Wednesday, June 28, 2017
What am I doing? (home improvement)
Around 2 years ago, Google had a special Google Doodle for solar power, it was linked to Google Earth, where you could input your address and they would calculate how much usable roof area you had, they factored in which way the roof was facing and any shade from trees or nearby buildings, etc. Then they gave links to local companies that install solar power. It made it easy to figure out how much energy you could produce and to compare it with your current usage on your electric bill, etc. Using their calculator app, I found out my house was a perfect candidate for solar power. One slope of my roof has a southern orientation and has no shade from trees or other houses. Plus, my house is only one story, which means the roof to square footage ratio is higher than a 2 story house. I had plenty of usable roof space that could cover all my current electric usage.
I got the idea at that time that I really wanted to get solar power for my house. But I had a lot of other home improvement jobs that were more urgent, so I didn't get around to it right away. Last summer I got the house painted (which was long overdue) and last fall I got a fence rebuilt between my house and my neighbor's house (also long overdue- the fence had literally rotted and fallen down in many places.).
So finally this summer's project was to get solar power installed.
As it happened, I signed the final contract on the same day that president Trump withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, and the installation was the day after the summer solstice (the longest day of the year- i.e. the most hours of sunlight). Both dates were very meaningful for this project! Many people get solar power for financial reasons and of course I like saving money as much as the next person ( I will go more into the savings later), but I also wanted solar power because it is clean, it does not release any pollution, it is better for the planet , not just better for my wallet.
Listening to all the lies and bad science Trump told during that speech when he withdrew from the Paris agreement, it made me feel slightly less frustrated and helpless to know that even though he was moving our country backwards, I could still make a tiny step forward on my own. Our country under this president was abandoning the leadership role in innovative energy technology, but my state, other states, and many private businesses will continue to lead the way to the future, which is clean energy.
So now my solar system has been up and running for a week and I am so happy with the decision.
It's not just a win, it is a win/win/win/win/win. Let me explain all the ways I am winning!
1. Normally they calculate how many panels to install based on your current electric bill. But I really conserve electricity, every month when the bill compares my use to other similar homes, I am scored "excellent" for conserving. For example, I have air conditioning but I rarely use it, only on the very hottest days. But if all my electricity was clean then I could use more and not have to conserve so much. So I decided I wanted more panels than just my current use., I wanted to have some extra power in case of increased future use. I even got enough to power an electric car charging station in the future. I don't have an electric car now, but if I ever wanted to get one, I could power it with my solar system. Imagine driving your car with free fuel forever!
So now, I can use the air conditioner as much as I want! I can do my laundry at peak hours instead of waiting until after 6 PM, because my system makes the most power at peak hours.
2. I got a discount for being over 50, and another discount for paying cash up front. Not everyone can pay cash, but they have very reasonable financing so that your monthly payment for the financing is still less than your electric bill would have been. So your net monthly budget is better (win) and you pay off the system after about 9 years (win) and then you have free electricity after those 9 years (WIN!).
If you do pay the whole thing at once, like I did, then it pays for itself in 7-9 years. ( 7 years of no electric bill= the cost of the system) Win!
After the 7 years then it's just totally free electricity. The system requires very little maintenance.
I definitely recommend BUYING your system, not leasing it. Even if you have to finance it, you own it at the end of paying for it. But if you lease it, it's the same as paying your electric bill every month- you will never own the means of production.
3. There is a 30% federal tax credit that you can spread out over 15 years. Win!
If you lease instead of buying, then you don't get this tax credit.
4. If you produce more electricity than you use, then you can sell it back to the grid. Win!
I'm producing more than I use, and I can actually see on my electric meter that the usage number is a NEGATIVE number. That is the surplus that is going back into the grid. And then whoever uses that electricity surplus form my system, is also cleaner because that is less electricity that the power plants have to make from potentially polluting fuels.
5. One of the lies that Trump said when he pulled out of the Paris climate accord was he stated a false dichotomy pitting the environment VS the economy. He made it sound like you have to pick one or the other, like clean energy was going to destroy our short term economy. But this is a falsehood. Clean energy makes jobs! Innovation and technology is the future, coal is the past. Every component of my solar system is made in the USA. The panels are made in Texas, the inverters are made in California, the racks are made in New Mexico. These are good, high paying American jobs in an industry that can continue far into the future. So it's not just a win for me, it's a win for the American economy.
6. It's better for the environment too. You don't have to pick economy or environment- you can help both at the same time.
7. A solar system raises the value of the house. Any buyer will be getting free electricity from the day they move in.
So that was pretty long. It was a great experience and I am kind of an evangelist for solar power now, I hope to get some of my neighbors to get it. My neighborhood is all 1 story ranch houses so they are perfect candidates, we get so much sun for 8 or 9 months of the year, most summer and fall days have a clear cloudless sky.. It's just really a climate that is ideal for solar power. It's awesome to be able to crank the AC with no guilt.