Monday, August 1, 2016

"Our Evil Plan to Steal Photons from the Sun"

May 26, 2016 was a monumental day in my life. Not my birthday. Not my kids' birthdays. Not my anniversary. It was the day we flipped the switch to turn on our brand spankin' new solar panels! My husband calls it [cue Dr. Evil cackle], "Our evil plan to steal photons from the sun"! I call it free green energy for the rest of our lives.

Apex Solar installing our solar panels in May 2016
The whole process was so easy, I seriously can't believe we didn't do it sooner.

I must thank environmentalist Bill McKibben, because it was his talk at Keene Central School last fall that really reminded me that I MUST do something to slow down climate change. And, thanks to our friends Jan and Megan Wellford who shared their experience going solar, and gave us the connection to Apex Solar - a company I can highly recommend.

The Details

From start to finish, our project took about 6 months. It would have taken 6 weeks, but just as Apex was about to schedule our install, the ground froze late last December and that meant we had to wait until the spring.

Apex was absolutely great to work with. Our salesman (John) was knowledgeable and personable. Our project manager (Oren) was on top of the entire process. Our installers were also super nice and really, really good at what they do! The only hiccup we faced in the entire process was one machine that broke down while digging the trench between the panels and our electric box. We had to wait a day for a part to come in.

The Install

For our ground-mount system, the racks went up in half a day, the panels (we have 24!) took a day and the trench took another day (not including the breakdown). Pretty good for full energy independence!

Except for snow removal, our system takes care of itself. I'll report back on this as time goes on if we have any issues. I've talked to a number of friends (and friends of friends) and I have only heard of one couple who had to replace an inverter - but it was over 10 years old, and beyond its expected lifespan.

[Edit: Last night our inverter was not giving a reading. I called Apex, and a tech (Mike) swung by the house today to take a look. By the time he got here, everything was working fine again and Mike determined it was probably due to a brief grid power outage. It turns out they check our system productivity and functioning from the office every day! No worries there.]

So what does it look like? A beautiful piece of industrial artwork

We are set up with 24 panels in a (mostly) unused portion of our driveway which will produce an estimated 7,000 kwH of power every year. Sweet mother of god, that's a huge system, right?! Yeah, it kinda is! Because we planned a few changes in the near future - electric heat and a clothes dryer - it's sized at 109% of our expected usage These are two luxuries we've decided to go with after much discussion. (More on those changes to come.)

With such a sizable system, we have created a new landmark in the Town of Keene! Need to find our house? Look for the solar panels!

Grid Tie

Being grid tied has its advantages:

  • we sell to our electric company any excess power we produce.
  • if you've ever looked at getting a mortgage on an off-grid home, you probably know that most banks won't finance you. In the off chance that we ever want to sell our home, being grid tied can give our buyer more options. For the time being. I hope someday banks see the value in investing in off-grid homes.
and disadvantages:

  • we still have to pay a monthly fee to the utility company to have an electric meter. I only wish NYSEG uses our $15/month to invest in green energy! 
  • when grid power goes out, our power goes out. 
That last bit is kind of a bummer, but we hope to one day mitigate that disadvantage by installing a Tesla home battery, the coolest new thing out there in energy conservation.

The Dough

I was always worried that we could never afford to go solar. I had always heard of the thousands of dollars it costs and it always sounded beyond my reach. But here's how I found out it was something we could afford to do:
  • Our monthly utility bill would not increase. Instead of paying the utility company, we pay off our loan.
  • The value of our property goes up by about the cost of the system, so we recoup the full system cost even if we sell our home tomorrow. 
  • Our down payment was only $1,000.
  • Between the grants offered to us and the Federal and State tax credits we will receive, our system will be at least 50-60% paid for! Right now the grants offered to us through NYSERDA were double what they had been in previous years, and it's there as long as funds remain available. Lucky us! 
When I ran the numbers, from every aspect, it always came out that a solar installation was something we couldn't afford NOT to do! 

AND... The Best Part

Apex Solar did ALL the paperwork! (Now you know how much I love paperwork!)

The Bottom Line

Without hesitation, and at the risk of sounding like a radio commercial, I implore you: If you have $1,000 and a house, GO SOLAR!

And tell Apex Solar I say, "Thank you!".

P.S. If you decide to go solar with Apex and want to support the LSLS blog, please mention my name!