Sungevity brings back deal to save $1,000 on Solar through month end!

I’m excited to let you know that through the end of this month and for the first time in the better part of a year, Sungevity is offering $1,000 off on the price of a solar PV system for your home. If you aren’t sure if it makes financial sense, I’d suggest that if your electric bill is $100 or greater, or if you plan to buy an electric car in the few years, then it will save you money while also being good for the environment.

I’ve posted a lot about our experience going solar on my blog at http://www.evchronicles.com in case you want to read more.

As you can see in the graph I’ve attached, utility prices have increased over the years and we can only expect them to continue to do so in the long term. Even the recent decrease in the price of petroleum has not lowered electricity prices and with our grid aging and needing much improvement increases are inevitable.

Click on this link for a free hassle free quote that is based on a Google Earth picture of your rooftop (don’t worry, they will actually visit to confirm details before installing). Feel free to ask me if you have any questions about our experience with Sungevity and our installation, and let me know how yours goes! If you hit any snags, let me know. I have a number of friends I went to grad school with who work at Sungevity and I can always give someone a nudge if they drop the ball.

Please leave me your thoughts and comments on my blog too if you are so inclined. I would appreciate it and I read all of them!

Finally, thanks for reading this far and considering solar. Each one of us who invests in renewable energy is helping create a better climate for our children and generations to come!

Solar PV — Why to do it this month!

My biggest concern when decided to purchase solar for my home was the seemingly impossible to quantity risk of selling my home with the solar panels installed. This is our first home and there was no way we could be certain it would be our last or even that we would stay here for very long. So what would installing solar do to the value of our home? Would we lose much money? Would it actually increase the value of our home and by how much? I tried to find research to answer these questions but not much seemed to be available.

Now, two years later, an article published by “Renewable Energy World” cites research done by Laurence Berkeley Labs that showed a positive return on investment for solar. In the study it was determined that a home in which a 5,000 watt solar system was purchased for $14,000, the value of the home went up to $20,000.

Why aren’t more people adopting solar?

Good question. My experience has told me that the first big dividing line is between people who spend $100 or more on their electricity bill vs those who spend less. Folks who spend less will have a harder time making the numbers work but simple changes such as switching to an electric heat pump water heater (something that we did) or adopting an electric car (fuel with cheap electricity and spend no money on gasoline! — we did this too) will tip the scale.

The second dividing line and the one I want to draw most attention to is the idea that “solar is still too expensive” and it will get cheaper in the future. If I offered you an investment opportunity that offered a better than 40% return on investment, you would be interested, wouldn’t you? I sure would be! That sure beats the barely more than 0% I can get on my savings account or the 1% for a short term CD. What if I told you that not only would you get that return but you would save money every month and would help the environment at the same time? Sounds too good to be true, but it is. Would you still want to wait for the investment to be cheaper?

Making this even more compelling, you can save $1,000 during the remainder of the month by using a referral code that I’m happy to share with you: 159195 or go directly to Sungevity for a free quote. Perhaps even more important the current 30% tax credit is going to be phased out next year so solar may get more expensive before it gets cheaper!

Why am I promoting this? Well, I’m very happy with my Sungevity system, am a firm believer in renewable energy and saving money. I also get a referral fee from Sungevity if you join and that helps pay for my son’s preschool so we all benefit! Please check out Sungevity and work the numbers. And I’m happy to earn my referral fee so if you have any problems with Sungevity in the process feel free to reach out to me here and I’ll call one of the good folks I know who work there (I know a lot of them, many from my grad school program) and I’ll make sure the issue gets addressed. ok? What do you have to lose — give them a try!

Have you already installed Solar Panels on your roof? If not, you might NOT want to wait.

For years I’ve heard friends tell me that they are waiting for solar to get cheaper before they lease or purchase them. Even as prices have dropped to a small fraction of their prior cost, there is an assumption that they will get only cheaper over time. The reality is that the panels are now only a small fraction of the total cost of having them installed. For example, panels can be as cheap as $ .50/watt (wholesale) and (as of 2014) cost an average of $4.72 installed. The price of solar panels may continue to fall but the cost of labor likely won’t. Even more important is the fact that the current 30% federal tax credit expires next year. What does that mean? Well, for starters it means that the cost of Solar is actually going to increase significantly!
For those who have an electric bill of around $100/month (annualized average) you will save money by installing solar. If your usage is lower than that and you think you are likely to purchase an electric car in the next few years or to switch some appliances to electric that now run on gas (e.g. we switched from a gas water heater to a heat pump one) then the solar will definitely make economic sense. Most likely the price will be a lot higher at the end of next year than it is now and paying 30% more for solar (assuming you qualified for the tax credit) is no small amount.
The good news is that our solar provider, @Sungevity is offering $1,000 off using a referral code and you can use ours with this link: http://www.sungevity.com/get-your-iquote…. They offer this discount a couple of times or so a year and it’s the biggest discount they offer! We do benefit from the referral — so if you do get a quote from Sungevity we would very much appreciate your using it. The most important thing is getting solar so if you prefer another vendor by all means get a quote from them too! If you have any questions about monthly leases vs pre-paid leases vs purchasing I’d be happy to address them, I’m very knowledgable about them after doing our research!

Happy Independence Day: The Long Road to Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. (Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776, http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html)

Today, all across the United States we are celebrating this historic day when the United States of America declared its independence from England. The words still read powerfully today. As wise as these words are, our forefather’s fell quite short in their interpretation of them. The idea that “all men are created equal” is quite an ideal despite that half of our population were deemed unworthy of these rights as they weren’t men. African-Americans, then slaves, were  not recognized as being created equal by ‘their creator.” Doing so would have been quite inconvenient for those who depended on slave labor to run their households, farms and businesses.

