Saturday, February 7, 2015

Inexpensive Solar Panels: Good for the Environment, Good for the Family

When my wife and I were first married, we heard about the idea of powering a house with solar panels. We immediately used our dial up internet to slowly read about residential solar production. Through our investigation, we discovered that the cost for solar panels was more than you could save in a lifetime of electrical bills. Yikes! We believed at that time that we would probably not be able to ever afford to have solar panels on our house.Against all hope, we still put it on a list of life goals and stuck it next to our dinosaur computer.

Fast forward to 2015.
Phone app showing daily solar production

While solar panels are still relatively expensive, we decided to look into leasing them and ultimately ended up with solar panels on both of our Arizona homes using Solar City. While we generally don't like to lease anything, we realized that leasing solar panels does not cost us any money in the long run. In fact, it actually saves us money when our monthly electrical bill and lease payment are combined. We actually have several months in the year with a $0 electrical bill (only paying the lease amount on the solar panels) which is absolutely fantastic.

In the last year, we have saved an average of $50 per month by generating solar power ($600 over the past year). We have generated 14,781 kWh of power in one year, which seems to be enough to power a small town. Solar City's fantastic app for iPhone (or Android) enables me to monitor my solar usage, see how much I have generated for a day, week, month or year, and check to make sure that the system is working properly. 

The kids LOVE the solar panels
Solar City is a company that was started by two brothers who wanted to make solar affordable for the average homeowner (if only one of MY brothers had talked me into doing something like this). Their engineers work with the homeowner to develop a system that works for the home and lowers the monthly electrical bill by more than the lease payment. They also take care of all permits, installation, inspections, and follow up. And, according to a different company that I spoke with, they are the only solar provider that handles their own financing, which means that they are more affordable. In essence, Solar City is a fantastic company to work with, and they make every aspect of going solar easy. They currently provide solar systems in 15 states.

The full array
Here's what having a solar system means to me as a father. It means that I am reducing my carbon footprint by producing a good portion of the electricity my family uses (so I can feel good about recharging the batteries for countless annoying talking toys). I am much more conscious with the electricity that I use, knowing that what we produce goes that much further if lights are turned off or we open the windows to help cool off the house. And I love talking about electricity with my kids. In fact, my kids, ages six, four, and two, love looking for solar panels as we are driving around. It is kind of the hippy version of "Slug Bug," although I suppose "Slug Bug" was kind of a hippy thing to begin with... Anyway, the logical side of me loves saving money and the environmental/fatherly side of me loves doing something good for the planet.

If you are interested in learning more about Solar City and whether or not they are the right company for you, please use the following link:   For every person who signs up for a solar system through this link, Renaissance Dad will donate $100 to a local charity.

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