Hello everyone, today I have a guest post from JW (“The Green Swan”), the early retirement blogger from thegreenswan.org. He has become the de facto expert within the personal finance blogger-sphere when it comes to going solar. He recently wrote a three part series on buying solar panels on his blog and I invited him on here to outline the pros and cons.
He is also about to publish his book, The Green Swan: Work Harder, Work Smarter, Retire Earlier Find Your Beach. Click here for more on his upcoming book release.
Without further ado, here’s The Green Swan:
Thanks for the invite Ray and hello everyone! The Green Swan is all about making more money, keeping expenses low, and investing to reach financial independence and early retirement. But today, The “Green” Swan has a dual meaning as we will learn how to “go green” by going solar. Buying solar panels has gone mainstream so I’m sure everyone has heard of it before. But how familiar are you with the ins and outs of solar panels?
Solar panels will allow you to generate most of your own electricity instead of paying the local utility company. This is a perfect alternative and recently has become the cheaper alternative. Going solar is feasible if you own your home and/or if you own investment rental properties.
Solar is Sexy
In the first part of my Saving with Solar series, Solar is Sexy, I answer a lot of questions and dispel a number of common misconceptions. The two most common misconceptions are highlighted below.
First, solar is no longer only for the rich. The cost of going solar has come down significantly in the last decade and in many places you can qualify for tax incentives to reduce the cost burden and help make them even more economical.
Second, you do not have to live in the desert for solar to work. You may have actually started seeing solar popping up on houses near you. While having longer days and more sun exposure is obviously better, as long as you have a roof facing primarily south or west you can generate some solid solar energy.
The second part in the series, Solar Cents, goes into full detail on the cost and benefits of going solar. While this will vary from state to state and from country to country, this post gives you an overview on how to analyze the economics of going solar.
There can be a lot to consider when determining how economical solar panels are. This would include the upfront cost of solar panels and how much they will offset your energy usage (solar reps will help you figure this out), what tax incentives you qualify for (the government paid for approximately 55% of my solar panels!), how much savings you will reap from your utility bill, and also how much your home value may increase.
If you end up financing the purchase you can consider getting a low interest rate home equity loan or perhaps the solar manufacturer will offer a loan or lease option (this is common from my experience).
I ultimately decided to buy and own my solar panels; however, there are other options available in terms of financing and leasing solar panels. Instead of paying an electrical bill each month, you will make the loan or lease payment which will still save you money…while also cutting back your carbon footprint.
The third part, Solar Power, lays out the installation process as well as how the solar panels have worked for me so far. I bought my solar panels in late November 2015 and couldn’t be happier with them. They have operated as advertised and the solar generation has really ramped up as we head into the summer.
While it was definitely a process from signing the contract with the local solar reps in mid-September to finally “turning them on” in November (over two months!), it was pretty seamless from my perspective. The local solar folks took care of everything for me including the required licenses, permits, and inspections.
And now that they are turned on, the production has been great. While they first started generating electricity in the winter months, I’ve noticed a significant increase as we head into summer. As you can see in the daily energy production chart below, in December a “good day” was almost 15 kWh. Now that we are through April, you can see a “good day” is over twice as good, generating almost 30 kWh!
Needless to say I haven’t had an electrical bill the last couple months, I’ve actually put electricity back on the grid for which I’ve received a credit to be used in future months when production is lower (this upcoming winter).
And besides the money I’ve saved, it is important to highlight the environmental benefits. Even if the dollars and cents of going solar do not tie out perfectly, I’d still recommend going solar. The feeling of generating my own electricity is pretty awesome and knowing that I’ve eliminated a significant part of my carbon footprint is incredible.
The manufacturer I bought my solar panels through provides a real time estimate of the environmental impact I’ve had by going solar. From November 19 (installation date) to May 6 (time of writing), I have generated 2,403 kWh and have saved 3,653 pounds of CO2 emissions, 3,945 miles not driven, 186 gallons of gas not used, 1,780 pounds of coal not burned, 4 barrels of crude oil not used, 42 mature trees grown and 1,309 pounds of garbage recycled.
That’s pretty crazy considering I’m just one household that’s gone solar. Think of the multiplying effect of going solar house after house, year after year!
You’re welcome planet 🙂 !
That’s all for me. I’ve hope you learned a bit about solar today. Thanks again for the invite to guest post, Ray!
The Green Swan
P.S. My wife and I are very much looking forward to teaching our little one about the power of solar panels. He is just 2 years old now, but think how impactful and educational that will be for him to grow up with solar panels!
Back to you Ray!
Thanks Green Swan! Solar panels sound like a great investment into the future.
I personally have a 5kw system on my roof and monitor it with a Wireless Home Electricity Monitorwhich is a handy little tool and great way for me to see my usage and solar stats, just make sure that you get an electrician to install it for you.
Another great tool for solar is a website called PVoutput.org! It allows you to see how much users around the world are generating. You can also see what individual systems are producing compared to yours. It almost feels like a competition to see who on the street can collect the most sun rays 😉
Thanks for reading 🙂
Win at money with me,