Saturday, February 28, 2009

Taking Advantage Of The Big Ball Of Fire

Well, many of you on Facebook and Twitter know this all ready, but I finally found a moment in the middle of all the Girl Scout Cookie pushing selling to write about the switch to solar energy for the house.

First off- duh. Why this isn't just a given here in Arizona, I don't know. ALL new construction should just have it. Period. Don't whine about cost, if it's added during new construction, it goes into the mortgage. If you are lucky enough (as we were now 10 years ago) to be able to buy new and have a house built, then having your monthly payment just a little bit higher- really, is it that big of a deal? If not, then maybe having a brand-spanking new home isn't your best economic move. Besides, that was for all the builders out there anyway. But I'm getting off topic...

The entire process itself is rather uneventful. We found a local company (Bret knows a couple of the people who work for them) and a rep came over and checked out the house, then gave us estimates on what we could use to cover different amounts of energy in our home. After crunching some numbers (and a re-fi on the house), we decided on a package that would cover 80% of our total electricity usage. ALL of the approval hassles (HOA, etc.) were taken care of by the company (yes they will get a big plug at the end of this ramble). We thought we wouldn't be ready to go until March sometime, but they were ready to install by the end of February.

They began on Tuesday, and three days later they were finished. It wasn't even a full three days, so the process is very quick. The guys were nice and didn't get in my way at all (not that they would need to being outside all day. Like I go outdoors ever?) They didn't even get annoyed when I was out there snapping photos, which can be found here.

Friday morning the Town (really Gilbert, "Town"? Let's grow up all ready.) came by for inspection (for some reason Gilbert has different guidelines than other cities. Others need only SRP/APS to come), and gave us permission to use the Sun. Now we just need to wait for SRP to come by, and then the switch is complete.

What is EVERYONE curious about? Oh yea, July and August. I'll give a bill-update then. ;-)

Now, if you are curious about taking this step yourself, honestly a great website is the company we used, Sun Valley Solar Solutions ( They have pages about the process, energy comparisons, information about the incentives and tax credit, and much more. Browse around. Of course The Google will turn up more information than you know what to do with as well. I'm a big "buy local" person, so I will advocate for the local business first every time.

No, you will not get prices from the website, but you are looking at quite a commitment in the mula department. It's quite the chunk of change up front, and you have to wait a year to get your return. Hence our re-fi of the house. Rates were VERY good a month ago. The big question now with the economy currently: how is the equity in your home holding up? That really could be the deciding factor.

We're not exactly living a life of luxury, and I'm very lucky to have someone who is very smart about the big investments we make for our home and family. That being said, with some smart thinking about what you can truly afford, I think just about any home owner can make the switch to solar in some form. The costs are continuing to drop as well. Solar energy doesn't have to cover all of your electricity, and the benefits go way beyond the break you could get on your electric bill.

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