Fifteen months ago, a little after my second son was born, I was doing a routine exercise of reviewing my necessary expenses. I like to go through and see where we are with spending and if there’s any place we can save money. It’s hard to save money on car and house payments. Short of a refinance those payments are going to be set by the choices you make at the time of purchase.
I got to our utility bill and I realized there might be some room there. We’ve switched to high-efficiency light bulb and have so much insulation that it amazes home inspectors. We picked all the low-lying fruit. I knew there was Earth Day article to write in a couple of months, so I thought, “What if I looked into solar power?”
Then I got busy. Funny how that happens when a new child is born. It got to Earth Day and I hadn’t made any progress in calling any solar companies. I wrote an article about exploring the savings of solar power which represented everything I could learn in a few hours of internet research.
Unfortunately, what I learned is that it is really difficult to give people advice on solar power. Each state has its own cost of energy. If you pay a lot, solar makes more sense than if it is cheap. Each state has it’s own aid programs for those choosing to go with solar power. Great aid from your state goes a long way to making the math work. Details about your home positioning and roof condition matter greatly. There’s just so much that goes into it.
I ended the article with the following:
“As I follow the rabbit down the hole, I hope to have updates on how to save money with solar power. Right now, it’s time for me and my dog to enjoy a little of this Earth Day. As usual, hit the comments and pass me any good questions or information that you have on going with solar.”
As regular readers know, I followed up with a number of articles. I broke down how it works, and found a calculator helping me with when I’ll break even (around 7 years). I went through projections with my solar installation company.
On Saturday of this past week, my solar system got turned on.
I write this on Tuesday and we’ve generated 72.5 kWh of electricity in a few days… one of which was just pouring rain. Last month we used 598 kWh of electricity in total. I’m hopeful, we’ll generate more than we use and earn a credit. That’s always the plan for the spring months when electric use is low and the generation is high. In summer, when the air conditioners kick in, we’ll end up using more than we generate and use those credits.
The solar power company estimates that we’ll save the equivalent to hundreds of trees every year. If that’s accurate, it will have been one of the best things I could ever have done for the environment. Not a bad way to save money, is it?
As with everything “green” we must also keep the big picture in mind, such as what it took to manufacture those solar cells and get them to you. Your system is still probably a net positive over time, but the answer isn’t always so clear (like electric cars used in areas where electricity is generated by coal).
This article is from a respected journal and doesn’t show bias one way or the other.
Lazy Man says
My solar panel company is more focused on the environment than profit it seems. The owner is very active in environmental issues. They explained how the panels were made and that they didn’t have a bad environmental impact. Truth be told, I was more interested in the math of breaking even (I’m personally finance focused), but this was good to know.