Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why We Went Solar

When we built our home ten years ago, I asked our builder about installing solar for our electricity needs.  He poo-pooed that idea and did his best to make me feel like an ignorant California greenie fruitcake.  I dropped it.  I wanted the house built more than I wanted solar.  I always regretted not standing my ground and insisting on solar.  It just seemed to make sense from, yes, a green standpoint but also because we live in on the edge of the desert in sunny Southern California. 

Fast forward to last summer.  Solar panels started popping up on roof tops all over our community.  When I had researched solar energy in the past, the cost had been prohibitive.  We certainly didn't have $30,000 laying around for that.  But, with all the rebates and credits available it was suddenly affordable. 

I talked to some of our neighbors who had made the switch.  They were almost giddy with pleasure at watching their electricity gauge run BACKWARDS.   They said the rebates covered their upfront costs.  So, I took a survey to measure our usage against the cost and it penciled out to be a wash -- or slightly better. 

Our regular electricity bill has averaged $170 per month.  We hardly ever use our air conditioner and are relatively frugal with our appliances and lights and such.  However, we have one of these:

We use solar to heat the pool, but it still requires a lot of electricity to run the pump.  And, we have one of these:

This is our "pond."  It is a huge stock tank filled with water and a smattering of goldfish.  It is the water source for the horses and donkeys.  To keep the water sparkling clean, it has a very strong pump, large filter, and UV clarifier to zap all the nasty bacteria.  All that equipment runs 24/7.   The horses love the water.
Winston: This hotel has great food and water.  I hope I get to stay a long time.

Jackson: It's the Hotel California.  You can check out but you can never leave.
Me: Jackson!  Don't go freaking the poor boy out.  Go away and take a mud bath or something.

Are you done taking pictures?  It's dinner time for Pete's sake!
 There are a number of ways to structure solar installation and maintenance.  You can buy it outright and go completely off the grid or do what we did.  We generate electricity from our system whenever the sun shines.  Any excess not used by us, we sell back to the electric company.  We buy electricity for the dark and rainy hours from the electric company and we get a "net" bill from them each month.  We should net close to zero.  Maybe a credit some months, maybe a $5 payment others.  We will be making payments on the solar system for fifteen years at $150 per month.  That price includes maintenance and repair of the system.  If we sell the house, the payments go to the buyer.  Of course, we have no intention of doing that but in case you wondered, now you know. 

At the end of the day, my electricity bill is pretty much the same.  But instead of buying electricity, I'm making payments on a green energy source.  Our down payment was our rebate money.  So, no up front cost to us at all. 

I'll leave you with tonight's sunset which is typical of what we see.  We don't get much "weather"; no clouds to catch the sun's rays and bounce them around the sky in a spectacular show of color.  In fact, if we get an orange sky we immediately think "Fire!!" 

Not that I'm complaining.  It was 70F today -- not bad for January.  (and not typical but I'll take it -- and all the electricity we made).


  1. Absolutely cracked up at the 'Hotel California' line.
    Congrats on the new solar!

  2. I need to have Gary read this post regarding the solar panels. What a great way to go.

  3. NOTE TO HORSES, (excluding Flash).

    You guys keep eating the wood around the pond, and "forever" may change quickly. Flash, I know you've told them to stop, but there young and don't listen.

  4. It's Hotel California here too. Our guys are lifers.

  5. The solar panels certainly make glad you finally have them.

  6. My electrician friend also told me solar was a stupid idea, when I mentioned planning to install it when I build. I won't repeat my reply. I'd also like to have a windmill - there is rarely a day without wind here.

    Jackson has a great sense of humor! ;)

  7. laughing at brett's comment. :)

    i'm glad the solar works are up and running for you, finally! very cool!

  8. We have been totally off the grid (solar and a generator) for many years, and I can say that I haven't saved much if any money. The initial cost (including rebates) was much as you describe, and I must run the generator for an hour or so on gray/rainy days and this uses propane, which is not cheap. The storage batteries must be replaced every so often--also not cheap. But our power is completely from the sun on all sunny days and we have a great feeling of satisfaction in our off the grid status. I would not change it for the world. Most of my friends who have installed solar panels have gone with a grid tie system such as you have, and in some ways this is by far the easier option. Any and all versions of solar power are to be applauded, in my opinion.

  9. Thanks for this post. I've been interested in adding solar to my house and your information was very helpful.

    It sounds like a great way to go for you. Cheaper monthly payments (loan) and only 15 years until it's all paid off.

  10. Wow I would miss the gorgeous sunsets if I lived there.

    I wish we could go solar. That's totally awesome!

    The Hotel California reference is awesome!!!


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