Help me see the light – decisions about solar energy

I grew up in a home where “Put a sweater on” and “Turn off that light” were common phrases. One of the reasons I no longer have a traditional cable box is due to the amount of energy I heard they consume and I unplug appliances such as my coffee maker when I’m not using them. How many clocks does one house really need?

Encouraged by my oldest son, I’ve been thinking about solar energy recently. My house has a lot of roof space and faces southeast, pretty ideal conditions for sucking energy from the sun rather than National Grid, it seems. Any hesitation I’ve had about pursuing solar panels has come from my lack of information about how they work and a general sense of being overwhelmed about all the options – lease, buy, finance, etc.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a step in the direction of solar energy and had a salesman visit me and talk about leasing solar panels. I was a little taken aback about the 20 year commitment (what if I sell my house?), but moved beyond that by considering that I essentially had already agreed to purchase all my energy from National Grid forever since they were the only game in town.

Price per kw isn’t a huge thing in my decision as long as I’m not paying more than I already am per unit. I don’t necessarily feel that I should pay less, believing that the environmental benefit is a sufficient compensation. I also don’t want to be paying two companies on a regular basis, so I need to produce sufficient energy for my household’s needs. This is being determined by a site visit, currently scheduled.

I’m wondering if any of you have pursued alternative energy and might be able to share your thoughts and knowledge. How did you make your decision? How much did it cost out-of-pocket? Are your bills lower? Any wisdom you can contribute would be welcome.

3 thoughts on “Help me see the light – decisions about solar energy

  1. A year ago I had solar panels installed by Vivint, no cost to me, I simply pay them for electricity, which I am helping to produce. The 20-year commitment is nothing, it can be transferred to a buyer & solar panels are becoming more & more of a selling point. There are many ways to do it. This has been painless & transparent for me. Now that a year has gone by I want to explore what my electrical bill has been over the year , but my sense is I’m paying no more than I was before & perhaps less. I did it to help produce clean energy. Good luck!

  2. We bought panels outright (via Hudson Solar); our neighbors did something similar more recently and found a cheaper alternative (whom I forget, but there’s a local grass-roots effort I’ve seen at the Delmar farmers’ market and that’s who we would probably choose if doing it again now). The math was better for buying vs leasing, even though we have enough trees that we’re only getting 75% or so of the theoretical available energy.

    Last time I checked, they’re producing right in line with expectations; at that rate we break even in ~10 years after which it’s profit. We use enough, especially w/ electric car, that our meter never goes backwards, but it often doesn’t go forwards either :).

    Google has a neat tool to evaluate your solar panel suitability:

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