We also spoke about “taxation without representation” and how important it was for each man to have the right to vote. Yet, not only were African Americans and women not allowed to vote, but even white men who did not own property were denied this basic right. The wealthy feared that those who were poor would take away their wealth if given power. So “all men” referred to the white, upper-class or from the point of view of our founding “fathers'” that meant “people like us who believe as we do.” So much for being created equal and for true human rights. We clearly had a long way to go.

We’ve come a long way since 1776. As we celebrate this holiday, which often includes burning propane or charcoal, we need to stop and consider the impact of the fuel we use and the green house gases we create on our true independence. We in fact, depend on people who would like to see us out of power if not dead for much of our petroleum. As we drive to BBQ’s in which we celebrate our independence let’s think about how dependent we are on fossil fuels that come in large part from the middle east. Let’s think about how we depend on mining coal that causes toxicity to workers and the areas that surround the mines in addition to polluting the air we breath. We cling to hopes for “clean coal” an idea that is far from a reality. We pin hopes on our abundant supply of natural gas which is 30% less toxic and deadly than coal but toxic nontheless. We are far from independent.

I implore each of you to take a moment today to consider how you can help us become truly independent. Any little step can help. Whether it’s turning down the thermostat, changing light bulbs to low power LEDs, installing occupancy/vacancy sensors to shut off lights, installing solar power, biking more, using public transportation and/or using an electric car. Take an action towards independence. It will feel good. I promise!

Ok, time for me to head to my BBQ, my family is already there. Best wishes to you and yours!

Last Days for Big Discount on Solar!

Earlier this year,  I was lucky enough to sign up for solar when Sungevity was having one of its biggest promotions of the year. The install went well and my system is working great. They are having another big promotion now, six months later. The catch is this promotion is only good to the end of this month which is just a few short days!

Here’s a link which includes a code that offers $1,000 back if you request a free quote before the end of this month. After the 31st the discount drops down to $500 still a nice discount.

If you end up getting solar with Sungevity, please come back and comment to let me know!

Making Solar Make $ense

The general guiding principal around the decision of whether to or not to invest in solar over the past few years has been tied to the price of one’s electric bill. In general, if your electric bill is $100 or more it’s been argued to make economic sense and if it’s less than perhaps not. The reality however, is less simple.

Future cost vs Current Cost of Electricity

The $100 figure is based on the current cost of electricity. What about the future cost? Looking at the EIA provided chart below, we can see that the trend for the price of electricity is upwards. By all accounts this will continue to increase in future years.chart

It’s likely that the cost of green house gas emissions will be added in whole or part in the future which will increase the amount we pay for our electricity. Consider that some of our relatively cheap electricity, in particular that from nuclear reactors is waning as reactors are being retired while new ones are not being built to replace them.

Efficiency of Electric vs Gas

While people tend to think of gas as being better for heating than electricity, the truth is that gas is actually less efficient even though it is currently cheaper at least when comparing traditional heating of air and water. The optimal use of electricity is in the form of a heat pump. A heat pump takes heat from one place and moves it to another. This is  more efficient than directly heating the water. The mechanism is similar to an air conditioner but uses less energy. For example, a hybrid heat pump water heater such as the A.O. Smith Voltex can provide an abundance of hot water for less than the cost of a traditional gas or electric hot water heater. Add this to a home powered by solar photovoltaic and you can really benefit from the savings.

We recently had such a water heater installed and are experiencing more hot water at a lower cost than we paid with our traditional gas-fired hot water heater.

Hybrid Heatpump Water Heater

A.O. Smith Voltex Hybrid Electric Water Heater

We installed our new water heater as part of an overall energy efficiency upgrade and were able to get the majority of the cost including installation back as a rebate making this a phenomenal deal for us. This was thanks to the program offered by “Energy Upgrade California” and other options are available in other states. See the dsireusa.org database to see what incentives are located in your area. Now in the interest of full disclosure our water heater went into operation before our new solar array was activated. The increase in our electric use cost more than our decrease in gas use saved due to it moving us up to a higher tiered rate. Once our solar array is online the little electric that we will use from the grid will definitely be at the lowest tier. So if you are considering a heat pump water heater instead of gas, it may not save you money unless you have a lower kWh rate than we do in California and/or have a solar array you are using to generate power.

We will also be switching to a time of use plan which will lower our rate in the morning and overnight while charging us higher rates in the afternoon through 7pm. This will lower our bill significantly as most of our use occurs outside of the higher rate window and our water heater only runs during and shortly after use of hot water which is generally first thing in the morning and later in the evening.

Savings through Tax Benefits

Solar would not make sense financially for most of us without the huge incentives that exist. The tax rebates are only the tip of the iceberg. With a leased solar system, the legal owner of the system (either the solar provider or a bank) is currently able to not only receive all of the federal and local rebates, they also can depreciate 50% of the cost of the system in the first year of the lease! The rest of the depreciation can occur during an accelerated schedule of just a few more years despite the fact that system will generally last in excess of 25 years! Better yet, after the most common, twenty year lease term expires, the system will be worth less than the cost of labor to remove it and return the roof to pre-installed condition. This means that one can expect to keep the system without additional charge after the lease expires. The other benefit of a lease is that most companies include inverter replacement after ten years without additional charge and performance monitoring and warranties throughout the duration of the lease.

The very best prices are on pre-paid leases in which the full set of payments is made at the beginning of the lease. The price is generally much lower than a cash purchase would be even when considering rebates.

In our case we purchased premium American designed and manufactured Suniva panels which inflated our system cost. Even with that additional cost our price for the system we leased came to just $2.50/watt from Sungevity. At that price we should have a full payback of our investment in just a few short years with immunity to future increases in the price of electricity for many years to come!