Need more solar advice

It doesn't matter who lived in the house before YOU...if someone tapped into the house at anytime...before or after you owned it, I would power down the computers and then turn off the MAIN breaker. Your meter should not move after the shutdown. You may just have a faulty meter...

I think turning off the main breaker would be the true test to see if someone was stealing your power. Tying into the main power line would be a lot easier than tying into an existing circuit. However, I think you have a broken meter if there's anything wrong at all.
Get references on the contractor, check the local Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, then go with the cheaper system if that checks out.

Also, remember that if you produce more power than you can use, the electric company is REQUIRED to buy your excess from you. Just another way to reduce your costs.


To expand on what ChattanoogaBusa and Racer_X were saying...

If someone was stealing you power and was causing the meter to run rampant, they would have to be tapping into the power source somewhere AFTER the meter. Usually the meter is attached to the house and then the line feeds directly into the house. Is it safe to assume this is true of your house? If so, turning off all consumable power (not the breakers) would be a good place to start. Remember that MOST electronics today still consume electricity even if powered off (i.e. to power clocks, volitile memory, etc.). So be prepared to reset some things if you truely want to turn EVERYTHING off. I would not turn off the breakers until you've exhausted all power consumables (if someone was tapping into a circuit, it'll just turn their power off too, but they aren't going to tell you that). If it is still turning after turning off ALL consumables, then that is a strong indication that someone may be stealing power from one of your circuits. If you do trip all the breakers and it still turns, then the tap is somewhere between the meter and the breaker box (don't forget any secondary breaker boxes that may feed directly from the meter and not the main breaker box like possibly a pool, external lighting, irrigation systems, etc.)

I'm guessing it may be something in your household.

I'm no electrician, but I did find out something cool as heck a few months back. They have these devices call Kill-A-Watt usage monitors. They are made by a company called P3 International (linky). For someone like you, I would say this device may be invaluable if something you plug in is using up your juice. Plug it between the outlet and your device for a few days and it tracks your usage. Calculate your monthly usage by the amount you collected and convert it to the number of days in your cycle.

For example, if you track usage for a device and it says you used 15 KW's over 7 days, then multiply it by 4 to see your usage over 28 days (60 KW's). You'll have to look at next months bill to see how many days your current billing cycle is (you can also call your electric company to ask them how many days your current billing cycle is going to be).

Unfortunately, this device won't work on things that are hardwired to a circuit.

Definitely look for anything in your house that may be a power hog first. If the you shut off everything and the meter still runs fairly fast, then you may have a power thief. If not I would suspect the meter.

If the meter does test bad you need to contact the power company and dispute you bill from the month of the first spike that started the current cycle of your current costs. They are required to refund the difference under the consumer protection act.

After all of that, the solar is still a good idea. It sounds like the electrician is the one to go with. He may only have been installing solar for 3 years, but he is bonded to connect it to the grid for you too. During months that the solar produces an excess amount of power you meter will run backwards, lowering your bill even further. One local power company in Washington installed a bunch of meters that wouldn't run backwards and they got a class action suit filled against them for doing it. All of those 'new' meters were replaced by meters that allow current to flow run backwards and run the meter backwards.
Go with the Enphase. I sell solar for a living and there's too many benefits to ignore with microinverters.

Not a huge difference in panel quality. If it's listed on ...the California Energy Commission's site, then it's solid. Do you care if it's made in China? Prefer Japan? Not many American-made on the market currently, but it can be done. Only other consideration is do you care if a brand name backs up your 25-year warranty? Your installer's recommendation is probably a good one, although if you're buying 43 total panels, he should be able to get you what you want.

The electrician understands wiring, and three years is plenty of time to learn how to install solar. Especially with the simplicity of an Enphase system. Ask him how he seals the roof penetrations, and if you're satisfied with his answer, he probably knows what he's doing from experience. Does he have a good reputation as an electrician? Did you really check his references? Call some people just to make sure he has a thorough work ethic.

Read my Twitter posts to hear other microinverter tidbits: Ken Oatman on Twitter. And good luck.
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