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Solar Panels: One Year Later

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Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Two years I underwent an adventure to Explore the Savings of Solar Power. We turned out to be perfect candidates and we moved forward. It took a few months to research. Then it took some time to find the right installer. After the winter was done, the installation could begin, and it was completed just around Earth Day last year.

I've written a number of posts on solar power overall. They may be worth reviewing if you think solar power might be right for you.

Conveniently this Earth Day gives me the perfect opportunity to write about what it's like having solar panels for one year.

As a review, in Rhode Island there's something called "net metering." Rather than being off the grid or storing power in a battery, our electricity meter turns backwards as we produce power to give the grid and forward during the night (or cloudy days) as we use power. The plan is to move that meter backward. We can't control the sunlight, but we can control how much energy we use.

Fortunately, there were really no significant surprises. The most eventful thing that occurred was a very little bit of snow where I thought, "Should I buy a telescoping broom to clean off the snow on the panels?" Fortunately, the weather turned better and it melted in a day or two.

The other big thing was that we actually produced more power in the summer than we used. That may sound like common sense since it's the longest days of the year with the most powerful sunlight. However, air conditioning takes a lot of power, so usually the meter moves back the most in the spring and fall.

I was just looking at my National Grid bill and they do a good job of giving you an Electric Usage History over the last year. It's particularly great if you happen to be a blogger writing about electric usage over the last year.

  • April 2015 - We used 387 kWh. I think that during this billing period we just starting to get online with the solar power.
  • May 2015 - November 2015 - We used 0 kWh. Unfortunately National Grid doesn't report negatives here. However, this means that we paid $0 for electricity. In reality we were actually receiving credits that carry over to future months.
  • December 2015 - We used 59 kWh. The shorter days combined with the cold meant more heat and energy usage. This cut into our credit by a few dollars.
  • January 2016 - February 2016. Each month we used ~240 kWh. This is the first significant use that cut into credits by a good deal. I think they were like $20 or $30. So we didn't need to send a check, we just watched the credits slip some.
  • March 2016 - April 2016 - We are back to using 0 kWh as we produce more power with the longer days. This last month, April, we built up $73 in credits as we were on vacation.

Our credit balance today is ~$270... and May should be another credit building month. It's nice to not have an electric bill, but it's worth remembering that we have a HELOC bill that replaces it. We won't really break even on this for another 6 years and then we'll start to see the financial benefits. I know that some think that's too far in the future to plan, but we have no problem with planning for college or retirement, right?

If credits continue to build like they have, maybe we'll look into getting an electric car someday. I'm putting that idea on the back-burner for now as I haven't had a chance review electric SUVs with 4-wheel drive and other things that we want in a car. Also, our cars are just a couple years old, so I won't mind if we drove them for another decade.

Posted on April 22, 2016.

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4 Responses to “Solar Panels: One Year Later”

  1. Charlie says:

    Didn’t know about net metering before – seems like a great idea. And I didn’t know that home solar panels can make so much energy. How’s the maintenance cost for home solar panels? Have your cost analysis included the maintenance costs?
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Lazy Man says:

      There are no maintenance unless something breaks or you need to redo the roof. With no moving parts, there are guarantees on most parts for 20+ years. Of course, you should probably research all the potential pitfalls before jumping in.

  2. Gary Mullennix says:

    Your experience is limited to you and is dependent on your “deal” with the power company. For you it was positive.

    For the power company as an entity, how did it work? The electricity you didn’t use was still available having been paid for and delivered by your power company.

    Electricity for home or business use is consumed or lost the moment of its availability unless there are large batteries involved.

    When you didn’t need their power, you neither paid nor used it. But, you still have the power available 24-7. That is costly to whom and to what degree?


    • Lazy Man says:

      Obviously, my experience is limited to me. If someone else had my exact experience that would be very, very weird.

      I didn’t make a special “deal” for myself with National Grid of Rhode Island. It’s the way it works for everyone in the state… just like their pricing for power.

      You’ll have to ask National Grid how it worked for them. I believe it works out well or they wouldn’t do it. I could be wrong, but you can check with them.

      I think it is possible for a power company to use the power my panels generate to supply the grid which is used to offset the power they need provide. That wouldn’t require batteries as I understand it.

      I think it’s best that you review the idea of net metering. I have power 24-7 because I’m connected to the grid like everyone else on my street. Ask the power company who is costly to and what degree, but my point is that my solar panels supply the power company with power.

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