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:…. 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!

Is Gasoline Cheap or Expensive in the United States? And Why.

Gasoline Price in the United States

The historical pricing of gasoline in the United States, up over time.

One of the presenters here at Plug-in 2013 mentioned that gas was just under a dollar in 2000. That shocked me so I checked the historical price of gasoline in the U.S. and confirmed that her facts were indeed correct. In 13 years our gasoline has increased by 400% but compared to some parts of the world it seems quite cheap. In Europe gas ranges from around $8/gallon to close to $10/gallon in Norway and Turkey. It’s true however, that in some countries it’s less than in the United States.

Cheap gas is prevalent in Venezuela where it’s just pennies a gallon as well as in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to name a few.

But why is it cheaper in the United States than in Europe? How can the price range so much from well less than a dollar to $10? Turns out the big difference between Europe and the U.S. is the amount of tax added to the cost of the gasoline. Taxes are much higher in Europe, whereas in the U.S. the gas tax does not cover the actual cost of the gasoline (that cost includes our efforts to protect our supply) and certainly doesn’t cover the cost of maintaining our freeways as it used to do.

Our cost of gasoline is heavily subsidized by our federal government. But there is no “free lunch.” That money comes from income taxes which means that everyone pays for our petroleum whether they drive or not, as long as they pay income tax. That means that people who don’t own cars, or who drive electric cars, pay for gasoline. Why aren’t we in an uproar about this? Instead, we resist even the idea of taxes increasing, denying the fact that we are paying them all the while. We worry that an increase in gas taxes would disadvantage people who drive for a living and those with lower incomes — while at the same time those very people are paying a large portion of the cost of maintaining roads and wars using their income tax.

Recently, Washington state has begun charging a tax on electric vehicle owners so that they can pay their “fair share” of the cost of road maintenance — this of course ignores the fact that those people, or at least the majority of which who pay income tax, are already paying for a large part of the cost of our gasoline and roads!

Let’s put the tax where it belongs — on gasoline and not use our income tax for this purpose. What do you think? I look forward to your comments!