Saturday, September 15, 2018

Solar ... By Hook or By Crook!!

I remember way back in the dinosaur era when we had to turn our lights off to keep the power bill down.  Leaving your bedroom light on was a federal offense, punishable by docking your 50 cent weekly allowance by 10 cents per incident.

We usually complied because that 50 cents could buy FIVE comic books at the corner liquor store.  Oh I remember it well ... spinning the rack around and around trying to decide whether to get Superman or Captain America.

Then along came someone who invented solar panels.  Sorry, there won't be any pretty pictures of this subject.

It all came about when my girlfriend in California called to say she got solar for her house.  Not really interested since I keep my bill really low, I asked her what DEAL she got.  She put no money down, had the panels installed for free, and still pays PG&E the same $200 a month she's been paying for the last ten years she has owned the house.  So how is that a deal?  Maybe if the cost of electricity doubles in the year 2030.

I think she got hooked into a crooked deal.  The solar company gets all the extra electricity which they sell to PG&E for a profit.  In 20 years, if she lives that long (she is 68), she will own the system and probably NOT have a bill for electricity.
There's another reason I didn't want solar on my California house.  It would cover the entire front roof of the south facing building, making it much less appealing from the street.  No, this is not my house.  I think this is in Wales or somewhere totally irrelevant.  
How about solar here in Arizona?  I mean really, the sun shines most every single day.  Mr. Chance hooked me up with his installer, proven to be honest and dependable.  I called him up and got a lesson in solar.

Here's the deal ... at least in Arizona.  I could buy a 5 watt system for $15,000 and get a $5,000 rebate from the federal government.  From the day of installation on, I would have no electric bill other than a $19 a month charge to stay in the system, which most likely would be wiped out by the extra electricity I generated every month that Tucson Electric Power would buy from me. 

Sounds like a plan.  Sign me up.  The nice gentleman called me back in an hour to explain the laws.   How much solar wattage you are ALLOWED to install is dependent on your average bill every month.  If my bill was $200 a month, I could get a 5 watt system.  YAY!!  

Not so fast there honey ... your bill has been averaging $45 a month, which means you only qualify for a 3 watt system.  That gets you nothing for your $10,000 investment.  You will never be able to produce enough electricity to sell extra to TEP with a 3 watt system.  

In fact, you probably won't even make enough electricity to cover your bill for the month!!  It's the law and there's no getting around it.  They will not let you install a 5 watt system (or bigger) just so you can make money off the local electric company.

I was sort of in a panic over getting the system installed, since Arizona (at the bidding of Tucson Electric Power) was set to pass a bill saying it no longer had to buy from the homeowner at a profitable rate, any extra power produced by private solar panels.  

If you already HAVE a system, you will be compensated at the high rate already established.  If you have a system installed AFTER the passage of this new bill, you will receive the same rate paid to the big power companies that provide electricity to TEP.  In other words, there is no longer an incentive to install solar. 

I'm glad he was at least honest enough to tell me the truth ... that any system I am allowed to install will not be big enough to cover my bill, making my break even point come at about age 95.  It would just be a waste of money.  How many contractors will tell you that?  

As for solar on the RV, the same goes for comparing the cost against the use I would get out of it.  Rarely would I be in an area where I would dry camp, unless it was Quartzsite for one week out of the year, in which case I just use my generator.  If I were full timing, it would be a different story since I have a household refrigerator.  Solar would then be my friend.

Alas, I shall remain in the dark ages, hoping my retirement check will cover the rising cost of electricity wherever I go.  


  1. Glad you got some honest answers from the installer. The solar we have have saved us thousands of dollars over the 12 years we have been full-time. No need for us to have electricity .And as you know we spent a lot of time boon docking in the desert and other places.

    1. Exactly ... those RV parks can be expensive even if only $20 a night.

    2. Rv parks in Ontario are over $50. a night. Our system 12 years ago was $1,200. installed and we averge $1,500. a year in camping fees, so for us was very worthwhile. Pretty good for being full-time.

  2. With the initial investment adding up to approximately $4,000.00 for the Solar on our RV it will be paid for in another year. Just when you think you can get ahead the Big Companies have Governments put up Roadblocks.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

    1. If you have a $4000 solar system on your RV don't think of it as $4000 spent out .
      Divide that 4000 by how many years you've had the system,
      If you had it for four years it's cost you $1000 a year, the longer you have it, the cheaper The $$ figure gets
      So really in theory you never saved any money but the system keeps getting cheaper by the year

    2. You got a good deal for your RV Rick ... and not having to pay RV parks surely saves a bundle. The government is putting up roadblocks, but only at the request of the Electric Company so they can make more money!!

