Ken & Barb, Part III: The Secret’s Out

Nickolas Hein – 5/17/18

(See Part 1) (See Part 2)

It’s been a few months since Ken and Barb completed the solar PV installation on their rooftop and they’re visiting with Phil – an energy auditor – to check in on how well the system is working for them.  They’ve inspected the panels on the rooftop to confirm that everything looks good.  Aesthetically the panels blend in with the existing shingle pattern they had on their roof.  Although roofs on older homes sometimes need reinforcing to hold the extra weight of the panels, theirs was given the OK without modification after a structural inspection (an optional, but recommended step).  Since it is an older house and the roof has sagged a little, there was some minor expense for adjustable mounting feet to conform to the surface.  Phil also points out the edge guards that were installed to keep out wildlife that could damage the panels and wiring.

Inside, they’ve looked at the electrical panel and inverter where the solar power comes into the house.  The electrical service had been upgraded previously so they had an extra breaker slot to bring in the power.  The inverter they chose is “battery-ready” meaning that in a year or two, when batteries are more available and have some reputation for dependability they can add storage without major modifications.  There are simple displays on the inverter and meter to show how much electricity they are making, and when they are making more than they are using.  At these times they are credited for excess production, so they can draw on it like a bank account.  Through an app on their phone, they can check the numbers any time and make adjustments when necessary.

Now they’re having coffee at kitchen table and discussing their experience. 

“I’ve already noticed that our monthly electric bills are lower” says Ken, “and we haven’t even gotten to the best solar months yet.”

Barb says “I’ve really enjoyed being able to monitor our generation and I’ve showed it to a few of my friends, but is there anything that solar can do for us besides save money?”

Phil answers, “That’s a great question folks.  Solar gives you a lot of flexibility to reduce your other utility bills.  For example, you have an air conditioner – right?”

“Yes, but we’ve never used it because it made our electric bill skyrocket” says Ken.

“Well you don’t have to worry about that anymore” Says Phil.  The times when you need air conditioning are the times when your panels will be making the most electricity, so you’ll be using it right when and where you make it.  What appliances are you using natural gas for?”

“Well, there’s the furnace, water heater, clothes dryer and kitchen stove” says Barb.

Phil answers “You may be able to switch those to electric if you choose models that are efficient enough so you can stay within your solar energy budget.  If you trade out your furnace for a mini-split heat pump you’ll be heating and cooling with the same equipment.   You’ll be able to take the furnace and all of that retrofitted ducting out of the basement and get more space.”  You can also convert your water heater from gas to electric.  Although traditional models were electricity hogs, there are new heat-pump versions that aren’t.

“How much do all of these things cost? “ Ken asks Phil.

“I’ll admit that some of these technologies are pretty new, and for other reasons may not fit your situation unless you have strong feelings about getting completely off natural gas.  You just replaced your furnace and water heater, but it looks like your clothes dryer and range are ready for replacement. Energy Star versions are available at your local appliance dealer and you’ll just have to add the 220V service to both of them.  You’ll want to look at the exact costs and savings to determine whether it’s worthwhile.  And since you’re considering an electric car, extra panels could provide you enough to charge it at home.  The main thing to realize is that now you have choices – your rooftop is producing the electricity that could meet all of your energy needs if you want.  Going with renewables isn’t just about saving money – it can also give you energy independence.”

“That really sounds great” says Ken.  “It seems like everyone with a roof should be doing this, is there something secret about it?”

Phil answers “Solar has been around and well-known for many years but most people don’t know that it’s come down in price a lot recently, so make sure you tell all your friends about it.”

Ken and Barb have learned that they have new and affordable options for their energy needs.  You do to.  If you want to learn more about how solar can help you become more independent email us at info@legacysolarcoop.org.

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