Solar Update – April 2017

solar-panels

My favorite time of year has come! The days are longer, the snow seems to be gone for good, and birds are chirping on my way to work. Spring is upon us. I’ve always loved spring and summer, but now I have even more reasons to embrace the seasons. No, not just because the kids are out of school and there will be less traffic. Because it’s sun season! As you know, we got some solar panels last summer and we enjoyed many months of free electricity. It was truly a sad day when I had to pay for my first electric bill in months after the start of a frigid winter. These things will spoil you…

But the sun always shine eventually and, boy is it shining! My March 2017 electric bill was $38. We are retiring the heating for the season and thus expecting a much lower utility usage, until late June when we have to kick on the AC. Even then, I’m thinking that the 12-13 hours of sunlight that summers in New England graces us with should be sufficient to offset the worse of the damage. I might have reached the electric bill break even point. If so, I am looking forward to negative balances (I don’t say that very often) for many months to come so I can run my heat for free in November.

Let’s raise our glasses to sunny days, tax credits, and free electricity.

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Solar Update – January 2017

solar-panels

Ever since I got my solar panels installed, I have noticed a troubling change in my behavior… I am excited to get my electric bill! Can you blame me? I’ve been getting the energy hook up from the heavens themselves and giving the proverbial middle finger to the utility company. It’s nothing to sneeze at.

However, things are a little different this time around. I am still losing sleep anticipating that electric bill, but the source of the anticipation is not the same. It is more of a nerve wracking anticipation than the joyful one I experienced with the looming summer solstice. The difference is that this time around, I am working with much shorter days and significantly more energy use to try and offset the nasty effects of the New England winter. This was my first full month of winter and also the first billing cycle when I did not have a left over credit from the previous month.

The daylight savings time kicked in and now the sun is fully below the horizon by 4:30 pm. Unlike the summer when it is bright until 9 o’clock at night, we no longer have 12 hours of sunlight keeping our appliances running. To make things worse, the last of the left over summer credits were eaten up by the December bill. But I did not have long to wait. My email pinged mid-day yesterday announcing that, with just a few clicks, I could find out if the cold and dark days of old man winter were going to keep burning a hole through our household budget or if renewable energy was worth the time and money we put into it. Lo and behold, our bill was $57 cheaper than it was this time last year.

Although $57 might not seem like a lot of money, we were saving over $150 a month by not having electricity costs all summer. If one of the colder months of the year can still yield us a $57 saving, I will put a check mark in the win column. Particularly since we haven’t even gotten our 30% tax credit yet.

Get Rich with Solar Panels

Ok, maybe you won’t get rich. But you’ll like the money you’ll save and you might even save enough to invest in a high-yield dividend fund. Before I even get in the weeds of it all, I’m going to show you some info my most recent bill from my electric company (NStar or Eversource, whatever they’re calling themselves these days) so you can see the real life example of what renewable energy can do for you.

homepage

Home Page View of Account

 

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2-month Comp.

 

cost

Charges

 

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Year-to-Date Usage

The first image is what I see when I log into my account. That’s not a piece of lint on your screen. It’s a minus sign. They owe me $50. I won’t see that money in cash, but it will be kept as a credit on my account to off set any bills I may have, which will inevitably happen in the short winter days. Yesterday (9.26.16) would have been my due date, but since I don’t have a balance, I didn’t have to make a payment and I got to keep that $150-190 I normally would have paid them. Maybe I’ll put it towards my student loans

The second image is a 2-month history (this month and last month) of my account activity. It helps me compare my previous usage and bill to the current charges. I’ll reiterate: this is not a drill! My usage for the 2 months you see is indeed “0”. Technically it’s a negative number but for their billing purposes, it’s zero.

The third image is the cost of my electricity. They charge you a delivery fee as you have their equipment (meter) and are still connected to the grid. However, at 18 cents/kWh and me producing 300+ more than I’m using, my credit exceeds even the delivery charge granting me the credit.

Finally, you see the YTD history of my usage. The solar panels were installed mid-June and had to go through an inspection before they could be turned on in the last week of June. This makes my first full month of “free” electricity July. As you can see, I haven’t had any usage since. As the days get shorter and the weather gets nastier here in New England, I anticipate that I’ll be paying again soon, maybe sometime in late October, early November. However, as long as there is sun, I will never be using as much power as I’ve used before.

Here are my estimates for 2017 which will be my first full year of having solar panels (I’ll be estimating an average of a $50 credit for the more fruitful months, break even for the lean months and an average of $175 for all full bills):

Jan – Full Bill

Feb – Full Bill

Mar – Full Bill

Apr – Break Even

May – ($50)

Jun – ($50)

Jul – ($50)

Aug – ($50)

Sept – ($50)

Oct – Break Even

Nov – Bill fully covered by accumulated $250 in credit

Dec – Bill partially covered by remaining credit balance

Yes, things are looking good. With a 30-year warranty on the panels and a 15-warranty on the inverter, this may very well be my life until 2046: $600 in electricity costs. When are you taking the plunge?

Here are some important notes about my usage:

  1. We moved into the house Christmas week, which shows an artificially low January total.
  2. Yes, I am aware that I use a lot of electricity (pre-solar), however I am still below the average American household which was estimated to be 911 kWh/month in 2014. Despite that, my house is bigger than the average house at close to 3,100 square feet and my entire house runs on electricity (electric range, washer, dryer, boiler, pump for the well, central AC, hot water heater, etc.) meaning that even when I do something as routine and necessary as flushing the toilet, I use electricity.
  3. This year sucked almost as bad as last year. Despite the minimal amount of snow we had, there were some really cold days in the single digits and even in the negative. So we ran the heat longer and higher than we normally would have.
  4. Finally, a new home means some adjustments. We had to learn the house because we had just moved in. We often had lights on that we didn’t know were on because we didn’t know they existed. Sometimes, we couldn’t even figure out how to turn them off. We would hit 4 or 5 switches before we figured out which one was the flood light on the side of the garage. This year we hope to do better to maximize our panels.

If you want to see pictures of the actual project, visit my Instagram page @karibefrost