    3. Ed I think they save money. If not for the solar panels, they would be paying a minimum of $20 a night in an RV park. That adds up REAL quick!!

  3. Don't get me wrong but solar is probably the best way to go for some people.
    And probably even a better way if a couple or family was just starting out.
    Every user an every house has a totally unique situation?
    I think It would be a good deal under 2 circumstances !
    number one resale value !
    Number two you live 25 years beyond your age now ?
    So if you take $15,000 out of the bank and put it in a high interest CD .
    For 25 years you might recoup the $5000 before income tax! ( see# )
    The rebate that the state federal government would give you, remember that's not cash that's a only one time right off discount on your taxes
    Or spread out over XX years
    It's the same with any maintenance that you do to your house could be a tax rite -off

    So let's say you take 15,000 and you put that aside and you have the APL
    Debit your monthly bill at $50 per month (today's rate) for 25 years ?

    # Now let's say you spent $15,000 on a solar system you get $5000 tax off back state federal but you also pay APL a monthly service charge of $15 pr mo,times 300 month is $4500
    So at the end of 25 years you made $500
    The only way that I could see you coming out better would be if you leased the system for 25 years with the drastically reduced light bill,
    Or go completely off the grid , (technicality they probably wouldn't let you)
    but your light bill is only $50 a month.
    Your garage is bigger than my whole house and I pay 100$
    since you bought your Arizona house add up all the months utility bills times 12
    Into 15,000=?
    PS isn't it a bummer if you can actually take an pull the breaker switch out of your house and no power is coming in, but yet you still have to pay $15 a month
    To APL
    How about if you covered the 115v portion of your house to solar
    And the 220 portion to FPL
    Or you could call FPL and have them do a survey/audit on your house to tell you how you could save even more,
    Anything that you do that is an energy improvement is also a tax right off to.

    1. I think you need to install solar when you are around 30 years old. Then it will not only pay for itself, it will save you money as the cost of electricity rises, which we all know it WILL!! Unfortunately for me, I'm too old to capture any of those savings, although I do know it increases the resale value.

  4. We paid around $600 for 120 Watt Portable Solar with a 30' cord...also put a newer controller on it last year for another $75. Does not take long of free or National Forest camping to pay for it, but I don't care about the cost, I LOVE the freedom it gives us as to where we can stay. Alabama Hills for couple of weeks for 'free'? Can't beat that...

    1. I was wondering what those cost. Do you think it would provide enough electricity to run a household fridge? That's the only problem I have. My six household batteries can get me through the night with no problem, but then I have to use the generator. I don't mind, but sometimes you have neighbors who do mind.

    2. They wouldn't provide enough. I know how you feel with the residential fridge, went through that with my previous RV. I boon dock quite a bit thus went back to the gas/electric fridge on my latest RV, although the solar I installed keeps up. I think it all depends on where you stay the most. Now I am back to having to still run the generator 2 hours a month just for its exercise. Is there really a perfect solution?

    3. Probably no perfect solution, but if you get any use out of your solar at all, it's a plus!! Plugging in always costs money, no matter how you look at it.

  5. I think the day as a homeowner going to solar for their home is no longer economically viable to the homeowner in quite a few jurisdictions. The only reason one would want to go that way is from an environmental green perspective. It is too bad that from an economical perspective it makes no sense for those income classes who would really benefit the most by eliminating their electrical bills.

    1. Peter
      If you are a young couple just starting out and you do plan on staying in your residence for the duration it would pay for itself overtime But there really needs to be certain factors include
      A 5K system cost about $10,500 in material.
      If they install it they'll charge you 5000 however if you're handy carpenter electrician wise you can aluminate 90% of that cost by doing the job yourself to save
      So a young couple taking out a home improvement loan over a ten-year period would be a struggle for 10 years but after that the utility cost would be minimal

      don't be too quick to blame the government for putting a restriction on solar panels
      The lobbyists for the utility companies have a great big hand in it remember that's where the money is for the government
      The utility companies Buy power from other utility companies based on projection
      Utility companies by X amount of kilowatts a day based on that projection if they don't use it they lose it and that cost them money so every solar system on a house is a potential that they lose money and we all know The utility company loves money

    2. Peter, I agree. Solar sure makes sense to most people money wise, but the utility companies are no longer impressed. They are putting the money before being "green" and before helping people.

    3. Ed, I realize I don't know a ton of people, but out of that ton, only 2 ounces are "handy". I think it was a great idea back when the electric companies were looking for more electricity. Now they're just looking for money and as "big business" can move the government in their favor. Sad but true.