Looking to Install Even More
A strong supporter of renewable energy, Bernice Cagan of Montgomery County, Indiana, had a 3.6-kilowatt solar array installed on the south side of her 1902 Victorian cottage. “Having the solar panels installed cut my monthly utility bills by almost half,” Cagan says. She’s had the panels up for two years, and they’ll be paid off in five more. She then plans to have more panels installed on her garage roof.
Cut Utility Bills by 60 Percent
The Brandt family of Lincoln, Nebraska, had a 6-kilowatt solar array installed in 2015. “We’ve seen a big reduction on our electric bill—about 60 percent,” Jennifer Brandt says. Though she used to worry about running the AC in the summer because of the cost, they're not "skimping on staying comfortable anymore. Now, I keep the thermostat set at 72 degrees, and the whole family is happy.”
Reduced Their Carbon Footprint
Doing his part to slow down climate change is very important to Dan Thompson of Columbia, Missouri. “I’m happy knowing that I’m no longer contributing to the use of fossil fuels when I cool my house, or even use my toaster,” Thompson says. He had a powerful 8.25-kilowatt array installed on his modest ranch home three years ago. “Now, I’m getting a credit from the electric company almost every month for power I generate in excess of what I use.”
Leased Solar Made a Difference
“We didn’t have the money to install a solar system,” admits Amy Davis of Detroit, Michigan. “But our neighbor told us how he was able to lease his solar panels, and we signed up too.” The Davises now pay the solar company directly for their electricity, along with a small monthly fee. “It’s reduced our electricity bill about 25 percent, so we’re pretty happy.”
A Shady Roof Didn't Stop Them
George and Christy Nelson wanted solar but refused to part with a tree that kept their roof shaded for most of the day. “Our roof was too shady, due to a huge oak that’s almost a century old,” George Nelson says. The solution was to mount a south-facing solar array on the ground behind the Nelson’s garage. “Just because you have a shady roof doesn’t mean you can’t have solar.”
Loves Lower Electric Bills
Susan Miller had to persuade her husband to install solar panels on their home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, four years ago. “He resisted because he thought the installation costs were too high,” Miller says. “But now he’s happy because our electric bill used to run over $400 a month and now it never goes over $150.”
Ready to Sign Up Again
The Coopers signed a three-year purchase power agreement (PPA) to have solar panels installed on their Chicago townhouse, and they’ve since saved more than half on their monthly utility bills. “At the end of our term, we have every intention of renewing the PPA,” Randy Cooper says. “It’s a no-brainer. It’s like money in the bank.”
Related: The Greenest Cities in America
Loves Being Off-Grid
While most homeowners install a grid-tie solar system, which allows them to use electricity from the utility company when the sky is overcast, Andy Gonzales of rural Westcliffe, Colorado, wanted an off-grid system. Gonzales’s solar array provides 100 percent of his energy needs. “There are no power lines up here, so I needed an off-grid system,” he says. “If it’s cloudy, I cut back on my electric use, but on sunny days, I have plenty of electricity for my cabin.”
Beating High Power Costs
The Garon family of San Diego, California, couldn’t justify the utility costs for their sprawling 4,500-square-foot home. “San Diego has high utility rates, and with our family of seven, someone is always turning on lights, watching the television, or using their computers,” Lorraine Garon says. “It cost us nearly $30,000 to have our solar system installed two years ago, but we saved over $6,000 just the first year in electric costs!”
Unhappy with the Utility Company
Not all homeowners are thrilled about their solar panels. Kathy Henderson of Lawrence, Kansas, had solar panels installed four years ago. “It was great at first, but then the electric company started charging us a ‘demand fee’ for electricity used between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.—even if we’re generating the electricity," she says. "They claim solar customers don’t pay as much as non-solar customers, so they’re charging us an extra fee.” The demand fee has added as much as $215 to her monthly bill, and Henderson feels she’s being punished for wanting to help the environment.
Solar Power 101
Solar power is becoming more and more attainable for more and more people.
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