits, so we're kinda influxed with a lot of those components right now. – Yep. – Yeah, so there's that. Now, the other thing is
where you put your inverter.
– Mmmhmm. – The inverter, likely, you'll want to put closest to the panel. – Yeah, which is right
around the corner, yeah. – We put ours in the garage 'cause we thought, oh we're
gonna have our power walls in the garage, well, there are ll these caveats about where a power wall can go. – Oh. – Do to the fire code. – Oh wow. – So it can't go next to a room, so like, you couldn't put it next to your bedroom. – Okay. – It'd have to be somewhere else. If it is in a garage, it has to go on the side of the
garage, not at the back, otherwise have to put like poles there, so you don't run into it with a car. – So there's all
– Oh wow, okay. these different things about that. We put ours in the garage thinking, oh yeah, that's where
we'll put our power walls, it'll be perfect.
Well, until we learned
power walls can't go there. – You can't put them there, yeah. – And so thinking a little about that, and that's why if you,
from the initial quote, talk to someone that knows how to do this. – Yeah. – 'Cause Tesla aren't
the only ones that can install power walls. – Mmhmm. – They do a lot of them, but you can get whoever
your solar company is, or Tesla has solar as well. – Yeah. – You know, they can kinda coordinate all that with you upfront, so you don't end up like us, where it's like,
– Okay. oh hey, we did that here,
but that was stupid. – When and where the power walls end up at your place? – They're next to the electrical panel, kinda behind, they're technically on the master bathroom wall, on the exterior.
And they're just sitting
on a piece of concrete right next to the- – Just chillin' out. – You can mount 'em on the house, too. – Okay. – They're kinda heavy though. I think they're like three
or four hundred pounds each. – Seriously? – Yeah. – Wow. – And what you do is you
sandwich them together, so you can get a ton of them. – Yeah. – Like I know friends
who have five, you know? (Kevin whistling) And you get like two
stacks or three stacks or whatever. – Dang.
– But we've got two, and
actually drill a hole from one and just like kinda
plug it into the other one. – Oh, like daisy chain it just like that. – Yeah, exactly. – Crazy. – So where these things go is something else to consider. – Okay, cool. I think that's a pretty
good overview of solar. It's given me a lot. It's like this will be episode
one of the solar project. – Yeah. – It's just like the overall planning, and actually you do a ton of solar stuff on your channel and
just sustainable energy, so it's Ben's Sullins, and I'll put it in the video description. But yeah man, thanks for comin' by, appreciate it.
– Absolutely – Peace.
– One of these. – Yeah. (laughs) (chill beat).