Next Steps – Comparing Apples to Apples

By now, I’m positive that going solar is the single best investment to drive down the risk of increasing costs for energy, while also freeing up my money to be used and/or invested differently. My next move towards energy independence involves a few steps:

  • Understand my yearly energy usage
  • Define my budget for solar panel installation
  • Determine how long I plan on staying in my current home
  • Sign up for solar inquiries on a few websites
  • Schedule an appointment to meet a solar salesperson
  • Understand likelihood of selling my home to recoup cost of solar
  • Know the break even time frame to be comfortable with my investment

The first step is pretty simple, just simply login to my utility account and download my yearly usage history report. It shows a monthly breakdown of my energy usage (measure in kilowatt hours) and the total amount charged. We have lived in our home for five years, there is a solid record of yearly usage, informing us that energy consumption trends are consistent. This consistency means I know the ballpark amount of energy that needs to be produced in order to offset 100% of my home’s energy needs.

Now I can google solar companies in my city to sign up on their website, submit my energy usage, and receive a personalized quote. But in order to compare apples to apples, I need to figure out if each solar company is installing the same equipment from the same manufacturers. If not, are there certain manufacturers that can be trusted to ensure my system today, tomorrow, and 25 years from now. So here’s what I did, I researched solar panel manufacturers, because each one is not created equal. Research their degradation statistics, performance warranties, and general reviews. The main takeaway is there are Tier 1 manufacturers that are accredited by a third party, and any manufacturer within that group is certified to produce a quality product. Now I can judge from within that group to determine if their warranties are similar. Ideally the system components should all offer warranties to protect me from additional costs down the road.

Next, I reached out to several local and national companies and requsted a quote. Two national companies were unable to provide a quote, simply because they did not have an installation method for a flat roof home. That helped to quickly eliminate the pool of suitors, so choices for a solar installation company were easier to choose from. With a few proposals emailed to us, we decided to schedule an appointment with a salesperson to learn more and discuss details with my wife and I. Most importantly, we wanted to ask a few questions related to the value of our home, the coverage of the warranty, and whether we would have to pay for maintenance (like we currently do for scheduled car maintenance services), which would ultimately affect the true cost of ownership.

We came into the appointment with the understanding that solar was a “nice to have”, and not necessarily a must. Our salesperson, known as our Solar Consultant, Taylor, was really nice, knowledgeable and respectful and outlined the benefits of choosing Affordable Solar. Taylor reviewed our energy usage, described our proposed system’s energy production, and asked if we anticipated any life changes that would increase or decrease our future energy use. Funny you ask Taylor, because as we smiled and said “maybe”, my wife and I exchanged glances and smiled, knowing we just found out that we would be parents in 8 months….

Taylor outlined the value benefits of our solar investment:

  • Energy Independence
  • Reduced electricity bills
  • System payoff timeline
  • Home appreciation
  • Production monitoring & performance guarantee
  • No-cost maintenance for peace of mind

As Taylor outlined the benefits, I had an epiphany. What if solar enabled me to invest the usual monthly electric bill into a college savings plan? In that light, installing solar on our home would actually pay for our daughter to go to college. Now solar went from making sense and being a “nice to have” into an actual pathway to building sustainable happiness in multiple ways.

Thelonius Monk once said, “simple ain’t easy”. But he never went solar.

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