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Last spring we went green and had solar panels installed on our home. We got the final okay from the electric company, the town, and the solar company to turn them on and start using solar power exactly one year ago and I’ve never regretted our choice.
We’re one of the first houses in our neighborhood to get solar power and there’s definitely been a sense of fascination around it. Perhaps because our panels are on the front of our house, or perhaps because I was very vocal about them when we got them, I’ve become something of a go-to person when someone I know is thinking of going solar.
Here are the most common questions I get asked about being a solar household.
How much did it cost?
For us, it didn’t cost anything. We chose to take advantage of the newest programs that will install, maintain, and insure the panels for free. Essentially, Solar City is using our roof as a collection point for their solar energy. They then sell the energy to our electric company, and give us a deeply discounted electric rate. It was about 30% off when we signed our contract, but the electric rate has gone up since then, so we’re already saving more than that.
There are lots of other ways to get solar power, including purchasing panels for yourself. Ultimately we decided to “lease” our panels because we didn’t want to be financially responsible for maintaining them, or the increased insurance costs.
What happens when it’s not sunny/ there’s snow on the roof/ the power goes out?
When it’s not sunny or there’s snow on our roof, we’re not generating electricity, but we’re not sitting in the dark either. During those times we simply get power from the electric company for the non-solar rate. We haven’t gone off the grid, we’re just using an alternative supplier – ourselves!
Sadly, when the power goes out, we are left without power just like everyone else. Because the energy we collect gets sent to the electric company we’re also dependent on them to provide our power back to us. Solar power is not like a generator… yet.
Do they have to be on the front of the house?
For us, yes. The back of our house doesn’t get enough sun for it to be worth it to put panels there. Where your panels are placed is going to be based on where the most sun is. The company we used, Solar City, came out and evaluated our property, sight lines, the path of the sun, and all that good stuff.
Some companies will do everything using satellite pictures – a couple wouldn’t work with us because of this – and will only come out after you’ve signed a contract.
Honestly, I don’t mind having the panels on the front of the house. At first I was a little taken aback by the change, now I see it as a badge of honor. I’m proud to be producing clean energy, helping make the world a healthier place for my daughter, and saving money at the same time.
How much have you saved?
It’s hard to say exactly how much we’ve saved compared to what we would have spent with traditional electric company rates. The only comparison I can make is what we spent over the last 12 months compared to the 12 months prior.
Based on that we’ve saved $550 in the past year. Since electricity rates have gone up, I know it’s actually more than that, but I’m pretty darn content to have an extra $550 in my pocket.
We’ve also saved 4 TONS in carbon dioxide emissions – equal to driving (or not driving) 9,354 miles!
Are there any hidden costs?
We still have to pay our electric company a $16 month connection fee for being connected to the electric grid. However, that isn’t really a hidden fee since Solar City was very up front about that from the beginning.
We also decided to put on a new roof before having the panels placed, but that was because our roof was at the end of it’s useful life and needed to be done anyway. We probably would have waited another year or 2 years if we didn’t get the panels. Again though, that was our decision.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely, yes! I love our solar panels and working with Solar City has been a great experience. They took care of all the paperwork, including the permit filing fee, and made the process completely painless.
We can log in to our account online and see how much energy we’re producing. We also got a free energy audit and found some other places to save energy and money. Totally worth it.
If you’ve ever thought of going solar at your own house I strongly encourage you to look further into it. You will absolutely love getting your electric bills!