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Confessions of a Solar Electric System Owner

Recently, Pyccku , a well respected member of the TreeHugger forums installed a solar electric system on his home and documented the progress on his blog. We discussed that it would be beneficial to share his experience installing solar panels, so his experience can help others decide if solar power systems energize their lifestyles. Check out the Questions & Answers session below:

Q: What made you first gain interest in solar panels?

A: When we saw gas prices go up, we realized that energy costs are only going to go up, not down. We also hated that here in AZ there was so much energy coming from the sun, but hardly anyone tapping into it. So we did the calculations and found that even if the cost of energy stays constant, over the next 25 years our electric bill would add up to more than the cost of the solar.

Q: How much are you saving per month?

A: We haven’t gotten our first bill – but our average pre-solar bill was $165 on the equalizer plan (same amount year-round). We are anticipating having no bill for 8-10 months out of the year and only a minimal bill in the hottest summer months.

Q: How long did it take to install the solar panels?

A: Once they had the permits it took a little over a week for the whole project. The panels, inverters and wiring only took a couple of days. But we built an addition to our patio to put the panels on, so that added some extra time.

Q: Was it difficult to find a solar panel installer?

A: No, there are several here in Phoenix.

Q: How much were paying originally for electricity?

A: $165 per month.

Q: Did you have to move out of the house to have them installed?

A: No. We didn’t even have to be home for them to do any of the work!

Q: How many solar panels do you have?

A: 36

Q: Do your solar panels power your entire house?

A: During most of the year, yes. During the summer we’ll probably need some power from the grid because of the heavy a/c use.

Q: Did your electric spinning backwards once they were installed?

A: The meter itself doesn’t spin backwards. It does keep track of how many kWh we take from the grid, and how many hours we give to the grid. Then the power company does the math and credits us for any excess. Right now, since we aren’t using much power at all, we are only using 10kWh/day, and we are giving 15kWh/day to APS. That will be credited to our account for use in the months when we don’t produce enough.

Q: Are you satisfied with the solar panels installed on your house?

A: Yes!

Q: Do you get credit for extra electricity your solar panels generate?

A: Yes – APS keeps track of credit and applies it when we need it.

Q: Do you like the way they look on your house?

A: Yes – they aren’t noticeable from the front of the house, unless you really are looking for them.

Q: Did you have to buy any insurance for the solar panels? If so, How much?

A: It’s just part of our homeowner’s policy.

Q: Do you think you have made an impact on the environment and society by installing solar panels?

A: Yes.

Q: Is it difficult to take care of your solar panels?

A: No, no maintenance unless they get dirty/dusty/leaves blown on them.

Q: Do your solar panels generate energy on cloudy or overcast days?

A: Yes, but not nearly as much as on clear days.

Q: Have any of your neighbors asked you about or complemented on your solar installations?

A: Not yet. But some of my colleagues are interested.

Q: What inspired you to take the necessary steps towards obtaining solar panels?

A: Wanting to be more environmentally friendly; saving money over the long term.

Q: What kind of rebates did you receive for your solar panels?

A: $2000 federal and $1000 state. I’m hoping for more since I also have a home business, but I don’t know if that will be the case or not.

Q: How did the rebate work?

A: When I do my taxes in 2008, I’ll just put the solar info on the form and the credit will be applied towards the total tax owed.

Author: Deep Patel

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