Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Gobblin' up the sun

I give my children multi-vitamins with their breakfasts. The brand we buy has little smiling suns printed on them. Every morning, my younger daughter sings, "The sun is coming up! The sun is coming up! The sun is coming arrughghghgh!!," that last sound there being where she gobbles up the vitamin. She smiles and laughs because this is high comedy when you're four.

I'm smiling and laughing right now, because we're gobblin' up the sun too.

As of 4PM today, we've gone solar. The panels are up on the roof, the inverters are on and the electric meter's running backwards! I have to say that again, just because of how good it felt to say it the first time. The meter is running backwards!!!

Now the inspections begin, starting tomorrow morning, and I'm told the state inspection and my new digital meter take a while. I'll have to shut the power down between the inspections for a while too, so we're not 100% done with the process. But boy, am I glad to be gobblin' up the sun.


Jeri said...

Sorry to ask a dumb question, but how does the electric meter run backwards? Is it because the solar panels are now producing all of the electricity for your home?

Also, if you'd care to tell me whom you got to install the solar panels, that would be great. I'm interested in going solar as well.


Sharon GR said...

We are hooked into the power grid. During the day the panels produce more than I use, so the meter runs backwards. At night, it runs forward, and I only pay for the net, or the power company will owe me if we produce more than we use (but that's highly unlikely with the size of our system.) We need to have a new digital electric meter installed and the power company will be doing this soon, since we passed our local inspection this morning. The state inspection is next, hopefully very soon.

You can also install a system where your own power goes into a battery which powers you at night, but it's significantly more expensive than being on the grid. A nice feature there is your electricity stays on if everyone else loses power; I've heard those systems are very popular in hurricane-prone areas.

The state of NJ also provides lots of incentives to go solar, including a big rebate on cost of installation. Local contractors in your state will be able to help you figure out what you can get there. Another incentive in NJ is I am now a clean energy producer and I get so many clean energy credits which can be sold to the highest bidder. Between this and the free power, the system pays for itself in 6-10 years (and lasts about 30.) We plan to stay in the house, so we'll be enjoying free power for about 20 years. If we decide to sell, the value added to the house is great too.

We used a local contractor, Jersey Solar ( .) An important lesson my neighbor and I learned while resarching this is that there are lots of differences in equipment and installation. It was difficult comparing apples to oranges to pineapples to cherries etc. We got several proposals and spent a long time comparing before deciding on that contractor and systems.

How's that for a long answer to a short question?

Andrew said...

When the meter runs backward, we are actuall feeding the grid. Some of the electricity consumed by our neighbors is being generated by us! How's that for cool?

Rob S. said...

You should poison their electricty and take over their houses!


Megalomaniacal Rob

Andrew said...

Well, yeah Rob, that goes without saying. And remember, you're on the grid too, so don't think your safe....

Rob S. said...

Nah, we get all our power from burning gophers.

Andrew said...

Wow. Now that is a renewable resource!

Jeri said...

That is very unbelievably cool! (The solar panels, that is, not the gophers.) In a year or so, when our financial situation improves (always thinking positive, I am), Jeri and I are going to look into doing the same thing for our home. Our house is aligned almost due East-West, and with no trees close to the house, we have excellent Southern exposure.

This past winter, we got rid of our old oil furnace and replaced it with a new "hybrid" system that runs an electric heat pump until the temperature drops down to 35F, at which point the oil kicks in. Obviously, we spent more on electricity this winter, but we spent far less on oil, for a net savings of about $100 or so for the first year - and we only had it installed in January!


Dave said...

Hello, Dave here, old friend of the Springfieldians (is that a word?) and I think I visited you guys once with Greg after Dom's wedding.

Re-introductions aside, are the panels installed on the roof of your home? I'd like to look into this also, but there's no way we'd want to put them on our home's roof, given that it's slate and the house was built in 1875.

We do, however, have a large 2-story detached garage at the back of the yard, which might be a better candidate for the panels anyway. What sort of initial cost outlay is an average amount?

I don't think we qualify for any incentives where I live, which is sucky.

Thinkin' green...


Sharon GR said...

Hi Dave, welcome!

Yes, the panels are on the roof of our house. The back of our house faces nearly due south, making it an ideal set-up. They hook into inverters, set up in the basement, next to the electrical box.

NJ gives generous incentives, upwards of 70% of the cost. (I've heard rumors that that figure is dropping very soon, but we had ours installed in time.) Now, even with 70% of the cost paid by NJ, we still needed a loan. It's a lot. No, more than that figure you just thought of. (Maybe the next one too.) We had to take out a Home Equity Line of Credit, and I abhore debt; owing money gives me the shakes. That I was willing to borrow for the solar shows how important this is to us and we think it was worth it.

I would strongly suggest you contact a local solar contractor, or three or six. Over the phone they should be able to give you an idea and maybe come out for a survey of your site. No one charged me for a quote. Solar is pricey, but maybe there are some incentives or tax breaks you can get that aren't well publicized.

As for mounts, here are some projects that the company we used did in other places. Note there are ground mounts, so I expect there's probably a way to do a garage mount.

Good luck! I hope it works out for you.

Andrew said...

A company in California has a site with lots of pictures that show most installation options.