TodayApril 16, 2022

Solar Panels versus Solar systems

For ten years I’ve been working with Brower Mechanical to upgrade my sixty year old home. The walls had no insulation; the attic insulation was an inch thick at best and didnt cover the central air ducts. The water heater needed to be replaced; the swamp cooler was on it’s last leg.

As each year went by I bought more efficient heating and cooling appliances from Brower. My husband and I blew the insulation into our walls and attic ourselves. We replaced the single pane windows with dual pane high-e windows. We even bought a wood-burning insert with a 3-speed blower.
I am supplied heat or air and water via three resources: propane, electricity and wood. My propane bill runs about $1,200 a year, electricity $1,200 and I paid $350 for a cord of blue oak last year.

We are more comfortable in our home, in the summer and winter, then we have ever been. My concern now is the rising price of all the energies Im using. Propane to heat my home used to cost 99 cents a gallon, now I can get it for $2.25 in the middle of summer. If I turn off all my lights when Im not using them I can keep my electric bill down, and all that works if I use the twigs from my oak trees as starter kindling for my fires. Its only my husband and myself and we watch how much energy we use.

Im just tired of haggling over prices and Im worried that those prices will continue to increase as I get older. I have a journal that my Mother kept back in the ˜50s. It told of times when my Uncle Bob would come visit, or my Aunt Gert stopped by. It was also where she kept her budget. Our energy bill back then was $40 for my entire family of seven.

Both my husband and I want to be off the grid, self-sufficient, not depending on the whim of a company to give me a good rate. Id like to say that my consideration of purchasing solar panels was altruistic, that I was a greeny because being green is good for the universe. But the reality is I spend more time thinking about how much I have to pay for energy and how many extra times I have to vacuum because I’ve hauled wood across the carpet.

Smart meters:

In two weeks my electric company will be installing the new smart meters theyve been touting. Smart meters are a good idea, theoretically. Howe’ver, Im pretty sure my electric bill will go up because smart meter will be able to tell the electric company when I use my energy and will be able to charge me more for using it during the peak hours of 12-5. Its time for me to start looking at solar panels.

Southern California Edisons (SCE) website says, “SCE believes new rates and demand response programs made possible by it’s smart meter system could reduce peak demand by as much as 1,000 megawatts ” the output of a large power plant ” as customers reduce some peak electricity usage and shift some peak usage to off-peak periods of the day when power costs less. Additional savings include lower labor costs due to the use of wireless data transfer from meters to the utility rather than manual meter reading.”

Stephen Conroy, Director of PR for Edison says, “our intent is to teach people how to use power. If people can see that their air conditioning costs six cents per kwh before noon and twelve cents from 12-4 would people use less air conditioning during those hours? During the summer there is a thirty percent increase in electricity usage between 12-4 because of air conditioning.”

Conroy said that there are devices in our homes that he calls “vampire devices”, “devices that have green lights that stay on, such as Plasma TVs, sure protectors, cellphone chargers. When those green lights are on, those appliances are drawing electricity. These devices eat electricity and cost you money during peak hours, even when you think theyre off.”

Bill from Brower came by last week and gave me the preliminary information. The first solar group I had come out only installed solar panels, and I would probably need 5 solar panels to meet all my needs. Bill explained that Brower could possibly reduce the amount of solar panels needed by creating a solar system. Some of the measures he talked about was doing an energy audit, changing my propane heater to a dual fuel system, so that part of the time it could run on electricity. I would also get an electric water heater instead of propane.

All of us this could be put under the “solar system” umbrella for tax credit’s. I would get to take the tax credit for the entire system, instead of just the solar panels. Bill also showed me that my utility company would give a rebate for energy efficiency, which would reduce the cost of the solar system.

Most homes could use an energy audit.

At the bottom of the example Brower showed me there was a footnote in small writing about how much more my house would be worth if I bought this solar system.

Last year I had a well drilled and the next month I got a bill from the assessor’s office saying that I owed more property taxes because I had increased the value of my property. The best bit of information I got from Bill was that there is a law on the books, exemption 4950,  that says the government cant raise my property taxes if I install a solar system.

Bill took a years worth of electric bills and other information with him to calculate the costs. Hell be bringing the actual costs to me back in a couple of weeks. If I decide to go ahead theyll bring a gizmo out that will tell me the best place on my roof to get sun all year round.

Ill get them to you as soon as I get them.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.