Why I Went Solar features homes and businesses that have chosen to go solar.
Name: Kevin Singel and Laura Hoeppner
Occupation: Kevin- Business Manager at Accenture and Laura- Community & Government Liaison for the City of Centennial
Location of panels: Centennial, CO
What made you go solar?
We had a strong desire to reduce our carbon footprint and to spur on the solar industry. We have been early adopters of a lot of eco-related things…over 20 years ago we were buying recycled paper toilet paper by the pallet load (and splitting it with people from our church) and we bought the very first Prius sold in metro Denver (in August 2000) so getting solar panels was a natural for us.
We looked into PV some years ago and just couldn’t afford to buy a system outright for almost $20,000. When the leasing arrangements came to Colorado a couple of years ago, we were quick to pursue that option and excited to see that it is much more affordable. Also our home is situated just perfectly for a rooftop solar system. We are south facing with no real shade on the roof during the day – this helps to maximize the productivity of the panels of course, which made the whole system more affordable.
How is your life different after you went solar?
Our electric bills are much lower! Last month we paid $7 which is the minimum fee to have a meter where we live. Our system is 5.25KW DC which converts to about 4.25KW AC …it serves almost all of our needs if you look at it over the full year. The system produces much more than we need during the long sunny days of spring and summer (unless it gets really hot and we turn on the A/C of course) and less than we need in winter. The local electric company allows us to roll over any extra production to cover the low production months so it all works out really well. We call the electric utility ‘our big battery in the sky’ since they essentially store our excess production and then give it back to us for free when we need it.
Also, people we who visit our home are curious about it and we are proud to show it off. We enjoy showing people how simple and effortless it is. Several of our friends and neighbors have since installed their own systems.
What’s the best part about being solar?
Knowing that we are reducing peak electrical demand, dramatically reducing our carbon footprint and saving money at the same time. Our total electric cost per year has dropped from over $2000 to under $400…and it is only that much because getting panels inspired us to convert our 2005 Prius over to a plug-in hybrid so we are now sucking up 4KWH daily to recharge the car. We do run our home air conditioning in the hottest weeks of the year here in metro Denver but since we have solar panels we never get anywhere near the peak demand pricing the utility put in place to reflect the higher cost of providing for summer A/C usage. We have neighbors who paid $400 in one month last summer – when we showed them our electric bill (just $80) they immediately signed up to get a system of their own!
What tips do you have for others who want to go solar?
- Get a referral from someone who already has a system so you get the referred customer discount.
- Get multiple bids including solar leasing arrangements – prices vary more than you would expect, the leasing arrangements were a really good deal for us including the 20 year warranty
- If your panels will be visible from the street (like ours) be sure to ask about non-bright finishes on all visible metal to minimize the visual impact of your system
- Know that your city or HOA has the right to set standards but they also have to be ‘reasonable’ with their rules due to federal/state laws supporting solar system installation
- Also make investments in efficiency – a new refrigerator may use quite a bit less electricity than your current one due to new insulation technology for example, finish your conversion to CFLs and LED lights of course too! We added motion detectors to our basement and garage lights too since the family had a bad habit of leaving those lights on. All those little changes add up!
- Be patient. From first contact to system go-live can take months and months due to all the steps involved.
- Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. If someone tries to put up a barrier to stop you, ask what it would take to get rid of that barrier…you can do this!